Engage! Hook ’em!

hookEvery fisherman needs the right hook to get that big catch. Every good writer knows that they need a hook to grab the readers attention and keep them reading.

Every instructional lesson needs a hook! Effective teachers “hook” their students at the beginning of each lesson. The “hook” engages students and motivates them to remain actively engaged in learning.

Why would you even begin without a hook when it has been proven to be essential?

Student engagement has been found to be the key to preventing dropout (Alexander, Entwisle, & Horsey, 1997). They don’t dropout because they:

  • earn higher grades,
  • perform better on tests,
  • report a greater sense of belonging,
  • can set and meet personal goals,
  • persist on tasks,
  • expect success, and
  • value educational outcomes (Christenson et al., 2008; National Research Council, 2004).

Meaningfully engaging students solves a large number of the “issues” currently debated in education. We must make the material matter. We must enable students to make connections between the literature and life. We must make math mean money! LOL! It’s true!

The most important type of engagement is cognitive engagement. This type of engagement is students’ belief that schoolwork is relevant to real life and their future. Congnitive engagement is about setting SMART goals, using effective strategies, and being truly motivated to learn. Students who are cognitively engaged feel that they can succeed. Most importantly, students who are cognitevly engaged WANT to succeed!

The next few blog posts will focus on strategies for student engagement.

Click here for image: engage

Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Horsey, C. S. (1997). From first grade forward: Early foundations of high school dropout. Sociology of Education, 70(2), 87-107.
Christenson, S. L., Reschly, A. L., Appleton, J. J., Berman-Young, S., Spanjers, D. M., & Varro, P. (2008). Best practices in fostering student engagement. In A. Thomas and J. Grimes (Eds.), Best  practices in school psychology V (pp. 1099–1119). Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists.
National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine. (2004). Engaging schools: Fostering high school students’ motivation to learn. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.



Engage! Engage! Engage!

Active engagement is essential to student success.

I believe there are three key words that are essential to educating our students: engage, equip, and empower. These three words are just the components; they must be joined together with real “work”. Reading about engagement strategies does no good unless we put the research to work! Through this blog we will analyze these 3Es and give tips on how to make them work in our classrooms.

Engage! Engage! Engage!

Just this week, I met with the 3rd grade staff at my school. We discussed the changes we have implemented this year. A veteran teacher spoke of the difference in student engagement this year as compared to years in the past. She believes that the strategies we have put in place to intentionally engage our students is the #1 key to the success her students are having. I agree that this one component is essential for today’s students.

So, what are we doing to engage our students?

We will get to that in our follow-up posts. First, I want to share a link with you about this topic from one of my favorite resources, Edutopia.

Golden Rules for Student Engagement


New Year’s Words & A New Voice

eee“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” -T.S. Eliot

It is 2017. It is time for new words and a new voice.

Have you noticed how educators latch on to “buzz words” as if those words will be a magic solution for the numerous issues we face in our quest to create a better educational system for America’s future?

I have. I have also noticed that we often use the “buzz words” but fail to put in the “basic work”. There I said it. Go ahead stone me. It is  true.

We often want to quote the latest buzz words we heard at a conference, but we don’t actually want to commit to making those words work. Why? I don’t have the answer for that. Maybe we don’t believe the buzz. Maybe we don’t want to put in the work. Maybe we are tired, stressed, and tired of our profession being disrespected.

This year, I commit to the work not just the words.

I believe there are three key words that are essential to educating our students: engage, equip, and empower. These three words are just the components; they must be joined together with work.

Join me in the next few months as I look at each of these “words” and  the real “work” that will facilitate student growth and academic achievement.

In 2017, will you be a new voice?



Connecting Curriculum & Current Events

us-capitol“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

In my opinion, there is a lot of power in this quote. It doesn’t matter how much you teach until you make what you teach matter. Students long to be engaged and understand the “why” behind the tasks they are asked to complete. The young minds in our classrooms truly desire to understand why the lesson matters. As educators, we must provide conditions in which our students make powerful connections to real life. They need connections for learning to matter!

One powerful way to make reading matter is to provide conditions for students to make connections with current events. In my experience students do care about current events and are anxious to explore how events connect to them personally.

