Flexibility (Mindset #3)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Last week we focused on Persistence, with a review on Optimism.  Click here for our One Sheet on optimism and the One Sheet on persistence.

This week, we are introducing FlexibilityHere is the One Sheet for flexibility.  There are also poster in that link, with graphics thanks to Ashley Hughes.

All of this mindset work is, of course, inspired by the work of Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz and their book:

When someone is flexible, they know that there in not one way of doing something.  They often persevere through a challenge and show persistence because they see that there are tools available to them to try.  I like to think about this as the many ways I could get to work each morning.  If there is a traffic back up, there are many routes I can take.  It might not be my favorite route, but having those  options gives me the flexibly to get to work when there is a road block.  

One special thing about people who think with flexibility is their ability to change their minds when they are given new information.  They can reassess the problem and think about how they are solving it, and change directions.  This is critical to problem solving.  

What does that mean for our students?  Perhaps things like:
Knowing a book is too hard, and seeing the options to solve or support that.
Using our CAFE Boards, knowing that those options are choices for readers to make and apply.  
Knowing that they can't figure out how to subtract the numbers, and finding tools to help them.
Struggling with a difficult assignment, and using a few strategies to help from getting stuck.

Costa and Kallick (2000) describe flexible thinkers as people who can see from more that one perspective.  They can see from their own perspective, another's perspective, a bird's eye view, and a worm's eye view.  This ability to change perspective and see things in more than one way helps them come up with different paths to solve the same problem.

So, what about a pig's eye perspective?


Our second grade teachers were introducing their fairy tale unit this week, and they decided to do it with a little STEAM.  (I think their end products were works of ART, so I added the A.)  


All four classes used flexibility in their materials and how they tested the houses as "wolf proof."   But, they basically all had their students use materials to build houses that would withstand the huffing and puffing of the Big, Bad Wolf.  Watching them create the houses showed their persistence and flexibility at times of challenge.  Marshmallows can be a finicky building material, and straw (whether the plastic or plant kind) is not the easiest material to manipulate.  Some homes were pretty flat, and others had walls to protect their pigs.  But, ALL students showed persistence in the task and built a house!  A few of the classes then had them rotate to a different set of building materials, showing them how different tools make the process different.  Flexibility in action!


At the end, I caught +Erin Flynn's class discuss how they were persistent while building.  The kids said things like, "The sticks were easy because they were pointy" or "The straws were hard, because they fell down when you stacked them."  One said, "It was just gross and sticky, but I did it anyway." Another said, "I tried the same things over and over again" (referring to those tricky straws).  Their teacher responded with: 
"I didn't see a single one of you giving up!  You kept trying it again and didn't give up!"
Now, how often can we honestly say that about a lesson?

Isn't that great?  I love the idea of teaching these mindsets in situations like this!  Low stress, creative challenges that allow kids to experience the real struggles and successes that we feel in life.  Plus, it ties directly to their study on the Three Little Pigs.  
Kids who struggle with a book might just close it.  
Kids who struggle with building a toothpick house might think more flexibly and choose a new strategy.  
Perhaps this is where we need to teach that type of thinking, and reinforce, scaffold, and celebrate transfer to academic struggle. 

Thanks +Stacy Rammer +Margaret Daly +Erin Flynn +Stephany Berryhill and +Claudia Scott for starting your new unit of study in such a dynamic way.

Want one more pig's eye view on flexibility?  Watch Ormie the Pig use flexibility and persistence to get the cookies at the top of the fridge.  +Lori Horne showed me this video a few years ago, and I always seem to find a new way to use it.  

Ok, Hiawatha!  Let's explore FLEXIBILITY!  #hiawathapride

How does your classroom embrace flexibility?  
How do students show flexibility?
How do you see flexibility, optimism and persistence 
working together in your class?

Voices of Inspiration

Thursday, January 28, 2016

This is the last post in the #D100BloggerPD challenge about what inspires us.  If you missed any, please click on the ThingLink below to catch up!

Thanks +Kristin Richey  and +Colleen Noffsinger  for organizing us on this journey.

What inspires me?
I have really struggled with this question, for a few reasons.  First of all, this blog is filled with posts about things that inspire me, from music to people to authors.  Many things have inspired me at various times in my life.  Coming up with ONE source of inspiration was just too hard.

