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Young Readers' Series: The Right Stuff-Nonfiction

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Open to: Grades 4-6

Prerequisites: Qualifying verbal score and/or qualifying math score [Note: While students are not required to be verbal qualifiers, they must be proficient readers and writers of English to gain value from the course. An optional, free, self-graded, 20-question readiness assessment is available.]

Course Format: Web-based classroom

Course Length: Session-based: 10 weeks (fall, winter, spring, late summer) or 12 weeks (early summer); Session Dates and Application Deadlines

Course Code: YRRS

Select the appropriate tab from the list below.

Course Description

Description

This Young Readers' Series nonfiction course examines the importance of having “the right stuff” at the right time. In The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane, two seemingly ordinary bicycle mechanics overcome previously unsolvable engineering problems to build the world’s first powered, controlled airplane in a race against a field of wealthy, international competitors. Two years before a Soviet cosmonaut became the first woman in space (and 20 years before American Sally Ride made the journey), Jerrie Cobb and twelve other women pilots were denied the opportunity to join the NASA’s Mercury Space program, despite having more flight hours and superior test results than the male candidates. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream tells their little known story. In Electric Dreams, high school students from a poor rural community attempt to assemble an electric automobile from a Ford Escort rescued from a junkyard that can win a race against competitors from wealthier schools.

In addition to being entertaining and inspiring, the three books and related videos discuss scientific principles and the importance of perseverance, ingenuity, and good timing in achieving success against the odds. While many primary sources are included, this course will require internet research for students to find additional images, documents, videos, and other free media to complete writing and multimedia assignments. Students will also participate in VoiceThreads by typing comments or speaking into a microphone or webcam.

[Please note that the books that students need to purchase are not currently offered in electronic versions. International students and other students who often encounter mailing delays should allow sufficient time for book delivery before course start date.  If students cannot acquire the books by the course start date, they should select a different critical reading course.]VoiceThread image

About the Young Readers' Series Themes for Verbal and/or Math Qualifiers in Grades 4 - 6:
"The Right Stuff" and "In Search Of"

The Young Readers' Series is designed enhance a student's critical reading, writing, and thinking skills. Developed for enrichment, course assignments meet or surpass the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading. As students participate in written discussion forums, they make inferences, determine motivations, evaluate arguments, and provide textual evidence to support their opinions. Creative writing assignments encourage students to take on different points of view, summarize details, compare authors, and discuss central ideas.

Designed for children reading at a middle-school level or above, students enrolled in Young Readers' courses:
  • Move beyond comprehension into critical thinking while reading three thematically connected, age-appropriate books of increasing difficulty
  • Participate in online written discussions with gifted classmates from Boston to Beijing
  • Post writing assignments such as alternate story endings and talk shows with characters as guests
  • Work with web 2.0 tools such as VoiceThread, and online bulletin boards, slideshows, posters, and books
  • Receive individualized written feedback from their instructor about each lesson's work.
 
The two courses in the Young Readers' Series for Verbal and/or Math qualifiers for Grades 4 and 5 include the same level of challenging books, creative writing, and critical thinking as the traditional Young Readers' Series. The Right Stuff and In Search Of are open to both verbal and/or math qualifiers, however, and many assignments allow students to use and create multimedia content with web 2.0 tools such as VoiceThread and more. Some assignments include short videos and others will require internet research for students to find additional images, documents, and other free media to complete writing and multimedia assignments. Visit the Home Page of The Right Stuff classroom.

Parents Ask...

  • Students typically read and share written responses every other day (fall, spring, and early summer sessions) or daily (midsummer intensive session).
  • Work is posted in the virtual classrooms at the student’s convenience as long as each lesson's deadlines are met.
  • It does not matter whether a student has already read one or all of the books before the course begins because the emphasis on citing the text requires careful re-reading.
  • Students must already be proficient in Standard Written English. [Instructors discuss grammar only when it affects meaning.]
  • An optional, free, self-graded, 20-question readiness assessment is available.
  • These critical reading courses are designed to be ungraded, enrichment courses; instead of a grade, instructors provide specific feedback about each student's work at the end of each lesson and a detailed final evaluation at the end of the course. Parents or guardians may request a final grade if needed for school credit

About Course Selection

Parents are encouraged to consider the information contained in Appropriateness, Look inside the books, and Read reviews for the books before deciding on the course that would be most interesting and appropriate for their child.

