Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Looking for new resources, ideas, a virtual home to collaborate with teachers and find an incredible treasure trove of teacher-friendly tools?  Look now further than the new community at (if you go in on the home page, you'll look for this group in the community, under groups, subjects, language arts!

I'm honored to be selected as one of their initial group leaders (Language Arts K-12) and invite all of you to come on over and visit.  Set up a profile, jump into one of 6 or 7 threads already posted, share your ideas and learn from others.  Browse through the downloaded resources and hop over to for even more.

A SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL CONTEST:  Come back here and post your impressions, what you thought of the new networking and resource venue for educators and you'll be entered in a special drawing to win a 30 consultation with TLA, Inc. for you or your school.  If you are in central or northern AL, Atlanta or west in Georgia, south Tennessee, I'll come to you!  If you are elsewhere in the country the world of Skype can connect us for a terrific brainstorming session. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Teachers ARE Sparklighters: Where Do They Get Their Spark?

Today I decided to do a quick post for teachers, highlighting what hopefully are some new resources you don't know about.  I believe great teachers today have to be creative, intuitive, and always on the lookout (and I want to help make that latter activity easlier). I thought it might be fun to share some resources with you, starting with my current hometown on Huntsville, AL

1)  The U.S. Space and Rocket Center.  Some of you may be interested in a field trip to Space Camp but even if you can't come with your class in person, they've put together a great set of resources for you:  Check out these teacher resources.

2) Do you know that Maupin House (the publisher of The Literacy Ambassador's two print books (Anytime Reading Readiness for parents of 3-6 year olds and the partner title, Before They Read, for educators working with children the same age), has a wealth of quick, free videos to watch from the talented pool of authors?  Check them out at:

3) Need a little encouragement and solid advice to motivate you?  Visit Inspiring Teachers.  From e-books, to advice for first time teachers, and those who have been around the block a few times, you're sure to find something there for you.

4) Hands on museums are always fun but many of them have online resources you can tap into as well like Exploratorium's Evidence website and of course the Smithsonian.  .

5)  Need supplies, materials or technology for your classroom?  Check out the Thinkquest competition.  The Deadline is April 24 for the year 2011.  Check their website for updates in future years.

Finally, don't forget how zoos can combine fun and learning.  Many have webcams so you can watch the animals live from your classroom and find fantastic online games for growing young brains.

I'd love to have your feedback.  Did you know about these resources?
Do you have others to share?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Off to Illinois . . .

I'm off to the Illinois Reading Council's Annual Conference next week (March 17-19) to present (The BIG Picture of Reading and Engaged Interactive Read Aloud).  Good thing I haven't put away my winter coat!  This year's theme is Literacy Outside the Box.  They have even set up a blog you can go to for the latest on the upcoming meeting. 

Do you ever feel like you are "inside a box" as an educator?  Are you looking for ways to improve your teaching that are liberating, freeing, challenging for you and your students? (do you secretly want to be more "outside the box"?)  This will be a great place to get ideas and get energized.   Think BIG! (And by the way, if you know educators or reading advocates who live in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky or Wisconsin, be sure to share this blog with them).

Just a few ideas to start you thinking when I'm traveling to Illinois:

1) March 4, 2011 marked an historic day in the world of reading - World Book Night in London - readings, sharings, free book giveaways, book clubs, and more.  You could each have your own World of Reading Day, highlighting the power of books read individually and shared. 

2) March 7, 2011 kicks off the 2011 Tournament of Books, a March Madness-style competition.  Although this is an adult competition, you can find plenty of ideas for creating your own tournament of books at a school or library.  A cool book/journal to keep track of reading,  your own March Madness of books with student recommendations and voting, culminating in a Champion Book of the Year; use of technology to get down to the Sweet Sixteen with online voting, tweeting, etc.; honorable judges from the community, etc.

3) Appalachian State University (in the NC mountains, a former teacher's college) has a great new tradition,. Summer Reading Club.  Why not start your own version by providing the same book to every student in a class or grade as they go home for the summer?  Set up blogs, wikis, a Facebook page, or other media to communicate about the book over the summer and raise the excitement.  Ask students to identify other books that connect to the chosen on and build a reading chain for the summer to choose from.  Involve your media specialist and local public librarian in creating a reading chain and sharing it with students as they interact with libraries (school or public) during the summer months.  Here's an example of a reading chain:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (out in a movie 3/25/2011) - there is a series of these titles by Jeff Kenny
Dork Diaries by Rachael Russell.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Horse Diaries by Meg Cabot


The Lucky Baseball by Suzanne Lieurance
Lucky:  Maris, Mantle and the Best Summer Ever by Wes Tooke
Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park
Boy of Steel by Ray Negron

Make your own!

Remember that choice is a key factor in whether children will become engaged in reading.  If you'd like to learn more, read about the research of Guthrie and Morgan and Fuchs.

I'd love to meet you!

If you are attending the IL Reading Council event, please come join my sessions on March 17 (8-9AM, 9:15-10:15AM, and 1:45-2:45pm (with autographing of Anytime Reading Readiness and Before They Read, for parents and educators of 3-6 year olds respectively immediately following the 10;15AM and 2:45PM sessions).  What I find with my interactive style of presentation is a richness coming from the experienced folks in the audience.  It really adds to the content and keeps things interesting.   I also promise, as always, there will be plenty of resources and a fine, fun time.  After all, anytime we talk about reading should be an enthusiastic event, right?

Post a comment here to let me know your thoughts about any of this posting or just a "hey, see you at the conference"!  Your words are always welcome.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

After Too Long An Absence . . .

Greetings from sunny Tampa and the National Title I Conference!

I'm pleased to say that family engagement is a hot topic this year at this conference and so it should be.  In addition to my session, Families and Educators:  A Joint Book Club Concept, there are at least five other presenters who are helping Title I teachers and other Title I staff attending to understand best practices and get a handle on this idea of authentically partnering with parents.


What I see happen too many times:

1) Educators and parents "in charge" (such as PTA/PTO leadership) don't take the time to talk to your average, every-day parent (the involved and the not involved).  Making them a part of the solution is essential!

2) Professional educators trying to teach families how to do the "academic stuff" that those teachers are teaching children in the classroom (and that those teachers went to school multiple years to master).  You may have some families interested in that, but I guarantee you are limiting your family engagement if you take that approach.  Use your curriculum mapping to look for complementary practical "real-life" activities you can involve families in, rather than duplication of academic practice.  You'll engage many more moms, dads, grandmas, uncles and community members AND children will hear the important message that LEARNING HAPPENS EVERYWHERE, NOT JUST AT SCHOOL.

Get Involved in the Conversation!

I'd love to hear from all of you out there (both attendees at this important conference and those who are "holding down the forts") on these questions:

1) What is the MOST EFFECTIVE family engagement activity/strategy you EVER saw work at your school?  What made it successful?

2) Why do you think parents aren't involved with their children's learning? 

You can add more insight by responding to a brief survey online.  Its findings will be the beginning of a new book on this important subject . . .