Friday, January 6, 2012

Discuss Quotes to Promote Literacy Development by Steve Reifman

I am delighted to host Steve Reifman today as he shares is thought provoking article, "Discuss Quotes to Promote Literacy Development." Steve will be visiting throughout the day, so please feel free to leave your comments and/or questions so he can interact with you.

"Discuss Quotes to Promote Literacy Development"
by Steve Reifman

For the past fifteen years of my teaching career, I have incorporated the use of quotes into my classroom’s morning routine to inspire my students, start the day on a positive note, and build lasting habits of character. Discussing well-known sayings brings out the best in children and helps them focus on important ideas. It is my enthusiasm for this exercise and my firm belief in its effectiveness that led me to write my new book, Changing Kids‘ Lives One Quote at a Time: 121 Inspirational Sayings to Build Character in Children.

In addition to its character-building mission, our “Quote of the Day” conversations also offer a powerful way to promote literacy. When I speak of literacy, I am referring to the specific skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking.
In its pure form the discussion begins when a student volunteer reads the “Quote of the Day” on the board. It is critical at this time to provide approximately thirty seconds of “wait time” so each child can think about the quote, make sense of it, and perhaps even come up with an example of how the quote’s meaning applies to everyday life or connects to a habit of character.

To maximize student participation, the kids follow this “quiet think time” with a brief pair-share, in which each child has an opportunity both to express ideas and listen carefully to the partner’s thoughts. Next, a few volunteers share their interpretations of the quote’s meaning with the entire class. Finally, I close the activity by sharing some thoughts of my own. Whenever possible, I like to share a personal story that brings out the quote’s meaning in a deeper way. Storytelling is a powerful teaching strategy, and kids are likely to remember the stories and the lessons they contain for a long time.

Parents can follow the basic outline of this procedure when discussing quotes at home with their children. In addition, there are several ways that parents can modify this conversational structure to strengthen literary development.

• Put one quote per day or week in your child’s lunch and discuss the quote’s meaning after school. Reading a quote at lunchtime is a novel experience for children, and the timing provides kids with several hours to think about the quote to prepare for the evening discussion, which can take place on the ride home, at the dinner table, or at bedtime. For example, with R. Herzog’s quote, “It is better to light a candle than complain about the darkness,” it may take children a while to figure out that the saying is telling them to adopt a problem solving attitude when life’s inevitable frustrations arise, not complain about them.

• Analyze quotes for excellent word choice or interesting word play. With Rudy Benton’s quote, “7 days without exercise makes one weak,” discuss with your child how the word “weak” is spelled. The quote is not referring to a week on the calendar, but to the fact that if we don’t exercise, we will become physically weaker.

• Consider writing a quote or a set of quotes on your child’s placemat and discuss these sayings during a healthy breakfast. Over cereal and fruit, you and your child can discuss Bonnie Hopper’s quote, “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little EXTRA!” Together, you can talk about how consistently giving that extra effort in school, in sports, and other endeavors can make a huge difference in the long run.

• If you’re trying to sharpen your child’s writing skills, consider using quotes for journal writing. Simply choose a quote and ask your child to respond to it using one of the prompts listed below. (More prompts are provided in Changing Kids‘ Lives One Quote at a Time.)

• Describe a time when you or someone you know demonstrated the main idea of this quote.

• What do you think this quote means? Give examples.

• Why do you think the speaker said this quote in the first place?

• Describe how you can use the meaning of this quote to help others.

• Describe how this quote can help you get along more effectively with other people.
For example, with Vince Lombardi’s quote, “If you'll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives,” children may address the first prompt by describing a time when they finished a writing assignment at school and then continued to revise it to improve the story’s word choice and sentence structure, rather than put it away because they simply wanted to be done.

• Choose a quote and ask your child to say whether (s)he agrees or disagrees with its meaning and then explain why. This type of exercise builds the critical thinking skill of evaluation (the highest level on the well-known Bloom’s taxonomy) and develops persuasive speaking skills. For example, when considering John Hancock’s quote, “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others,” a child may choose to disagree and argue that knowing how to do one’s job with knowledge and skill is more important than getting along with other people. This would likely lead to a very interesting conversation.

Discussing quotes with children is a powerful, engaging way to build character in children and develop valuable literacy skills. I hope you decide to give it a try.

About Steve Reifman:

Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher, author, and speaker in Santa Monica, CA. He has written several books for educators and parents, including Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time and Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8. Steve is also the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. Each book in the series features a single-day, real-time thriller that occurs on an elementary school campus. For weekly Teaching Tips, blog posts, and other valuable resources and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit You can follow Steve on Twitter at!/stevereifman.

About the book:

Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time is a book for parents and teachers that contains 121inspirational sayings designed to bring out the best in children and develop lasting habits of character. Accompanying each quote is a set of “talking points” that parents and teachers can use as a reference to draw full meaning from each saying. The topic of character education has been a passion of mine since I began teaching in 1994, and I have always tried to develop great students who are also great people. In these times, when bullying poses such a serious problem in our schools and character-building efforts are so desperately needed, I feel this book has great potential to make a positive difference in our society.

Inspired? Intrigued? Both? Visit Steve Reifman at and learn more about the book, endorsement statements, and a sample quote.

"Both the paperback version and e-book version are now available on, and they will soon be available at all major online bookstores."

Steve, thank you for sharing your wonderful article with us, your background and book synopsis. It's been a true pleasure hosting you today.

Wishing you all the best,

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Award-winning Children's Author
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.


  1. Hi Steve, welcome! I'm delighted to host you today.

    Best regards,

  2. Steve, I'm so glad you are doing this. Working with charities is such a great way to build a writing career.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Excited about the second edition of the award-winning Frugal Book Promoter

  3. Dear Steve,

    I love motivational quotes and until I read this, never thought how I could them with my groups. Duh!

    Great ideas all best wishes with the book. It deserves to do well.


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