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…

If we are parents, then we are teachers. In fact, we are a child’s most important teacher in life because we lay the foundation for a lifetime of growth, experience, and discovery. Just as a house needs a solid foundation and a strong roof, so do children! Those who are given daily opportunities to experience language, in all of its forms, will ultimately acquire a strong and solid ‘bank’ of prior knowledge to draw upon. They quickly learn that speaking, reading, writing, and thinking are important and necessary for communication. They learn that to be a reader, writer and thinker one must read, write, and think!

Here’s how you can nurture and support the reader, writer, and thinker in your child:

READ to your child. READ with your child. Let your child READ to you.

WRITE to your child. WRITE with your child. Let your child WRITE to you.

TALK about what you are thinking with your child. TALK about what you hear your child saying. Let your child TALK to you. LISTEN to your child.

Here are a few questions to consider as you nurture the reader, writer, and thinker in your child:

Ø  How does my child feel about himself or herself as a reader and writer?

Ø  Do I read a variety of books and written materials to my child every day?

Ø  Is my child able to discuss the cover and pictures in a book prior to reading?

Ø  When my child reads do me, what does he/she do with words that are new or difficult?

Ø  Is my child saying anything that his/her teacher should know (e.g., “These books are way too easy!” “I don’t like reading group…it’s boring.” “When can I read harder books?” “Why do I have to do this at night?” “I don’t get why we have to read books in class that we’re not interested in.” “Why do I have to go to that ‘other’ teacher for reading and writing every day?” “I don’t like to write . . . it’s boring and hard.”

Ø  How does my child respond when asked questions about a story or when asked to retell a story we read together?

Ø  Does my child hold a pencil correctly? (Pencil/pen resting on 3rd finger with thumb and pointer finger ‘pinching’ it.)

Ø  Do I show my child what writing looks like by writing to him/her daily?

Ø  Do we talk in the car?

Ø  Do we talk during meals?

Ø  Do I ask my child questions that require only a ‘yes or no’ answer? If so, how can I reword my questions so this doesn’t happen so often?

Ø  Do I model good reading, writing, and thinking skills for my child every day?


The most important thing to remember is that we all learn by ‘doing.’ When children are exposed to environments where they are free to express their thoughts, read to and with someone, and share their ideas through the written word, they become confident in their reading, writing, and thinking abilities.

Cherish the reader, writer, and thinker in you…and in your child. Watch what marvelous things come of it!


The Importance of FUN!

Why is ‘fun’ important for kids to experience?
Kids love when parents say, “Go, have fun!” Why? Because it’s permission to BE a kid…they want and need to have FUN!
Can we make “the teachable minute” fun for kids? Of course! Actually, the more fun the experience is for kids, the more they will learn. Kids are all about FUN! They ‘see’ the fun in everyday life experiences and they create fun for themselves using imagination and creativity IF they are allowed to. My experiences as a teacher, kid specialist, and mother of three, have shown me the importance of allowing kids to be kids . . . and that means allowing them to enjoy the FUN of life.
When kids are expected to be perfect, they start to lose interest in fun. After all, having fun requires one to let loose and to be authentic. FUN IS IMPORTANT…
To bring Dr. Connie to your school for parent literacy events, teacher training, model lessons, and more, please fill out an Inquiry Form at http://www.conniehebert.com
Dr. Connie Hebert is dedicated to catching kids in motivating, engaging, and effective ways. She is the author of Catch a Falling Reader, Catch a Falling Writer, Catch a Falling Teacher, Sight Word Phrases, and a new book for parents: The Teachable Minute: The Secret to Raising Smart & Appreciative Kids. More information at: http://www.theteachableminute.com


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