Category Archives: Growth Mindset

Appreciation and Celebration

Today was our first day back from Spring recess. Teachers were smiling and sharing stories about their adventures over break as they were getting ready for this last part of the year. Down the long hallways students’ writing adorns the walls and we see a noticeable shift  in the quality of writing – there are signs of growth. The buses empty out and students begin to fill the cafeteria and spill out into the hall. They’re taller than they used to be, they walk down the hallways more confident than in the timid days of October’s falling leaves. Our students’ bright faces are full of happiness and expectation. It’s springtime and our school is bursting with energy, this is a time when students are coming into their own. We have tilled the soil for learning and we want to celebrate growth:

Transferring Mindset:  He came through the door carrying Italian chocolates that he knows are my favorite and a big white orchid.  Quickly, he ran over to me, his big brown eyes sparkled, “I have something for you!” Being a teacher is more than just teaching a subject especially when you are in a primary grade.  It’s about teaching children how to be kind, and how to learn to work together.  We want the best for all our students, to feel accepted and valued.  This gift celebrated the teamwork between home and school and his success was a shared victory. All of our efforts are coming together and now his growth has begun to take root and is becoming known to him.  For this boy, optimism and resilience were the underpinnings for his emerging growth. He is learning how to get past the issues that would hold him back, he is learning how to see the world from a brighter perspective.

Thank you Christine Hertz & Kristi Mraz for writing A Mindset for Learning.(video) Your work has inspired ours and together we are making a real difference in the life of this boy.

Ownership and Mindset: Students were working in partnerships and groups, clustered around posters, gluing index cards, and all sorts of books lay open on floors and tables to guide their work. This is ownership.  Children who are empowered learners, who embrace the work because it is meaningful.  For one student ownership has not come easy.  He tries to be compliant but more often than not, he avoids doing the sustained work that he needs in order to grow as a reader. Today, was different.  Today he was able to deeply comprehend a text with a sense of excitement and joy  His understanding fostered a deep personal connection to the book because none of its meaning was lost on him. The Bear Son An Inuit Tale is a touching story of love and he couldn’t wait to share his feelings, thoughts, and insights with us: “I wish this was nonfiction because the bear is so gentle with the children. I want it to be real.” As he gazed down at that page, it wasn’t abstract to him, it was palpable. It’s not the book, it’s the boy. How did his personal growth as a reader get us here? There were many threads that pulled together to elevate him to a new level of understanding: the consistent message that he can work to learn, the expectation that he will read deeply, and the narrative of success that was just waiting for him to believe. Everyday he is surrounded by students who do this work with the same spirit and zeal and today he did too.  

Thank you Gravity Goldberg for writing Mindsets and Moves (Webinar) and giving a voice to student ownership. This boy is learning how to grow into himself as a reader, one who is beginning to care deeply about his work and reflect on his process. We share this success with you.

A Flexible Mindset: “Do you know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk?” You might  expect the answer to be a quick and easy yes. One boy looked back shaking his head no, and the other squinted his eyes and cocked his head to the side, “Is that the one where the witch takes him out in the forest and feeds him candy. Then she tries to eat him.” The plan was to use a familiar story  to develop saliency. There really is nothing predictable about the classroom. Truly, flexibility is an essential quality that teachers are endowed with or learn to develop over time.  Flipping through the book, giving a brief explanation of the story was all that was needed to model the strategy: Retelling What’s Most Important by Making Connections to the Problem.This strategy was carefully selected especially for them. It wasn’t about the book, it was about the strategy.  The boys went to work transferring the strategy to their independent books. One boy quickly discovered there was more than one problem in his traditional literature book. Time to flex again, out came a goal card that would enhance the mini-chart. Its job was to give a useful prompt for the boy to do the work at hand.  Meanwhile, the other boy had placed his post-it’s at all the right spots in his book. Fabulous! He looked earnest with the “all done” look that young children master so early. “So let’s talk about your book…” A few words and  our flexibility flag began to fly. His next step was to give him the language to talk about how the  resolution connected back to the problem. Leaning into the mini-chart he practiced, and success followed. What a difference 20 minutes can make. Today, for these boys, they got exactly what they needed. They were confident, happy kids.

