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Language Motivation Reading Writing

Word Collectors

March 15, 2018

Cornett’s Book Corner

“Some people collect stamps.

Some people collect coins.

Some people collect art.

And Jerome?

Jerome collected words . . .”

Teach your students to be word collectors through the introduction of this inspiring new text.  Words, like works of art, are meant to be collected!  It is fun to understand new words and procure them for your own use.   Single syllable nuanced words or longer multisyllabic words that sound sophisticated when they roll off your tongue can be collected in a variety of ways.  Peter H. Reynolds, the author of The Dot, weaves together an interesting tale about Jerome’s word collecting journey and what happens one day when his collection accidentally gets spilled out everywhere.  This is also a great tale to inspire a writer’s workshop lesson or poetry unit.

Teachers have learned the importance of letting students have a choice when it comes to the books they read.  We have discussed this topic on Tenspire before, and research backs the claim that students certainly have increased buy in to read more if they have some control over the literature they are reading.  Have we applied this idea to vocabulary, though?  I for one can admit that I have dropped the ball when it comes to letting students find and choose new vocabulary words to study on their own.  If self-selection is vital to successful student reading practices, why have educators been negligent in having students have some input about the new words they study?  Maybe we just have not thought of it before now.  Nevertheless, when we know better, we do better.  Think of the impact you can have on a student’s life if they are encouraged to “hunt” down new words wherever they go?!  A great starting place would be for students to create a mini journal to record their personal collection of words.  There are even free templates online. Now is the time to start letting students have a say about the vocabulary they acquire.  I encourage you to begin raising a classroom full of word collectors today without delay!

Culture Motivation Reading

Best Friend Books

February 15, 2018

The Beauty of Repeated Readings

I recently had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite literacy experts, Lester Laminack, speak on the topic of reading stories multiple times.  Repeated reading is a subject that I have touched upon previously during our discussion of interactive read alouds.  However, Dr. Laminack reminded us that repeated readings of books are so much more than just another instructional tool in our teacher toolboxes.

He stated that we have “best friend books.”  These books, like best friends, are the ones you turn to time and time again.  These books can bring us comfort in times of turmoil due to their dependability.  We feel confident reading them, because we already know the conclusion by heart.  Students naturally uncover the more complex themes and meanings in books they adore over time since they spend so many hours in these texts!

Lester made an interesting point during his speech.  He said that schools and teachers are perhaps doing “something” unknowingly to discourage the re-readings of books.  How do we know this?  Simple fact: Parents send us students who LOVE to hear the same stories over and over.  Schools send back students who do not like to reread.

Think of any toddler you have ever met.  If you have read to a young child, you know they request the same books to be reread over and over again, sometimes until you are blue in the face.  Something happens when kids enter schools, though, claims Laminack.  Kids are suddenly bored by the same old books, or they refuse to reread a book on their own.  Are we as educators discouraging repeated readings?  Do libraries let students renew the same book multiple times?  Do teachers encourage students to “pick a different book on their level” or choose a variety of books to take book tests over?  Do we bore students to death with repeated fluency probes?  Is the education system subliminally sending the message to our kids that rereading is bad?

This is all food for thought.  Make sure you encourage your students to read what they are interested in reading, and advertise Best Friend Books in your classroom, too!  You know we all need our BFFs!

Art Creativity Motivation Uncategorized

New Year! New Art Goals!

January 29, 2018

So, it’s a new year which means many of us are making a year long list of resolutions that we intend to achieve and I hope each of you do! I set many goals for myself every day; don’t drink Dr. pepper, don’t eat the donut, don’t yell, don’t lose your cool, choose kindness, WWJD, and may other daily goals that’s just too many to list. I do have one very important goal for myself professionally and personally.

My 2018 goal- Do not let fear of failure consume me.   

Professionally, how can I make this happen? STOP BEING AFRAID OF NEW MEDIA. If I’ve never used a particular media before, most likely I’m not going to try it because I’m terrified of hundreds of sad faces and failed projects. One thing I enjoy about being an art teacher is that the students think I’m an art genius ( I can assure you that I’m not), but I mean come on, would you want to see the disappointment on their sweet faces?  In college, we’re taught how to teach lessons you can do with your kids, but have I tried some of these with 20-25 students? NO.  Do I feel comfortable and confident enough to teach this lesson? NO. So what can I do about it? EDUCATE MYSELF. I can’t expect this change to happen magically. So I have vowed to attend as many conferences, watch as many webinars, listen to as many podcasts, and make as many messes by myself. Not letting fear consume me professionally allows my students to have the best art experience possible in my classroom!

