Quotes in the Classroom

Quotes in the Classroom

Inspirational quotes are abundant on social media. As we scroll though our lives, they offer wisdom and motivation.  Recently, a “quote activity” caught my attention with its ability to create and maintain online conversation.  Engaged participants were thinking about, discussing, and interpreting various quotes.  It was introduced as follows:

“Post a movie quote that gives away the film without saying the title.”

For example, “To infinity . . . and beyond!” is a quote from the movie Toy Story. “There’s no place like home.” is from The Wizard of Oz.  “You’re going to need a bigger boat” is from . . . 

Like a great classroom prompt, friends eagerly responded and began challenging each other.  They posted movie quotes, debated the quality of the movies, and enlivened the conversation with obscure movie facts. 

Their online conversations made me wonder how and why certain movie quotes become memorable.  Do only classic movies have memorable quotes?  Are some quotes more significant to those of certain generations?  Doesn’t everyone agree with Ferris Bueller’s quote, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”?

My friend’s movie post could be adapted for the classroom as a device for a lively literature activity and discussion.  Working in groups, students compile and/or ask others for their favorite book quotes.  After the quotes have been compiled and shared, each group selects their top ten quotations to share with the other students.  Can students name the titles of the books based on the quotes? Extend and enrich the activity by discussing the following: 

  • Do any of the quotes inspire you to read (or reread) the book?  Why? 
  • Explain what the quote tells us about the character or the situation. 
  • How do these quotes connect to our own lives? 
  • Is there a particular quote that resonates with you?  Why? 

Encourage the students to use their creativity to create a collaborative quote journal/collage, or an inspirational bulletin board.  The quote journal/bulletin board can be used for future activities that promote engaging conversation, personal reflection, and a love of literature. 


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"Once Upon a Summertime"


While you're making vacation memories this summer,

boost your child's imagination through reading. 

In addition to imparting a love of learning,

reading leads the way to your child's academic success. 


Happy Birthday Jerry Pinkney




Happy Birthday to Jerry Pinkney, winner of the 2010 Caldecott Medal for his children’s picture book The Lion and the Mouse.  The book's beautiful illustrations retell Aesop's fable (without the use of text) of how one good deed begets another.  Jerry Pinkney is also the recipient of five Caldecott Honor Medals, five Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and four Coretta Scott King Honor Awards!


In September, I was fortunate to view the touring exhibition of his drawings and watercolors, "Witness:  The Art of Jerry Pinkney," at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The exhibit looked back at his 50-year journey as an artist and showcased his versatility: "Touching upon personal and cultural themes such as the African American experience, the wonders of classic literature, and the wisdom of well-loved folk tales, the works in this exhibition celebrate both small yet extraordinary moments as well as significant historical events, reflecting the transformative power of visual storytelling in our lives." 

"Witness:  The Art of Jerry Pinkney" is currently at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia until January 5, 2014.  For fans unable to attend, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has an excellent 10-part video tour you can watch here.


Chronicles of Creativity: Altered Books


Did you know books can be "altered" into beautiful works of art?  They can be drawn in, bedazzled, and painted.  Pages can be folded, sculpted, cut, woven, quilted, and rubber stamped.  Personal narratives, poems, photographs, and quotes can be added.  The possibilities are endless. 

My friend Susan (and her elementary school students) have created a variety of altered books/visual journals that are imaginative, inspirational, and poignant works of art.  I learned some of Susan's techniques at a recent class at the Muse in Frederick, Maryland, where she taught us how to explore "the connection between visual art and the written word."



We examined different types of art, then each participant selected a used book (giving it new life) and an individual theme. Our book could be used "to reflect on life or to connect with family members and friends" or for any other reason. 


We also learned how to make pockets and fold out pages.  Access to many supplies such as paints, crayons, fabric, decorative paper, gesso, markers, ribbon, and buttons was definitely inspiring.  All we needed to provide was imagination.


Best of all, I can continue adding to my book over time, so it becomes a chronicle of creativity. 

Thank you Susan - Thank you Muse.

Books are Great Gifts

Discover Shakespeare


If you know a child who has an interest in learning Shakespeare, guide her towards How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.  One of the author's goals was to teach his own children "at least twenty-five passages from Shakespeare's plays so that they could have the lines at their fingertips and spout them whenever the occasion presented itself."  While there is debate about the usefulness of memorization, engaged children will love the challenge.  Who knows how learning passages from Shakespeare's plays "by heart" can be applied to other creative endeavors?