Thank you to Jennifer Serravallo for writing The Reading Strategies Book (video). You created a resource that empowers skilled teachers everywhere. Your work, combined with our knowledge allowed us to be flexible and match the needs of our students, and set them up for achievement.  

We appreciate our colleagues, and thank you for showing up and doing this important work. You amaze us whether you are our friends down the hall, our loving and supportive connected colleagues, or the authors that fill our minds with every idea you pose.

Unlocking Each Other’s Potential

As connected educators, we find inspiration not only from our school colleagues but from our virtual faculty.  We belong to a Voxer community. Jenn was having a conversation on Voxer with Joanne Duncan about unlocking each other’s potential.  It occurs to us that  the key that turns the lock is the deep substantive conversations that make us think.  Here we are,  all doing the work and when we share our insights it inspires us to think in a deeper way.

As always, as we reflect on our own learning, we had to ask the question who is inspiring our students to think deeper.  Here is what they said:


Keshavi inspires me especially during math time.  She does math tricks or strategies that she shows to me that makes math easier.  It makes me feel happy because I have someone to count on when I need help.  It inspires me to make my own papers and charts to help me.  When I watch her and see what she does, it gives me ideas about what I can do.  “


“I think Tessa inspires me because she is very good at writing and reading.  I don’t think I am good at writing but whenever I think of Tessa I think I should work harder and write better things.  She is always writing something and this makes her really good at writing.  I think if I write more like her I will get better at it.  She makes me want to write more just like I read a lot.”


“Rileigh inspires me because she is so smart /intelligent and every time I look at her she is having fun.  She never gets mad and has a good heart.  She says good things about everyone and she helps others.  She is able to get over things that bother her and I want to be able to do that.  I watch her and I try to do what she does.”


“Keshavi inspires me because she is very smart and she can answer a lot of questions.  She works really hard and she is helpful.  When people need help, she will help them.  I can’t copy her but I watch  her and she inspires me to want to be better and work a little bit harder.”


“Natalie inspires me to do my best.  We talk about things and that helps me work better.  She treats me good and makes me happy all the time.  When I’m happy, I work harder and I do better work.  I never had her in my class, so I am happy because now we can do work together and this helps me learn.”


“Vinny inspires me a lot.  When he is working hard, he can get his work done quickly.  I watch him and it inspires me to work hard and get my work done too.  He also helps people and I try to do the same.  It is the right thing to do.”

Reflection is so revealing .  These simple conversations lend so much insight into the learning process for these children.  We need to name this for what it is, formative data.  We can use this information to inform partnerships, set instructional goals, and demonstrate relevant behaviors through using student models.  As we evaluated the children’s responses we saw both academic and social awareness at play.  Growth mindset is not just jargon, this is it happening in real time.  Through these conversations we can identify areas in which students are striving for personal growth. They haven’t mastered these things yet:  using tools, immersion in the process, resilience in the face of challenges, collaboration to elevate our work, and the importance of pacing. These children can be mentors to each other as they work through the trials and tribulations of third grade.

Adults who have a growth mindset do this also. Jenn was encouraging JoAnn to take that step into blogging because it was something that she talked about wanting to do.  Blogging offers teachers an opportunity to be introspective and thoughtful about their practice and their philosophy. Blogging has done this for us and reading blogs informs our practice, provides a connectedness and pushes us even further.  We want to share some of the blogs from our Voxer community who we learn with every day.


Literacy Lenses                                                        

To Read To Write To Be

Lessons In Literacy, Lessons in Life                    

Four O’clock Faculty

Resource – Full                                                       

Simply Inspired Teaching

Reading Teacher Writes                                       

Burkins & Yaris Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy                                                

Kinderconfidential The Good The Bad The Planning

One Reader at a Time                                                                                   

The Writing Book Lady  


JoAnne Duncan

We can’t wait to read your blog JoAnne! 