Over the course of a week, I started generating a list:
My kids.  Quotes.  Photographs.  Books.  Authors.  People.  Song lyrics.  Students.  Teachers.  More people.  Rainbows.

I started to see a trend in most of those things. Words.  What do the words, or message, communicated by them have in common?  I spoke to a friend on the phone, and she said those words are like "voices of hope."  I realized that "Voices of..." seemed to work, but I wasn't sure hope was all encompassing enough.

I went into a teacher's classroom as lunch, because her mom had brought her McDonald's and I wanted to steal a few fries.  I turned to a small thoughtful group of educators and said, "What do the voices of song lyrics, good quotes, people like MLK, and our own staff have in common? Hope? Joy? Caring? Optimism?" One of the teachers talked about a story that had moved her to tears about when the Dream Act was passed.  I showed them a music video that inspires me.  Tears flowed. It was then, over a chicken nugget, that she said, "Why not just voices of inspiration?"

I am inspired by people who inspire others.

Kindergartners whose hopes and dreams are for others to dream.  Selfless and kind, right from the start.

People who believe in the beauty of a better tomorrow, and start down the path to it.  People who lead others down the path, too, or help people create their own path.

Songs that have lyrics that remind us to be a better person.  The world turns with our light.  There is universal beauty in being humble and kind and respectful and human to all people.

Movies that show us empowerment,  strength and courage are in our own control.  We have the power to make a difference in our own lives, and the lives of others.

Coworkers and literacy gurus who push me to be the best educator that I can be with their words and ideas and passion.  Their support is a blessing that propels me forward.

Books and book characters that show us that the dark and the light are within us all, but that light can win.  Love and hope can be our motivation if we let it.

My family, who are my voice of everything.

Somos los soƱadores.
We are the dreamers.

We can dream beautiful things, and make those dreams come true. We are the ones who can see beauty in the world, and create more beauty in this world.
We can be voices of inspiration for others.

Be that voice.
Maybe you will be my next voice of inspiration.  :)

Persistence (Mindset #2)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Last week we focused on Optimism.  Click here for our One Sheet, based on the work of Mraz and Hertz.  The book is phenomenal.

This week, we are going to show Persistence!  Here is the One Sheet.

Being persistent is a mindset that will help our students work through challenge.  It is so much easier to give up when things get hard.  I know when I try to parallel park, if I do decide to try, I give it one go, get embarrassed, and pull away in defeat.  Clearly, being persistent is not always as easy as we hope.

I think it is really important to mention that we need to put kids in situations where we tell them to be persistent when they actually can succeed.  They need to know that challenge can be worked through, and feel the success on the other side.  It reminds me of those "grit" lessons that some grade levels did earlier in the year during reading workshop.  It is good to teach a child to be persistent through a book that they can read, but provides some reasonable struggle.  It's another thing to hand them a book 2 years above their reading level and with no interest level there and tell them "Be persistent!"  Trying again and again, in this case, will only lead to frustration and failure.

Because of this, I really think that the mindset of persistence should be taught in a low stress, less academic way if we can.  We want to teach children that they shouldn't give up at the first sign of struggle, and to keep going even when it is a little hard, but we don't want them spinning wheels in the mud either.

I think a lovely mentor text for persistence is Float, by Daniel Miyares.  It is actually a wordless picture book, and it just arrived at my house today!  Perhaps I am looking at things through the lens of persistence today, but I see the mindset in this book.  It is a story about a boy who makes a newspaper boat.

The endpapers of the book alone could teach persistence.  As a second grade teachers for 15 years, there were so many kids who would see directions like this for paper crafting and just hand me the paper and ask me to "help."  Meaning, do it for me Mrs. O'Donnell.  When I would say, "Just try!" they'd walk over to the kid in the class who was a paper plane making expert.  Clearly, I missed some lessons on persistence back then.

The boy in the story does succeed in making a boat, with dad's help perhaps, and goes off to sail it.  Despite drizzle, then rain, then losing it downstream, the boy still ends up with his boat in the end, even if it isn't the way he had hoped it would end.  But, he dries himself off, and starts the next day off with a new newspaper craft.  

