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Holt, Rinehart & Winston, whose elementary reading series has been the focus of a closely watched federal lawsuit brought by fundamentalist Christian parents, is adding supplementary material on religion to its catalogue.

The company is producing video-cassette tapes on world religions, which will be available to schools that purchase its American- and world-history textbooks.

The two-tape set, "Religions of the World," covers Eastern and Western religions. It will be ready for distribution in January, according to Ralph Caulo, executive vice president of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, which bought Holt this year. The set will cost between $60 and $80, he said.

Mr. Caulo denied that the tapes were developed to offset criticism of Holt's 1983 reading series, the subject of a federal suit filed by parents in Tennessee who objected to the books' inclusion of material they said countered their religious beliefs.

In a move aimed at increasing the representation of Hispanics in social-studies textbooks, officials in the Dade County, Fla., school district are developing a book that will highlight some 75 significant events and people in Hispanic-American history.

"Our goal is not to get a book out, but to ask publishers to include these items when they update their books," said Frank de Varona, an assistant superintendent of schools.

According to a 1986 study by People for the American Way, a civil-liberties group, Hispanics "have long been ignored or casually mentioned in conventional U.S. history textbooks."

Meanwhile, eight state departments of education, together with scholars from Spain, Portugal, and four Latin American nations, have launched a project to integrate the study of Ibero-American culture into school curricula.

The project, endorsed by the Spanish National Commission for the Quincentennial of the Discovery of America, is aimed at heightening students' awareness of the influence of Spain and Portugal on the culture of the United States--from Columbus's voyage to the New World through the quincentenary of that event in 1992.

A study by two leading researchers has added additional support to the idea that effective writing instruction improves students' higher-order reasoning abilities.

But the implementation of more effective teaching strategies will require the restructuring of schools and classrooms to de-emphasize rote learning, the researchers conclude.

"Our findings clearly indicate

that the writing students do has a strong effect on ways in which they think and the content they learn," said Judith A. Langer, professor of education at the State University of New York at Albany and co-author of the study. "Some writing is little more than a replication of known information, but other types can stimulate the reformulation of ideas and lead to a deeper knowledge of the subject."

The federally funded study, co-written with Arthur N. Applebee, also a professor of education at suny Albany, found that, to be effective, teachers must abandon their traditional "controlling" stance, and adopt a "scaffolding" stance, in which they lead students through classroom activities and enable them to "have something of their own to say."

"How Writing Shapes Thinking: A Study of Teaching and Learning" is available for $8.95 ($6.95 for members of the National Council of Teachers of English) from the ncte, 1111 Kenyon Road, Urbana, Ill. 61801.

Teachers' Laboratory Inc., a Vermont-based producer of materials for elementary science and mathematics classes, has begun publishing a monthly newsletter providing K-8 teachers with ideas for classroom activities.

The newsletter, called "Connect," is unusual, said Casey Murrow, the company's president, in that it makes suggestions about ways science and math topics could be taught throughout the curriculum.

Subscriptions cost $35 a year for 10 issues. For more information, write Teachers' Laboratory Inc., P.O. Box 6480, Brattleboro, Vt. 05301, or call (802) 254-3457.

A separate publication, produced by the University of Missouri at Columbia, is aimed at bringing findings from the university's scientific research into junior-high- and middle-school classrooms.

"Mizzou Magic" has been distributed free of charge to schools throughout the state. Martha Watkins, an information specialist at the university, says it will help "interest students in the university, as well as in the study of science."

As part of their efforts to gear up for the 1990 census--the 200th anniversary of the decennial population count--officials at the U.S. Census Bureau are preparing teaching materials they plan to distribute to every elementary and secondary school in the country.

The kits, which are scheduled to be distributed in March 1989, will include mathematics exercises that allow students to make calculations using census data, as well as information on the history and operation of the census. The activities are designed for every level from kindergarten through grade 12.

--rr & kg

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