Personally, I could go on and on and on, but I won’t! Something from my top 5 is, STOP BEING AFRAID TO GROW ARTISTICALLY. I love going home to create art, paint, craft, sketch, and color in those fascinating coloring books and I tell myself to start sharing my artwork with people more.  I have somewhat done that, but I fear rejection and lose confidence in myself so quickly when something doesn’t go the way I planned. I often feel stuck and that I’m not progressing artistically.  So how can I make this better? MAKE ART DAILY. I can’t expect to become this art making genius like my students think I am if I’m not putting in the work to become better!

So, what are your goals year and what are you going to do about it?

Morale Motivation

You’re a Human – The Importance of Self-Care

November 23, 2017

Yes, you’re a professional who has a job with responsibilities, but you’re also a human. Sometimes things that go along with being a human, like getting sick or having a family emergency, don’t go so well with your professional responsibilities. It’s hard to find balance because our personal and professional lives are both important, but sometimes one takes priority.

I am blessed to work with great people in an understanding and supportive district. I have a wonderful work family who completely gets that I’m a human first. Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept this and not feel guilty when I need to take a sick day or deal with an urgent family matter. So I’m writing this post to remind you guys that you’re a human first, and you shouldn’t feel guilt about that. I also want to let you know if you don’t feel like you work with understanding people or don’t have support from your district there are others out there that will understand and support you.

But you have to do your part too. You need to be professional and put time into growing in your career. You can’t abuse the system and slack off and expect a lot of support and understanding when you need extra help because of an unexpected life circumstance.

Sometimes taking a sick day is a difficult call. You might be able to push through, but you might get others sick and struggling through the day might make tomorrow even worse. Also, mental health days are a thing. Unfortunately, there can be a stigma about this, but the only way to decrease this stigma is to be more open and honest about the need for them. You might need to take a sick day for your mental health if you’re so distracted by something that you’re overcome with anxiety. Taking a day to address the issue could be best. If you’ve been neglecting taking care of yourself you might need some time to recharge and regenerate to your full self. If you need to go see your doctor or therapist it’s appropriate to take a sick day. If you had the flu no one would think twice about you staying home, so if you are battling depression, anxiety, etc. no one should think twice about you getting help from professionals.

Part of being human is sometimes we are selfish. Please remember we all need each other, and one day you will need to lean on others. Don’t be afraid to lean on them or ask for help, but when times are good for you take time to seek out others who need your help. Do what you can and sometimes just being willing to listen does more than you think. Also, sometimes people need financial support and while our personal finances are important please donate what you can when you can. If everyone gives a little it can add up to a lot for someone less fortunate. You can also donate time by helping around their house, watching their kids for free, or helping them with various tasks at work.

This post is also a gentle reminder that you don’t know what someone is experiencing in their mind or when they go home after work. So next time when someone seems to snap at you or forgets to do something important try to be more understanding and kind. It might be an inconvenience to you or it might seem like they didn’t care or poorly planned, but they might be dealing with a loved one passing away or going through a divorce, etc.

Don’t forget yourself either! Self-care is vital and not selfish- it’s smart and proactive. If you struggle in this area you might need to make a self-care goal or plan it in your schedule. It can be as simple as taking a walk in your neighborhood, finally calling your friend for a long chat, or taking a bubble bath.

Utilizing technology can help you take care of yourself. I recently downloaded a few apps that might help you. For meditation try downloading the Calm or Simple Habit apps. If you want to incorporate some exercise into your routine look into the Sworkit, YogaTime, or a couch to 5k app. To make healthier food choices try apps like LoseIt, Mealtime, or MyFitnessPal. There are even apps like, Thought Diary or Stigma, to help you track and manage your feelings and thoughts. For your financial self-care apps including GoodBudget and Mint can help you plan.

So yes, you’re a human, and we all are. We need to remember that more for ourselves and for others.

Motivation Reading

Growing Minds Think Alike?