Generative Learning In Action: The Reunion Continues #TCRWP

Session 3: How Can We Help Students Become Reflective, Goal-Driven Writers? Checklists, Feedback and Goal Setting Can Accelerate Student Growth – Alexandra Marron


  • Strategy Seminars: This is a way to teach strategies that makes the learning transfer to student need. Students sign up for a strategy for example, how to find the Main Idea, this builds in choice, and formative assessment.  Choice because students are determining their needs by making a selection.  Formative assessment because teachers can observe the choices made. This tells us a lot about mindset:
    • Does the student have a fixed mindset, are they selecting strategies that they are already good at?  
    • Do students know themselves as learners?
    • How effective was my instruction? Do certain methods work better for certain children?
  • Using the TC Learning Progression from the Reading Pathways Book as a multifunctional tool for teachers and students during goal setting. This idea was first introduced to us in Brooke Geller’s session. We are the kind of teachers who think it is so important to integrate all our learning into a cohesive vision.
    • Teachers use the progression as a record keeping device (insert pictures)
    • Students can cut them up and make micro progressions, and goal setting tools (insert pictures)

What this means:

  • Independence: either of these take-aways work as structures to promote independent work. Choice and tools work together to empower students. The whole goal of workshop is to lift the scaffold and foster independent learning.  
  • Agency: Our work aims to p
  • ut the learning in the hands of our students.  Together we explore student potential which means we have to let them shape the path for us to follow. This work resonated with us because it is additional thinking that informs our current practices and makes us think deeply about the vision for what might come next.

Session 4: Structures and Rituals (and a Calendar) Can Make Your Writing Workshop Support Your ELLs K-5 – Jen DeSutter


  • The way we can get to know our writers is by using three lenses to study student work to set goals: language, word study and genre knowledge. The way we view their work is shaped by the different expectations for each stage of language acquisition.
  • Everything we do in our classroom needs to be rooted in context.  Knowledge integration means that we make connections for learning throughout the day. We have to provide instructional variety to engage learners.  We can do this through shared writing, interactive writing and writers workshop.  

What this means:

  • Once we look beyond the way students’ writing looks on the page, we can learn to embrace how their language knowledge is conveyed through their writing.  This will change how we view progress for their writing. We are moving away from only looking at mechanics/spelling and closer to process learning.  We loved the idea of using the three lenses (language, word study, and genre) to evaluate student writing. Jill was able to look at the different stages of language development and match her students to their levels of language readiness.  It was a natural fit and that just made sense. As we do this, we are looking at possibilities opposed to limitations.
  • We’ve been thinking a long time about using instructional techniques in strategic ways.  Shared writing is a natural fit for learning syntax and grammar.  Interactive writing is a great way to promote elaboration through group discussion.  What better way to teach academic language than having children apply their learning right there on the spot?  As we listened we began to think about how we would integrate tools as part of our instructional practice. A focus might be on generating cognates, synonyms, or  suffixes/prefixes to promote meaning making. Where there are tools there is also engagement.  As we incorporate pictures, gestures and phrases, we can reach many more writers.
  • We believe in the reading/writing connection. Our next thoughts turned  to taking Jen DeSutter’s ideas and transferring this learning to reading work. Context is extremely important, and it is especially so for our ELL students. Every writing move can be made more meaningful through reading work. How can we do this? Student work offers us opportunities to teach into language, word study and genre.  If we use student writing as a mentor for shared reading and interactive read alouds, we can teach them how to look at writing through the three lenses: language, genre, and word study.  This is a way to tap into language that is easily accessible to them and values their work.

Parent University 101 –

We signed up to do an open house with parents across the district.  Our post tonight is our plan for the session:

First Impressions:

  • We will display mentor text from the current Unit of Study (Informational UoS).  (Read aloud for reading and writing workshop)
  • Provide sample browser boxes for independent reading (Independent work and strategy small groups)
  • Provide sample guided reading texts (Small groups- guided reading)
  • Anchor charts that mirror classroom instruction in real time (Reading and writing workshop)
  • Writing Rubrics & Checklists  (Writers workshop)
  • Sample tools for parents to take home (Independent work- reading and writing)
  • Sample of student writing (from the UoS) (Writers workshop)


A Balanced Literacy Framework offers a system that can adjust itself  so that students can become flexible learners.  There is a shared responsibility from teacher to student. Children are stakeholders in their own learning.  The context for learning is authentic – the purpose for learning is informed by the teaching.  Students working in a balanced literacy framework are self-regulated and learn how to articulate their goals, manage their time, and independent work ethic.  

