Posts tagged ‘learning’

Growth Mindset Books for Students

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.” By Dale Carnegie

The beginning of the year is a great time to introduce the idea of having a growth mindset to your classroom. I complied a list of 20 great growth mindset themed books that you can put in your classroom libraries and have for read alouds.

Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Not a Box and Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan 

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain Stretch It, Shape It by  JoAnn Deak Ph.D. 

Making A Splash: A Growth Mindset Children’s Book by Carol E Reiley

What Do You Do With a Problem?  and What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett

Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

The DotIshGoing Places by Peter Reynolds

Other growth mindset blog posts I have written:

Musing on Mindset

Tools to Help Students Build a Growth Mindset

I am always looking for more great growth mindset themed books to add to my library so please share in the comments.



The Coaching Cycle: The Link Between Coaching and Student Achievement

“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.” By Pete Carroll

Guest Blog Post from the amazing Kenny McKee

Instructional coaches are tasked with many responsibilities. Leading and developing workshops, collaborating with PLCs, facilitating school-wide assessments, organizing learning walks, analyzing student achievement data, and various other activities all contribute to positive change in schools. However, in the proceedings and productions of these large-scale activities, oftentimes, the heart of coaching, the one-on-one coaching cycle, can fall to the wayside.

Why? To some people, the coaching conversation seems so small. Facilitating workshops and school-wide activities seems important and can make the coach feel important. Activities like these might provide justification for his or her job to wary teachers and administrators.  Let’s face it — big activities look good.  Also, it feels like we are accomplishing more (faster!) when we have lots of people involved. The coaching cycle just doesn’t seem time efficient, right?

However, much of the available research about coaching suggests that change really happens one collaboration at a time, through the use of one-on-one coaching.

So, what do I mean by a coaching cycle? Although there are many interpretations of what constitutes a “cycle”, I categorize a cycle as a professional learning sequence that includes a pre-conference, classroom instruction, and a post-conference reflection.

The classroom instruction and reflection can play out in three scenarios.

  1. The coach observes the teacher teaching a lesson and provides feedback to the teacher.
  2. The coach and the teacher plan and teach a lesson together. They then reflect together.
  3. The teacher observes the coach teaching a lesson and provides feedback to the coach.

There is still much research to be done, but studies that suggest that coaching has a positive impact on student achievement describe collaborations that I would characterize as coaching cycles.

Some studies show that teachers implement more literacy strategies in their classrooms when they work with literacy coaches (Feighan & Heeren, 2009; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). Teachers especially give high praise to one-on-one coaching when compared to traditional off-site professional development (Gross, 2010; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Of all the possible ways coaches work each day, teachers report that significant coach and teacher collaborations have the most impact upon the learning in their classrooms (Campbell & Sweiss, 2010; Gross, 2010; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Most studies show that teachers report increased student engagement and on-task behavior as results of coaching collaborations (Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). Coaching cycles help teachers make changes in their instruction because coaches can tailor data collection, planning, and advice to the individual teacher’s situation and needs.

A three-year study of elementary schools tracked the amount of time spent coaching and resulting student achievement.  The researcher used alphabet letter recognition and scores on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III (PPVT-III) to measure student achievement.  A significant correlation between time spent coaching and student achievement was found in the first year, but weak correlations were found during the following two years.  The first year both coaches and teachers had a strong focus on particular content and techniques.  They also had well-defined consultative and reflective conversation cycles.  Teachers and literacy coaches had little focus and fewer structured coaching cycles in years that yielded weak correlations.  The author suggests that more time is not as important as the “type and quality of the interaction” (Shidler, 2009). Thus, the use of structured coaching cycles and a school wide focus likely explains the greater student achievement results in the first year of coaching.

In a study of four middle schools where literacy coaching was implemented for one year,  teachers reported much higher student engagement levels, and student scores made modest gains. Baselines from the state reading test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) from the prior school year were compared to scores on both assessments after the year of literacy coaching.   Classrooms with the treatment (individual literacy coaching collaborations) increased an average of five points on the state test and seven points on the ITBS (Feighan & Heeren, 2009).

According to available research, structured coaching cycles yield a significant impact on student learning.

Lasting change happens one conversation at a time. Let’s not allow the elaborate productions of meetings, workshops, and high-stakes data blind us from what we can do that really helps teachers become better for their students: one-on-one coaching.


