Dr. Connie Hebert helps kids, parents, and teachers by helping them become experts at catching "the teachable minute" anytime, anywhere! My Teachable Minute Blog offers quick tips on how to engage with younger and older kids. Comments, questions, and reflections are always welcome . . . let's catch a million teachable minutes together!

Friendly reminders for parents and teachers!

Thoroughly Modern Messy

You often run into some great people online. I happened to meet a fellow WordPress blogger, Dr. Connie Hebert, who is a nationally renowned reading specialist, teacher of teachers and motivational speaker. Her special focus is on helping struggling readers. We got to emailing and she agreed to talk to me for a blog post about helping all children – typically developing and those with special needs — transition back into school mode now that summer is slipping away (sad). Keep in mind that my son with Down syndrome and his twin sister are almost 4 and far from being readers, but good habits must start early. And our oldest is 6 1/2 and loves to read, but could always use a little nudge to keep her going.

My main question for Dr. Hebert was this: how do you motivate kids to read without resorting to nagging? Like most parents…

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Help Kids with Homework?

I’ve had many parents ask me if they should help their kids with homework and if so, how much help should be offered? My rule of thumb with our 3 kids was always to offer help only after encouraging them to try it on their own first…and it worked. Our kids took responsibility for their OWN work and we were there for support only. If you jump in too quickly, kids become dependent on others to ‘think’ for them. They come to think of homework as jumping through hoops…something to get over and done with. Homework should be WORK that’s done at HOME. Therefore, it’s up to them to work at it!

Are there “teachable minutes” when it comes to helping kids with their homework? You bet! But, you’ll want to decide when you catch them and how. For example, a teachable minute might present itself when reading the directions on a homework page. You can point out KEY WORDS in the directions so that you child takes notice of these in the future. Another example would be to offer choices on how your kids will divide up their homework load. You might say, “Which homework assignment will take the longest? You can do that first, ride your bike or watch TV for 30 minutes, and then finish the rest? OR . . . You can finish the others, ride your bike or watch TV for 30 minutes, and do the longest one after that when you feel refreshed. YOUR CHOICE.” This helps kids feel in control of their time while also teaching them to plan out their homework over a certain period of time. Teachable minutes caught!

For little ones, I always referred to their coloring, painting, and reading with me as “homework”….then when they actually got “homework,” it wasn’t something new to fit in!

What are your thoughts about helping kids with homework? Please share!




Most GREAT teachers start out as GOOD teachers. They apply what they have learned, practice and reflect on their effectiveness, experiment with different approaches and sample a variety of texts and materials, consult with colleagues and administrators, make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, and keep on going. They get better from trial and error, student feedback, caring administrators, longs hours, supportive colleagues, and hard work. In most cases, great teachers pursue graduate work and keep themselves in a continuous state of ‘learning and growing.’ They celebrate professional success while also experiencing heartache and frustration as they struggle to move struggling readers, writers, and thinkers to grade level. They become ‘great’ because they refuse to settle for ‘good.’

In the case of literacy instruction, greatness is measured by teaching children to become INDEPENDENT readers, writers, and thinkers. Independence is the ‘north star’ for all of us and it unites us in one global mission. The main question is can we become great enough to catch EVERY child who functions below grade level? This is a question worth contemplating because it hits at the very heart of what we do each day in the field. Do we want to be ‘good’ or do we want to be ‘great’? What do we want students, colleagues, and parents to say about us when they look back on our role in their lives?

Many teachers worry about lack of training, inadequate funding, weak programs, limited support, and scarcity of materials that seem to lead us from ‘good to great.’ But is it these tangible things that make us ‘great’ or is it something more? Is there something within each of us that creates a desire to try harder, reach higher, demand more of ourselves and our students, learn more, grow stronger, remove boundaries, and break through factors that prevent literacy independence for all children? Some people call it determination or perseverance. Others label it as passion or intrinsic motivation. Whatever it is called, we need to find it, nurture it, reward it, and maintain it so children can be empowered with the gift of independence.

Consider the following factors that encompass the role of the teacher:






These areas are keys to motivating and engaging students at every grade level yet they are not usually a topic of study or discussion in most teacher preparation programs and/or professional development trainings. The greatest teachers in the world use a combination of all four of these to eliminate the minds of others. They adjust their voices and pace to strike the right ‘hooks’ in order to their audience ‘glued’ to them. They use a variety of body language movements, motions, and position to engage the learner and to offer the element of ‘surprise.’ Great teachers use eye contact as feedback to reach the brain in positive, powerful ways.

If one wants to go from ‘good’ to ‘great,’ it would be wise to reflect on these four critical areas that constitute the craft of teaching. Walt Disney once said, “To teach well is also to entertain.” How true!

Here are three important questions to consider when reflecting on how to move from good to great :

vDoes my voice motivate, excite, challenge, and engage students throughout the day?

vHow do my parents affect my voice, pace, body language, and eye contact as a result of interactions and communication with me as I was growing up?

vIf ‘entertainment’ is a key to teaching well, what am I doing to entertain my students as tools of engagement and attention?

After contemplating these questions, we can apply new insights about each area, reflect on how we use our voice, pace, body language, and eye contact especially with struggling students, and adjust our teaching accordingly. For example, you might observe your students’ reading progress by standing BEHIND them as they read and by offering verbal prompting individually, instead of sitting across from them in a ‘performance’ mode. You may quickly notice positive behavioral changes in challenging students who see you standing on a chair clapping for them when they show you what they know! You could reflect on the climate created among your unique ‘community of learners’ when you smile more, clap more, and allow more wait time.

Watch what happens to your energy levels when you synchronize your voice, pace, body language, and eye contact in an effort to ‘entertain’ your learners while teaching them what they need to know. Remember, it’s never too late to go from ‘good’ to ‘great’ in anything in life. To be great, feel great and act great…


Dr. Connie R. Hebert is dedicated to catching falling readers by motivating, teaching, and inspiring educators around the world.  She has presented literacy seminars, district trainings, and keynote addresses in 47 states and at IRA, NAESP, and RRCNA reading conferences. She is a nationally acclaimed teacher of teachers, reading specialist, and motivational speaker. 



What do you think?

How are devices and cell phones changing the ways in which we communicate with today’s kids? Pros & Cons…

Love to hear your views on this…

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