Project Based Learning in the Primary Classroom: Part 1

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on a new Project-Based Learning initiative with my students. Working in groups, the students have developed business models, created budgets, filled out loan applications, met with loan officers, developed advertising campaigns, and placed purchase orders for materials. They've corresponded by email with their loan officers and tracked their work in business portfolios. They've presented their business plans to leaders in our school community, and are preparing to start production when we get back from spring break.

My students are seven and eight years old. They don't even have all of their teeth yet.

It sounds unbelievable, but I promise--it's true. 

If you haven't experienced Project-Based Learning in your classroom, I can't WAIT to share all about it with you, and how I make it come to life for my second graders. I won't lie--it's a lot of work. However, teaching in and of itself is a lot of work, and I've actually found that committing to one large project is a far better use of my time, effort, energy, and resources than planning 25 separate, smaller, unrelated activities.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll share how to practically apply Project-Based Learning in a primary setting, and give you the tools and resources you need to make it happen in your own classroom. Before I dive into the specifics of the project we're currently working on, though, I want to outline some of the core principles of Project-Based Learning and some of the practical first steps you need to consider before you write even a single lesson plan.

Project-Based Learning is an instructional strategy defined by several key components. First, students need to have a real-life problem that they are trying to solve. This is written in the form of an essential question. All lessons and learning activities are tied to this essential question, and the question helps to focus the unit of study. This leads to the next component of Project-Based Learning, inquiry. Project-Based Learning allows for open-ended exploration of the essential question. This means that students working in groups might all come up with slightly different answers to the essential question, and that's okay. This also means that students might fail at first, and that's okay, too. A final characteristic of Project-Based Learning is that the project is integrated into all content areas over a long period of time, and eventually the project is shared with others.

Project-Based Learning is NOT a single day of lessons, and it isn't something you do from 9:30 to 10:30 each morning. Instead, your reading, writing, grammar, science, social studies, and math lessons ALL point back to the essential question, and help students move forward in their project in some way.

Where is the teacher in all of this? The teacher is a guide and facilitator, but not the source of all knowledge. Of course, direct instruction is involved, but there's a huge, collaborative problem-solving component woven into the instruction, as well.

I'll be completely honest: when I first heard about Project-Based Learning, just thinking about it made me feel exhausted. This was a major shift from how I had previously taught my primary students! I used to approach planning on a week-to-week basis, and would look up activities and crafts on Pinterest for each separate content area. I'm certainly not knocking Pinterest (in fact, you can see my own overflowing Pinterest boards here!); I always found great activities that really engaged my students. The difference with shifting to Project-Based Learning, though, is that I'm no longer searching for and prepping 25 separate activities each week. Instead, each subject area is seen as an opportunity to make progress towards one big goal of completing a final project. Instead of planning on a week-to-week basis, I plan on a unit-to-unit basis.

Before you get totally overwhelmed, let me encourage you: Project-Based Learning takes no more effort than you are already putting into your teaching. If you are a week-to-week planner like I was, you'll find that planning a whole unit at a time is actually easier! I'll be sharing an overview of our current Economics unit in a future post so that you can have a practical example of what this looks like, but first I want to share the initial steps for putting together a Project-Based Learning unit.

1. Create a Curriculum Map
Gather all of your standards for each of your content areas in one place. Are you working on narrative writing? Jot down that standard. What ELA standards are you focusing on? What math standards will you be working on? Most importantly, what science or social studies standards will you be covering? (These last ones will be key in designing your Project-Based Learning unit.) Put all of these standards into one document, and now you have your Curriculum Map!

2. Identify a Central Theme
Now that you have all of your standards together in one place, what kind of themes do you see? Can you tie together social studies and science standards? Do any specific math concepts correlate with your topic? Consider what books or articles you could study that are related to your topic. By starting a unit with a particular theme in mind, you'll be better equipped to make smart decisions about the resources you choose to plan your lessons around. You might also spot some ways you could group your standards and identify concepts that would lend themselves to being taught in tandem.