October 13, 2017

Growth Mindset + Literacy

You know what I am hearing a great deal of discussion about in the education arena today? I keep hearing about growth mindset. I love it! You know what I do not hear a lot about in these conversations? For some reason I am not hearing much discussion about growth mindset in regards to literacy skills. And, as you might have guessed, I don’t love it. It seems to me that the growth mindset concept, which has been evolving over the years, leans towards mathematics. While there have been a few attempts at adding literacy into the conversation, I think we as educators can do a better job. Here’s a start to an ongoing conversation we will be having about this topic.

What is Growth Mindset?

Just in case you are out of the loop, let’s get you into the loop. Growth mindset’s main constructs were developed by Dr. Carol Dweck’s research. When investigating mindset we learn that one can have either a fixed mindset: believing that you can never grow or improve in an area, or a growth mindset: believing intelligence or ability is malleably and can be cultivated to grow over time with work, patience, and practice. Actually, one’s personal philosophy can go from one end of the mindset spectrum to the other and it can always change over the years. Your mindset can also change depending on the task at hand. As a teacher, maybe you have a growth mindset about the potential of your new class of students this year, but you have a fixed mindset on your ability to ever be caught up with all that grading.

As Dr. Dweck says in a more recent talk, you do not really ever achieve a complete growth mindset, it is something to always be striving towards. Some folks, with good intentions, skewed her original message and thought that growth mindset it something you achieve in a day. In actuality, growth mindset might not be fully achieved over a lifetime and it can be applied to all aspects of your life. I will leave you with this TED Talk featuring Dweck as she discusses some of the ins and outs of her mindset concept. Hopefully you will be thinking about ways to better incorporate this philosophy into your teaching and we will specifically be discussing its use in literacy instruction next time we get together. Bye for now!

Homeschool Motivation

Fall into HIM this season

October 9, 2017

As a former elementary school teacher, and now a homeschooling mom of two boys, I have always loved the idea of fall – cooler weather, pumpkin spice everything, a landscape dotted in lovely yellows, oranges, and reds………

But then, the reality of the season hits, and it’s a looooooong stretch of 5 day weeks – without any holiday breaks between Labor Day and Veteran’s Day. Now, I have heard rumors about some schools getting Columbus Day off – or even a short fall break – but in all the schools that I’ve worked, it’s just one long push from the beginning of September until mid November.

On top of this is the fact that (here in the states), fall is the beginning of the new school year. And while there’s always an excitement and energy for the beginning of the year, it also means that much of your time is spent not only on teaching your material, but also “training” your kiddos for the year.

So when there’s not a single break in sight, your to-do list seems to be growing by the minute, and your kiddos just can’t seem to remember what you told them two minutes ago, it can leave you feeling like you are constantly “living tired.” Have you been there?

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hit these seasons, I have a tendency to want to just dig my heels in, push through it, and assume that I will get to rest when the season has passed. After all, if I don’t do it, it’s just not going to get done – and that’s just not acceptable, right? (sarcasm intended).

However, I have learned there are two major problems with this approach.

#1 – When I “dig in,” I begin to focus on all of the things I need to do – the tasks, the calls, the chores, the errands, the paperwork, etc. I become so fixated on what I’ve got on my plate, I can become oblivious to anything else. And sadly, my gaze shifts from my Heavenly Father downward to the things of this world.

#2 – Even when this season passes, there are going to be new things that fill up your schedule. Just stop for a moment to think. Once we hit Veteran’s Day – yes, you get a day – but Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And then, the whirlwind of the holiday season is upon us. Most likely, even your Christmas break will be filled with a flurry of activities, commitments, and travel.

So, if digging in and pushing though is not a legitimate option, what can we do? Let’s consider an alternative. Rather than dig in and try to do it all in our own strength, let’s stop, and SOAK IN His presence.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

I have been weary. I have been burdened. I have yearned for rest. And His solution is simple: “Come to me, learn from me.”

So, may I encourage you to set aside the laundry, the papers, the cleaning, the lesson planning, and all of the other things you have on your plate, and simply rest in His Presence. Read His Word. Talk to the One who knows you better than you know yourself.

It doesn’t have to be long, but this time will fill you with a peace, a strength, a renewed purpose, and dare I say, even a joy to carry with you into this season. He knows all that is on your plate, He knows your heart, and He longs to meet with you.

Believe me, sister, the time spent with your Creator is not lost time, rather it is a precious time that we cannot afford to lose.

