About Vocabulary With Moxie

Did you hear the one about the acrophobic donkey?

One day a man, his grandson, and a donkey walk into a bar. No, I’m kidding. Donkeys don’t go to bars.

The true story is they were making their way slowly through a great, green plain. The man led the donkey, who carried the boy on its back. As they walked, they overheard the not-so-whispery whispers of passersby:

“What a lazy boy!”

“He should let his grandfather ride the donkey!”

The comments stung the boy, so he convinced the man to swap positions.

As they continued with the boy leading the grandfather-laden donkey, they heard more criticism:

“How cruel the man is to make a little boy walk while he rides idly!”

Now it was the old man’s turn to feel wounded.

A solution occurred to them: “We’ll both walk!” And so they did.

Now, we all know haters gonna hate, and these haters were no different:  “Look at those fools! Why are they walking when they could be riding the donkey?”

Tough crowd out there that day. Then came another solution: “We’ll ride the donkey together!” They climbed onto the confused donkey and urged him down the road.

You know where this story is headed, right?

NOW the critics threw shade on the man and the boy for burdening the donkey with such a tremendous load. Full of shame, the man and boy reckoned the haters might be right, so they decided to carry the donkey together. Surely that would silence the haters.

As they stepped onto a narrow bridge that spanned an unexpected ravine, the acrophobic donkey panicked, kicking and shaking his head wildly. “You know I’m afraid of heights! Let me go! I can’t do it!”

As the man and boy struggled to maintain their hold on the terrified donkey, he slipped from their grasp. The devastated grandfather and grandson watched him descend into the ravine, blowing kisses and shouting, “Farewell, loyal beast!” until the donkey disappeared from sight.

What did the survivors learn from their experience?

If you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your ass goodbye.

This tale of unknown origin was Adapted from Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port.

Birds of a feather

I don’t know any teachers who are not people-pleasers. Do you? Most are like me: crazy people optimists who persist in trying to do right by every student while frantically managing the demands of a classroom, the expectations of administrators and parents, the needs of our own families, AND the standards we set for ourselves, undoubtedly the most rigorous of all.

If you’re like me, and I’m guessing you are, then I’m excited you’re here.

Because friends, TBH, depending on the day, I have somewhere between 0 and – 100% interest in spending hours, minutes, or really even seconds planning lessons and activities. Some days I’m listing towards 0%. I mean, come ON. Can we just skip to the good part–the learning–already?

Because I feel you, exhausted teacher-whose-life-begs-for-balance; whose brain throbs with hope and frustration as you search for fresh opportunities that will motivate your students to tear themselves away from Instagram; who tap into last year’s plans only to find that ALL of the stuff you used before is tired (or you’re just stinkin’ tired of doing it the same way over and over); who resolved at the end of last year — the year that saw the geniture of at LEAST a dozen gray hairs in your part — to set boundaries that dissolved before Labor Day this year.

Yes, you.

Don’t think I’m not right there with you just because I’m not literally right there with you. Because I am. Ohhh, I am.

And it is precisely BECAUSE I feel you so hard that I created “Vocabulary With Moxie.”

Insanely practical ways to get kids to think about, talk about, and play with words

“Vocabulary is the best single indicator of intellectual ability and an accurate predictor of success at school,” writes W.B. Elley. No one argues with that. Our students deserve direct vocabulary instruction across all content areas as well as–and especially!–opportunities to think about, talk about, and play with words.

Inspired by the research of the likes of Robert Marzano, Janet Allen, and Isabel Beck, Vocabulary With Moxie is a busy teacher’s resource for relevant and fresh vocabulary-building lessons, activities, and materials.

And games. Students’ love for games knows no bounds, right? (Shoot, MY love for games knows no bounds, either, which is one reason Vocabulary With Moxie could feel a little game-heavy…) No matter their age, people usually learn–often in spite of themselves(!)–in a lively, playful environment.

You can use what you find here to help you support kids’ vocabulary development with energy, courage, and know-how–with moxie, get it?–and WITHOUT sacrificing time with the people, passions, and pastimes that feed the outside-the-classroom YOU.


And best of all? Your students can feel energized, courageous, and knowledgeable–yes, THEY can feel the moxie, too!–as they develop the advanced literacy necessary not only for academic achievement, but also to express themselves and explore the world.

Disclaimer: I am by no means claiming creation or ownership of all of the resources on this site; not all sprang newborn from my head. Some are my own, but many were inspired by my students; some I brainstormed with colleagues, and others I adapted from online and print resources. And some have been on my “best of” list for so long or have undergone so many iterations, I can’t remember where they were born.

Regardless where they came from, they live here now, in Vocabulary With Moxie, and I am ready to make you a deal: I will save you time by offering fresh, fun ways to support your students in learning vocabulary if you will promise to spend the time you’ve saved using your moxie to change the world in other wonderful ways!


Come over and play with me on Facebook and Twitter. Or Pinterest, if that’s your pleasure. Instagram, anyone?

Read more about me here.