Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Books that Invite Conversations About Growth Mindset

Two professional books that have impacted my teaching in the last several years are Choice Words by Peter Johnston and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  A recent post by Clare and Tammy at Assessment in Perspective reminded me how important this thinking has become in my day-to-day work with kids.   These books have been huge influences on the ways in which I talk to children and the awareness I have of their mindset about their learning.  I am amazed that even by age 8, many of our students seem to have a fixed mindset about learning and sometimes it takes lots of time to change that.  Some also have a narrow view of what it means to be a learner.   I think that no matter what our children's school and learning experiences, the messages they get from TV shows, books, etc. play on a very archaic idea of what it means to be a learner and what it means to be in school.

This year, I began our year by showing the kids Caine's Arcade.

I showed this at 9:30 a.m. on the first day of school to set the stage for the year.  Kids were glued to the clip and fascinated by Caine and his arcade.   I followed up the clip with a conversation about the reason I chose this clip. I told the kids that I thought Caine was an amazing learner and it was so evident in this piece.  Then we talked about all of the ways he was a learner and what it means to be a learner.  Since that first day of school, kids have asked to watch the Caine's Arcade clip again and many have watched it at home with families.  It was my favorite way ever to kick off a school year as I can already tell it will be an anchor for so much of our talk about what it means to be a learner.

Interestingly, this first conversation was amazing, but when we talked later in the week about classroom learning, their thoughts fell back to "It needs to be quiet," "We need to listen to the teacher," and "We shouldn't copy from other people."

So, I am in the process of collecting books that will continue the conversation about being a learner and growth mindset.  I am on the lookout for books that will help us to have conversations around this idea, not only during these first few weeks of school, but throughout the year. Often, I think that the books we share early in the year share our thoughts with students.  They come to know us through the books we share. But the community isn't strong enough early in the year for all students to bring their own thinking to the group yet.  So, it is important that this isn't only a beginning of the year conversation. I'm gathering those books I have and I'm looking for new books to add to my collection so that this conversation is ongoing.

Here are a few of the books I've collected so far:

I've always read The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal early in the year to talk about goals and the things we are still learning.

Someday by Eileen Spinelli is another favorite for this conversation.  In this story, a little girl sets out her long-term goals and then tells us what she is doing today to help her get there.

Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself is a great collection of quotes and notes by Eileen Spinelli. Many of these will be great conversation starters about agency, identity and learning.

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg is a great little book that celebrates mistakes and reminds us that often, a mistake leads to something wonderful!

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco is a book I've always loved but have never really thought about the message it gives kids about learning and growth mindset.

Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages by Marla Frazee is a book I've loved for years and one that I've often used when teaching kids how to discover themes in books. But it also has huge invitations for talking about learning and growing.

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka is a new one that I am excited about. It is a simple story of learning to ride a bike. But the messages that everyone can learn and grow is a big one.


  1. Love this post. Thank you.

  2. Wonderful set of books, Franki. My school is different so we have less attitude to get rid of about learning, but one reading I used with my middle schoolers, to build community & to let them know that competition was "not" the name of anything we did at school was this article, an old "My Turn" essay from Time mag. Talking about supporting others through celebration of the little accomplishments is important in a group. Here's the link: http://www.thecreativityconnection.com/html/the_sound_of_two_hands_clappin.html

  3. Thanks, Franki, for this post. I've been trying to figure out how to help create a growth mindset, too, so the books you cite are going to be really helpful. I had never thought to use Caine's Arcade as an entry. Wow.

    I've used Austin's Butterfly as another way to show the power of positive critique and how an attitude of growth can create some really cool stuff. You've probably seen it, but here's the link in case you haven't:

  4. Love these 2 resources--2 I didn't know about!
    I will add those to my collection-thanks so much!

  5. Love your post! I also think it's important to share with our students our journey as lifelong learners. Learning doesn't stop when you get that degree...unless you let it. That has really helped make a connection with my 4th graders. Thanks for the book ideas! I am off to check them out! :)

    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  6. That video plus your booklist equals growth mindset dynamite. Love Caine's creativity and optimism outlook. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Great ideas... Thank you and thanks to Steve for the butterfly lesson as well.


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