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Reading Rockets News

January 2015 Newsletter

  • In Focus: Spelling and word study
  • Books & Authors: Interview with Carole Boston Weatherford | New booklist: Start the New Year with a chortle | Making a difference: stories for MLK, Jr. Day
  • Ideas for Educators: Think-pair-share | The Helping Hands Project: Reading, writing and community service | Spelling City | 53 ways to check for student learning
  • Ideas for Parents: Birds! New Reading Adventure Pack | Handwriting: what's normal, what's not  | A fresh look at your home library | Making books with kids
  • Research, Reports & News: The Talking Cure | Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play: How Libraries Reach Kids Before They Can Read | Summer School Seems to Work Better for Math Than for Reading | E-Story Before Bed May Make It Harder to Sleep

In Focus: Spelling and word study

How Spelling Supports Reading

Many young readers are puzzled by the rules and exceptions of spelling. Research shows that learning to spell and learning to read rely on many of the same underlying knowledge. Learn more about the relationships between letters and sounds and how a proper understanding of spelling mechanics can lead to improved reading. The author — literacy expert Louisa Moats — also offers an overview of key content and strategies for spelling instruction in kindergarten through 7th grade.
See article >

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Invented Spelling

When a child comes up with an unconventional spelling, it's not always a sign of trouble. In fact, kids should be encouraged to try writing words as soon as they know some letters and letter sounds. As they make up spellings, they practice letter-sound connections. In this video clip from our PBS show Writing and Spelling, watch first-grade teacher Carol Spinello turn a spelling lesson into something of a game.
Watch video clip "Invented spelling" >

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Word Study in the Classroom: 9 Tips

Word walls that work, authentic writing exercises, and more — discover nine effective ideas for powering up your word study instruction. Word study moves away from memorization towards a deeper understanding of letter-sound relationships and patterns in English spelling. Word study is active and hands-on — encouraging kids to become actively engaged in discovering and making sense of word patterns.
See article >

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Related video
Watch video clip "Spelling patterns" >

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Recommended book
Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction >

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Spelling and Dyslexia

Spelling is a challenge for children with dyslexia. This fact sheet explains how weaknesses in language skills (including the ability to analyze and remember the individual sounds in words) affect spelling and how we can help children with dyslexia become better spellers.
See article >

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See all of our Spelling and Word Study resources >

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Books & Authors

Freedom on the Menu: Our Interview with Carole Boston Weatherford

Award-winning children's writer and poet Carole Boston Weatherford "mines the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles." Many of Weatherford's books tell the stories of African-American heroes like Harriet Tubman, Jesse Owens, and Matthew Henson, or explore the brilliant vitality of jazz music and musicians. Weatherford also tackles tough topics — her book about the Greensboro Sit-Ins paints a powerful picture of segregation in the South and a pivotal event in the fight for civil rights.
Watch interview >

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NEW Booklist: Start the Year with a Chortle

What better way to start a new year than with a laugh? It might be a giant belly laugh, a small snort, a quiet chuckle. Take a look at these books and you just might find yourself giggling, guffawing, or even tittering. Pick up a book and find what tickles your silly bone.
See new booklist >

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Stories for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Celebrate the life and civil rights work of Dr. King on January 19th, the National Day of Service, where volunteers across the country work together to make a difference in their communities. These two booklists feature fiction and nonfiction books about ordinary people who stand up for what's right as well as stories about helping others and giving back.
See booklist >

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See Making a Difference booklist >

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Ideas for Educators

Featured Strategy: Think-Pair-Share

Think-pair-share is a collaborative learning strategy where students work together to solve a problem or answer a question about an assigned reading. This is a great strategy for encouraging whole-class participation — and drawing out kids who are often reluctant to talk in front of the whole class.
See strategy >

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Peek inside Cathy Doyle's second grade classroom in Evanston, Illinois to observe her students learning the think-pair-share strategy. Cathy explains the "rules" and then engages her kids around a reading of the nonfiction book A Seed Is Quiet.
Watch think-pair-share in action >

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The Helping Hands Project: Reading, Writing, and Community Service