3. Write Your Essential Question
After you've identified a central theme, craft an essential question that encompasses a real-world problem related to that theme. Essential questions are broad, but they help define the purpose behind a project. For example, the essential question for our Economics unit is, "How can we use economics to bring justice to the world?" This encompassed our topics of economics and countries working together, and defined a purpose for why we would care about buying a cow for a family in the developing world.

4. Outline Your Project
Once you have your unit theme and essential question, you can start to think about a project that would give your students a real-world problem to solve. In our Economics unit, I focused on the problem of economic injustice in the world. Not all problems that are presented to students need to be on a global scale, though. We happened to be studying about how countries work together for our social studies standards, so choosing a global problem was appropriate. In other units, though, we've identified problems on a school level. When choosing a project, just remember that it should be spread out over weeks, not hours. It's completely reasonable to break up a project into a lot of tiny steps, especially with primary kiddos. Sketch out what you want your final project to be and list off the small steps your students will need to take over the course of the unit.

5. Create a Weekly Pacing Guide
Whew, last step! Now it's time to make your Weekly Pacing Guide. I promise that this upfront work will make your weekly planning a breeze. Pull out your Curriculum Map, Project Outline, and calendar. In a new document, map out how many weeks your unit will take. Divvy up your standards by week, deciding how long you want to spend on each content area standard. For each week, make a note about your project goals for that week. What portion of the project will your students be working on, and how will that tie to the standards? Now when you go to do your detailed weekly planning, you won't be doing a search on Pinterest for each individual content area. You'll still be searching for resources (Pinterest is great!), but you'll be carefully and intentionally choosing activities that all relate to each other and to your essential question.

If this still feels like a mystery, don't panic. I'll be sharing with you all of the start-to-finish details of my class' most recent Project-Based Learning experience in Part 2! If you're ready to get started and want to integrate Project-Based Learning into your classroom right away, I've put together a resource to make your first experience a breeze.  I've included ALL of the printable materials you'll need for a project, along with a detailed daily pacing guide, in my Marketplace Economics packet.  If you're interested, you can find the printable materials here.

For those of you who have already implemented Project-Based Learning in your classrooms, what has your experience been like? I'd love to hear all about it!


If You Give a Mom a Cookie

A couple of years ago, I happened to start a unit on circle stories with my students right around Mother's Day. We read all of the "If You Give a..." books by Laura Numeroff (you may remember reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie as a child, if you're part of my generation) and worked on our narrative writing. If you teach primary school, you know how challenging it can be for students to understand the concepts behind complete narratives. Having quality mentor texts to follow is essential.

Given the timing of the unit, the idea of writing silly circle stories about our mamas for Mother's Day seemed only appropriate, and a new classroom tradition was born. I put together a packet with the same material I use in my own classroom and posted it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, thinking others might enjoy it, too. The real bonus is that in addition to practicing narrative writing and reading comprehension skills, we come out with a low-prep, darling Mother's Day gift for the students' families. YES! Don't you love it when that happens?

No two families are alike, so in creating this packet I've included additional pages to celebrate grandmas, aunts, and dads. No matter who your kids write about, following the story structure of Laura Numeroff's books is a GREAT support for your young writers that will help them create some wonderful (and hilarious) writing. You can find the packet here, if you'd like to check it out.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that Amazon awards me a small referral fee when people visit their site via the links in my blog posts and purchase something (even something other than the linked product!). This doesn't affect the price you pay, and you can be confident that I only recommend products and teaching supplies I believe in and use myself.  Thank you so much for your support in making this blog possible!

10 Positive Behavior Support Strategies

I usually don't know what my students' mornings are like before they arrive at school. Family dynamics, life changes, or health issues can deeply impact anyone, but the effects seem especially strong for young kids. I've heard these types of challenges described as weights, and as we get older we have more "emotional muscle," so to speak, to be able to carry those weights. As an adult, I have more emotional muscle to cope with anxiety about a move or a deadline, and I've developed an awareness of healthy things that help me deal with stress. I can treat myself to a vanilla latte, a phone call with a friend, and a few minutes of quiet time reading Real Simple and I'm pretty much back on track. A 7-year-old, on the other hand, might not yet have the ability to carry the weight of challenging life events, and might not have the vocabulary to articulate what they need.

