Saturday, January 24, 2015

Growth Mindset: How the Packers' Loss Turned into Our Win

I sat and watched in disbelief as the game ended...

My beloved Green Bay Packers had just blown a 12 point lead to lose the final playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.  Whereas I had already started planning the green and gold appetizers I would serve at my Super Bowl party, I was now it total...utter...shock.

How did this happen?

According to NBC Sports, the statistics were definitely in the Packers' favor to win when they were ahead.  The Seahawks only stood a 1.8% chance of coming back from the 12 point deficit with 10 minutes left in the game to beat the Packers and earn their trip to the Super Bowl.


That's IT.

Returning to school the next day, my good friend Bridget and I were talking about the game and she asked, "How can we turn this loss into a learning moment for our students?"  Surely, our young southeastern Wisconsin students would be majorly bummed that the Packers blew it.

This got me thinking.

This past year, I have been learning a lot about growth mindset and implementing it in my classroom. I have written about how a growth mindset has helped us in math and how the word "YET" is now a part of our daily classroom vocabulary.  The Packers' loss -- or rather, the Seahawks victory -- was a perfect way to talk about growth mindset.

When my 4th graders arrived and we we had our "Thirty Second Share" about our weekends, I took the time to address the football game.

I asked my students how many of them thought the Packers were going to win.  Almost every hand went up.

Then I shared the statistic with them.  I explained (in very 4th grade words) what probability was and that some experts had predicted that the Seahawks only stood a l.8% chance of coming back and winning the game.  To make it even more concrete, I explained that that was like less than two pennies out of a dollar.


"But they did it," I said.  "The Seahawks worked hard and put forth a great effort and won the game.  They didn't care if they only stood a 1.8% chance of winning.  They just did what they had to do and the rest took care of itself."

Then I asked students to think about someone in the room who they felt was an awesome reader.  You know the ones -- they always have a book in their hands,  talk about books, seek out new books, actually read during silent reading time. How do we think they became that way?

It wasn't by sitting back and doing nothing.

Sure, maybe they were born with some talent, but if they didn't nurture it with effort, nothing would come of it. What about someone in our classroom who is good at math?  Did math just come easy to them?  Nope, they put in a lot of hard work and effort to get to where they are today.

I then asked my students to think of something in school that is giving them some trouble and to consider the amount of effort they were making in that area.  Were they able to see that maybe, just maybe, they were having trouble because they weren't putting in their best effort? That a little extra effort could be the difference between success and staying the same? Between being that awesome reader and one who just gets by? Between understanding fractions and failing at them?

So the word "EFFORT" has now joined the word "YET" as a regular part of our classroom vocabulary.  It's right there, on the front board, as a constant reminder of what's important to help us learn.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bringing the Fur Trade to Life with Book Bartering

This past week, we have been studying the Fur Trade in Wisconsin in our social studies class.  Our text is pretty dry and I felt like my kiddos weren't really catching on to how important the fur trade was in changing the lives of the Native Americans who lived here so long ago.

I wanted them to experience one of the premises of the fur trade -- bartering.  The act of trading items of value for something else.

We did this through a Book Barter.  Any of my students who wanted to participate brought in books from home that they had read and no longer wanted.  (I told them to get their parents' permission first.)

Before our bartering session, we talked about how much value certain books had to us. Sometimes, we had to give more to get less.

I had brought in a copy of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself book to demonstrate.  When my students saw my book, almost everyone instantly wanted it.  Some students offered me five of their books in return for my one.  (I ended up making a one-to-one trade for a Titanic book that I really wanted.)

My students then went about their bartering and traded books.  As this was happening, I saw looks of contemplation as students considered trades and heard squeals of delight in getting a much wanted book.  When we were through, almost every student walked away with a new-to-them book to read.

 We then brought this back to our study of the fur trade.  How had the Native Americans and explorers given up the things they had for something that had more value for them?

 With the Book Barter, my students had a better grasp of the Fur Trade...and also got some fun new books out of the deal!

How do you bring learning to life in your classroom?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bringing More Peace to Our School

Every Tuesday, my 4th graders get together with our 2nd grade buddy class for some buddy time to read together or to complete a project.  This is a fun time for the students to get to know each other and for my 4th graders to mentor the younger kids.

This past week, we used our buddy time to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the concept of peace.  Unfortunately, for a lot of kids these days, peace is not something that is a part of their everyday lives. More and more kids are struggling through poverty, violence, and loneliness than ever before.