Campbell, M. B., & Sweiss, C. I. (2010). The secondary literacy coaching model: Centrality of the  standards and emerging paradigms. Journal of Reading Education, 35(3), 39-46.

Feighan, K., & Heeren, E. (2009). She was my backbone: Measuring coaching work and its impact. CEDER Yearbook, 67-93.

Gross, P. A. (2010). Not another trend: Secondary level literacy coaching. The Clearing House, 83, 133-137.  doi:10.1080/00098651003774844

Kretlow, A. G., & Bartholomew, C. C. (2010). Using coaching to improve the fidelity of evidence-based practices: A review of studies. Teacher Education & Special Education, 33(4). 279-299. doi:10.1177/0888406410371643

Shidler, L. (2009). The impact of time spent coaching on teacher efficacy of student achievement.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(5). 453-460.

My Summer Reading List 2015

“The books that help you most are those which make you think that most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.”  by Pablo Neruda

With another school year coming to a close; I have created my book list for my summer reading.  Below are the books I will be reading this summer in no particular order:

Geared more toward administration/leadership:

1. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact by Michael Fullan

2. Coaching for Change by John L. Bennett and Mary Wayne Bush

3. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Geared more toward teachers:

1. Ditch that Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom by Matt Miller

2. Student Voice: The Instrument of Change by Russell J. Quaglia and Michael J. Corso

3. Unleashing Student Superpowers: Practical Teaching Strategies for 21st Century Students by Kristen Swanson and Hadley J. Ferguson

I also recommend to educators Learn Like a Pirate and Teach Like a Pirate if you have not read these books yet. I would love to hear any other books you recommend to read this summer, please share in the comments.

3 FREE Resources to Help Avoid the Summer Slide

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” By Daniel J Boorstin

Another school year is coming to an end and with that comes summer 2015. We as educators know how important it is for our students to continue to exercise their brain muscles. Here are my top FREE resources to send to parents this summer to help our students avoid the summer slide.

1. TenMarks – An adaptive math program that has students working on math concepts based on their needs. This program cost money for families but now it is FREE and educators get a toolkit to send home so the parents know how to use it.

2.  CK-12 Brain Flex – A self-paced online summer program that has students working on math and science. They bring the practice, students just need to bring their brain.

3. Camp GoNoodle – Go Noodle has made a virtual camp for students by offering a fun online program that has students learning through play and other various educational activities.

To learn great reading resources to avoid the summer slide, read my previous post on ‘No Summer Slide Using these Resources‘. If you are in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools two resources your students have all summer long are Dreambox and Compass Learning.

Awesome PD in 30 Seconds = #eduin30

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” by Daniel J Boorstin

I was at an educator event this week and I learned about #eduin30 and was so excited about it. George Couros is the creator and wrote a blog post you can find here on #eduin30. In a snapshot, I think it is the BEST PD in 30 Seconds and Couros tagline says it all: Bite-size Learning For Hungry Educators.

Course also asks a different question each week to guide the videos too. He posts them on Friday giving educators ‘time’ to reflect and post.  Here are the different weeks Tweeter feeds with the question that was asked.

Week 1. What is one practice in your classroom that you would like to share? #eduin30w1 (March 6th, 2015)

Week 2.  What do you look for in a principal? #eduin30w2 (March 13th, 2015)

I learned some great ideas from following #eduin30. Will you be adding to the hashtag? I will be. 🙂

Incorporating Brain Breaks

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” By Dr. Seuss

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Brain Breaks are a great way to get kids up and moving around after doing an activity. They are under utilized in the classroom yet very important in the learning environment. An easy way to add them into your classroom is during transitions. Before doing the breaks make sure to set up rules and procedures so students understand what is expected of them before, during and after brain breaks. Depending on the activity my students are doing, sometimes I choose a break for them. For example, if we are doing an activity that was independent, then I do one that has lots of movement and talking such as four corners (see below for details). If we are finishing an activity where I need them to calm down and regroup, we do Yoga. Most of the time I let the students choose. There are different ways you can do this:

  • Give them an option of two and vote
  • Create a spinner with the different brain breaks
  • Create a spinner or sticks with the students names, who-evers name gets picked, gets to choose
  • Star Student, Line Leader etc get to choose.
  • Create your own or use this roll a brain break chart 

Below are some of my students favorite brain break: (*I use these with adults too during PD!)