If you're a primary teacher, I bet you have a child or two or twenty in your class that are that kid--the kid who carries around emotional weights and needs a lot of behavioral support to get through the day. It can be really, really hard to have patience with a difficult student who consistently misbehaves in class or is unkind to others. How do you help kids with behavioral issues to be their healthiest, happiest selves in the classroom?

This is an area of teaching I care about DEEPLY, but have by no means mastered. I'll always be learning and growing in this area, but I wanted to share some ideas I've tried and found to work, in the hope they might be helpful or inspire other creative strategies.

1. Catch them first thing in the morning.
Make a point of finding the students you know will need extra support first thing in the morning. I'll often go out to the playground to pick up the kids a few minutes early, just to have time to chat, give a hug, and let students know how excited I am to see them. This helps set a positive tone for the entire day, and gets kids "filled up" before they even enter the classroom.

2. Tell them who they are.
I truly believe that every challenging behavior, at its root, is really a gift that isn't being used properly. The child who is always talking when they aren't supposed to be is probably one of the most gifted public speakers in your class. The child who causes distractions is probably one of the most charismatic and natural leaders in your class. The child who always tattles probably has a huge heart for justice. When addressing behavioral issues with a student, use the opportunity to hold up a figurative mirror. Affirm the child for the leadership qualities at the root of their misbehavior, and brainstorm how to use those gifts for good. "You're a natural leader," you could say, "and other kids want to copy what you do. Instead of racing to the front of the line, could I have you model for the whole class how to politely let others go first?"

3. Send positive emails to parents or guardians with the student standing right next to you.
It's always a best practice to send positive emails home for every student, but I love to write those emails in front of the student. If a student is making great choices, I'll pull them aside and say, "I need to let your family know about the amazing day you're having, and I want you to help me write the email!" The kids get so excited about this! It only takes a few moments to tap out a positive email, but letting students in on that process is another simple way to reinforce good behavior choices.

4. Give them a special role in the classroom that is theirs and ONLY theirs.
There are millions of little jobs that need to be done around the classroom, so I'll assign one of the jobs to a student to give extra purpose and structure to their day. I might put a student in charge of lining up backpacks, sharpening pencils, or passing out papers. The rest of the class knows that person is our go-to expert in running the pencil sharpener or handing out papers. Giving a student a specialty can instill a deep sense of belonging, and drastically reduces behavior issues. (This works especially well when they are attention-seeking behaviors!) It also sets up a great opportunity to celebrate a student for contributing to the classroom environment in a positive way!

5. Set them up as a leader with younger students.
This is a GREAT strategy for students who have difficulty completing assignments or turning work in on time. Set up a star chart (or any other goal-setting tool you have in place) to track how many assignments a student completes on time and using their best work. Set a goal for a certain number of assignments, and once your student reaches that goal, arrange a time for them to visit a younger grade to be a "tutor" for a lesson. I love the logical connection of this reinforcement--it communicates to students that their effort is valuable to the school community as a whole. It's so sweet how tenderhearted kids can be about kids that are smaller than they are. My students just melt over the kindergarten students, and take a lot of pride in helping them.

6. Involve the office in a fun way.
Don't let every visit to the office be for a disciplinary issue. If a student who normally has difficulty in class goes out of their way to help another student or goes above and beyond in an assignment, I'll make a big deal out of calling the front office and saying, "I have a friend here in class who has just done their best writing for the whole year. Can I send them up to report this to the office?" Of course, the answer is always yes, and even if the principal isn't available the student gets a THRILL out of showing their work to the ladies at the front desk. The best part is that the entire class knows why the student was sent to the office, and the student is often met with applause when they return to class.

