The Latest Issue of Word Up!

The Word Up newsletter is chock-full of great resources for parents and educators. Browse the current issue below, or dig into the newsletter archive.

School Climate: Creating a Place for Learning

Set the stage for an awesome school year by focusing on your school and classroom climate. Creating a safe and nurturing environment for your students will support academic success and social well-being throughout the year. Learn how to assess your own school's climate, find out about an effective tool for improving teacher-student interactions, get tips on creating a literacy-rich classroom and more.

What's My School's Climate?

Decades of research support the role of a positive school climate on teaching and learning: "Positive school climate promotes student learning, academic achievement … positive youth development and increased teacher retention." Learn practical ways schools are assessing their school climate, and find resources that are available to improve or enhance a school's setting.
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Teacher-Student Interactions: The Key to Quality Classrooms

Every day, teachers make countless real-time decisions and facilitate dozens of interactions between themselves and their students. Discover CLASS, an assessment tool that describes ten dimensions of teaching that are linked to student achievement and social development. This includes emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support available.
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Related resource from Edutopia:
Relationship Building Through Culturally Responsive Classroom Management

Creating a Welcoming, Literacy-Rich Classroom

Sometimes it's the subtleties that make all the difference in creating a welcoming classroom space. Within this collection of resources, you'll find advice on arranging the furniture in a classroom, designing a classroom library, and ways to reach out to parents of English language learners.
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Building Trust with Schools and Diverse Families

If families are to trust teachers and other school staff members, they must believe that school personnel are qualified, fair, and dependable, and have their child's best interests at heart. Assessing the level of trust, actively welcoming students and highlighting school successes are just a few of the suggestions within this article that can help teachers lay the foundation for great relationships.
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Books & Authors

Unlocking the Past: Reading, Writing, and History with Author L.M. Elliott Video icon

Historical fiction can offer a dramatic study of history at an emotional level. But digging and uncovering the historic facts that go into historical fiction are equally engaging and exciting. Author L.M. Elliott writes historical fiction and brings history to life for her readers. She's written award-winning books about World War II, The Civil War, and The Revolutionary War. In this wonderful set of resources, Elliott offers educators and students a podcast, reading lists, extension activities, and more.
See historical fiction resources >

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Historical Fiction

Often the best way to learn history is to immerse yourself in the story of someone who lived it (in "his story" or hers). These stories can provide teens a rousing read, while increasing background knowledge substantially. Rather than memorizing key dates, historical fiction can bring history alive.
See booklist >

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Author Study Toolkit

Teachers: As you think about your instructional year, consider doing an Author Study with your students. Author studies give students the chance to take a deep dive into an author's life and works. Our Author Study Toolkit can help you create a unit, choose an author, and develop culminating projects.
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Teaching & Learning

Inference and Informational Text Video icon

Inferencing is something we do all the time, but often students don't realize this is a skill they naturally use. In this video module, 6th grade Language Arts teacher Jennifer Ramsey starts by using a simple photograph and asking her students identify all the information they can infer from the photo. Next step: the students work together to determine what they can infer from written passages. This module also includes a video interview with Ramsey where she reflects on the lesson.
See classroom video and related resources >

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Featured Strategy: Power Notes

The Power Notes strategy teaches students an efficient way to organize information from assigned text. This technique provides students with a systematic way to look for relationships within the text. Power Notes help visually display the differences between main ideas and supportive information in outline form. Main ideas or categories are assigned a power 1 rating. Details and examples are assigned power 2s, 3s, or 4s.
See strategy >

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To Teach Comprehension Strategies or Not to Teach Them

I don't hear anything about comprehension strategies anymore. Was that idea just another fad or are should we still teach those?

I would encourage you to continue to teach comprehension strategies as a scaffold for dealing with challenging text. The point would be to make it possible for kids to make sense of truly challenging texts; the use of strategies could be enough to allow some kids to scaffold their own reading successfully — meaning they might be able to read frustration level texts as if they were written at their instructional level.
Read full blog post from Tim Shanahan >

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Ryan Devlin: Profile in Practice Video icon

Ryan Devlin, 2014 National Teacher of the Year finalist, is a high school teacher in Brockway, PA. Take a look at how he utilizes technology and innovative projects to teach the standards.
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News, Research and Reports

Yes, Skipping School Correlates With Low Test Scores — Now What?

In a new report from Attendance Works, researchers say they found a link between higher rates of student absenteeism and lower scores in reading and mathematics on a nationwide exam. It's a finding that isn't likely to surprise many people, least of all educators in America's public schools. Classroom teachers are the first line of defense because they're most likely to notice patterns of absenteeism. But there also need to be early warning systems to alert parents to the risk of even a handful of skipped days, Attendance Works director Hedy Chang said, as well as school-community partnerships to help identify and support families that are struggling to get their kids to school regularly.
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See full report "Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success" >

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Irving (TX) Library Grows into a Teen-Lit Hub for Writers, Readers

Here's a story: A suburb with no bookstores has turned itself into a literature hub for North Texas, outdoing even Dallas as it pulls authors from across the country. Not that you'll find Amy Tan or Malcolm Gladwell touring Irving. The grown-ups' bestseller list is still reserved for bigger cities. But if you're in grade school — or just love a tale of adolescent romance or post-apocalyptic growing pains — consider Irving a cultural capital for teen fiction. Three years ago, in a city with some of the poorest students in North Texas, Irving librarians began inviting authors popular with the few kids who frequented their shelves. Now kids regularly flock to the central library, rubbing elbows with their favorite scribes over cupcakes and punch. Major publishers seek out Irving for their tours, and a young-adult fiction craze is spreading across the region.
See story from Dallas Morning News >

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How Does the Brain Learn Best? Smart Studying Strategies

In his new book, How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why It Happens, author Benedict Carey informs us that "most of our instincts about learning are misplaced, incomplete, or flat wrong" and "rooted more in superstition than in science." That's a disconcerting message, and hard to believe at first. But it's also unexpectedly liberating, because Carey further explains that many things we think of as detractors from learning — like forgetting, distractions, interruptions or sleeping rather than hitting the books — aren't necessarily bad after all. They can actually work in your favor, according to a body of research that offers surprising insights and simple, doable strategies for learning more effectively.
See blog post >

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