Forming Relationships:

We want to demonstrate how this is a “Balanced Literacy” Framework.  This is the big reveal- time to experience what your child does.  

Writers Workshop/ Read Aloud/Grammar/Independent Work

  • Display an exemplar piece of writing from the UoS
  • Use the writing rubric and checklist as a guide to explain possible mini lessons & overarching expectations for third grade
  • Read excerpts from read aloud mentor texts to model and give context for minilesson focus
  • Engage parents in a revision of the exemplar piece or writing
  • Have parents participate in an inquiry based grammar lesson
Readers Workshop/Read Aloud/Word Work/Independent Work

  • Use a read aloud mentor text to model a variety of minilessons- structure, monitoring through rereading, fluency, word solving strategies
  • Engage parents in the independent work that emerges from the minilesson providing tools for support
Guided Reading Versus Strategy Lessons

  • Guided Reading is instructional level- slightly above their level. Children are all reading the same book. Errors are used as a source of assessment to guide instructional goals (sample of an introduction)
  • Strategy Lesson is in their independent books. Children are in different books and the goal is to see if students are transferring the strategies so they can become efficient in any given skill. (show a mixed level text set around a certain strategy)
Independent Work\Conferring

  • This is where they are building stamina and volume.  Children are working toward their independent goals. Practice leads to greater proficiency and providing time to read is essential to growing proficient, engaged readers.  This is their work!
  • The teacher is very strategic and has time to collect the formative data- How’s it going? (Provide the steps to a conference)

 Farewells & Final Thoughts:

Digital texts are multimodal and motivate children to have meaningful conversations while doing analytical work: A growth mindset refers to an intrinsic belief that through “hard work” we can develop our current abilities beyond what we can do today.  How does the boy represent this idea?  As you watch this video think or jot down the boy’s actions, feelings, and dialogue (focus).  

Parents will share out their responses and we will end with this quote:

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. Give your dreams all you’ve got and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.”

William James

Book Recommendations & Celebrations: Mindsets & Moves

What is right when it comes to teaching towards independence?  Gravity Goldberg (@drgravityg) begins her new book: Mindsets & Moves Strategies that Help Readers Take Charge by opening up a good conversation.  One that begins with John Hattie.  “The key to understand what is going on in each student’s mind.” (Hattie 2012 p37).  The completion or non completion of tasks is a limited view of what students are really doing in the classroom.  If this is all we have, really, we are missing the point entirely. A task that is driven by a product only, is sort of like a dead end.  It fails to lead us to greater understandings of the interior thoughts of students.  We don’t want to spend a lot of time copying over writing so it can be edited for publishing.  It also does not motivate students to learn grammar and spelling to promote transfer.  If we want to understand what is going on in student’s minds then we have to set up our teaching that way.  What do we know?  If we connect back to Mary Ehrenworth’s presentation:  Yes! You Can Teach Grammar In Workshop Three Essential Methods to Tuck In Grammar Effectively  

If we believe there are access points through process that reveal  insights as to what students are learning, and what they value most.  Then our data prompts what can be taught next. Right now third graders are finishing their narratives.  Torture.  There has been so much rich work; they have been immersed throughout the writing process, they have worked with agency (using the Interactive Learning Wall); they are accomplished except… now it’s time to edit and publish.  

Let’s continue this rich work using their writing as mentor text for inquiry that allows time for students to reflect back and evaluate their own writing.  We identify areas of grammar that our students need instruction around. Making observations and gathering our data informs this process.  “When we step back we can become admirers…” (pg. 2 Mindsets & Moves)   In terms of our work, as we highlight one area of grammar usage per week (using student mentor texts paired with professional mentor texts) we facilitate the inquiry process.  After, students are able to access their published pieces and determine how this work could help elevate the grammar in their writing.  When students are in the process of generating ideas and drafting their writing it can feel overwhelming to do this additional work.  However, if they are given a time when there is only one thing to focus on, it becomes more manageable and purposeful.  They have time to do this and then transfer it to their own writing, right then and there.  