7. Help them get involved in a club/team/after-school activity.
It's amazing how kids thrive with structure. I had a student my second year of teaching who had a lot of trouble making friends in class. Our school started a jump rope club, so I talked with the student's parents about signing him up. Twice a week, I went to jump rope club after school with this little boy, and we used that time to practice building some critical social skills. Having a structured activity with an engaging task was this child's sweet spot, and having a team t-shirt and a jump rope that matched everyone else's gave him a sense of belonging that he desperately needed. This little boy would often get in trouble at recess because he didn't play well with other kids, but with jump rope club he now had a new skill that he wanted to practice with the other club members every recess. Involving your student in a club or team activity could be a great way to encourage and practice healthy social skills!

8. Make them your "Lifesaver."
This is a simple one, but it can make all of the difference in the world. During whole group time at the carpet, I'll ask a student who has trouble listening to be my "Lifesaver." Their job is to stand at the back of the carpet and keep an eye out for kids who are being great listeners. Every few minutes, I'll say, "Lifesaver, can you tell me who needs to clip up right now for being a respectful listener?" This strategy not only gives the student a positive way to focus their energy, but it sets them up to be a hero to their classmates. The other students are thrilled to be chosen to clip up! It's a win-win-win.

9. Have a special classroom "mascot" and a designated quiet space for students to recenter.
We ALL need a break sometimes, and a place to let a wave of emotions pass. On a tough day with a student, there is no way they will hear any correction or instruction from you in the heat of the moment. In the same way adults often need to take time to cool off before resolving a problem, kids also often need time and space. When you have a student who is angry, hurt, or upset, it can be helpful to carve out a quiet space in the classroom for them to take a break before having a teachable moment. In my classroom, I have a large teddy bear that has paws filled with heavy beans. Its weight and size make the bear perfectly hug-able, and I've found that even second graders respond positively to taking a moment to be still, hug this bear with all of their might, and calm down before we have a conversation about their behavior.

10. Help them make it right (and clear the slate).
It can be easy for students with behavioral issues to spiral into thinking that because they made a mistake, they are a "bad kid." We teach kids over and over to say "I'm sorry," but it's equally important for adults to tell the children in their lives, "I forgive you." Making mistakes is a normal part of childhood (and adulthood, for that matter), and our students need to be taught how to fix those mistakes. After one of my students makes a mistake, I'll ask them if they'd like my help setting things right again. Amazingly, and sweetly, the answer is always yes. We write a lot of apology letters in my classroom, and I'll often brainstorm with students an act of kindness they could do in the classroom that would restore their relationship with the classroom community. Discipline is only part of the picture, and equipping kids with strategies for restoring their relationships with others is something that will serve them throughout their entire lives!

No classroom is the same, and no two children are the same, but I hope some of these ideas might be helpful with your kiddos. What else would you add to the list? I'd love to learn from you!


How to Have a Successful Classroom Egg Hatch

Last year, we hatched 9 baby chicks in our first-grade classroom. If you’re thinking about doing a classroom egg hatch, I can’t recommend it enough! It was a HIGHLIGHT of our year. My husband and I ended up keeping all of the chickens after the hatch to have our own little backyard farm, and funnily enough 6 of the 9 chicks ended up being roosters. They decided to let us know they were roosters all at once one morning last summer—ha! Our poor neighbors.

Anyway, hatching baby chicks was quite the process, but, like all good projects, there were a ton of amazing opportunities for learning. I love project-based learning. When you take on bigger projects like this, it’s incredible how many topics end up being integrated. We were wrote about chicks, tracked the time it took for them to incubate, monitored the temperature in the incubator, and more!

When I searched for information about classroom egg hatches before we started our project, I found surprisingly little guidance about hatching eggs successfully in a classroom setting. So, I wanted to share what I learned, in the hope that it might be helpful for you in your class. As a fair warning, I am NOT an expert by any stretch, but I can share what worked for me and my students. There are TONS of valuable resources online about the science behind incubation (I'll share some with you, later on), so my primary focus will be on applying the egg hatching process to the classroom setting. I would also definitely recommend looking up your local farm supply store and asking the folks there for advice.