Motivation Reading Technology Writing

Cornett’s Book Corner

October 4, 2017

Monthly Book Reviews

In the spirit of keeping up with a few new pieces of rich literature for read aloud or to add to your classroom library, I began featuring two new books for you to check out last month. This month we have two additional finds you may or may not have seen before, but I suggest considering them for your classroom needs.

TEK: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? Is it an iPod? No, look closer. It’s an actual book! This story’s illustrations make it look like one of your favorite handheld technological devices. Maybe this feature alone will draw in some of your reluctant readers during our technology driven times.

The beauty of this story is that it weaves the ideology that technology may not always be all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, Tek’s obsession with high tech devices leads him to be very disconnected from reality. Think cave man life here. As a lady that still rocks a flip phone, I can really relate to this story’s message. We need to make sure that our students understand both the advantages and disadvantages to being “plugged in” all the time. Use this fun story to help set the notion into motion that everything has it’s time and place, but moderation is key. Hmm. I’m sensing this would be a great text to use with author’s purpose and theme. To avoid irony, I hesitate to mention that this book does have a YouTube video, but it might be an option for your student’s viewing pleasure as well. Just promise me you won’t forgo all actual text for videos, ok?


10 Things I Can Do to Help my World by Melanie Walsh

Not a new book, but new to me. This book was introduced to me this summer as a selection one of the Read to be Ready summer camps had used in their programming. Being the tree hugger that I am- I LOVE it! I loved it so much that the teacher sharing the book with the group gave it to me to keep. One of the best features about this book are the pages- many of them have cut-outs, flaps, and creative ways of displaying the text. It is just an awesome book with an even more awesome message. I think it would be a wonderful option for building fluency since the students will hardly be able to put it down because it is simple in nature and they’ll want to play with the pages. It would also be a great text to use with a follow up writing prompt concerning other ideas students generate about helping our world. Help your world and help your classroom library by checking out this book!


Assessments and Data Motivation Reading

What’s It All About?

September 18, 2017

Incentives and Reading Levels

When I began teaching, parents were all about the level their child was reading on according to  the Accelerated Reading (AR) program. Students were all about reading to get points, too. There were school wide reward parties for the “top readers” in each grade level. Funny thing is, I usually did not let my students participate in AR. The program itself has many benefits. The problem was how it was implemented.

This post will not be about nixing all reading incentives or disregarding tested reading levels altogether. The points I want to drive home in this post are that you may need to reexamine your incentive practices and not rely solely on a one-time computer generated reading level for your students.


First, there were the issues with the parents. Why didn’t their child get picked for the AR party? “That’s not fair!” they would whine. The truth was, it wasn’t fair. Some students were reading at levels far above the others and therefore better able to earn points and rewards. When I was in middle school I would read the first and last page of lengthy chapter books, take the book’s quiz, and rack up some major points even if I did not score well on the test overall. I think I missed the point of reading! The above examples are what you want to avoid if you choose to use reading incentives in your classroom. Students should not feel behind others or judged by their reading levels any more than they already do. Some incentives promote excitement in reluctant readers who enjoy games and contests. Some incentives make those readers who are behind become even more hopeless and they give up. If you do offer incentives, make sure there are not ways students can cheat the system, too!

Reading Levels

If I have your student in my class, I am going to find out his or her reading level from a computer generated test that we administer to all students at the beginning of the year. This score is conveniently accessible and gives me a good place to start my further investigation of your child’s reading abilities. I never stop at just the one score. Sometimes students test far below or above their actual abilities (blame test anxiety or lucky computer clicking). Students’ reading abilities may progress slowly or quickly and many times another computer test is not available to be administered in a timely manner. There are many factors that contribute to skilled reading and one test score is not going to give you the whole picture of the readers in your classroom. Please do not leave your students on the same book level all year just because there has not been a time for another reading test on the computer.

My biggest take away from using AR in the classroom was discovering the root cause of why parents and students liked it so much. Parents like to be informed about their child’s progress. If they see a simple test score that says “reading at grade level 2.2” parents can easily think about that number in terms of their child’s grade level. As educators, we know it’s not as simple as a single number and we also know these scores are sometimes inaccurate. Please take the time to explain to your parents exactly how their students are performing. What are the student’s strengths and weaknesses? This may take longer than placing a score in front of them, but it is well worth it! Students like reading incentives because they like to have fun. Make the enjoyment of reading the incentive! Take the time to truly find out what your students are interested in reading and reward them with great literature. Continue to use incentives and reading levels if they suite your needs, just proceed with caution to avoid the pitfalls!