We wanted our kids to know that even if the world around them may not be always peaceful, they could still do something to bring more peace into their lives.  They had the power to do that.

We talked about how the dove is a symbol for peace and passed out a dove template that we had copied onto white cardstock.  (You can find the template here.) We asked the buddy pairs to talk
about ways they could bring more peace into the world and to write it on their dove.  They then colored the doves, made wings (accordian folded a piece of color paper) and we hung strings from the doves.

The Peace Doves now have a home in the hallways outside our classrooms.  As students and adults walk by, they can read our students ideas for ways to bring more peace into the world.

Standing underneath the doves, it is hard to not feel peaceful.

How do you celebrate Dr. King and peace in your classroom?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Positive Thinking Thursday {1-15-15}

It's Thursday, which means its' time for Positive Thinking Thursday.  Thanks for visiting!

In my 4th grade classroom, we have been working on developing a growth mindset -- the idea that mistakes are OK, we learn by trying, and even if we don't 'have it' yet, we will! My students have been super awesome with this so when I saw this quote, I knew it was perfect for this week's Positive Thought:
As an added bonus this week, I'd like to share a short video that was shared with me on a Twitter chat earlier this week.  The topic was using our time to do those things that are most important to us.  If you have about 3 minutes, I hope you will watch:

Wishing you an amazing day!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Positive Thinking Thursday {1-08-15}

Welcome to this week's Positive Thinking Thursday.  I hope you are having a great week back.
I saw this clip on Twitter and knew it just had to be shared:

As teachers, we are entrusted with a tremendous gift every day.  Isn't this what it's all about?

Have a wonderful day! Stay warm!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Connect With My Class for World Read Aloud Day

Wednesday, March 4th is World Read Aloud Day, a day to celebrate the importance of sharing stories and reading around the world.
This day also happens to fall during Read Across America Week and that's exactly what my 4th grade classroom would like to do!

We are looking for other classrooms around the country -- and around the world -- who would would like to connect with us some time during the week of March 2-6, 2015 to share a read aloud.  Any grade is fine.

If you are interested, please fill out this short form and I will be in touch!  (Once we settle on a time/day, we can figure out the details of how we can make this work -- Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, etc.)

For more information about World Read Aloud Day, you can visit the LitWorld website where you can also find classroom kits and ideas for participating.

Hoping to read with you soon!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Why I Spent My Winter Break Reading

The second week of winter break is coming to an end.  I am a bit sad, but looking forward to going back into my classroom to share my winter break experiences with my students.

These past two weeks, I had lots of adventures.

I visited Victorian England and hung out with two Irish orphans.  I spent time with a deaf child who learned that her deafness could be her superpower. I explored 1920's New York city with another child who went on a quest to discover where he came from.

I didn't leave home to do any of this.

I didn't warp back in time.

What I did do, was READ.  A lot....

Why did I spend my winter break reading middle grade fiction, you wonder?

1.  I want my students to know that I wouldn't ask them to do anything that I wouldn't do myself.  I asked them to read over break, so I did the same.

2.  To be able to recommend books to students, I have to know books.  To know books, I have to read them.  I began to recognize how important this was when I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller two summers ago. (If you haven't read The Book Whisperer...what are you waiting for???)

3.  I want to be a reading role model for my students.   I want my students to know me as a reader and to know what I think about the books I've read.

4.  I've found an amazing network of teacher readers on Twitter and daily posts from the Nerdy Book Club. The tweets that have been going out about the #bookaday challenge and the Nerdy Book Awards have helped me stay connected and informed about the best in children's literature and what I need to read next.  They even inspired me to purchase this shirt:

6.  My TBR (To Be Read) pile of books was about to topple over....I had to start making the pile get shorter.  :)

I consider my time reading during break well spent.  On Monday, I will begin to share the tales of my reading adventures with my students.

I already have a student reader in mind for each of the books I read over break.

I can't wait....

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Positive Thinking Thursday {1-01-15}

Happy New Year!!  Welcome to the dawn of 2015...It's going to be a great year!  Thank you for stopping by today for Positive Thinking Thursday.  I think it's a great way to start your year off right!
I saw this on Twitter and thought it was SO appropriate for this first Positive Thinking Thursday of the year:

Have a wonderful day and a blessed 2015!  I'm looking forward to learning with you in the new year.