15 Read Alouds to Help Young Students Develop a Growth Mindset

 

As teachers our instruction can feel smothered at times by the standards and objectives we are obligated to teach students. It can be hard to find ways to incorporate social studies, the arts, and character education in our classrooms, yet we all know these things are essential to the whole development of our children. The Read Aloud is the ideal time to incorporate the skills, concepts, and content that often get left behind because they are not on state tests.

One of those essential character skills we want to develop in our students is a growth mindset. In an education system that is overrun with assessment, it is easy for children to learn that they are “not meeting expectations” from a very young age, and this can be discouraging. The idea of a growth mindset for students has been made popular by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Standford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Through her research she found that student mindsets and how they perceive their abilities plays a significant role in achievement and their motivation in school. They also found that students who believed their intelligence and abilities could be developed outperformed those who believed intelligence is fixed. Even more, students could learn a growth mindset through a structured program (Levy, S., & Dweck, C. (1999). The Impact of Children’s Static versus Dynamic Conceptions of People on Stereotype Formation. Child Development, 70(5), 1163-1180).

Developing a growth mindset in our kids is not something that happens overnight, or simply by reading a book. But creating this culture is something we must work at by consistently sending the message in multiple ways throughout the year. Incorporating these books in your read alouds may be one component to help develop a culture of growth in your classroom and among students that will help them achieve success.

One of my favorite ways to find books to read for any reason is to use the “Frequently Bought Together” feature on Amazon.com. I start with a book I know and love and then look to that section to explore other texts that are along the same lines or that I might also enjoy. I was able to find all the books on this list using this feature. I started with a few I knew, and came across several others. For each book (and for your convenience) I have explained how it will help develop a growth mindset, provided the title and author, a link to purchase it on amazon, a picture of the book, and the description provided by Amazon. Happy reading and growing!

 

  1. To introduce the whole concept of growth mindset to students…

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain Stretch It, Shape It

By: JoAnn Deak

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Did you know you can stretch and grow your own brain? Or that making mistakes is one of the best ways your brain learns? Just like how lifting weights helps your muscles get stronger, trying new things without giving up—like finding the courage to put your face in the water the first time you’re at a pool—strengthens your brain. Next time, your brain will remind you that you overcame that fear, and you will be braver!

As a consultant to schools worldwide on issues of brain development and gender equity, author JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., and illustrator Sarah Ackerley, have crafted a fun and engaging introduction to the anatomy and functions of the brain that will empower each young reader to S-T-R-E-T-C-H and grow their Fantastic, Elastic Brain!

 

 

  1. To show students it is okay to make mistakes (and that you can learn from them)…

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes

By: Mark Pett

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Meet Beatrice Bottomwell: a nine-year-old girl who has never (not once!) made a mistake. She never forgets her math homework, she never wears mismatched socks, and she ALWAYS wins the yearly talent show at school. In fact, Beatrice holds the record of perfection in her hometown, where she is known as The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes. Life for Beatrice is sailing along pretty smoothly until she does the unthinkable–she makes her first mistake. And in a very public way!

 

 

  1. To show students that things can be hard and there will be obstacles along the way, but they can overcome them…

The Most Magnificent Thing

By Ashley Spires

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Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. ?She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!? But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.

 

 

  1. To show students how every mistake is an opportunity…

Beautiful Oops

By: Barney Saltzberg

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A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator.
An award winning, best-selling, one-of-a-kind interactive book, Beautiful Oops! shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope”—each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.

 

 

  1. To show students the importance of being kind to and supportive of each other on the learning journey…

Ish

By: Peter H. Reynolds

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Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

 

 

  1. To show students that it is only the beginning of their growth process and the best is yet to come…

What Do You Do With an Idea?

By: Kobi Yamada

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This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s just getting started.

