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Friday, December 6, 2013

Reading Rockets Newsletter December 2013


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December 2013 Newsletter

  • In Focus: Vocabulary
  • Books & Authors: Video interview with Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton  |  Books as gifts: 2013 guide  |  Read a book. Give a book  |  Holiday e-cards
  • Ideas for Teachers: Text sets to build life skills  |  Text feature walks  |  Self-monitoring close reading  |  Virtual field trips with Google+ Hangouts  |  4 desks and a workstation
  • Ideas for Parents: Supporting very young writers  |  If you build it …  |  25 Days of Grinch-mas!  |  15 holiday survival tips for kids with LD  |  Top 10 Family Reading and Writing Ideas for the Winter Holidays
  • Research & News: Art makes you smart  |  Webcast: Too young for technology?  |  Can we see reading comprehension in the brain?
In focus

In Focus: Vocabulary

Classroom Strategy: Semantic Gradients

Semantic gradients are a great way to deepen children's understanding of related words. Students begin with a pair of opposite words and fill in other words (generated by group brainstorming or from a class text) by order of degree. This strategy helps students learn to distinguish between fine shades of meaning — allowing more precision and imagination in their writing and oral language.
See semantic gradient strategy >

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Go inside Cathy Doyle's second grade classroom in Evanston, Illinois to observe how a recent class read-aloud, The Seed Is Sleepy, becomes the springboard for a lively discussion about words that describe the relative size of things (massive vs. gigantic and tiny vs. microscopic).
Watch semantic gradients in the classroom > Video icon

Classroom Strategy: Word Walls

Word walls — an organized collection of words prominently displayed — provide easy access to vocabulary students need for their reading and writing. The organization of the word wall matches your purpose: sight words organized by alphabet letter, unit-specific words, new vocabulary words, for example. The most helpful word walls are developed together with your students and grow and change throughout the year. Wondering what words to put on your word wall? Find examples of word walls for language arts, math, science, and social studies — as well as recommended children's books that are rich in interesting new words.
See word wall strategy >

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Related resources

What Does It Mean to Know a Word?

What are some ways that we can gauge vocabulary development in the content areas? Learn more about how the intricacies of word knowledge make assessment difficult, particularly with content area vocabulary. Discover ways to improve assessments that more precisely track students' vocabulary growth, including English language learners.
See article >

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Related article
Supporting Scientific Language in Primary Grades >

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10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary

Take a digital vocabulary field trip, use media to build and express word knowledge, expose kids to a wide range of informational text through online and digital sources, or combine vocabulary learning with social service. Learn more about these and other vocabulary-building strategies.
Read article >

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Especially for Parents

Building Your Child's Vocabulary

Talking to and reading with your child are two terrific ways to help them hear and read new words. Conversations and questions about interesting words are easy, non-threatening ways to get new words into everyday talk. Here are some ideas to get you started. (In English and Spanish)
See tip sheet >

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The Vocabulary of Science

Science learning involves lots of new vocabulary words. See how you can help your child learn the common root words, prefixes and suffixes, like "photo" (meaning "light") or "geo" (meaning "Earth"). (In English and Spanish)
See tip sheet >

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See all our vocabulary resources >

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Books & Authors

Books & Authors

Give Books! Our 2013 Annual Gift Guide

Give the gift that can be shared again and again. We've gathered together a fresh collection of wonderful books for kids 0-9. Picture book biographies, science & nature books, board books for wee ones, a wordless Mr. Wuffles, playtime rhymes from Marc Brown, a lovely 75th anniversary edition of The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, the latest adventures of Daisy the dog, Alvin Ho, Ling & Ting, and Amelia Bedelia … and lots more.
See our new gift guide >

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Family Scrapbooks: Our Exclusive Interview with Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton Video icon

Together, Julie Andrews and her daughter and co-author Emma Walton Hamilton write and publish children's books that "nurture the imagination and cultivate a sense of wonder." In this remarkable family, handwritten and handed-down poems are gifts to be shared and treasured. Listen in as Andrews and Hamilton read aloud two of their favorites.
Watch video interview >

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Read a Book. Give a Book

As winter sets in, what better way to celebrate the holiday season than to curl up with a colorful children's book at We Give Books? Explore the growing library of free children's books online. and read to support literacy organizations around the world. Learn more about this inspiring book distribution initiative sponsored by the Penguin Group and the Pearson Foundation.
Visit website >

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Season's Readings: Say It with an E-Card

Our wintry animated e-cards feature charming illustrations from woodcut artist Mary Azarian, pop-up masters David Carter and Robert Sabuda, aardvarkist Marc Brown, and other talented children's book illustrators.
Send an e-card >

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Ideas for Teachers

Ideas for Teachers

The Power of Books and Text Sets

We've all read books whose plot or main character stay with us for a long time. With kids, books can be a great and subtle way to illustrate personality traits we may want to engender. Collections of books with similar themes (sometimes called "text sets") give teachers and parents a way to focus on a theme but do so in such a way that you're not beating kids over the head with the same message over and over again. A terrific new resource called the Mind in the Making Book Collection combines children's books with tips for building Seven Essential Life Skills.
Learn more >

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Guiding Students Through Expository Text with Text Feature Walks

Help your students get the most out of informational text. Text features include everything but the main body of text, including the table of contents, index, glossary, headings, bold words, sidebars, pictures, captions, and labeled diagrams. A text feature walk can build background knowledge and frontload vocabulary and concepts that will be important in the main body of the text. The technique can also be highly engaging and build interest in the topic.
How to do a text feature walk >

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What Students Can Do When the Reading Gets Rough

With the new focus on close reading and challenging informational texts, students need to take an active role in monitoring their own understanding. The "coding method" is one effective strategy for students who struggle with self-monitoring while reading informational texts. After reading a chunk of text, students code their thinking using these symbols:

  • * This information is already familiar.
  • + This is new information.
  • ? I'm not sure I understand this information.
  • ✔ I tried to problem solve by __________.

