Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Arrival!

It is finally here!

For years, I have been carrying information, ideas and stories in my head—ideas developed over decades of working with hundreds of children and their parents. 

This month I launch my mission to share these ideas and stories with others. I teamed up with Tracy Molitors, my long-time friend and colleague, because one of her images really is worth a thousand of my words. Together, we created part one in our series: Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension

It is chock-full of ideas I use with children of all ages to enrich their language and language arts skills. This book is to be the first in my series connecting both language and art with language arts. It is a creative entanglement of my busy head (filled with years of language therapy experience) and Tracy’s ever-widening know-how as an artist and children’s art mentor. We both care that kids are given enough time to delve deeply into literature —enough time to discover their own love and talent for writing. 

I named my book Trees in the Forest because of my belief that when we study a piece of literature in depth, we learn about all of literature, just as one might study a tree to learn the forest. I have collected and modified strategies that aid struggling readers and writers who face the greatest challenges in the reading and writing arena. Tracy added her knowledge and talent, creating images and graphics, adding a bit of fun to my ideas! The result of our entwined roots is a book filled with educational philosophies and engaging activities targeted for anyone who teaches language arts: educators, speech-language therapists, art teachers, and home school parents.

 If you are interested in learning more about my book, you can order it through my website ( or on Amazon!


Monday, December 19, 2016

Some Holiday Perspective: "Happy" vs. "Merry"

Which do YOU prefer: “Happy Christmas” or “Merry Christmas”??

In Clement Moore’s “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (1823), the poem ends with Santa exclaiming, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

However, while Moore called Christmas “happy,” Charles Dickens preferred “merry.” In his classic work, “A Christmas Carol” (1843), “Merry Christmas” resounds across the entire story. U.S. radio stations broadcast Dickens’ book for years, which no doubt influenced popular culture, solidifying “merry” in American usage. 

 So which word elicits the most warm-fuzzy sentiments? Let's do a word study to make up our minds:

The word “merry” provokes feelings of lightheartedness and high spirits. Today, every word in the “merry” family is bright and positive—merry, merriment, merrymaking. There are no negative derivatives (i.e. no "mis-merry" or "un-merry").

However, “happy” is a different story. The base word “hap” belongs to a much larger tree of words, many of which are relatively…unhappy. How about mishap, or hapless? Yikes.

Also, the base “hap” is super chancy, and who wants that? The morpheme “hap” means “chance, fortune, luck,” which is where we get mayhap, perhaps, and happenstance.

I’d rather not take a gamble when it comes to Christmas cheer. “Merry” is the clear winner in my book, its entire linguistic family is joyful and spirited! That “hap” family is far too hazardous.

Merry Holidays!



Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Gift of Language

Do you say fireflies or lightning bugs? Yardsale, garage sale, or tag sale? Tennis shoes, sneakers, or gym shoes? When your friends argue vehemently over kitty-corner or catty-corner, would you like to know where the confusion originated?

If you are looking for a fun language-based Christmas gift, try Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk, by Josh Katz. This book is a fun, visual guide through American vernacular and how it differs across the 50 states. The large, colorful graphics and charts on each page make this book visually pleasing and easy to peruse. Katz also writes interesting notes outlining the historical evolution of our country’s surprisingly variable vocabulary and idioms.

Speaking American provides endless entertainment and conversation among family members and friends. It makes for a fun cover-to-cover read, as well as something to flip through at random.

The best gifts are both fun and stimulate thinking - Speaking American by Josh Katz fits the bill perfectly!


Friday, December 9, 2016

Fishing for Meaning

Last week, we talked about making our teaching both Visible and Enjoyable—for all students. We want to make teaching:

Visible because children who struggle in any given area will not easily make connections to text and writing. They struggle to gain automaticity, so they must learn each step explicitly. Each Visible skill needs to be practiced repeatedly, both in isolation and connected with other related skills. Repeated skill practice is by nature a dull affair, yet for many children, it cannot be avoided.

Enjoyable because struggling learners spend entire school days engaging in tasks that are difficult and frustrating. They struggle with cognitive fatigue and feelings of shame or embarrassment. Sometimes anger and resentment result. The more we can make skill practice Enjoyable, the easier it is on everyone. More than anything, learning that is Enjoyable supports the educator-student bond—a bond often challenged when reading and writing difficulties define the day.

To help children more fully comprehend text in an easy to follow (Visible) and interesting (Enjoyable) way, I developed a strategy I call Fishing for Meaning. Fishing for Meaning helps kids to understand that words on a page have secret messages and ideas underneath—much the way the surface of the ocean holds an entire word of living creatures below the surface, hidden within its depths.

Fishing for Meaning is both a Visible and Enjoyable metaphor to help you teach children how to interpret deeper meaning within their reading passages. Fishing for Meaning also gives kids another reason to write in Bits and Pieces! Tracy Molitors designed this wonderful visual to share, so be sure to download this free activity to use with your students! Visit my the Rooted in Language home page ( and click the "Download your free activity" button!


Friday, December 2, 2016

Visible and Enjoyable

I like to compare reading and writing with dancing. I am not good at motor planning, so I need explicit dance instruction that shows each step slowly—practiced over and over—and still more practice putting steps together. But a natural dancer, with naturally strong coordination and motor planning skills, learns basic steps easily without as much explicit training, and then easily consolidates those steps into a fluent routine. The strong dancer who easily masters a repertoire is free to improvise.  Improvisation brings forth innovative ideas that inspire us all.

I have noticed over the years that my students who struggle the most are the ones who teach me how to teach. Like my dancing, the struggling student does not have the natural aptitude needed to gain automaticity in some or all reading and writing skills. Therefore, I puzzle out the best ways to teach each student the steps, as well as the entire reading routine. Students who struggle remind me that my teaching needs to be both Visible and Enjoyable.

Children with stronger reading and writing skills benefit from teaching that is Visible and Enjoyable, as well. They naturally create reading and writing games because their skills help them to explore with joy. They improvise and then innovate, much like a dancer. Their innovative ideas can be borrowed and modified, to the benefit of all. We want to use creative ideas to encourage our student’s sense of fun. Then we can sit back and enjoy the language-rich play they create.

Any time we can make the process easy to follow (Visible) and interesting (Enjoyable), it is a win for all. As in the dance metaphor, music that has an obvious beat is easier to follow. Music that I enjoy inspires me to overcome my awkwardness. If I don’t like the music, I tend to sit on the sideline and watch. Or I find something else to do.

One way I try to make reading and writing more Visible and Enjoyable is by using visually interesting art concepts. If you are interested in learning more about how to link the visual arts to your language arts program, my colleague and artist friend, Tracy Molitors, has a blog: Connecting Art to Language Arts. You can also connect to Tracy’s blog via the link on the right side of the screen!