 

 

 

  1. To show students the importance of feedback and how to use it to help them grow…

Thanks For the Feedback, I Think

By: Julia Cook

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RJ’s back in the sixth installment of award-winning author Julia Cook’s very successful Best Me I Can Be series, Thanks for the Feedback … (I Think!). This entertaining story follows RJ as he goes about his day doing the things he enjoys, such as blowing bubbles, playing soccer, and hanging out with friends. But when a couple of friends give him compliments, he just isn’t sure how to respond! As RJ continues through the day, he hears from his teacher and parents that while there are many things he’s doing very well, there are also some things he needs to work on. His first reaction is to argue and make excuses. Throughout this must-read story, RJ learns what it means to receive positive and negative feedback, and how to respond appropriately to that feedback. Parents and teachers will love taking kids on RJ’s journey as he discovers feedback’s many forms, and learns to accept and grow from criticism and compliments at home, school and with friends.

 

 

  1. To show students that they don’t need to know and do everything right now, but someday…

Someday

By: Eileen Spinelli

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It’s hard to be content with the present moment when you are little. The future has infinitely more possibilities!

Here, the prolific and poetic Eileen Spinelli offers us the opportunity to truly enter the mind and heart of a little girl whose dreams reach well beyond today. With Spinelli’s gift for capturing the authentic experience of a child and Rosie Winstead’s utterly accessible and adorable artwork, this is sure to be a book that will inspire kids to think about what their own plans are for someday.

 

 

  1. To help students discover their individual strengths (and know it is okay to be just okay at some things)…

The OK Book

By: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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In this clever and literal play on words, OK is turned on its side, upside down, and right side up to show that being OK can really be quite great. Whether OK personifies an OK skipper, an OK climber, an OK lightning bug catcher, or an OK whatever there is to experience, ok is an OK place to be. And being OK just may lead to the discovery of what makes one great.

With spare yet comforting illustrations and text, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld celebrate the real skills and talents children possess, encouraging and empowering them to discover their own individual strengths and personalities.

 

 

  1. To get students to change their attitudes about learning…

Making a Splash: A Growth Mindset Children’s Book

By: Carol E. Reiley

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This book advocates the growth mindset philosophy that says intelligence is malleable and can be developed through dedication and hard work, as opposed to the belief you’re born with a fixed amount of smarts. The illustrated pages tell the story of two siblings, Lisa and Johnny, and how they differ in their attitudes toward learning. The takeaway: It’s not how smart you are; it’s how smart you can become if you push yourself. Take that, trophy generation.

 

 

 

  1. To show students that the only way they can fail is if they quit…

Rosie Revere, Engineer

By: Andrea Beaty

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Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal–to fly–Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true. But when her contraption doesn’t fl y but rather hovers for a moment and then crashes, Rosie deems the invention a failure. On the contrary, Aunt Rose inisists that Rosie’s contraption was a raging success. You can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit.

 

 

  1. To show students that it is not about how fast they get to the finish and that everyone moves at their own speed…

The Tortoise and the Hare

By: Aesop

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When Tortoise says to Hare, “I bet I can beat you in a running race!” everyone laughs. Tortoise puts one foot in front of the next. Hare stops to nibble carrot tops and cabbages. . . . Who will have the last laugh? “The Hare and the Tortoise” has been a favorite with generations of children around the world.

 

 

  1. To show students that everyone learns in their own way, but everyone can learn…

Thank You Mr. Falker

By: Patricia Polacco

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Patricia Polacco is now one of America’s most loved children’s book creators, but once upon a time, she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we.

 

  1. To show students the power of positive thinking…

I Think, I Am!: Teaching Kids the Powers of Affirmations

By: Louise Hay

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“Your thoughts create your life!” This is the message that Louise Hay has been teaching people throughout the world for more than 27 years. Now, children can learn and understand the powerful idea that they have control over their thoughts and words, and in turn, what happens in their life.

      Within the pages of I Think, I Am! kids will find out the difference between negative thoughts and positive affirmations. Fun illustrations and simple text demonstrate how to make the change from negative thoughts and words to those that are positive. The happiness and confidence that come from this ability is something children will carry with them their entire lives!

 

  1. To remind students that even though there will be ups and downs along the way, they will do great things…

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

By: Dr. Seuss

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From soaring to high heights and seeing great sights to being left in a Lurch on a prickle-ly perch, Dr. Seuss addresses life’s ups and downs with his trademark humorous verse and illustrations, while encouraging readers to find the success that lies within. In a starred review, Booklist notes, “Seuss’s message is simple but never sappy: life may be a ‘Great Balancing Act,’ but through it all ‘There’s fun to be done.’” A perennial favorite and a perfect gift for anyone starting a new phase in their life!

