Archive for the ‘Teachable Moments’ Category

New Year’s Resolutions and Teaching “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” Through the Seasons

Friday, January 1st, 2016

New Year’s Resolutions and Teaching “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” Through the Seasons

By Grace Nall

Several schools nationwide are “Leader in Me” schools and applying The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey to learn life lessons and engage students in character education. Find out how your new year’s resolutions can be achieved by keeping these 7 habits in mind.

1. Habit 1 – Be Proactive, You’re in Charge
2. Habit 2 – Begin With the End in Mind: Have a Plan
3. Habit 3 – Put First Things First: Work First, Then Play
4. Habit 4 – Think Win-Win: Everyone Can Win
5. Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand: Then to be Understood
“Listen Before You Talk”
6. Habit 6 – Synergize: Together is Better
7. Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw: Balance Feels Best

An extension of The 7 Habits of Happy Kids is The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Dr. Stephen Covey. The 8th Habit is “Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs.”

The 7 Habits of Happy Kids - CoverThe Leader in Me - CoverThe 8th Habit by Dr Stephen Covey

For more information, visit

Teaching Moment Sparks Summer Reading

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

     Who would ever imagine that a Read Aloud during the last day of the school year could excite kids about summer reading?  Our school year ended mid-July.  My 4th grade students were thinking of signing autograph books, having the class party, and watching a DVD of “Despicable Me.”  To top it off, it was a minimum day!  A chemistry of chaos was brewing in my classroom.

Playing with Fire - Author Bruce HaleClark the Shark book by Bruce Hale     Children’s Book Author Bruce Hale has come out with two new books:  Playing with Fire (School for S.P.I.E.S. Book 1), a middle grade novel, and Clark the Shark, a picture book.  I decided to read the books after our morning “mini break” walk/jog around the basketball courts.  After our break, the kids were ready to sit through the Read Aloud.

Clark the Shark was an enjoyable read and had the kids laughing up a storm.  We did a mini stretch and I proceeded to read Chapter One of Playing with Fire.  Since my students were familiar with Hale’s Chet Gecko mystery series and Snoring Beauty, they were excited to hear about his new books.  They noticed the amped vocabulary in a middle grade novel.  Also, they loved the book’s main character, a foster “kid” named Max.  Nothing seemed  to go right for Max as he was sent from one foster home to another.  His new start at Merry Sunshine Orphanage brought a cloud of doubt over his character.  Max was on a mission to prove his innocence and clear himself of the string of wrongdoings.

Teaching moments can come in small increments and I found this to be true.  All throughout the school year, I taught mini lessons on author’s craft for both fiction and nonfiction.  So, as I read Chapter One of Playing with Fire, I stopped at the last page.  From my “teacher’s tool bag,” I asked the students a question.  Here’s the brief version of what happened:

Teacher:  “So how old do you think Max is?

The students made an educated guess.  One of my English Language Learners raised his hand and guessed Max’s age as 13 years old.  Other students chimed in.  With the Common Core Standards in mind, I asked him what was the evidence from the story to help him figure out Max’s age.”

He responded, “Max talked like a 13 year old.

We continued to look at the dialogue and other examples in Chapter One.

Most books have the main character’s age at the beginning of a story, but having it at the end of the chapter provided a fun opportunity for students to guess at Max’s age.  An author’s craft in writing “age-appropriate dialogue” clearly stood out in Playing with Fire.  My students range from ELL (English Language Learners) and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) and though they are now incoming 5th graders, the middle grade novel Playing with Fire became a popular vote to add on to our Summer Reading List.

For more information:

Children’s Book Author Bruce Hale, visit

Shark the Clark:

Shark the Clark Book Trailer:

Shark the Clark, Book Illustrator Guy Francis (

School for S.P.I.E.S. website:

Schools for S.P.I.E.S. video:

Playing with Fire, Book Illustrator Brandon Dorman (

Playing with Fire

(Possible Common Core Standards Connections in READING LITERATURE):

Grade 6:  Key Ideas and Details   (

*  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.3.  Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves towards a resolution.

Grade 7:  Craft and Structure  (

*  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.4.  Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.

Grade 8:  Key Ideas and Details   (

  **CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.3.  Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.



Teaching Moments Using Travel Books

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

It’s exciting to receive suggestions for Teaching!

Kathryn Starke, an urban literacy expert, children’s book author, and the founder/CEO of Creative Minds Publications, offered some suggestions and her teaching moment.  In our latest teaching moment section, she writes about “Teaching With Trade Books.”  Thanks, Kathryn!