Doodling Sparks Creativity



Did you know doodling sparks creativity and helps you pay attention?  Let these books inspire the creative, attentive doodlers among us. 




  • Doodle Mania:  Oodles of Fun Pictures to Finish by Peter Coupe
  • Doodle Your Day by Anita Wood and Jennifer Kalis





  • Zentangle Basics by Suzanne McNeill

Creative Books That Teach Colors to Toddlers









2 Questions to Ask Students


"How do other countries create smarter  kids?"  That question is Amanda Ripley's basic premise in her book, The Smartest Kids in the World:  And How They Got That Way .  While the book has many useful ideas about how to educate children, it is the author's decision to follow "three Americans (high school students) embedded in these countries for one year" that make it a must-read.  Their perceptions are enlightening and enable the reader to experience what works and what does not work within our education system.

The book's appendix has tips about "how to spot a world-class education" and includes excellent observations and questions to ask the principal and the students. 

The author advises against asking students, "Do you like this teacher?" or  "Do you like your school?"  Instead, the first questions she usually asked were: 
"What are you doing right now?" and the clincher "Why?"
She found that many students could answer the first question but not the second.  To find out why the second question is so important to learning, read the book. 

Related post:  Exemplary Teachers


Perspective Matters

Everyone has unique perspectives.  Our differing backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences shape how we react to situations, problems, and conversations.  Gifted children possess many strengths, including the ability to view things differently - a perspective that is occasionally unappreciated. 

 One way to foster valuing different perspectives is through art.  The following symmetry painting activity is an opportunity for children to understand how we see things differently.


Children make the paintings by putting a few drops of paint on paper, folding the paper in half, and then rubbing the paper to spread the drops. Once opened, the paper yields interesting shapes.


Next, the children rotate their finished symmetry paintings to share different views.  With every rotation, the children see different creative things, which promotes a lively discussion about recognizing and appreciating different perspectives. 

If your children enjoy art and creative thinking, they will appreciate the book, Inkblot by Margaret Peot. 

“… Upbeat, practical, and nearly irresistible, this may just be the go-to book on inkblot art.”

–       Booklist (American Library Association)      


Visit her website too - It's filled with creative inspiration for all ages. 


Symmetry Paintings (grades 3-4)                                                           What do you see?


Unlikely Pairs


Museum Monday


Since many museums are closed on Mondays, I'll bring a museum to you. 


This week it's in the form of a clever book, Unlikely Pairs, by Bob Raczka.  If you need a creative way to introduce famous works of art to children, try sharing this book with them.


What Bob Raczha does is encourage children (or adults) to make imaginative connections by grouping 28 famous works of art into 14 "unlikely pairs."  While the pairs are unlikely to be seen next to each other in a museum exhibit, they are very likely to create laughter and imaginative responses from children.  

Unlikely Pairs by Bob Raczka


I've used this book many times with upper elementary-aged children, and they always love it!  We've used it as a springboard for creative writing and for creating our own unlikely pairs.  The back of the book also includes information about the artists.



I've already written about how play develops creativity and imagination, and this book promotes both.  (Needless to say, I would like to thank the clever media specialist who introduced me to the book.)


Don't miss Bob Raczka's other fun books about art, including Art Is . . .


Celebrate Punctuation Day!


National Punctuation Day

Celebrate proper punctuation on Tuesday, September 24, 2013.  Use the resources below to plan your own punctuation party.

The three hilarious punctuation books written by Lynne Truss and illustrated by Bonnie Timmons are fun for ages 6 and up:

Books about Punctuation



Punctuation Celebration written by Elsa Knight Bruno and illustrated by Jenny Whitehead features playful punctuation poems for ages 6 and up.


For more mature writers, no punctuation party would be complete without The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.   If you like books about the craft of writing, Stephen King's On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft is a must!


The following punctuation challenge is for upper elementary aged children:

Correct the punctuation in the following book passages. (Use quotation marks for dialogue only.)  Try to guess the book title that each passage comes from. 

Punctuation Day Challenge
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Punctuation Day Answers
punctuation day answers.pdf
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Banned Books Week

Banned Books Weed
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association
This is What Happens When Books are Banned



Help the American Library Association (ALA) defend the freedom to read by celebrating Banned Books Week, September 22-28, 2013.  Books on the ALA's "challenged or banned" lists have been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools, including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.


This wonderful award-winning book for young adults tells the story of a gifted boy growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.  Art by Ellen Forney highlights the character's cartoonist dreams and his day to day reality, which is filled with heartbreak, humor, hope, and resiliency. The book also conveys how difficult it is to fit in and be yourself - a reality that resonantes with young adults. 