Before you even consider doing an egg hatch, decide what you will do with the chicks after they are hatched. Do you want them as pets? Does someone you know want to keep them? Every city has different rules about how many (if any) chickens you can have in your backyard, so it might be worth researching your local ordinances while you’re still in the decision-making process. Another option is to check and see if your local farm supply store would want to take them--our local store occasionally has space available for chicks, which they then resell. Whatever you decide, make sure you have a plan in place so the chicks hatch to find a good home awaiting them.

Next, you’ll need to track down supplies for your egg hatch. Again, I’m NOT an expert, but here are the supplies we purchased and successfully used for our classroom egg hatch:

1.      An incubatorThe style of incubator we used doesn’t come with an automatic egg turner, but it can fit one. If you don’t mind turning the eggs a few times a day, you don’t need an automatic egg turner, but you might consider investing in one for the convenience.

2.      Feeder and waterer for baby chicks. Chicks and chickens self-regulate when it comes to food, so you should always have food and fresh water available for them. These food and water containers worked well for the chicks for the first 3 weeks or so, but we had to upgrade to larger containers pretty quickly. Just something to keep in mind if you're planning to keep your chicks long-term.

3.      Medicated starter feedNot all chicken food is created equal—who knew? This starter feed apparently has everything baby chicks need to grow. Our chicks ate this food until they were about 5 months old, and then we switched them over to chicken food specifically formulated for laying chickens. This food is convenient to order online, but you may be able to find better prices at your local feed store if you buy larger quantities. 

4.      A heat lampAfter your remove your chicks from the incubator, you'll need to give them a heat source that replicates the warmth of a mother hen. When you set up the heat lamp for your chicks, watch what they do. If they scatter away from it, they're too warm and the lamp needs to be positioned a little higher. If they cuddle really close to each other under the lamp, they might need the lamp lowered a bit.  A heat lamp continues to be useful even after the chickens are grown, if you want to keep them laying during the winter months when days are shorter and colder.

5.      A brooder box with beddingThe chicks will need a cozy home where they have access to their heat lamp, food, and water. For the first few days after the chicks hatched, they all fit in a clear plastic bin like the one I provided a link to. We put bedding on the bottom so the chicks would have a soft place to sleep. Be warned, though--your chicks will outgrow this setup FAST. If you're keeping the chicks long-term, you'll want to come up with a more permanent solution (perhaps a larger wooden box in your garage?) until the chicks are big enough to live outside.

6.      Fertilized chicken eggs. There are lots of sellers on eBay who will mail fertilized chicken eggs to you. Read up on reviews of different sellers, and, as always, give your local feed store a call to ask for recommendations. (The folks at the feed store truly will become your new best friends.)

After you have all of your supplies and a box of fertilized eggs on their way to you in the mail, you'll want to prep your incubator. I found this website to be packed with really helpful information. I followed most of the recommendations, including giving the incubator 24 hours to adjust to the correct temperature BEFORE putting in the fertilized eggs. I put in the thermometer, set the temperature to the recommended setting, and had a chance to fine-tune things to avoid harming any of the eggs. Take plenty of time to read up on the specifics of incubation from the experts!

Now for the most important step of this whole process: prepare your kids. Hatching chicks sounds like a super cute activity, and the end result truly is magical, but the hatching process itself is actually pretty messy. It can be a little upsetting (even as an adult!) to watch a baby chick struggle to get out of an egg, and to know that you can't help it. It's also a little alarming to see chicks covered in wet, sticky stuff, instead of being all soft and fluffy. After the hatch, the incubator looks like a crime scene, with egg shell pieces scattered everywhere and the baby chicks flopping around clumsily. Without knowing what to expect and understanding the process ahead of time, watching an egg hatch could potentially be an upsetting experience for primary kiddos.