 

Homework…A Necessity or a Thing of the Past???

If you have been following much on social media or even on the news or in Time magazine recently, you may notice that homework has become quite the hot topic. There has been a lot of buzz throughout the educational world about this, and the feelings on the topic are all over the place.  Some feel that if we don’t give homework, it can mean that we are reducing rigor.  Others may feel that this is not the case, but just that we are looking at finding ways to make sure that homework is meaningful or of personal interest to the student.  The idea can be to push students to think and do things that they wouldn’t do otherwise, but we want to make sure that we are lowering expectations.  Is homework a necessity, or is it a tool of the past that needs to be rethought?

In most schools, homework is standard practice, and given that fact, many feel strongly that it is beneficial for students, but I recently have heard a lot about the importance of children having more unstructured play time. While I was running this weekend, I was listening to a podcast and during the show, one of the hosts mentioned a documentary called The Land.  It is about a playground in Wales that allows kids to essentially have free reign and to do what they want.  There are supervisors, but they essentially just try to help in the most extreme circumstances.  The idea is that kids can partake in things that may be considered “risky” but that this helps them learn.  There are now playgrounds in Ithaca, New York and Berkeley, California which are focusing on the same things.  After listening to this, I then heard another podcast about the importance of kids getting outside to play.  In this show, they interviewed an author who said that kids today only get an average of 7 minutes a day of outside time (not counting structured outdoor sports practices).  He had data that showed having more time outdoors helps kids be calmer and allows more focus at other times.  Finally, I read an article about a school in New York which has gotten rid of traditional homework, and has started using a bingo sheet for homework which contains choices such as read a book for pleasure, go for a walk outside, etc.

So, here is my question, what do you guys think?  Do we need to find a way to encourage more unstructured time for kids?  Do we need to look at homework practices and determine if they are meeting the needs of our students?  What about students that don’t live near places where they can play outside easily and safely?  How do we take care of that?  Finally, what about the academic side of things?  Do they need the homework that we give them?  Would removing homework hurt the students academically?  Are there unique solutions such as outdoor classrooms, etc?  All of the articles and one of the radio shows are below, I would love to hear your thoughts, as I am not real sure what I think just yet

No Homework Article 1http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/outrage-nyc-principal-dumps-homework-play-time-article-1.2140265

No Homework Article 2http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150305/kips-bay/elementary-school-dumps-homework-tells-kids-play-instead/

Wales Playground Article – http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150305/kips-bay/elementary-school-dumps-homework-tells-kids-play-instead/

Get Outside Radio Show – https://onpoint.wbur.org/2015/03/26/natural-education-parenting-playing-outside

“Hummingbird” Parenting – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/people-in-nature/201012/hummingbird-parents-seven-actions-parents-can-take-reduce-risk-and

Inviting Creativity into the Classroom: A Case Study

Background

I teach two sections of English I Honors in a small, rural high school with approximately 100 incoming freshmen each year. Approximately 25-30 of those students are enrolled in an honors-level English class based on grades, test scores, and teacher recommendation. They have gotten into the honors track through hard work and determination. They have been told for years that they are “gifted,” which they have internalized as meaning they are naturally smarter than their peers. You would expect them to be oozing confidence. Yet, several of them are not confident in their reading and writing skills, the very skills that earned them a coveted spot in the honors class.

img_3708Some of my students get excited when I mention that our lesson is going to require them to be creative. Eyes grow wide. Smiles widen. But this does not describe the majority of my students. When confronted with questions that requires divergent thinking, some of them get downright flustered, shut down, or belittle themselves. For these students, creativity has become stressful and anxiety-inducing, rather than a source of joy and an opportunity to play. I believe that what separates the students who embrace creativity from those who fear it is a difference in what Dweck would call mindset. Students who shrink back from creativity don’t see their own creative potential. Some think that they were born without the “creativity gene,” and even exhibit defensive speak when tasked with using their creativity: “I’m not a creative person.” “I’m a Type A person” (Dweck 2016). In an attempt to combat this type of mindset, I began my school year with three goals: 1. Create a dialogue on what it means to be creative. 2. Engage students in learning activities that promote create thinking and problem-solving. 3. Ask students to engage in creativity outside of the classroom.

