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!

Archive for July, 2012

Using Physical Actions to Help Kids Remember….Important!

Using physical actions to help kids remember©2012 C. Hebert

We all have different ways of remembering different things. Do you remember how you memorized the names of the Great Lakes or the planets? Some of our teachers gave us pneumonic ways of remembering things that were difficult to recall at a moment’s notice. In many cases, we can still remember these facts or bits of knowledge solely because we committed them to our long-term memory by attaching them to something that we could remember.
Many falling kids struggle with their memories. There are any numbers of neurological, developmental, environmental, and genetic reasons why certain kids just can’t remember or recall certain things. They find it difficult to make connections on their own and this leads to frustration, disappointment, and defeat. It is our task to make the connections for these kids so that they can begin use them in moving forward with their literacy skills.
One important way to help children is to attach a physical action to whatever we want them to recall or remember. Here are a few examples of actions that you might use to help falling readers ‘remember’ the things you are teaching them:
*Vowel Sounds
*Short ‘a’: “Hold a pretend flashlight up to your mouth and say ‘aaaa,’ just like you would at if a doctor looked in your throat. Every time you need to know that short ‘a’ sound, hold the flashlight up to your mouth and say, ‘aaaa.’
*Short ‘e’: “Say ‘elephant.’ Now let’s say it again and hold that short e sound for a long time. Take your pointer finger and make a pretend line with your finger in front of your mouth to show me the shape of your mouth when you say ‘e’ like in ‘elephant.’ You finger is moving in a straight line, left to right. That’s the same way we start out writing the letter ‘e.’ So, if you get stuck on that sound, see if your mouth is making a straight line and then write the letter ‘e.’ They should match!”
*Short ‘i’: “With your 2 pointer fingers, push your cheeks up as you say, ‘igloo.’ Your cheeks want to go up on that first ‘i’ part, don’t they? Let’s try another one. Push your cheeks up towards your eyes when you say, ‘it,’ ‘in,’ ‘if.’ Remember to check your cheeks when you’re trying to figure out the short ‘i’ sound.”
*Short ‘o’: “What is your mouth doing when you say the short ‘o’ sound in ‘hot,’ ‘pot,’ ‘box.’ Trace your mouth when you say that sound. What letter are you making? Yes! An o! Check your mouth each time you wonder which vowel sound you need.”
*Short ‘u’: “Take your fist and ‘gently’ punch your tummy! What sound would you probably make if you really punched it? UHHHH! Yes! Now, let’s try ‘bus.’ As you say that middle sound, bring your fist towards your stomach while you say the ‘uhhh’ sound. That will help you remember the short ‘u’ sound if you hear it in a word. Don’t really punch yourself!”
It is truly amazing to look around the room and see kids actually using these physical actions to remember short vowel sounds in words they are trying to read and write. If you have modeled, practiced, and insisted that they apply these to new and difficult words, they will begin to independently apply these physical actions as a way of remembering ‘hard things.’ If you don’t believe me, try them and see what happens! Falling kids need whole hosts of ways to remember what many of us take for granted…

Teaching Kids to Think AS They Read

Teaching Kids How to Think AS They Read

Teach students how to ask questions in a manner that leads to the answer, and you will be teaching them the answer. Anonymous

One of the greatest things we can do for kids is to teach them how to ask questions of themselves as they are reading. The trick is to use the power of modeling.  No program or set of materials can do this for you. It is the teacher who models strategies, behaviors, and skills. It is the teacher who demonstrates how to do something, not the program that is sitting on the shelf. Just as effective ski instructors use the power of demonstration to teach their students, teachers and parents must also do the same.

What does this sort of modeling look like? It starts with a willingness to verbalize and share ourown thinking with the kids. For example, we might start them out by saying, “Today, we’re going to think through this book together, and I will be telling you what I’m thinking about as well.” This introduction sets up the thinking and establishes a purpose for the lesson. As the adult reads the text aloud, he or she stops at certain places to think out loud. Here are a few key phrases that might be used to model the process of thinking and questioning a text as it is read:

  • “I’m wondering . . .”
  • “This part has me confused. Let’s look at the words in the story that might clear up this confusion.”
  • “So now I understand that . . .”
  • “Listen to the words that helped me.” (Teacher points to the actual page and then reads the supporting evidence aloud.)
  • “I don’t understand why . . . Can someone help me think through this part of the story?”
  • “Here’s a question that keeps coming back at me as I read.”
  • “This is a sentence that still has me baffled. What do you think it really means?”
  • “How can this be true? I’m wondering if I should believe everything that I read.”
  • “When did that take place? Here are the words that answer that question.”
  • “What is this author really trying to say? Let me read on before I figure that one out.”
  • “I still don’t get this part. Let me go back and see what happened earlier in the story.”
  • “This is puzzling to me. What can I do to figure it out?”
  • “Wait a minute! Now I see what’s going on. Listen to this part.”

