Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Brain Growers: Persistence

Have you read A Mindset for Learning by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz? It's a brilliant growth mindset resource for elementary students. I'd highly recommend it.  

I've been sharing brain growers here on my blog for several weeks now. Last week we learned about persistence.

Day one: We read Almost by Richard Torrey. It helped us learn about and define persistence. We also told stories of persistence from our lives.


Day two: We read Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems. We looked for persistence in the story before practicing the brain grower with some extreme sour Warheads. If that doesn't take persistence, I don't know what will. (I learned this trick from a blogging friend.)



Day three: We read Flight School by Lita Judge and then used persistence to build houses of cards.



Day four: We can You Can Do It Bert by Ole K├Ânnecke. We also made a crown to celebrate moments of persistence.



These brain growers are lifetime skills. I'm honored to teach them to some of our youngest learners.






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Friday, September 22, 2017

Saturday Sayings: Heart and Soul



"Writers...show me the colors of your eyes. You've got to hear the poem Noah just wrote. 'Sharks are like a man-eating beast with razor-sharp teeth that tear fish apart. Duh duh duh duuuuuh.' Don't you just love how he used words like 'man-eating beast' and 'razor-sharp teeth?' Oh, and the end. 'Duh duh duh duuuuuh.' It gives me chills! I'm sure you want to be just like Noah and make smart decisions about the words you choose in your poems, too. I know you can. Go for it!"


Regie is right. I do my best teaching when I celebrate students, and Noah's story is one of my favorite celebratory moments to tell. (And I wish you could hear me share it in person. Though it sounds flat on the page, it's actually special to hear what it sounded like to a first grader's ears.) As you can imagine, Noah was on cloud nine when I interrupted writing workshop to share his poem, and the rest of the students were motivated to pick up their pens and try out some of Noah's awesomeness. That kind of celebration can change a writer...forever.

"Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate." These are the words typed into the first few weeks of my lesson plans this year. As the Idaho Coaching Network has taught me, there is something special about consistent corporate celebrations, and my goal is to infiltrate my days with more of them.


I'm challenged to "make them all feel famous," as Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome suggest in Kids Deserve It! The mathematician who taught us a more efficient drawing strategy, the non-writer who demonstrated how to brilliantly think through the pictures in his story, the writer who showed us how much more powerful she is when she uses her new reading skills in her writing, the reluctant reader who told me he could read a book all by himself and then showcased his reading for the whole class. They were famous this last week. I can't help but believe the trajectory of their learning paths was positively affected without much effort on my part. All it took was celebration — my best teaching.

P.S. Have you heard of Gatekeepers: Let's Talk About Teaching? It's my new book. I'd love to share it with you. It's on Amazon.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mystery Doug

Both my PE teacher and instructional coach brought Mysterydoug.com to my attention this year. My kids and I are loving it. Here's how it works.


  • Mystery Doug invites elementary students to submit their questions on his site.
  • Each week Mystery Doug answers one of those questions.
  • He emails his video on Monday. 
  • At the end of each video, he shares three new questions and asks his audience to vote on the one he should answer next.
  • His videos are short, kid-friendly, and engaging. 

We've watched two so far. A conversation with my instructional coach about science and writing inspired me to ask my students to hypothesize before watching the videos. Here are two examples from "How do they turn wood into paper?"




I can envision eventually asking my students to write about what they learned from the video afterwards. I think Mystery Doug has lots of potential though. It definitely encourages curiosity and lets kids know that it's smart to ask questions!

P.S. If you didn't know already, I published a book for teachers this summer. I'd love to share it with you. Check it out here.


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Monday, September 18, 2017

Number Sense Videos

I recently stumbled across a brilliant math teacher leader who  you will want to hook up with. Her name is Christina Tondevold from Build Math Minds. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, and her website buildmathminds.com. I really can't say enough great things about her.

She's sharing a lot about number sense right now and is offering a four-part free video series on the topic. Two of the videos are available now, which I've watched and LOVE. The other two will be available soon. The catch is that they won't be available forever. If you're going to watch them, and you should, you'll want to start watching soon.

So go here and get busy. 



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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Brain Growers: Resilience

I'm back with another view of growth mindset in my classroom based on the book A Mindset for Learning. This week we learned about resilience. (We've already learned about optimism and flexibility. You can read about those here on my blog.)

Day 1
We watched this video. The kids loved it, and it was a great example of resilience. After the video, we learned the definition of resilience, and kids told stories of their own resilience.



Day 2
We read Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle. The kids were asked to find resilience in the book.

Day 3
We read The Most Magnificent Thing. Then the kids worked in partners and used dominoes to practice resilience. 


Day 4
We read Little Owl Lost. We also created a chart to house future resilient stories on post-its notes.

Day 5
We read What To Do With a Problem and created our resilient crown.


I think this stuff is sinking in. It's a process and there are ups and downs, but I'm feeling good about what I'm depositing into their lives.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Assessing & Doodling

Do you ever struggle to give a whole-class assessment? Behavior can be an issue. Here's what I do.

Sometimes I have an assessment, say math for example, that I need to give to the whole class but I have to give it step by step, problem by problem, in order to get the best results. Knowing full well that certain kids will answer a problem more quickly than others, I always give the kids a piece of paper to doodle on if they finish a problem early. This little trick saves me every time. Behavior issues are typically a non-issue. 



Try it! I bet it will work for you too.

P.S. This also typically prevents them from doodling on their assessment, which honestly, drives me crazy! :)


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Friday, September 8, 2017

Brain Growers: Flexibility

I'm enjoying incorporating growth mindset from A Mindset for Learning into the first several weeks of school. (Check out my post on optimism.) This week we've been learning about flexibility. It's a must-have brain grower for sure. 

Day 1:
We read Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. Our discussion led us into the definition of flexibility, as seen in the picture. We also shared life stories of flexibility.



Day 2:
We read Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells. I challenged the kids to find flexibility in the book. Then I paired the kids up and asked them to create paper playgrounds. I told them they'd have chances to use flexibility, and they did.






Day 3: We read Shh! We Have a Plan! by Chris Haughton with the expectation that they look for flexibility. 

Day 4: We watched Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg on youtube and created our crown to celebrate moments of flexibility.




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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Brain Growers: Optimism

Teaching our youngest learners that they can grow their brains is a must. I can hardly imagine a better resource than A Mindset for Learning by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz.  


As suggested in the book, I'm teaching my first graders five brain growers. This last week we learned about optimism. I chose to introduce the idea with this video. "Kiddos, watch this video with me to find out how this girl grew her brain." (We only watched the first few minutes.)




After a discussion of what they noticed and learned, we were ready to define optimism. I used the definition and visual given in A Mindset for Learning. We then shared personal stories of optimism.


It was then the perfect time to create our Can poster, a project I've been doing for a few years now. Look here.


Throughout the week, we also read Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems and The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. "Kiddos, let's look for evidence of optimism in this book today."

We also took on the chain challenge. Check it out here. It certainly requires optimism.



Later in the week we used interactive writing to create an optimism crown that's great for celebrating those who are growing their brains. 


I'm looking forward to practicing flexibility next week. Let's grow some brains!

P.S. I published a book for teachers! Look here to check it out.



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