'Once in a blue moon, you read a professional book that is so good...that you stay up half the night to read it in its entirety' (SLM Essential Reads). Writing to Explore gives you everything you need to carry out an exciting adventure writing project in grades 3-8. Packed with student samples and practical teaching tips. Click here or go to stenhouse.com for details!
March 26, 2013
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All About the Middle Grades

Nonfiction Reading and Writing
in the Middle Grades (Part I)
An increased focus on nonfiction is among the changes accompanying the new Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts. Some say that middle-grade students who can read and understand complex nonfiction texts will be better able to meet these standards and will be better prepared to meet the demands of college and careers.

In Part I of this MiddleWeb SmartBrief special report, we examine the role nonfiction is playing in the transition to the common core as well as some of the reasoning behind the changes.

Part II, publishing Thursday, will explore how these changes are playing out in middle-grade classrooms today, highlighting some of the innovative ways that middle-grade educators are integrating nonfiction into instruction.

This two-part special report also includes a selection of valuable MiddleWeb resources for educators on nonfiction reading and writing.

If you don't receive MiddleWeb SmartBrief and find these reports useful, we urge you to sign up for our timely e-newsletter. MiddleWeb SmartBrief delivers the stories making news in your profession directly to your inbox -- for free.
Nonfiction Mentor Texts helps teachers model and inspire good nonfiction writing in grades K-8, with 24 classroom-tested lessons and an annotated list of hundreds of recommended children's books, organized by technique. Click here to read Chapter 1 online!
  Nonfiction and the Common Core 
  • What are the goals of the Common Core State Standards?
    New Common Core State Standards, adopted by a majority of states, were designed by educators and officials to emphasize critical-thinking and other skills students need to succeed in college and a changing workforce. For instance, an increased focus on nonfiction -- which is expected to account for between 50% and 70% of all school reading under the common core -- will be accompanied by a goal for students to analyze and form opinions about the structure and purpose of the material. San Diego Union-Tribune (2/25) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • CCSS' nonfiction focus could spur cross-curricular learning
    Under the common core, students in fifth grade and above are expected to read more nonfiction than fiction. However, the change applies to reading in all subjects, not just English Language Arts, and some educators see new opportunities for cross-curricular lessons and projects. "Maybe this is also what the common core is trying to get us to realize -- that these boundaries between disciplines are false," said Emily Chiariello, a teaching and learning specialist with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance program. Education Week Teacher (premium article access compliments of EdWeek.org) (3/13) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • How nonfiction teaches scientific problem-solving
    Nonfiction works written by scientists can help illustrate the process of inquiry, problem-solving and discovery for students, and satisfy common core goals, educators Myra Zarnowski, Marc Aronson and Mary Ann Cappiello write. They offer examples of book titles and questions to pose when discussing books they consider "literature of inquiry." "Teachers have reported that when students closely follow an unfolding inquiry, they feel as if they are accompanying the scientists on their journey," they write. School Library Journal (3/4) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • Close reading seen as important skill under common core
    KIPP Infinity Middle School in New York City recently was the 13th stop on a "School Study Tour" organized by NYC Collaborates, a nonprofit group promoting collaboration between charter and traditional public schools as they make the transition to the common core. The focus of the visit was the standards' approach to "close reading," which is seen as a skill needed in all subjects, in college and beyond. "Whatever the major, students will be asked to tackle complex texts," said Sayuri Stabrowski, the school's dean of literacy. GothamSchools.org (New York) (3/6) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • Should machines be used to grade student writing?
    Les Perelman, former director of writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is questioning a recent study that found that machines could grade students' essays as well as humans can. He finds that the study is flawed and that using machines could lead teachers to begin teaching students to write for "robo-readers." Perelman's concerns come as many states are expected to introduce new K-12 standardized tests that include writing graded by machines as part of the transition to Common Core State Standards. InsideHigherEd.com (3/15) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • How the common core has improved the classroom
    The Common Core State Standards are not perfect, but they have changed English teacher Lyn Cannaday's classroom for the better. In this commentary, Cannady describes a curriculum in which nonfiction and fiction works are studied simultaneously and nonfiction is used to help students understand fiction. The result, she writes, is that her students have a better understanding of what they are reading and are able to simulate real-world experiences by conducting their own research. Education Week (premium article access compliments of EdWeek.org) (2/27) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
Help your students improve their nonfiction writing by making it clearer, more authoritative, and more organized. Nonfiction Craft Lessons gives you 80 mini-lessons organized by grade level (K-2, 3-4, and 5-8) and linked to outstanding nonfiction children's literature. Click here now for details!
  MiddleWeb Resources 
Wise teachers assign reading responses that are interesting, relevant, and encourage further reading. Ban the Book Report presents 20 classroom-tested assignments for personal response to independent reading, each with a reproducible rubric, response form, and two exemplars. Preview the entire book online!
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