When I taught 5th grade ELA I had a group of students who met with me 2 days each week for enrichment/acceleration. One of my favorite resources to use with this group was NEWSELA. This site has current event articles designed for students at every grade level. The questions are aligned with new standards and each article is paired with a writing assignment. This resource helped students make connections with current events. This resource helped make learning matter!

Today NEWSELA has a feature article titled, “Taxpayers, donors pay big bucks for inauguration that costs a pretty penny.” The article is adapted from the a recent article published by the Washington Post.

Explore the NEWSELA site by clicking here!

Super Mario Math!!

mathI am the reading specialist at a rural, Tallapoosa County school. Prior to becoming the reading specialist, I had the pleasure of teaching alongside an amazing math machine. That machine’s name is Mrs. Lauren Squires.

Check out her Donor’s Choose Project!

Squires Mario Math Project

Here are a few comments from my friend and colleague about her instructional philosophy:

“It is my goal as an educator to plan meaningful, purposeful, and ENGAGING lessons that capture the minds of my students. I love nothing more than to see my students applying skills they have learned throughout the unit.”

Read on to experience her vision for Super Mario Math:

“My plans for the Super Mario Classroom Transformation are to have students participate in a real life video game experience. They will be split into teams with one common goal… complete all of the levels to save Princess Peach! Students will work through grade level, multi step math problems during each level of the “game.” Each level will progressively become more rigorous. The materials requested in this project allow me to truly transform my classroom into a land of excitement and exploration where students apply math skills to solve problems.”

Click here to support her project:

Support this Donors Choose Project


Gaga for Google!

gaga“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie

My new role as the ARI Reading Specialist at my school requires team planning with all 5 of our third grade teachers. The third grade is an important focus group this year. Every leader “Begins With the End in Mind.” Our end in mind this year is to improve third grade ACT Aspire scores by at least 10%. This is our third grade team vision and our organizational objective. We are using Google Drive to enable us to team plan in our quest to attain uncommon results! I have gone gaga  for Google!

What does Google Drive enable us to do?

Google Drive allows us to design lesson plans and then share with other team members. Each lesson plan is designed using our DES Universal Planning and Curriculum Guide. This guide is the basic lesson plan for each reading lesson. Once the Google Doc is shared, team members can make modifications to meet the specific learning needs of their unique classes.

One of our areas of focus this year is to improve student mastery of the Integration of Knowledge and Ideas standards. I am able to create specific materials to supplement our reading program and share these resources will all of our teachers with just one click.

I could go on and on about the many uses of Google Drive. I even use it to create presentations for data meetings and professional development sessions. If you are not using Google Drive, check it out. It is a great resources for educators!

Click here to read a great Blog about using Google Drive!

Back to Blog

girlreading“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” – Oscar Wilde

I can’t begin to count the number of times that I have read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I believe that I was in the fifth grade the very first time that I escaped from reality into the world of that secret English garden. When I allow my mind to wander there, I can still inhale the scent of flora and early morning fog. My ears still perk up at the sound of a small bird chirping a happy tune. My heart always hopes that it is Robin, the symbolic gatekeeper. Like Mary, I am enchanted by Robin’s merry tune and the prospect of revealing the garden’s hidden secret.

“Mistress Mary forgot that she had ever been contrary in her life when he allowed her to draw closer and closer to him, and bend down and talk and try to make something like robin sounds.” –The Secret Garden

My love of escaping into a novel was nurtured by the many wonderful educators who blessed me with the gift of knowledge. Their influence no doubt played an important role in my decision to become an educator. I feel alive in a classroom. When I teach, I know that I am doing exactly what God designed me to do.

Knowing all of that, it might seem odd that I made the decision to come out of the classroom and step into the role of reading specialist. I have not made a blog post this school year because I have been adjusting to me new role. I am pleased to announce that I love it.

I will begin to blog about my experience in this new role, share resources that I find or designed, and share victories that I encounter on this journey. I thank God and Tallapoosa County Schools for giving me this opportunity.


Save the Date! May 5th!

It is almost time for the 3rd Annual Leadership Day and Wax Museum at Dadeville Elementary School. There will be two sessions. The first will begin at 9:oo and the second at 1:00.

We would like to invite all of our friends, family, and community leaders to attend this great event.


Earth Day & Wax Museum

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 193 countries each year.

Mr. Blue has assigned the 5th grade an Earth Day project that is due Friday. Students brought home information sheets about this last week.