Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

It’s crazy to believe that April is already half way over…??? Ummmmm, how did that happen? With testing and crazy weather patterns, I once again feel like the amount of actual teaching I’ve done is down to a minimum. (In case you didn’t hear, the midwest got yet another storm this past week, so Thursday school was cancelled again because of “blizzard like conditions.”) I think my students are starting to hit that spring slide because it’s getting harder and harder to motivate them everyday.

Because of that, I wanted to look into ways to keep them motivated and positive through the end of the year. I also am having many students who are becoming very emotional lately and I wanted to continue to remind them how to be positive and believe in themselves even if something doesn’t go as planned. I did a quick amazon search for growth mindset books and found The Growth Mindset Playbook; A Teacher’s Guide to Promoting Student Success, by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley.

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I’m only a few chapters in right now but I wanted to reflect on some of the concepts I’ve come across already that I’ve found to be quite interesting.

The book begins by explaining the difference between growth and fixed mindset. Simply put, growth mindset individuals always see a way and are open to failure because they can learn from it, whereas fixed mindset individuals believe if they fail they fail and are completely defeated. I’ve tried all year to create growth mindset students but some are still struggling with effort because they don’t believe in themselves.

To help teach what growth mindset thinkers believe, the authors included a mini lesson to do as a whole class. The teacher writes out a series of scenarios on notecards. The scenarios range between how a fixed mindset person would react to a situation and how a growth mindset person would react to a situation. They work as a team to sort each notecard into a fixed or growth mindset category. The scenarios in this book are middle/high school age situations so before I try this out, I have to think of situations an 8 year old could relate to. I want to try this once our testing if over to hopefully spark some interest and motivation for the last month of school.

The second main idea I found interesting so far in this book is the concept that even if a teacher teaches growth mindset, their students might not be successful in grasping the concept. The authors found that a teacher can talk about having a growth mindset until they’re blue in the face but it won’t make a difference unless they model having a growth mindset themselves for their students. I think this was a pretty powerful idea. It shows how much of an impact a teacher has on their students. You can teach your students to believe in anything but if you don’t believe in it yourself, they’re never going to catch on.

I think I model this pretty well for my kiddos. Everyday we talk about the importance of effort and how we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. I stress that I don’t care if someone got 100% on a test or 50% on a test as long as they put in effort and strive to learn from their errors the next time around. I talk a lot about my mistakes and how I learn from them to do and be better at my job. I’m also a HUGE Harry Potter fan and have instilled that love with my class. I’ve shared with them the story of J.K. Rowling and how she got her start. I’ve told them about how she was rejected by 12 different companies before someone told her they would publish her story. This has always been a huge motivator for me and I love to share it with my students because the story is so inspirational.

I have not gotten very far into the book but I plan to continue reading to learn more about having a growth mindset and how to use that information to help my students and to help our class have a great end of the year. As I keep reading, I hope to continue to share little tips and tricks that I learn to help any of you who are also having a hard time getting your students to believe in themselves.

Testing Testing Testing

It’s that happy season again. State standardized testing has begun and I am trying to be the best cheerleader I can.

When we come back on Monday, my students will start the MCA (Minnesota’s standardized test) reading test and I have tried as hard as I can to prep them for what’s in store. We spent the whole week this week prepping for what the test is going to look and be like. We went online and watched tutorials on how to use the test and did practice tests all together as a class. By the end of today my kids were shot, and we haven’t even started the official test yet!

The past few weeks we have practiced with different new passages and taking comprehension test questions on them. We’ve gone over test taking strategies and have watched motivational videos but I don’t think I’ve done enough.

My students are 3rd graders, so in Minnesota, this is the first official year they take the MCA standardized test. I’ve done my best to prep them the best I can and explain how serious this test is but after today, I’m not sure they really understand. We’ve talked about how it’s important to do our best and to stay focused, but these are 3rd graders. Needless to say, I’m very nervous.

I know being a teacher, we are supposed to be positive and motivational but there is only so much I can do. I wish I could tell my students how I really feel about the test but we all know that isn’t possible. We are all set to “teach towards the test” in any state we’re in and we are seen as bad teachers if we don’t. I’m ready for the next few weeks to be over.

That being said, we have to give out the tests and they have to take it, it’s part of the job. I try to make testing days as low key and as exciting as possible. For our tests, we are given a total of 4 school days to work on them (2 for reading and 2 for math.) We get about half of every day to test and the other half to have classroom time. I try to utilize my classroom time to get them in the mood for the test and to relax and destress after the test.

When they come in every morning, I have a treat on their desk with a motivational note. I downloaded these FREE notes on TPT last year from Math Mojo‘s shop and I LOVE them.