With summer almost upon us, why not find that right travel book to bring along with the family?  Another idea is to include a travel notebook and fill it with daily reflections.  Jazz it up with photos, illustrations, and brochures.

Kathryn Starke     Kathryn Starke- Amy's Travels-high-res


Heroes Among Us

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

The unfortunate tragedy last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School at Newtown, Connecticut has brought a community together to heal.  It’s been a month and the outreach efforts to help have spread nationwide.  The New York Knicks basketball team recently hosted a “Knicks Family Fun Day” for 150 of Sandy Hook Elementary School’s children, their families, and staff during Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.   The event brought smiles and hope to the community.

Meanwhile, it’s another school day in many parts of the nation.

In an unrelated turn of events, a public elementary school was recently visited by a major sports figure.  Each assembly had more than 250 students.

The following scenario happened, though, not word for word.  A representative for the sports team asked the kids, “How many of you play (names the sport)?  (Hands raise up.)  Then, he asked, “How many of you have gone to see a major sports game at (names a..stadium, sports arena, ball park)?  (Most of the hands go down.)   [NOTE:  Many of the families in the neighborhood are unable to afford going to a sporting event.]

The sports team representative follows up by saying, “Well, today you’ll get a flyer for half price so that you and your parents can go to one of our games.”  The kids cheer and smile.

He introduces a well-known sports figure (SF) on stage.  SF talks about the sport.  Here’s what happened:

SF:  I want to get to know you.  What are your grades?  (Know your audience)

Students:  (Hands raise up) 3rd grade, 4th grade, etc.

SF:  [He talks about his childhood in a small town in . . . (names the state)]  How many of you know where (state) is?

Students:  (Hands up)

SF:  How many of you know what states borders that state? (Some hands go down)

Student:  (Names a correct state)

SF:  (smiles) Give that girl a ticket to our game! (He yells out to the team rep).  Then, he asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Students: (Hands up) A doctor, a football player, a lawyer . . . “I want to be just like you!”

SF:  [He talks about what it took to become successful at his sport.]  I practiced every day.  If you love to do something, you do it every day, right?  Now, how many of you go to school tired?

Students:  (Hands up)

Teachers:  (Hands up . . . They participated for this question.)

SF:  Well, if you want to be successful, try going to bed 30 minutes earlier.  So, let me ask you, “what time do you go to bed?”

Students:  (Hands up) (Kids laugh)

The conversation continues to “What did you eat for breakfast?” to“Exercise is important” to “Saying no to drugs” to “Making the right choices” and  to “Listening to your parents and teachers.”

Next, he asks for some volunteers to demonstrate the sport.  He picks some girls and boys (total of about 6 students on stage).

SF:  I’m going to ask you to do only two things.  (He tells them).  Next, I want you to do the OPPOSITE of what I tell you to do.  (The kids laugh).

One, by one, a process of elimination takes place.  One kid standing, but still smiling and the students are cheering.

They learned about listening, cooperation, team building, and good sportsmanship.

Would you believe this ALL took place in a 30-minute Assembly!  It was also at the end of a school day.

As the kids returned to class, they were talking about the sport and the SF.  When the teacher reached the classroom door, one student yelled out, “Can we have the flyer?”

What made for a memorable and successful school assembly was that the sports figure focused on the kids.  Whether he knew it or not, he was their hero that day.  For some kids, their so-so day just turned into a super day.

Whether you are a teacher, a doctor, a counselor, a parent or even a sports figure, you never know the teaching moment that awaits you.  There are heroes among us.

Information from News Services was used for the first paragraph of this report.


Monday, November 19th, 2012

Teaching moments can come in small or big acts of kindness.

In the classroom:

In an upper grade elementary classroom, teachers can include daily news in the curriculum.  Start a News Journal with students and teach about non-fiction concepts.  Have them guess as to what is the Top News Headline of the Day.  Educate them about what reporters look for in writing about the news:  Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and especially on current relevant and factual information.  The most important information can be found in the first few paragraphs of a news item.  What sources are cited in the article?  Are there photographs and captains in the news article?  What are some memorable quotes from the article?

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, can offer an eye-opening discussion about natural disasters to “People Helping People.”

Outside of the classroom:

The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (New York) and  Lucy Calkins (Founder and Director) has launched LITERACY LIFEBOATS, “an initiative to help schools that have been hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.”  Consider donating or spreading the word about LITERACY LIFEBOATS.  Find out how you can help: