Growth Mindset Books for Children

712-owSCyHLPresently, two of my favorite books about the growth mindset are “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty and “The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes” by Gary Rubinstein. The kids love these two books. Rosie in “Rosie Revere, Engineer” is one of the most charming picture book characters. She is not only extremely believably clever little girl, but she is beautifully drawn and her ideas were brought to life by David Robert’s amazing illustrations. Simply a work of art. I still can’t decide which is better, the illustrations or the plot. Rosie is creative but haunted by doubt and fear of ridicule. It takes Aunt Rose’s dream and encouragement to propel Rosie past discouragement.

11526654On the other hand, “The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes” was painfully paralyzed with fear of making mistakes that learning that making mistakes are a part of life and fun, actually helped her be a happier person.

We all have little perfectionists in our classrooms. They are smart and they know it. Yet, the feeling of being smart and desire to hold on to that can prevent academic and personal growth, as well as, growth mindset. I have been coaching a growth mindset in my classroom for years, and now there is a term for it.


Happy Teaching!

Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.

When Books Arrive Too Late


This year, I finally feel content with the amount of books that I have in my classroom. It took many years and working at Title 1 school to receive a sufficient amount of books for my classroom library. I encourage reading. I allow my students to take books home. I hope that not only they enjoy their books, but that they also serve as a role model to their siblings and friends.

As I was unpacking numerous boxes of books this year, I realized that while the variety and quality of books I have in my classroom is amazing, for most of my students these books have simply arrived too late. By the time students enter 5th grade, they have set attitudes toward reading, and while these outlooks aren’t impossible to change, they aren’t easy to change.

In these first few days, I noticed that the bookcases are visited only when students are directed. Only a couple of students asked to take a book home. The enthusiasm just isn’t there as I was hoping. Now, the task of “selling” classroom books to my students is all on me.

Title I schools receive free books at every turn. We have the poorest students who need the most academic assistance. Still I can’t help but think how would have things been different if the same companies who send fee books to our Title I schools, have also sent books to my students at birth and consistently through pre-school age. The habits of reading and the “bank of knowledge” starts from birth, not in kindergarten or 5th grade.

I can’t help but thinking that these book donations, while great, have arrived too late to springboard children toward developing lifelong learning habits. Do you agree?

Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.

Best Back to School Books

pencil-878695_960_720Well, we are already back. This summer had flown by, but it was fun. By now, all teachers are back to work, and students are coming back soon as well. I have come up with the favorite first day -first week of school book list. Here are some all time favorites!

1. Wemberly Worried – by Kevin Henkes
Wemberly, the mouse, worries about everything, little things and big things, real things and imaginary things (well who is to say). Kids love Wemberly cause she is so real and believable. The first day/week of school is stressful and worrisome. Wemberly is an awesome book about human emotions. Love it!

2. Chrysanthemum – by Kevin Henkes
Another amazing book by Henkes. Kids love Kevin Henkes books. Chrysanthemum is bullied at school because of her name. Why I love this book as a teacher? As a teacher I know that in every class there is a possibility of negative dynamics. So, teaching and encouraging positive behavior and teaching kindness is perhaps the most important classroom management tool.

3. What If Everybody Did That? by Javernick
What If Everybody Did That?” is becoming the most read book during the first week of class. What I love about this book is not only that it teaches common courtesy and classroom rules, but students can clearly understand that most of the rules are in place to prevent accidents and promote safety for all students.

4. How I Spent My Summer Vacation – by Teague
Ok, I love Texas, and the kids, they think that cowboys are the most adventurous people on earth. This book is a great ice breaker during the first week of school. It is funny and engaging. It teaches creativity. It is ideal writing prompt resource. Just done right.

The Way to Stay in Destiny – Lesson Plan

destinyThe Way to Stay in Destiny” by Augusta Scattergood is a story of belonging, interdependence, extended family, and friendship. Unlike other novels set in Florida, “The Way to Stay in Destiny” doesn’t have alligators, endangered owls or marine life. Yet, like every town in Florida, it has plenty of baseball and sticky heat.
Due to series of unfortunate events, Theo leaves behind everything he has ever known, his friends, his family, and his school. He arrives to Destiny with one bag and Uncle Raymond. Things are not looking up. Still he tries to find his way to stay in Destiny.
Scattergood masterfully weaves a complex background plot of family dynamic and disagreements, the legacy of Vietnam War, and how it feels to come of age in the time of personal uncertainty.
This novel is bound to be liked by all students. A must read for grades 4 to 7.

The Way to Stay in Destiny – Lesson Plan

Happy Reading,

Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
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Learning Struggles and Kids

frog-1339897_960_720         In any given classroom, there is as many learning styles as there is students. There is really no silver bullet when it comes to instruction. Some teachers believe in their one method that “pushes” children and gets them to get their work done. They talk about effort and really put all the responsibility of results back on the students. So, if you put in effort and show grit, you will get As. If only that was so easy. If only students can be robots who effort every task and grit through it. We expect more of children than adults. Uh, so frustrating.
I teach smart students who have their areas of struggle (which really defines most students). A large number of my students have special needs. Most students with special needs are not labeled since they show sufficient progress (note that sufficient progress can be ridiculously minuscule). One common thread among all students who struggle in school is the short term memory weakness. I encourage students to take notes of procedures, which later serves as reference point. Often they forget to take notes, which is why they are given printed visual notes to keep in their binders.
To support student procedural memory, providing step-by- step visual models that students can use as a tool until they can complete the procedure on their own has been the most effective learning method across board. Procedural method, visually presented, can be used any time students need to complete more than 4 steps in sequence (long division, long multiplication, fractions, essay writing/editing, etc.)
I also teach a set of procedural questions that students should ask themselves when stuck. By internalizing critical thinking about problem solving, they eventually self-correct and persevere through algorithms and/or writing process.
Still one major element of their confusion is often stress of possible failure. Teaching students to relax, step back, think positive about tackling any problem, does wonders. In class we read “Frog’s Breathtaking Speech How Children (and Frogs) Can Use the Breath to Deal with Anxiety, Anger and Tension”.

frog     Even though, the “Frog’s Breathtaking Speech” is a picture book, students recognized a little bit of themselves in Frog. At the end of the reading, we all picked the breathing technique. Stress alters memories and impedes learning/problem solving.

Teaching students to lessen their anxiety and fear of failure increases focus and content retention.

“Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways- operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes- makes you smarter. Or put it a slightly different way, experiences where, you’re forced to slow down, make errors and correct them – as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go, end up making you swift and graceful without you realizing it.” (Coyle, Daniel, 2009) Talent Code

Cecil’s Pride the True Story of a Lion King Lesson Plan

cover“Cecil’s Pride” the True Story of a Lion King by Hatkoff
is the new must read non-fiction text. The story of Cecil and the important lessons learned are both captivating and heartbreaking. Hatkoff tells a story of Cecil in such an amazing way that by the time we were done reading, Cecil was incredibly real to all of us.
Kids truly understood the importance of protecting lions and their role in a pride and overall ecosystem balance.
There is plenty of additional information about Cecil online. Still, the book’s images and story telling is perfect for students ages 8 – 13.

We loved, loved, loved this book.

Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.

For the “Cecil’s Pride the True Story of a Lion King” Lesson Plan, click here.

“Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War” by Steve Sheinkin – Novel Unit

cover“Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War” by Steve Sheinkin is an amazing, historical fiction, book for students in grades 8 – 12. Students love this book, and they stay interested all the way through, which is a rarity in most classrooms. Sheinkin masterfully tells a story of Daniel Ellsberg and his transition from being an insider to a whistle blower, who is deeply troubled with patterns of government deception and lies. At the same time, there is another reality of American involvement in the Cold War and complicated international political dynamics that come along with it.
This text allows students to engage on a higher level thinking, develop their critical skills and ability to hold two opposing views in their mind, while understanding the pros and cons of each. There is no other book that engages all students all the while teaching world and the U.S. history at the same time, like “Most Dangerous” by Sheinkin.

For the Novel Unit / Lesson Plan click here.

“Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War” Lesson Plan – Novel Unit

Love this book,
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.