Other books I have read that appear on the 2012-2013 list include:  

The Glass Castle:  A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Nickel and Dimed:  On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

And who hasn't read these banned & challenged classics?

 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
 The Color Purple by Alice Walker

For more information about Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, visit Banned & Challenged Books - A Website of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.


See also:  National Book Festival - September 21-22, 2013


National Book Festival and Little Golden Books



This week brings a celebration of books and reading.  On Saturday and Sunday, September 21-22, The National Book Festival will take place on the National Mall.  Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this fun event gives attendees the opportunity to visit with authors, illustrators and poets.  Even if you live thousands of miles from Washington D.C., you can still join other book lovers at the Book Festival's Kids and Teachers website.

My favorite section of the website is 52 Great Reads, where you can click on a map of the United States to view titles suggested by each state. "Read the book suggested for your state or district and then learn, through these books, about the other places that interest you."


Gaston and Josephine:  Little Golden Books


Museum Mondays

Since many museums are closed on Mondays,

I'll bring a museum to you.



Whether you're visiting physical or virtual D.C., you might want to also take in the National Museum of American History's,

Little Golden Books exhibit. The Museum is "home to nearly 500 of the original drawings from Little Golden Books." 


This small but power-packed exhibit features a sampling of early illustrations from these books along with intriguing information about their history.  Click here for the online exhibit. 

The Poky Little Puppy
The Poky Little Puppy




Little Golden Books

National Museum of American History

June 28, 2013 to January 5, 2014

Second floor east


10 Ways to Communicate Better with Your Child

Ten Ways to Communicate Better With Your Child



I've found that one of the best ways to communicate with children is to listen (actually this applies to adults too). Some gifted children can be sensitive to barriers to effective communication such as sarcasm, interruptions, and condescension.  Gifted or not, child or adult, everyone can benefit from the following ten principals of good communication.  They are paraphrased from the countless communication tips found in the book, A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children by James Webb, Janet Gore, Edward Amend, and Arlene DeVries. 


1.  Listen:  Listening conveys that your child's feelings and ideas are valued.  If you must give advice, first indicate that you understand how she feels. 

2.  Accept feelings even if you disagree:  Feelings are never right or wrong.  Accepting your child's feelings communicates that her opinions and attitudes are important to you.

3.  Understand silence:  There are many reasons why a child may be silent:  anger, to gain control, protection from a lack of understanding, a need for privacy etc.  If you know the motivation, that can help.  Sometimes, it may be appropriate to let silences occur because that communicates acceptance and a need for privacy. 

4.  Set aside special time:  Consistency and frequency are more important than length.  Five minutes every day of your full, undivided attention sends the message that she is a high priority. 


5.  Avoid gossip:  Your child can be hurt if she overhears you talking about her problems or shortcomings.

6. Share feelings:  Express your own emotions in healthy ways so she can view another's emotions too. 

7.  Separate the behavior from the child:  Praise or reprimand the behavior rather than the child.  "You are smart," is not as meaningful as, "I admire how you completed your English essay on time."  Instead of,  "You never remember the rules," say, "That behavior is not allowed."

8.  Avoid contradictory messages:  Sometimes your words can indicate one feeling, but your voice tone and body language say something different.  "Your report card is better than last term," can be interpreted differently.  Depending on your tone, the words might mean, "Great job!" or, "It's better, but you're still not doing enough."

9.  Avoid making promises:  It's important that you are honest about what you can and cannot promise. Help your child understand that your priorities are to keep her safe, but you will try to respect her privacy.

10.  Use written notes tucked here and there:  There's nothing better than finding a note in unexpected places.  It always communicates, "I love you."

A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children

"I Wish Johnny Would Talk More in Class."



In her thoughtful book, Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,  Susan Cain devotes a chapter to “How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them.” Using both research and personal examples, she explains how parents and teachers can nurture a quiet child (whose talents are often overlooked). 


For parents, she offers guidance about what to look for in a school, the development of self-coaxing skills, ways to expose children to various social situations, and much more, including the following paraphrased recommendations:

  • Don’t misinterpret your child's caution in new situations for an inability to relate to others.
  • Do not shame a child for shyness.
  • Respect a child’s limits, even when they seem extreme.  This produces more confidence than either overprotection or pushing too hard. 

For teachers, she gives suggestions about the school environment such as, “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”  She refers to the comment that appears on many children’s report cards, “I wish ______ would talk more in class.” 





Susan Cain's book is a must read resource for both parents and educators.

Name That Building!