Looking for a community project to kick off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 19th? Get inspired by the students at Springhill Lake Elementary School in Greenbelt, MD, take environmental action with their Helping Hands project! See the kids at work cleaning up their local stream and watch the newscast — written and produced by the students themselves. Helping Hands is the brainchild of third grade teacher, Shana Sterkin, who saw a great way to combine community action with real-world practice in research, writing and sharing what you've learned with a wider audience.
Watch video >

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Spelling City

Having a number of spelling groups is great in terms of differentiation, but tough to manage! We discovered a fun site called Spelling City that might help. In this digital space, kids can explore more than two dozen interactive games and activities to boost their spelling and vocabulary — including individualized vocab and spelling lists across subject areas, word scrambles, and crossword puzzles. The activities can be accessed on interactive whiteboards or any computer at school or at home. Basic membership is free; a premium membership option allows for tracking student activities and customizing lessons for English language learners and RTI instruction.
Visit website >

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Dipsticks: 53 Ways to Check for Student Learning

"When the cook tastes the soup," writes Robert E. Stake, "that's formative; when the guests taste the soup, that's summative."

Alternative formative assessment (AFA) strategies can be as simple (and important) as checking the oil in your car. They're especially effective when students are given tactical feedback, immediately followed by time to practice the skill. In this blog post from Edutopia, discover 53 different ways to check for understanding.
Read post >

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Ideas for Parents

Go Bird Crazy!

The Great Backyard Bird Count is only six weeks away. Start getting the kids ready now with our newest Reading Adventure Pack all about birds. Build an old-fashioned "thaumatrope" to help your child think about how animals see moving objects (and get all eyes ready for bird watching adventures), listen for bird sounds in your neighborhood, or create a unique bird sculpture from found materials. Easy-to-follow activity instructions and recommended fiction and nonfiction picture books are included in the pack.
Get your free Bird pack >

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See all Reading Adventure Packs >

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Find more great bird books and activities at Start with a Book >

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Handwriting: What's Normal, What's Not

Learn what to look for as your child's handwriting skills begin to develop, as well as some signs and symptoms of dysgraphia — a learning disability that affects a child's handwriting and ability to hold a pencil or crayon. [Available in English and Spanish]
See article >

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A Fresh Look at Your Home Library

Having interesting things to read at home is a great way to keep kids motivated. Below are a few questions to ask yourself about your home library. Some simple changes on your part can help you create an amazing home library, and help your child develop an early love of reading! [Available in English and Spanish]
See tips >

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Making Books with Kids

Accordion books, paper bag books, pop-ups, "foggy books" and more awaesome ideas (and instructions) for creative bookmaking. You might want to start with a read-aloud of How a Book Is Made by Aliki.
See blog post >

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Research, Reports & News

The Talking Cure

The New Yorker

The poorer parents are, the less they talk with their children. The mayor of Providence is trying to close the "word gap."
See article >

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Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play: How Libraries Reach Kids Before They Can Read

National Public Radio

Literacy begins at home — there are a number of simple things parents can do with their young children to help them get ready to read. But parents can't do it all alone, and that's where community services, especially libraries, come in. At the "Play and Learn" center in the Mount Airy Library in Carroll County, Md., parents are encouraged to engage in five basic practices that lay the groundwork for literacy: talk, sing, read, write and play.
Listen to story >

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Summer School Seems to Work Better for Math Than for Reading

Hechinger Report

Educators have been aware of the summer slide phenomenon since the academic school year was created. Now, what to do about it? One obvious idea is to send at-risk children to summer school. But does it work? Results from a study of summer programs funded by the Wallace Foundation revealed a key factor in improving reading skills — hiring teachers who'd had prior experience teaching reading to children of this age knew how to teach it, keep the kids engaged and check for understanding.
See story >

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E-Story Before Bed May Make It Harder to Sleep, Study Finds

Education Week

Sure, there's plenty research pointing to the benefits of parents reading to their children, but a new study suggests all you tech-addicted parents may want to go old school for the bedtime story. The research finds people who did their evening reading via a light-emitting electronic device had a harder time falling asleep and poorer quality sleep than those who read a print book. It's the latest in a line of research on the effects of artificial, "blue-rich" light on sleep cycles.
See story >

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