Making interpretive observations can be elusive for many of us. The classroom environment is as important to this process as the observation itself.  The environment sets up students’ work; but teachers’ beliefs shape our observational lens. That is the link to our expectations. What if we tied our beliefs to Goldberg’s four primary tenants:

  1. All students are worthy of study and to be regarded with wonder.
  2. All students are readers, yet their processes may look different.
  3. All students can learn to make purposeful choices about their reading.
  4. All students can develop ownership of their reading lives.    

Goldberg Gravity.Mindsets & Moves Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge.Thousand Oaks:Corwin Literacy, 2016. Print

Consider this – these eloquent beliefs are the tools.  Tools that enable teachers to contemplate the “what” and the “how” that drives student learning.   Our perceptions and beliefs have real consequences; armed with this stance Goldberg goes on to name and affirm the “admiring lens”

For all these reasons this is a must read book! There is no telling how Gravity Goldberg will influence our thinking. One thing is for sure –  we are excited to find out.  

Not Show & Tell It’s Discover & Reveal

What does the “Share” do for teaching and learning in a workshop model?  As writing teachers, we made our lists to brainstorm and clarify our thinking around this question.  What we have here is duality.  So we created an exercise to see both perspectives that of teacher and student:

Teaching (Jill)

Learning (Jenn)

  • Looking for transfer (what does and doesn’t and why)
  • Spotlighting points that are learning moments
  • Opportunity to lean in and teach connecting to their authentic work
  • Opportunity to scaffold another student
  • Provides an opening for the “grit” that goes with goal setting
  • Informal assessment to drive instruction\engagement
  • It’s a living structure to promote agency
  • Space to teach into accountable talk and elaboration
  • Use of real life work to serve as models for other students
  • Embraces the ideas inherent in “Growth Mindset”
  • Creates relationships and identities
  • Clarifies and celebrates point of view through reflection
  • Deepens understanding because it is a synthesis of real work
  • Creates authentic opportunities for children to engage in higher level discourse
  • Reinforces the learning culture of classrooms
  • It makes the classroom work have authentic meaning
  • Gives a sense of personal responsibility to learning
  • Allows for revisions in thinking (pluralistic viewpoints)

Our thinking around this came from an experience in Jill’s classroom.  During the reading “share time”,  students were eagerly sharing the great work they had been engaged in during workshop.  Kara, a humble student who is a “beyond the text” kind of  thinker,  began by sharing her work with informational text using the box and bullet strategy . As she did this work she gathered all this information about great white sharks.  Mark quickly connected to her work by asking if she learned about a mako shark since he was doing work around this too.  She honestly answered no and then a conversation begins around sharks.  Mark went on to explain how the mako shark is the “same and different” from the great white shark.  Here was an opportunity to lean in and teach by tagging this thinking with academic language – the question to the group: “What is this kind of thinking?”  Students quickly responded “comparing and contrasting”.  There was the transfer – we have done a lot of work around types of  informational text structures. A plan is made for Kara  and Mark to work together the next day to further this work.  

Now the circle opens up to John who has been reading about Mount Everett.  He has used the information he is learning to write across the three modes of of writing: informational, persuasive, and narrative.  We have been doing this kind of work for a while and find that it is helping students become more flexible.  John is using this approach as a tool to engage his learning.  He explained how the narrative part was so easy because the book was a narrative written about a man who climbed Mount Everest and that the book was informational so that was easy too because his head was “exploding with information” (got to love third grade).  After all this work, it was easy for him to write the persuasive piece because he felt so strongly that everyone should learn about his topic.  There is the elusive transfer through his writing John is becoming a more flexible writer and thinker.  He was transferring strategies around text structure, writing modes, and the informational text genre and he was able to step into the role of teacher – talk about agency.  

The circle expands again to Susie who wanted to share about her guided reading book which was a fantasy genre infused with humor.  She was talking about the writing she did around this book.  She reflected on how the humor affected her as a reader.   In a very dramatic fashion, so true to the type of learner she is, she began telling her narrative.  At first she thought it meant physically, so she said “it affected her stomach by making it expand and burst with laughter.  Then, Mrs. DeRosa told me I should add how it affected me as a reader as I interacted with the story. So I added that to my answer.”  Susie went on to talk about how the part when they tried to mail themselves to Hawaii.  How that part had really made her laugh, and she kept reading because she was so interested in seeing other silly things the family would do.  What was quick to make her laugh, eventually became an annoyance – she talked about wanting to “pull her hair out” because after all, really the car was in the garage.   Many students in the class started laughing and were begging to borrow the book.  