Thankfully, I found some GREAT resources to thoroughly prep the kids for what to expect when they watched their chicks hatch. First, we went through the lessons about oviparous animals in this unit by Cara Carroll and Abby Mullins:

Science of April 

While watching chicks come out of eggs looking wet and tired could have been alarming for the students, none of my kids were worried because they understood the details of that part of the process. Because of our lessons about the parts of an egg, my kids understood that the embryos were floating in albumen, which keeps the growing chicks safe. They also learned in-depth about the hard work of hatching out of an egg, and that the chicks would be very sleepy after they hatched. On the day of our egg hatch, the kids fully expected the chicks to be wet from albumen and to lay on the floor of the incubator for a while because they were exhausted. I can't recommend this level of preparation enough!

To keep the kids engaged while we waited for the eggs to hatch, we also kept journals for the week our chicks were due. 

We took time to study the life cycle of a chicken and the role that chickens play on a farm by working through my Complete Farm Unit. These activities helped build excitement and background knowledge while we waited for our chicks to arrive!

Hatching chicks in our classroom ended up being a much bigger learning experience than I ever imagined! The kids learned about science and life on the farm, as I expected, but they also learned some critical social skills about taking care of living things. It was so special to watch my students take ownership of that responsibility!

I decided to keep the length of the project to one week, for practical planning purposes in the classroom. I started off incubating the eggs at home, and then brought them into the classroom the week that I knew they would hatch. (Fun tip: if you put the eggs in on a Wednesday, they'll almost certainly hatch on a weekday because the eggs incubate for about 21 days.) I brought the incubator to school on a Monday, the eggs hatched on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week, and then the chicks stayed in their brooder box in the classroom on Thursday and Friday. After they hatched, I brought the chicks home in the brooder box every evening and brought them back to school the next morning.

If you decide to do an egg hatch with your kiddos, I'd love to hear about it!

This post contains affiliate links. This means that Amazon awards me a small referral fee when people visit their site via the links in my blog posts and purchase something (even something other than the linked product!). This doesn't affect the price you pay, and you can be confident that I only recommend products and teaching supplies I believe in and use myself.  Thank you so much for your support in making this blog possible!

Growth Mindset in the Classroom

I learned about growth mindset a couple of years ago, and it completely changed the tone of my classroom. It's shaped how I view my work and how my students view theirs, and helped to build a solid classroom community. If you don't know much about growth mindset, I'd definitely start with this Youtube video, and then read below for how to incorporate growth mindset into your classroom. If you're looking for a printable resource to help you teach growth mindset, you can follow this link for a packet I created to get you started.

Here are 5 Ways to Encourage Growth Mindset in Your Students:

1. Change your praise.

Carefully choosing how you praise your students is a critical part of promoting a growth mindset in the classroom. Instead of praising students for being "smart," praise them for their effort. Use language that acts as a mirror to reflect back to students how their effort and good choices are helping them to grow. Instead of saying, "You're such a smart student!" try saying, "You spent so much time on this writing! There are so many details that I feel like I'm there in your story."

How we praise communicates to students what we believe is the source of their success. If we praise a student for being "smart," we're attributing their success to a trait that is beyond their control. If we praise a student for their creativity and effort, we are praising them for a choice they consciously made. This communicates to students that their effort matters!

2. Create a classroom culture that celebrates every "beautiful oops!"

Have you ever read the book Beautiful Oops!? If you haven't, stop reading this and go buy a copy! It's a darling book, and is one of the biggest influences on our current classroom culture. In short, the book talks about how "mistakes" aren't actually mistakes; they're really just the beginning of something new and beautiful. 

On the first day of school, I give my students blank pieces of paper, paint brushes, and paint, and tell them to make the worst painting ever. "Fill this with mistakes," I say. "Make the messiest, craziest, worst painting you've ever made in your whole life." At first, the kids think I'm CRAZY, but they laugh their heads off and don't skip a beat, getting right to work.