Read more >

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Exploring the World, Right from your Classroom

Connected Classrooms, a cool new online initiative from Google, takes students and teachers around the world with their "virtual field trips." Through Google+ Hangouts, visit places you would otherwise never be able to explore — like tours of the Seattle Aquarium, Minnesota Zoo, and the Solar Impulse airplane. Teachers can join a Google+ Community with other educators to collaborate on field trips and share best practices for using digital tools in the classroom.
Explore >

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4 Desks and a Workstation

Thinking about rearranging your classroom for the new year? How one 4th grade teacher keeps her students on task and engaged with instruction through a simple seating arrangement.
Watch video clip >

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Ideas for Parents

Ideas for Parents

Supporting Very Young Writers

Preschool aged children love to write — they're always in search of a marker or crayon. Those early scribbles are an important step on the path to literacy. Here's how parents and preschool teachers can support a young writer's efforts in some very simple ways. And it's never too early to start! (In English and Spanish)
See tips >

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Subscribe to free Growing Readers newsletter >

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If You Build It…

One of the best gifts of the winter holidays is hours of time to read and build things. Browse our rich collection of fiction and nonfiction books about architecture, design and building, watch pop-up master Robert Sabuda demonstrate his amazing book Castle, build a megafort or a recycled box city, try out some cool interactive construction apps, and more.
More on builders and buildings >

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Related resources

    Find out more about this initiative of the Rhode Island School of Design to add Art and Design to the national agenda of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education.
  • Interview with David Macaulay
    Learn about Macaulay's new beginning readers series about how things work, from machines to buildings to body parts.

25 Days of Grinch-mas!

Having compassion and showing respect for others brings deep satisfaction and joy. It's important to remind kids about to be involved in their community and to give — especially during the Christmas season when many children are focused on their letters to Santa and gift wishlists. Simple good deeds — done by the whole family — are an excellent place to start. This year, the Grinch has inspired a special Grow Your Heart 3 Sizes campaign that encourages the celebration of family reading, giving from the heart, and community spirit. Kids are encouraged to see how many good deeds they can do during the 25 Days of Grinch-mas starting on December 1.
Learn more >

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Related booklist
Making a Difference

15 Holiday Survival Tips for Kids with LD

The holidays bring joy but can also bring a bit of chaos into our homes, with all of the anticipation, visiting, and regular schedules flipped upside down. For kids who thrive on daily routines and planning, the holidays can be stressful. Our friends at the National Center for Learning Disabilities have developed a helpful set of tips for a fun, relaxing holiday. Tip #10: It's OK to peel away!
See holiday tips >

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Top 10 Family Reading and Writing Ideas for the Winter Holidays

December is a great time to create low-key learning opportunities centered around books, storytelling, writing, and family adventures.
See ideas >

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Research & News

Research & News

Art Makes You Smart

A new study in partnership with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AK revealed that kids who visited the museum on field trips demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy, and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions. Learn more about why art education matters.
See article in The New York Times >

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Related resource
Art and Artists (from our companion site, Start with a Book)

Webcast: Too Young for Technology?

This free webcast on Friday, December 13 from 2-3pm ET features a panel of experts discussing what parents and child care providers should know about the use of digital media for toddlers and preschoolers. During the webcast, @ChildTrends will live tweet the discussion using the hashtag #totsntech. Panelists include:

  • Lisa Guernsey, Director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation and Author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media Affects Your Young Child
  • Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., Director of the Infant and Child Lab at Temple University and Author of Einstein Never Used Flashcards
  • Rosemarie Truglio, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Curriculum and Content at Sesame Workshop

Learn more >

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Can We See Reading Comprehension in the Brain?

Brain researchers have long studied how students hear and read individual words, but it's been difficult to tease out exactly what happens when a reader understands a long and difficult passage of text. Now, a team of researchers at Northwestern University has developed a new way to observe and test for reading comprehension in the brain.
See Education Week article >

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See study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience >

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Snow on the Trees

Somebody painted
The trees last night,
Crept in and colored them
White on white.

When I awoke,
The tree limbs shone
As white as milk,
As bleached as bone,

As white as wool,
As chalk, as cream,
As white as ghosts
In a white-night dream.

Just on day past
They wore dark brown;
Today they wear
A diamond crown.

Somebody painted
The trees last night
With ivory paintpots
White on white.

From Snow, Snow: Winter Poems by Jane Yolen Video icon

Holiday e-card
Holiday gift guide
Reading Adventure Packs
First Book
Start with a Book

All the best from
Reading Rockets

Noel Gunther
Executive Director

Christian Lindstrom
Director, Learning Media

Shalini Anand
Technical Web Manager

Bridget Brady
Web and Video Coordinator

Tina Chovanec
Director, Reading Rockets

Kelly Deckert
Associate Manager,
Online Media

Ashley Gilleland

Joanne Meier, Ph.D.
Research Consultant

Maria Salvadore
Children's Literature Consultant

Rachael Walker
Outreach Consultant

Newsletter editor:
Tina Chovanec

About Reading Rockets

Reading Rockets is a national educational service of WETA, the flagship public television and radio station in the nation's capital. The goal of the project is to provide information on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help. Learn about easy ways you can link to us to let others know about the many free resources available from Reading Rockets.

Reading Rockets is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

Send your questions, comments, or suggestions to readingrockets@weta.org. Our mailing address is WETA/Reading Rockets, 2775 S. Quincy St., Arlington, VA 22206. We look forward to hearing from you!

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