Literacy learning is always centered on making meaning. We teachers are always instructing towards competences in these complex skill sets.  Students are  resilient, engagement means to keep working even when the work gets difficult.  Over time students will get there if we recognize – each child comes to this learning with their own personal goals that they are aspiring towards. This is our work to discover the child and set the pathway for the goal.  The Share is the sweet spot that reveals who our students are becoming.  

Like A Rolling Stone

The other day a third grade teacher made a book recommendation, Beth Ferry’s Stick and Stone  Thank you Sue!

It was exciting to talk books with colleagues and of course it was swiftly added to a growing collection of mentor texts.  There was one page in the book that stood out – Stone was rolling a path and stick was following.  That image was powerful and instantly communicated leadership and caring and that got us thinking…Who are the leaders that inspire others to follow? Leaders have to lead by example.  They are authentic and have real convictions that are rooted in collective values.  Values are strung together to create a vision.  The vision is informed through content that is informed by current research. Leaders who affect change are working alongside their faculties – they create relationships that are built on connectedness.  “We are all in this together”  is the mantra and we are working to put students at the center of all that we do.  If we are putting students at the center, then it is understood that all important work rests on consistency and is supported through an organized way of thinking that one initiative rolls into the next.  Every great leader knows there will be bumps in the road, and so flexibility is another watchword that leaders keep sacred. It is no small endeavor to lead… Here is the important part – leadership is not solely the responsibility of our administrators.  We are teachers – real teachers LEAD.  We lead when we:

Consider this, what can be done to improve leadership in schools? Where does it begin? It begins with us – we are the leaders who can cut a path for change. This is a very chaotic time in public education – there are conflicting messages and initiatives.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed! We are all aware of the negative narrative and people are scared of losing their jobs.  Some are flocking to scripts and pre-planned lessons as though that will keep them “safe”.   This is exactly when panic cannot rule the day. Change happens whenever we decide to get out of our comfort zones, and we connect with the world and gather more knowledge to make informed decisions that pull us back from the brink.  What if we cut paths for change, what would that reality look like for our students?  Imagine the possibility, and make a change.  

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”  – John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”

A Gallery of Student Work

Here is a preview for tomorrow’s post.  We will be sharing our reflections from the classroom and how we are using researchers to support our work. Take a look, let us know what you think, and be sure to come back tomorrow.



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Dig Deep & Go The Distance

Being determined to succeed matters.  Any significant achievement doesn’t only have to do with what you know or who you know.  It has to do with how hard you are willing to work for it.  How do we build up storage for tenacity for our children?  In educational circles there has been a lot of discussion about “grit”.  Grit is a word being used to describe having the ability to persevere when learning becomes difficult.  “Carol Dweck’s work on mindset is a well known example about how our beliefs about our own learning affect our success” (Edutopia).

Here are our thoughts:

  • We believe this to be true.  We believe that children need to develop this grit so they can work through challenges.  This is true for us.  When we hit a wall, it is determination that helps us to get over it.
  • Grit is a life skill and we have to build classroom environments that allow us to flex grit and set expectations for children that learning can be rewarding work.  The environment needs to feel safe for risk taking; in pursuit of success will come failure and that is celebrated.  It is about the process and the journey.
  • Grit is something you can control.  You can control how hard you can work and it can become a discipline.  You can build stamina for how long and for how hard you will work.  The key is to have something worth working for.

If you haven’t seen this before, this is Carol Dweck – A Study on Praise and Mindsets:


The research is compelling. A turn of phrase can yield significant structural changes in how students regard themselves and what they have to offer.    Most times, students will live up to our expectations.  It is all about perception and what children think we value.  If we value hard work and identify their engagement with learning within that context, they will perform in accordance with this belief.  If we build a belief system where the reason they do well is because they are smart, they will think it is out of their control.  They know it because they are smart and they don’t need to work hard they’re just smart.  In the end the old adage brains versus brawn is not so simple.  It’s not that we are undervaluing intelligence.  Some things are predisposed but we want to create belief systems that support growth and children reaching their full potential.