Creating a Dialogue with Students

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A student Quick-Write on creativity.

They say that the first step is admitting there is a problem: creativity is not getting the attention that it deserves in American classrooms. In the name of high-stakes testing, “what counts as curriculum” has been narrowed down in many districts, with a push for tested subjects so strong that creativity has been pushed out entirely (Cordova 2012). I wanted to ensure that my students knew that creativity wasn’t “fluff” or a “dumbing down of the curriculum, but a necessary skills. So, I began the year by showing students TED Talks by experts in the field of creativity, with a focus on how creativity drives our businesses but also how it tends to decline with age (Brown 2008). They participated along with Tim Brown’s audience as he led them through the 50 circles test, noticing that their answers fell in line more closely with the creativity level of adults than the level of children. Students also responded to quotes on creativity from Picasso and Einstein, reflecting on their own beliefs and how those beliefs align or challenge the views of experts. The overarching theme that emerged was that often, children are discouraged from being creativity, which is sometimes viewed as “childish,” for the sake of being more “academic,” but that doesn’t have to be the case, as long as individuals continue to actively pursue their creativity, engaging in what Syed would call “deliberate practice” of imagination (Syed 2011).

Engaging Students in Creative Activities

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A group rendering of the image as text.

Our class discussions on creativity paired well with a reading of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, which addresses the diminished creativity of adults head-on. The title character of the story expresses his distress at the fact that, when he shows adults his drawing, they are unable to see it for what it is  because they are more concerned with “matters of consequence.” Now that students had acknowledged that they are at a point where their childlike creativity is already fading, they were prepared to stretch their creative muscles with an activity in divergent thinking straight from the pages of Exupery. We analyzed the little prince’s misunderstood drawing and independently brainstormed possible interpretations of the sketch before sharing in small groups and then selecting their most divergent thoughts in a whole-group rendering of the image.

Exploring Creativity Outside of the Classroom

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A student-created writer’s notebook entry.

Once students had experience in thinking outside of the box, I decided to have students create a writer’s notebook to document their creativity, which could include writing, art, design, observation, exploration, or any combination thereof. Many students drew ideas from journals that I keep in the classroom–such as Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal series or Quinn McDonald’s Raw Art Journaling–while others turned to Pinterest and Google to find, share, curate ideas for creative entries. The idea was to encourage students to take ownership of their creative growth through a quarter-long independent project. The best part of this project was overhearing students discuss their entries with each other. It was apparent that students had been sharing their writer’s’ notebooks with each other outside of class, actually having meaningful, organic discussions about their creative processes and acting as authentic audiences for one another in a way that I had not anticipated.

 

 

Next Steps

As the year progresses, I want to ensure that students engage in even more creative processes, including opportunities for divergent thinking and Responsive Design, a “design-centric theory of innovating” developed by the Cultural Landscapes Collaboratory (Cordova 2012), that can be harnessed to promote creativity in the classroom.  Additionally, I want to ensure that students are given ample time to reflect on their creative growth, its importance to them on an individual level, and its fundamental importance to society as a whole.  I want them to see creativity as an important skill to possess and exercise beyond the high school classroom, including in the workforce; I want them to understand that creativity can be just as important–if not more important–as analytical skills.

Related Sources

Brown, T. (2008). Tales of creativity and play. TED Talks. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_on_creativity_and_play?language=en

Cordova, et. al. (2012). Nurturing creativity and professional learning for 21st century education: ResponsiveDesign and the cultural landscapes collaboratory. LEARNing landscapes, 6(1), 155-178.

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York, NY. Random House.

Mindset quiz. (2016). National Council for Community & Education Partnerships. Retrieved from http://www.edpartnerships.org/sites/default/files/events/2016/02/Mindset%20Quiz.pdf

Syed, M. (2011). Bounce: mozart, federer, picasso, backham, and the science of success. New York, NY. Harper Collins.

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