Because they come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials, buildings are a source of fascination for many children.  The following activity, Name That Building, is a fun way to introduce upper elementary aged children to six of the world’s most famous buildings.



Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris

The clues lead children on a research hunt to determine the name and location of each “mystery building.”  They contain architectural terms, historical events, mythology, etc. that serve as springboards for vocabulary development and other areas of study.  


Clue cards can also be used as assessment tools after museum fieldtrips or independent projects to determine how much children learned (or to assess how much children know prior to introducing a new topic.)


If you enjoyed this “mystery” activity, let me know, and I will make more.

Name That Building
Name That Building.pdf
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  • 13 Buildings Children Should Know introduces children to 13 famous buildings.
  • Appropriate for ages 8+
  • Other books in this series include 13 Paintings Children Should Know and 13 Sculptures Children Should Know.

Not a Box






Playtime and summertime go together, and play is important in children's development and learning.

It develops creativity and imagination, and allows children to make their own choices.  Play-based learning takes children on adventures of their own choosing.


Play is why young children love the book, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis.  This simple, yet endearing book illustrates the adventures children experience while playing with a cardboard box.  Yes, you read that correctly – a cardboard box.  It’s a perfect springboard for imagination and creativity.  (In fact, the cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005.) 













After reading the book, recycle a cardboard box into a plaything.  You could even have a few other supplies on hand such as glitter glue, pipe cleaners, crayons, markers, string, toilet paper tubes, etc. 


Ten Things to Make From a Cardboard Box

4-sided billboard

Grandfather clock


Launch pad

Puppet stage

Cavern or cave

Big drum




Not a Box is appropriate for preschool – first graders.  With older children, you may want to enhance the book with a discussion about the nature of imagination at the website, Teaching Children Philosophy.  Their “Not a Box” page contains excellent philosophical questions to correspond with the book.


If you’re in the Rochester NY region this summer, visit The National Toy Hall of Fame, which is part of The Strong® a wonderful “interactive, collections-based educational institution devoted to the study and exploration of play.” In addition to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Strong also includes The National Museum of Play, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, and the American Journal of Play.


How to Visit a Museum with Children


 During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., I witnessed a “behavioral museum meltdown” at the National Mall.  In response to his parents, a child was screaming, “I don’t care what we do, as long as we don’t visit another museum!”  Perhaps his museum fatigue (and outburst) could have been prevented had his parents followed the four “B's” of family museum-going as detailed in the classic, Where’s the Me in Museum:  Going to Museums with Children.


They are paraphrased below:


1.  Behavior

Before the visit, review how visitors should behave at a museum.  Children often do not understand the difference between public and private behavior.  For example, in an art museum, “no-touch” is an important rule.  Parents should explain how important the art is, and point out all the guards protecting it. 


2.  The Building

Children react to their surroundings – especially large open-spaced areas.  Before entering an exhibit, take time to point out features and note how the building differs from home.  For example, ask a young child to name five ways in which the museum differs from his home.


3.  The Break

Every visitor needs one.  Consider bringing snacks or even a bag lunch to prevent energy drain.  With a bag lunch, everyone knows they have what they need and how long it will take.


4.  Bathroom

Needless to say, this should always be the first stop before beginning any adventure with children. 

Going to Museums with Children

Creative Role Models

Parents often ask me how they can nurture creativity in their children.  I tell them children model their parents.  For example, instead of saying, “I’m not creative at all,” say, “I love to create things!”


Children enjoy the creative process – process (not product) being the key word.  If your child sees you taking risks and making things, she will follow your model.


When children observe us creating, they begin projects of their own.  If you’re looking for a book to jumpstart your creativity, Twyla Tharp’sThe Creative Habit:  Learn It and Use It for Life

offers inspiration.   

The Creative Habit:  Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp

Show Me A Story

What is your favorite picture book?  If you're like me, it's hard to choose.  Maybe Leonard Marcus feels the same way.  In his book, Show Me a Story!  Why Picture Books Matter, he interviews 21 children's book illustrators who share their insights regarding the creative process, their lives, book characters, and more. I was hooked halfway through the first interview with Mitsumasa Anno and his description of how imagination and reality complement each other.  "It's where the two meet that hope is to be found."  Other notable interviews include Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, Kevin Henkes, Jerry Pinkney, Chris Raschka, Maurice Sendak, Rosemary Wells, Mo Willems and many more. 


Great resource for all creative teachers, librarians, parents, and children's book lovers!  Children will also enjoy learning more about their favorite authors. 

Why Picture Books Matter

Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity



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