I actually love how optimism and persistence run through this book.  Throughout the rain, he wears a bright yellow raincoat and boots that jump off the page.  It could be just because traditional raincoats are yellow.  But, at the end, the sun comes out and the boy, in gray, is surrounded by the same yellow of the sun as he runs off to play again with his newest creation.  That, to me, is use of color to show optimism.  His boat is gone, but his plane will soar.  This is great, because the mindsets can work together in real life, too.

If you want to borrow this book, feel free!  It is a wordless book, so we can chat about how you would "read" it to your class if you'd like.  If you end up having your class follow the endpapers and persist in making paper airplanes at the end, then make sure you take a picture and tweet it using #hiawathapride!

Ok, Hiawatha!  Let's explore PERSISTENCE!  #hiawathapride

How does your classroom embrace persistence?  
How do students show persistence?

The Teacher Mom

      This is a guest post, written by Christine Flowers!  She is a fantastic 3rd grade teacher at Hiawatha School, and part of our #D100BloggerPD crew.  Today she is sharing with us what inspires her.

What inspires me?

     Being a mom is tough. Being a working mom is tough. Being a teacher working mom is NUTS!! Thank goodness my daughters inspire me to be the best me and accept my shortcomings. There is always tomorrow to try again, get it right. I finally try to live my life by the mantra: Don’t sweat the little stuff but cherish the little moments.

     Becoming National Board certified made me a much more reflective teacher on my practice. Becoming a mom made me a much more reflective teacher on my individual students. So many times I ask myself, “Did I try to listen and really hear what my students were saying?” “Did I make my students feel special today? “ Did I greet and smile at each student individually?” Because that is what I want for my daughters.

     Everyone can learn if they feel safe. However what we need to feel safe is so varied. Growing up in the exact same household, that set of needs is so very different for each of my daughters. Huh, guess it would be in the classroom as well. So as I try to quell another meltdown at home while understanding what caused it and what might alleviate it, I think about my classroom and how to apply that strategy. Practicing the piano, completing a book log, heck even brushing our teeth…major productions some days in the Flowers household. Okay, okay…let’s teach self motivation, natural consequences, consistency…wait! I think that all applies in my classroom as well. Kids just don’t want to do it because someone “told them to”.


Every day my Alexa Gabrielle and Alyssa Ann inspire me though their words and actions..and my REACTIONS….to be a better person and a better teacher. One day at a time!

Catch up with the rest of the #d100bloggerPD #whatinspiresyou posts below.  
Just click on a circle in theThingLink!

On Wednesday, look to Nancy at @TeamHealyK-2 for our next post of inspiration.

3 Days of Inspiration!

I love him! (or, alternatively, I love her!)

That came out of my mouth a lot over the last few days.

I was at the Reading Recovery conference this Thursday and Friday in Chicago, where I saw Ralph Fletcher, Christopher Lehman, Cris Tovani, Baruti Kafele, Ruth Quiroa and Amy Huftalin. Then I spent Saturday at a CARA event with Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris.

Perhaps just saying "I love him/her!" is a simple way to express some other, more thoughtful responses.  Maybe I "really" meant...

I deeply respect the work they do in education.

I admire their impact on students across the country.

I celebrate the way they use their voice to make a positive change in students' lives, or in the world.

I hear their thinking, and it helps me reflect on my own practice.

I can be a better teacher if I believe in things the way they believe in things that matter to them.

I don't want to be them, because you can only truly be yourself, but I can channel their work to be the best ME I can be.

So, with that being said, here are the compilation of my #sketchnotes from the last three days.   I urge you to take a look, and if something in the notes speaks to you, then act on it.  We can only control the things that we do, and becoming the best teacher we can be is within that control.

I hope you also find a little love hidden in there, too.  Because, when there is passion, there is heart.  Our kids need our hearts as well as our minds.  

Maybe you won't shout, "I love him!" like I do, but maybe you will.

Ralph Fletcher, Keynote

Ralph Fletcher, on Using Mentor Texts

Cris Tovani, on Balance between Content and Reading

Christopher Lehman, on Writing From Sources

Baruti Kafele

Christopher Lehman on Close Reading

Wordless Picture Books, with Ruth Quiroa and Amy Huftalin

Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris

Kristin Ziemke Break-Out Session