Assessments and Data Back to School Motivation Reading

Go for the Goal

September 6, 2017

Goal Setting

Is goal setting really worth all the hype? I think so! Dr. Hattie says so, too. His collective research on preexisting educational studies (he conducts meta-analyses) led him to conclude many things about effective teaching practices. When it comes to goal setting Hattie defines learning intentions as “describing what it is we want students to learn in terms of the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values within any particular unit or lesson.”

One can have long or short terms goals. Not only do your students need to know the expectations for their daily lessons, but they should know about appropriate long term goals as well. The experts suggest that goal making be led by the student or at least have some student input. We do not always follow this recommendation as educators, but we should! Consider how you would feel if all your goals were set by someone else. Not very motivating, huh?!

Why don’t you put yourself in your students’ shoes and set a teacher goal for yourself first? Just like you would with the students, you can start small. What is something you can do to improve your literacy teaching practices this school year? Maybe you could join an online professional book club and gain teaching ideas from peers. Perhaps you decide to set aside one day a month to sit down and analyze your students’ reading progress, scores, classwork, etc. Make a small goal that you are interested in and stick to it!

Now on to your students. It would be great to explain to your students some appropriate goals for their grade level or to even work individually with students on options for areas to focus on. Maybe stick to one area at a time, for example, have your students set a writing goal for themselves. Make sure it is measurable! Have students share their goals with their peers and their plan for making progress. You will surely not be disappointed with how far your students will grow when they have goals they are determined to succeed in. Go for the goal, kiddos!

Motivation Organization Reading

3 R’s of Summer

June 5, 2017

Refresh, Research, & Relax

Summertime is here! You have finally made it to the most glorious time of the year. However, we all know that a teacher’s work is never done. While the break should certainly be a time of rest and rejuvenation, you know you will be dreaming about next school year. Let’s think about some ways to make sure your nightly slumber does not involve panicky nightmares about August, rather sweet dreams about the great possibilities that lie ahead.


Do some meditative brainstorming here. What literacy practices are going well in your classroom? What routines and instruction can you keep, but just jazz up a bit? You may want to reorganize your classroom library or go to a used bookstore to restock a variety of literature. It is fun to shop for new storage to help make your small groups run more effectively. Perhaps take time to add to your reading review game options or unit lesson plan collections. Design a new reading strategies bulletin board- now is the perfect time to plan before the stress of the school year sets in. Maybe you need a new reading rug or just want to steam clean your current one. Add some new seating to your book nook? Remember one of the most exciting parts of the new school year is all the “newness” floating around, so think about ways to revitalize your classroom practices and surroundings.


Pick out a professional book to read. You know, that one you didn’t get the opportunity to read during the hustle and bustle of the school year. It is inspiring to learn about new practices that are researched based and will better equip you to help students reach their full potential. Find a book that pertains to an area of weakness you have in your pedagogy or just an area you are looking to learn more about. Keep in mind that this is not an assigned summer reading program. You get to pick! Recently I have really enjoyed The Reading Strategies Book and newly released The Writing Strategies Book. These texts even have their own Facebook group enabling educators from all over the world to share resources and ask questions pertaining to these user friendly texts by Jennifer Serravallo.


Let’s not forget that you really do need to rest up. It takes a ton of energy to get your classroom set up at the beginning of the year and to prepare yourself for a whole new crop of kids. Plan how you will attack the upcoming year. Sure, you can write a grant for some new technology for your reading centers, but only do so while in your pajamas eating breakfast in bed. Meet with your grade level team about how you will adapt your current reading series to the rigor of the revised standards, but only do so poolside. To gain more background information about an expository text unit you will be studying with your students next year take a vacation to places the books feature. Cut out laminated vocabulary cards while watching your favorite Netflix series. Teachers are some of the most creative folks I know, so no doubt you can think of inventive ways to multitask school planning with relaxing!  

While your days may not be filled with parent emails, keeping up with a classroom full of kiddos, and after school faculty meetings, you can still be working towards a fantastic new school year. Enjoy this time by making the most out of it!