The next day, I proudly display their "mistake" paintings in front of the classroom while I read Beautiful Oops!. We talk about how the "mistakes" in the book were actually just the beginning of something new and beautiful. Together, we make a rule as a class that we won't ever say we made a mistake in our schoolwork--instead, we will always say we made a "beautiful oops!" I give each student a Sharpie and let them go back through their "oops!" painting, looking for beautiful things that are hidden in them. As the year goes on, we all clap and cheer together as a class whenever someone makes a "beautiful oops!" and doesn't give up!

3. Encourage students to set and track their own goals.

At the root of growth mindset is the belief that everyone is capable of growing and learning. A student with a growth mindset will be confronted with a challenge and tell herself, "This is hard for me, but I'll get better if I practice." One great way to instill this belief and mindset in students is to have them set their own goals and track their own progress. Instead of only storing grades on your computer or in your grade book, give your students a copy and let them keep track of their own hard work in a Student Leadership Notebook. Giving your students ownership over their learning by helping them set their own behavioral or academic goals communicates that you believe them to be capable of meeting those goals. This is the first step to building a growth mindset!

4. Tattling is ALWAYS allowed in the classroom.

This is a fun rule to establish right at the start of the school year, because it always startles the students. "Tattling is always allowed in this classroom," I'll tell the students with a completely serious face. "I want you to tattle on each other all the time, and you can interrupt me anytime you'd like if you need to tattle on someone!" Then comes the catch: I tell the kids I only want to hear about someone else in our classroom if that person is hurt, stuck in a high place, or being AWESOME. I tell the students that if they ever catch someone in our classroom being kind, setting a good example, or saying an encouraging word, they can always, ALWAYS, tattle on that person. In fact, if they want to interrupt a lesson to let me know that someone was nice to them on the playground, they can do it!

Of course, this is hilarious to the kids, but it's amazing how quickly this becomes established as a cultural norm in the classroom. In the first few minutes back in the classroom after recess, one of the kids will invariably raise their hand to let me know about someone who helped a kindergarten student tie their shoe on the playground, or a student who walked a hurt friend to the office. It's nice to take something like tattling and turn it around to be something positive. This practice helps students cultivate a growth mindset because it trains them to look for the positive in others, which (hopefully!) trains them to find the positive in themselves, too.

5. Model failing forward.

As teachers, we constantly do "think-alouds" in front of the students during the day. We model strategies for decoding unknown words or checking our work on a math problem. We let kids peek inside our minds through our teaching, but this strategy shouldn't be limited to academic content. 

On the first day of school this year, I was leading my brand-new class back to our room when I glanced over my shoulder to make sure we hadn't lost any stragglers. Two seconds later, I ran right into a trash can. We weren't five minutes into the school year and I'd already made a mistake! Once we got settled into the classroom and got all of our giggles out about Mrs. Viducich running into an inanimate object, I said, "Wow! I didn't expect to start a new school year by running into a trash can. That made my butterflies about the first day of school even worse! Even though I'm still feeling kind of nervous, I'm not going to give up, because if I keep trying my best then I know today will turn out to be really great!" 

Fortunately, I'm a person who regularly trips, drops things, or makes mistakes when I'm writing on a chart during a lesson. I have no shortage of content when it comes to making mistakes. :) These silly moments during the school day are PRICELESS opportunities to model for students the kinds of conversations we should be having with ourselves to build a growth mindset.

I hope that teaching your students about growth mindset has the same positive impact on your class that it has had on mine! If you decide to make "beautiful oops!" paintings in your classroom, please tell me all about it!

If you're looking for resources to help you teach Growth Mindset, you can follow this link for a packet to get you started. I've also compiled a list of some of my favorite books for teaching Growth Mindset in this blog post.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that Amazon awards me a small referral fee when people visit their site via the links in my blog posts and purchase something (even something other than the linked product!). This doesn't affect the price you pay, and you can be confident that I only recommend products and teaching supplies I believe in and use myself.  Thank you so much for your support in making this blog possible!