[Please note that the books that students need to purchase are not currently offered in electronic versions. International students and other students who often encounter mailing delays should allow sufficient time for book delivery before the course start date. If students cannot acquire the books by the course start date, they should select a different critical reading course.]

Appropriateness

Parents should be aware that each course contains books with humor, mystery, adventure, and heroism as well as suspense and sadness. Overall, while our courses contain advanced grade-level material, we strive to select materials appropriate to the ages of the students. Please look inside the books and read reviews to decide whether these books are appropriate for your child. If you are still uncertain whether your child is ready for a course, please email ctyonline@jhu.edu or call 410-735-6144. 

Look inside the books.

Look insideThe Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane (no look inside view available)
Look inside Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
Look inside Electric Dreams

Read reviews. Parents are urged to review for appropriate content.

Reviews of The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane
Reviews of Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
Reviews of Electric Dreams

Materials Needed

[Please note that the books that students need to purchase are not currently offered in electronic versions. International students and other students who often encounter mailing delays should allow sufficient time for book delivery before course start date.  If students cannot acquire the books by the course start date, they should select a different critical reading course.]

  • The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane by Russell Freedman (Kingfisher, 2007) ISBN 0823-41082-X
  • Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick Press, 2009) ISBN 978-0-7636-3611-1
  • Electric Dreams by Caroline Kettlewell (Da Capo Press, 2006) ISBN 978-0786714858

Detailed Course Information

Course Details

Lesson 1:

Begin reading The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane

Watch an introductory video

Read the Differences Between Primary & Secondary Sources

Read the article “Who Was First”

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Blog Forum

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 2:

Continue reading The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane

Watch a video on The Wright Brothers Early Flight

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Blog Forum

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 3:

Finish reading The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane

Read two articles on the patent battles the Wright brothers face

Read an interview about the Wright brothers’ unique personalities

Watch a video about the life of the Wright brothers

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Blog Forum

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 4:

Begin reading Almost Astronauts

Read about the Mercury Space Program presented in Prezi

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Watch videos about Ham the Space Chimp and Chuck Yeager, the first person to break the sound barrier

Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Blog Forum

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 5:

Continue reading Almost Astronauts

Read “The Many Sides of Jackie Cochran” presented in Prezi

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Watch a video on the 1962 congressional hearings on whether women should be allowed to be astronauts

Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Blog Forum

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 6:

Finish reading Almost Astronauts

Read NASA’s article about “Lovelace’s Women in Space Program”

Read an account of “The Mercury 13 Story”

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Watch a video about women in space

Complete the first Quest [Quest=More questions than a quiz, but fewer questions than most tests!]

Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Blog Forum

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 7:

Start reading Electric Dreams

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Watch a video on electric vehicles

Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Blog Forum

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

View and comment on a VoiceThread

Lesson 8:

Continue reading Electric Dreams

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Watch a video on “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

Contribute to the Electric Car VoiceThread or create your own VoiceThread

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 9:

Finish reading Electric Dreams

Vote your Opinion in a Poll

Watch a video “Revenge of the Electric Car”

Contribute to the Electric Car VoiceThread or create your own VoiceThread

Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Contribute two posts to The Right Stuff Summary Discussion Forum

Lesson 10:

Summary Assignments covering all three books

Vote your opinion in the Poll

Post ONE of the Blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum.

Complete the second Quest [Quest=More questions than a quiz, but fewer questions than most tests!]

Note: You are provided with a list of “Mind-Expanding Vocabulary Words” from each book that you can use to help better understand the book and increase your knowledge of vocabulary words in general.

Time Required

This course requires approximately three hours for each of the ten lessons. Students should expect to spend approximately 3 hours per week during the course.