1. Rock, Paper, Scissors King/Queen: Each participant picks a partner to play rock, paper scissor. Whoever is the ‘winner’ from the pair gets a groupie, the last two standing have a throw down crowning the winner.

2. Vocab Jaunt: Chose a vocabulary word and have the students find the letters around the room. The rule is you can touch the same wall back to back, you must do different walls.

3. Minute to win it: There are a lot of great brain break ideas from the game show ‘minute to win it’. Google it or check out Pinterest etc for some ideas.

4. 5-4-3-2-1: Choose a leader that will decided on five different movements in descending order, pausing between each one. Example: Do five jumping jacks, spin around four times, hop on one foot three times, walk all the way around the classroom two times, give someone one high-five.

5. Plates: Give each student a paper plate. Students must walk around the room balancing the plates on their heads. If a student drops his or her plate, the student must freeze until another student picks it up and places it back on the student’s head (while keep his or her own plate in place, of course).

6. Dance Party/Yoga: Using Go Noodle (Great FREE site with lots of brain breaks) is a great way of saving spending hours on you tube etc to find the right kid friendly ones. They even have celebrities and popular songs such as Happy and Let it GO!

7. 4 Corners: Choose four different destinations such as states, cities, countries and have students choose where they would want to go on vacation and why with a partner in that corner. This gets students up and moving but also discussing possibly with classmates they don’t normal interact with. Ex: label one corner NYC and the others Orlando, LA and Denver. (This can be adapted to many other ways such as book titles, foods, colors etc)

8. Geometry Hustle: The teacher calls out a shape and the student collaborate to create that shape on the ground. Ex: If  square s called, four students get together and create a square by laying on the ground. (*I have also done this with angles, example: make an acute angle)


GoNoodle Inspiration Blog

Other Brain Break Resources:

Go Noodle (Also great for indoor recess)

20 Brain Break Clips

Energizing Brain Break Book

Incorporating Brain Breaks: Keeping Students Engaged

You can also find a ton on Pinterest too. If you have a favorite brain break that wasn’t mentioned, please share in the comments. I love trying new ones!

S.T.E.M Resources for Teachers

“STEM education isn’t just one thing-it’s a range of strategies that help students apply concepts and skills from different disciplines to solve meaningful problems.” Jo Anne Vasquez

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math = STEM has become a buzz word in education. Too often this happens to many best practices due to how they are explained or rolled out to educators. Look at buzz words such as differentiation, Higher-Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) and data driven instruction; all of these like STEM are buzz words for a reason as they are best practices, yet they get lost in the shuffle of other programs or initiatives etc. This blog post is to bring back WHY STEM is important and give resources to be able to help teachers integrate it back into the classroom with purpose and meaning.

STEM education is an instructional approach to learning that allows four (I think five as literacy is also integrated) subjects be integrated into one, to encourage real-world learning experiences. How often do you get asked by a student (and sometimes parents) when you are teaching, “when am I going to use this in the real world?” STEM bridges this gap and allows students to see real world application of what they are learning. Below are great sites, TED Talks and articles all filled with lots of resources such as lesson plans, games, activities etc. I hope these help you integrate STEM into your day.


Teaching Kids to Code: EdSurge Guide – A great guide in how to incorporate coding into the classroom along with a bank of different coding apps, sites and software with information to help you pick the best one for your needs.

NASA- Educators – Has lesson plans, activities, games and much more for grades K-12.

Exploratorium  – Interactive site for grades K-12 with lots of activity ideas.

eGFI: Dream Up the Future – Has lesson plans, activities, games and much more for grades K-12 geared toward engineering.

Engineer Your Life – Engineering site for 9-12 grade girls.

PBS Teachers – STEM Education Recourse Center – Lots of resources for a K-12 teacher

NC State STEM Resources –  Most of these lesson plans and activities were developed or used in their K-12 Engineering Teaching Fellows Program with great success.
TED Talks

Hands-on science with squishy circuits by AnnMarie Thomas – NC Essential Standard Connection – 4.P

The magic of Fibonacci numbers by Arthur Benjamin – CCSS connection 5.OA

Great articles on STEM:

STEM: Beyond the Acronym

Knowledge, Inquiry, Design: A Three-Ppronged Approach To STEM Learning

I would love to know other great STEM resources that you have used in your classroom too. Please share them in the comments.

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