My Favorite Books for Teaching Growth Mindset

If you're looking for a way to start the school year strong with your primary kiddos, I'd highly recommend teaching a lesson or two about Growth Mindset. If you're unfamiliar with Growth Mindset or want to learn more, you can find another blog post I wrote about it here.

Taking time to talk about Growth Mindset has completely changed my classroom culture the last couple years, and I've found that the kids really connect with the ideas when we read and discuss quality books together as a class. There are many fabulous children's books that complement lessons about Growth Mindset, and I want to share just a few of my favorites with you. Some of these books are beloved and well-known, others are brand new, and still others are lesser-known but cherished books from my own childhood that I've read to my students for years. All are beautifully written and illustrated, and will help set a positive tone for your whole school year!

1. Rosie Revere, Engineer
"Your brilliant first flop was a raging success. Come on, let's get busy and on to the rest!" I won't lie, the first time I read this book to my students, I choked up! I recommend this book with all of my heart. The main character, Rosie, learns the value of making mistakes in the process of creating something new.

2. Mirette on the High Wire
This is one of my favorite stories from my childhood, and I read it with my students every year. It's a beautiful story of perseverance, written about a little girl who is determined to learn how to walk on a high wire. Even though Mirette falls many times when she is first learning, she doesn't give up, and she ends up helping her teacher conquer his own fears in the process.

3. The Dot
Can you imagine how much fun this book would be to plan an art lesson around? It shares a beautiful lesson about the power of just getting started, even if your first attempt to try something new isn't perfect. Vashti, the main character in this book, is hesitant to take a risk to create art, but with her teacher's encouragement she ends up creating art that inspires others to take risks, too.

4. The Big Orange Splot
My brothers and I adored this book when we were growing up. This is the fanciful story of a seagull flying over a man's house carrying a can of orange paint (nobody knows why), which it drops on the man's roof (nobody knows why). The man happens to live on a street where all of the houses look the same. While the man's neighbors pressure him to get his house cleaned up and back to normal, he ends up seizing the opportunity to redecorate his house to look like his dreams. One-by-one, he inspires his neighbors to do the same. This story is a beautiful starting point for talking about how thinking creatively, innovating, and going outside of the norm can inspire beautiful things in your life and in others'!

5. Beautiful Oops!
Oh, this book. I love it so much. Forget the fact that I've just listed it as a classroom resource--go ahead and pin this book cover now to buy for everyone on your gift list. It's meaningful for kids and adults alike, and creating our own "Beautiful Oops!" paintings has become a cherished tradition for starting the school year in my classroom. Your students will be delighted by how each "mistake"--a torn page, a coffee stain--is transformed into something new and beautiful.

6. What Do You Do With a Problem?
This is a lovely book for talking about the power of perspective, and how our problems hold possibility. I would also highly recommend this book for any children in your life (or adults, for that matter) who struggle with anxiety. In kid-friendly terms, the author describes what it feels like to be anxious about a problem, and then what it feels like to shift from focusing on a problem to focusing on finding a solution.

Honestly, looking over this list of books makes my heart feel so full. The class discussions and light bulb moments my students have had while reading these books are priceless. I hope these help you in your classroom, too!

So, what do you think? Would you add any books to this list? I'd love to hear the other Growth Mindset books you love!  Also, if you're looking for printable resources to help you teach growth mindset, you can follow this link for a packet I created to get you started!

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5 Ways to Celebrate Student Birthdays Without Sugar

I'll admit it: sitting down to write a post about taking cupcakes away from kids just feels wrong. I love witnessing the wild excitement kids feel when it's their birthday and they get to have a special treat. What I've noticed, though (and this probably goes without saying), is that thirty ecstatic, sugared-up kids can turn a classroom into chaos, to the point that some of the fun gets lost in the mayhem.  I've spent some time the past few years collecting creative alternatives to cookies and cupcakes, and I think I've found some ideas that retain the whimsy and joy of birthdays while avoiding the chaos. With luck, some of these ideas could end up being a win for you, your birthday student, and your students' families!

1. Whole-Class Privilege
This idea is incredibly simple, but it's a good one. Set up your birthday kiddo to be the hero of the class by letting them pick a fun privilege for everyone to enjoy for the day. Write in markers? Shoes off inside? Choose your own seat? Extra GoNoodle time? The options are endless, easy, and FREE. Your students will love it, and your special birthday kiddo will glow when the other students recognize they're the reason everyone gets a special treat.

2. Birthday Books
As teachers, we're always adding books to our classroom libraries, whether they're donated or purchased. The next time you get that free pile of books from Scholastic, consider setting them aside instead of putting them in your library right away. On each student's birthday, "donate" a book to the classroom library in their honor. Present the book to your student in front of the whole class and explain why you chose the book for them. This is a great opportunity to affirm your student in front of their peers, calling out the great qualities you see in them! For extra excitement, have the birthday kiddo write their name on the inside cover so everyone knows it is their birthday book!

3. Games
At the beginning of the year, when you're explaining how you run birthday parties in your classroom, present this idea for parents to consider: instead of buying cupcakes (or some other sugary treat) for the class to celebrate their child's birthday, what if they spend that same amount of money on a fun game or book for the whole class to share? There are tons of puzzles, joke books, math games, phonics puzzles, and art supplies--just to name a few ideas--that cost less than 25 cupcakes, and the games or books will be enjoyed the entire year. This idea only works if parents were planning to spend money on a sweet treat, of course. You know your school population, so use your best judgement and don't suggest this if it would place a burden on families. If buying cupcakes is the norm with your families, though, this could be a great alternative to suggest! Birthday celebrations in your classroom could shift from sugar fests to engaging puzzle/art/game time, and both you and your students will be happy.

4. Sparkle Supplies
Head to your nearest Target or Dollar Tree and stock up on all of their fabulous, tacky, glitter-coated supplies. Snag some sparkly crayons, markers, and pencils (bonus points if they have crazy eraser toppers). Put together a special box of sparkly supplies that students can use on their birthdays. I use this as a whole-group reward for table groups in my classroom, but the same idea could easily be adapted for individual students!

5. Affirmation Crowns
This one takes a little prep, but your kids will love it. Pre-cut a small paper heart or star for each student in your class. Give each child one heart, and have them write an adjective to describe something they like about the birthday boy or girl. Collect the hearts or stars and attach them to a sentence strip to create a crown. The birthday kiddo can wear their affirmation crown all day, letting the world know why they're being celebrated!

If you have summer birthday kids and want to spread out the celebrations, remember that half-birthdays are a great time to celebrate, too!

I hope some of these ideas help you in your classroom.  Do you have any sugar-free birthday ideas you would add to this list? I'd love to hear about them!