Note: Students do not have to meet in the classroom at the same time. A student's written work can be posted in the virtual classroom at the student's convenience as long as deadlines are met.

About Summer Sessions:

The Young Readers' Series offers a 12-week summer session that allows families to take a week or two of vacation and 10-week sessions. All sessions cover the same course material and assignments.

While the 12-week early summer session courses allow for 2 weeks total vacation, students in the Young Readers’ courses are encouraged to work ahead or make up their work to try to keep up with their classmates whenever possible. Experience has shown that these courses are most fun when all students are working on the same lesson. Students must notify the instructor at the course's start about any planned vacation dates and must meet scheduled due dates when they are not on vacation. [Students who make up their work can finish their early summer course in 10 weeks.]

If you have any questions, please contact us before applying at ctyonline@jhu.edu.

Sample Assignment

Demo

The Right Stuff Sample Assignment

To give you an idea of the type of assignments involved, the following is the first of ten lessons:

Instructions for Lesson One

IMPORTANT MESSAGE About Course DUE DATES:
All work is due by the following Sunday at midnight. (That's the end of Sunday, not the beginning!) This means that we strongly advise you to start your assigned reading and video watching early and complete both by Thursday night to allow you enough time to finish all the assignments (reading, videos, poll, blog, discussion forum, research, and optional games, crossword puzzles, and wikis) by Sunday night.

Let's Watch a Video and Reading Assignments
1. Click on the play button on the middle, click on the 4-arrow button on the bottom right to switch to full screen, and then view this brief video about the Wright Brothers:
Reading Assignments


2. Begin reading The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane, preferably reading in the following reading chunks:
Chapters 1 & 2 (1-13) Chapter 3 (14-25) Chapter 4 (25-45)
Read Differences Between Primary and Secondary Sources.
Read an article about "Who Was First? found in Wright-Brothers.org

Poll
3. Vote your opinion in the Poll.

Writing Assignment
4. Post ONE of the following blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum:
a) Look at the pictures of the Tate family on pages 33 and 43. Imagine what it must have been like for these people, living in this remote part of North Carolina, to meet and interact with the Wright brothers during those experiments in 1900 and 1901. Then, write a 150-300+ word dialogue between two members of this family, OR a 150-300+ word letter from one member of this family to a relative who lives far away from Kitty Hawk, discussing his or her impressions of the Wright brothers and their project. [You may use the Helpful Hints about Creating and Punctuating Dialogue cube or pdf as a resource. Be sure to click on the numbers at the bottom to view all 6 sides of the cube.]

b) Many other people claim credit for creating the first controlled, powered airplane flights including Gustave Whitehead (aka Weisskopf), Karl Jatho, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Louis Bleriot, Glenn Curtiss, and even Samuel Langley. Using resources on the internet (in addition to both the article "Who Was First" and the assigned readings), conduct some further research about two or more of these men and their accomplishments. Then write a 150-300+ word paragraph or paragraphs explaining who you think best earns the title of being the "father of aviation." Be sure to include evidence for your opinion and mention the sources you are relying upon--sources that must include more than simply Wikipedia.
 
c) Here is a creative Web 2.0 alternative to assignment b) above: Using a PowerPoint or some other slide show or online bulletin board or poster, create a presentation with both images and text focusing on one of the other people who claim credit for creating the first controlled, powered airplane flights, including Gustave Whitehead (aka Weisskopf), Karl Jatho, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Louis Bleriot, Glenn Curtiss, or even Samuel Langley. In addition to the "Who Was First" article and assigned readings, you can find additional information on the Internet.  [For ideas about possible web 2.0 tools to use, view the instructions and how-to videos found in the CTY Guide to Web 2.0 Tools and the Web 2.0 Glossary, both located on the HomePage.]