It is important that the tone of the voice be considered whenever we are modeling our questions aloud for kids. Little puppies and kids are especially gifted in picking up on what we mean simply by the tone in our voice. We can sound genuinely curious or ridiculously bored depending on how we ask the question. Teaching kids to think while reading is a monumental task because it requires that we share our personal thoughts, ideas, confusions, and strategies.

The ultimate goal is to problem solve comprehension skills aloud so that kids will begin to take risks, ask questions inside their heads and in their writing, and justify their answers with evidence from the text. A whole-group 15-minute lesson works well for this type of activity. Watch the results blossom as your kids begin to think when they read and write. Kids, after all, are naturally curious. Let’s hope that we are building on that natural ability so that we can encourage the act of thinking. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if people actually got paid just to think?





Recommended Educational Apps for IPAD

Check these apps out this summer!

Let me know which ones you like….and don’t like:)

For IPAD educational apps, Dr.Connie recommends:


READING RAVEN (Early Ascent)

SIGHT WORDS (Learning Touch)

TOONTASTIC (Launchpad Toys)



STORYPATCH (Haywoodsoft, LLC)


(iVerse Media)

(Cross Forward Consulting, LLC)


GREAT books to read aloud to ALL kids

Books for Reading Aloud to ALL Kids

Problem Solving & Critical Thinking:
• Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. (1998). NY: Puffin Books.
• Sylvester & the Magic Pebble by William Steig. (1969). NY: Simon & Schuster.
• Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. (1987). William R. Scott, Inc.
• Go Dog Go by P. D. Eastman. (1989). NY: Random House.
• The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. (1964). NY: Harper Collins.
• The Mitten by Jan Brett. (1989). NY: Penguin Putnam Books.
• Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg. (1988). NY: Houghton Mifflin.
Pure Enjoyment:
• Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. (1948). NY: Viking.
• Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel. (1978). NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
• The Remarkable Farkle McBride by John Lithgow. (2003). NY: Simon & Schuster.
• Fly By Night by June Crebbin. (1995). Walker Books.
• Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. (1987). NY: Penguin Putnam Books.
• Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel. (1978). NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
• The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. (1990). Philomel.
Bibliotherapy (life issues):
• Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco. (1999). NY: Simon & Schuster.
• Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. (2001). NY: Penguin Putnam Books.
• Sophie’s Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli. (2004). NY: Simon & Schuster.
• Stellaluna by Janel Cannon. (1999). FL: Harcourt.
• The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. (2007). Square Fish.
• The Heart of the Wood by Marguerite W. Davol. (1992). NY: Simon & Schuster.
• The Children’s Book of Heroes Edited by William J. Bennett. (1997). NY: Simon & Schuster.
Model Fluent Reading:
• The Little Yellow Chicken by Joy Cowley. (1996). Wright Group.
• Go Dog Go by P. D. Eastman. (1989). NY: Random House.
• The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood. (2004). FL: Harcourt.
• A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman. (1982). NY: Puffin Books.
• Wolf by Becky Bloom. (1999). NY: Orchard Books/Grolier.
• The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide & Judith Heide Gilliland. (1997). NY: Puffin Books.
• Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaolo. (1996). NY: The Putnam & Grosset Group.
• Brother Eagle, Sister Sky . . . A Message from Chief Seattle. (1993). NY: Puffin Books.
Poetry Collections:
• Talking Like the Rain: A Read-to-me Book of Poems. Selected by X.J. Kennedy & Dorothy M. Kennedy. (1992): Boston: Little, Brown, & Co.
• Falling Up by Shel Silverstein. (1996). Harper Collins.

Looking for Parent Organizations & Magazines

I am getting ready to launch my next book entitled,
THE TEACHABLE MINUTE: The Secret to Raising Smart & Appreciative Kids.

Know any parent organizations, radio show hosts, or magazines geared to helping parents and kids? If so, please leave me a comment. Help me to help parents so they can help kids…thanks!

Catch a teachable minute today:)

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