Discussion Forum Assignments
5. Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board in response to any of the following questions. (Remember! At least one of your two thoughtful posts should be in reply to a discussion post made by another student.)
a) On page 3, Freedman writes, "[The Wright brothers] learned more by teaching themselves than through formal schooling." How does Freedman support this claim in the rest of the chapter? What else do we learn while he supports this claim?

b) Nonfiction writing is, of course grounded in facts, but it still needs to tell a story. All stories need to have start somewhere. Why do you think Russell Freedman might have chosen to start this story with Amos Root's account of what he saw on that farmer's field in Huffman Prairie?

c) On page 23, the reader is told that "newspapers around the country had a field day poking fun and Langley and his soggy Aerodrome. What were some of the comments? Using the internet, can you find any quotes from the Boston Herald, The New York Times, or any other newspaper or magazine of the day? If you were the Wright brothers, do you think you would be more encouraged by Langley's failure to "beat" you or discouraged by the mocking that Langley received?

d) One of the difficult things about writing nonfiction is the question of what to leave out or condense. Read http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/langley/intro.htm and compare the information to Freedman's description of Langley's efforts on pages 22-23. Do you think Freedman presented Langley's efforts fairly? Why or why not?

e) At the beginning of Chapter 4, there is a quote from Wilber Wright that "We knew that men had by common consent adopted human flight as the standard of impossibility...When a man said, 'It can't be done, a man might as well learn to fly, he was understood as expressing the final limit of impossibility'" (27). Considering how many men at that time were trying to create the first airplane, do you think that Wright's quote is accurate? Why or why not? Can you think of any similar challenge that serves now as people's " standard of impossibility? Explain.

f) At the end of Chapter 4, there is another quote from Wilber Wright that "We doubted that we would ever resume our experiments...When we looked at the time and money which we had expended, and considered the progress made and the distance yet to go, we considered our experiments a failure. At this time I made the prediction that man would sometime fly, but that it would not be in our lifetime." What had happened that had discouraged Wilber Wright to the point that he was considering giving up? Do you think that you (or any other reasonable human being) would have given up, given these circumstances? Why, then, do you think that the Wright brothers continued their quest? Were they just too stubborn to quit?

Resources and Activities
Sorting Activity

Differences between Primary and Secondary Sources
Review the material titled "What are Primary Sources?"

Optional Vocabulary Activities
Note: You are provided with a list of "Mind-Expanding Vocabulary Words from The Wright Brothers" and vocabulary crossword puzzles that you can print out and complete to increase your knowledge of vocabulary words. You can also use the Right Stuff Vocabulary Words Review Games to help learn vocabulary words in a fun way.

Optional Fun and Challenges:

  • Share your favorite stories and authors with other students in the Recommended Reading Wiki.
  • Play some of the Literary Terms games.
  • Participate in The Right Stuff Adventure Wiki, an optional group writing activity.
  • Carry out some of the suggested activities and experiments contained in many lessons.

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.

This course requires that the student use a web browser with the Adobe Flash plugin. Note that many tablets and handhelds (particularly the iPad) do not support Flash and cannot view the lessons.

 

Reviews

"This was an excellent course, syllabus was extremely well organized, communication flawless and overall our son's writing improved significantly over the 5 weeks. In particular, the professor was outstanding, clear in her objectives, responsive to questions and requests and a terrific teacher for this age group." 
 
"This was a great course. My daughter enjoyed it very much. The feedback from the teacher was excellent and helped her a lot in improving her writing skills. The course helped her also to analyze and better understand the non fiction books. Also, the skills she gained at this course helped her in school work." 
 
"Although the course was very challenging as far as work load and content, the instructor managed to make it exciting and meaningful experience, and my child was looking forward to reading his weekly reports, which were always detailed, helpful and sometimes even funny. I like how the instructor modeled her thinking in those reports. Thank you for a wonderful course where I can see my child's growth!"
 
"My daughter had a fabulous instructor!!  She was insightful, supportive, and responsive.  The questions were thought provoking, and my daughter really enjoyed her journey through the course."
 
"My instructor made me feel that I am smart, that I know how to write, and made me want to be better at everything I do."
 
"This course definitely provides a wealth of knowledge and tools."