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The students come in each morning of testing excited to go! I usually put on a few GoNoodles before we head to our designated testing room so they can move and get their blood flowing. After the test, the rest of the day is for relaxation! Depending on the weather, (again, love Minnesota…) we will either go outside or play games in the classroom. The test takes out SO MUCH that I want them to decompress as much as they can. Once the 4 test days are over, I spend the rest of the next week doing fun art projects and team building activities.

I wish all of you luck as we head into testing season. Hang in there and be the best teacher/cheerleader/counselor you can be for you students! All I can think about is when I had to take these wonderful tests in 3rd grade. I want my students to have better memories than I have, that’s for sure!

My fellow teachers, we got this!

Help!! Teacher Advice Needed!!

Happy Fri-yayyy!! This has been an interesting week and I am tired! I feel like that exhaustion hasn’t exactly gone away in awhile. This post is a little different because I’m really asking for some help and advice on one of my students. This student is in the process of being tested for EBD but we’re having some hesitation with parents….because of that, I’m trying to find a way to help them the best I can, with as much support as we can give him/her without extra special ed support.

A little background…this student has had some pretty traumatic experiences in their life and because of that, already meets with our social worker pretty frequently. Over the year, I have learned that this student has extreme highs and extreme lows all in a matter of minutes. They can go from throwing a tantrum to giving out pictures saying “I love you” to everyone in the class in a matter of 5 minutes. He/she has also been removed from group interventions in reading and speech because they were a disruption to the other students in their group. They had to be placed in individual groups with just them and the interventionist. This student strives when they get one-on-one support. They LOVE when they get to be alone with myself, the social worker, or their intervention teachers. This student is the sweetest thing in the world but needs stable emotional help that we cannot provide them unless they are qualified for special ed. I’m at a loss.

This week, for example, is the perfect summary of who this student is and why they need someone to work with and a safe place to escape to….

Tuesday morning, this student came in to the classroom in a great mood (around 7:50am) and was ready to start the day. By 8:00, when the bell rang to officially start the day, I looked around and couldn’t find them. I looked around the room and found him/her in the corner sobbing while holding their breath and plugging their nose. I went over and had to sit next to them to see what was going on. He/she told me that another student (one of their super close friends) made fun of them and they just wanted to leave because “what’s the point?” They then plugged their nose again and I took it away to ask why they were doing that. He/she told me they were plugging their nose because they wanted to “prevent oxygen from getting to their brain so they could pass out.” What 3rd grader knows that (or has a tantrum like that in front of the whole class)!!?? I had to sit with them pulling their hand away from their nose until the social worker could come in to calm him/her down.

Later that same morning (about 30 minutes later), I couldn’t see where this student was. I looked around the room and then headed to my desk to let the office know this student had left. I then found him/her under my desk sleeping and when I say sleeping, I mean passed out completely! He/she was sound asleep. When the social worker came back and we all talked, the student was able to calm down enough to go outside with the rest of us for our morning mini recess time. When he/she came back in 15 minutes later, they were with the student that had turned them off in the first place laughing and talking because they were “best friends again”…….They were then inseparable for the rest of the day.

The next few days were okay but then today, when we went outside for morning recess, things turned sour again. He/she left for outside happy go lucky and came back in a TERRIBLE mood. A student from another class told me that my student tried to choke them because they wanted to play with whoever my student was playing with. When I approached my student, they didn’t deny it but then started to get very upset and angry and said that the other student deserved it because they were a bully. I tried to calm them down but he/she was so upset, they couldn’t control their emotions (something that happens ALL the time) and took off down the hall away from me. I contacted the social worker to come and when I went back out to the hallway, they were missing. I was panicked (this student has NEVER run away before until this week) and said I was going to call the office when the social worker arrived less than a minute later. That’s when he/she opened their locker showing us they were hiding in there the entire time. The social worker and him/her went for a walk to talk and calm down while I went back to try to teach the rest of my class. 10 minutes later, the student came back smiling and in the best mood they had been in the entire week. (Extreme low to extreme high….)

I have done my best all year (with the social worker) to give this student everything they need to feel safe and happy while also being successful in school but it has been an extreme challenge. We are not enough for them. His/her reading interventionist will tell the social worker and me that 15 minutes out of their 30 minutes together every day is pretty much a therapy session to release all of this student’s emotions and feelings that have built up throughout the day. When we finally had enough data to start EBD testing and had to reach out to their parent for agreement, this parent was completely against it. We tried explaining that the whole point is to give this student a place to go and a person to talk to whenever they are having a bad moment instead of crawling under their teacher’s desk and falling asleep out of exhaustion from anger but they still don’t want anything done. I don’t know what to do.

I’m posting this because I need help. I need advice on what I can do if this student is unable to get the support they need because the parent doesn’t want to go through with the process and have their child “labeled.” They need more support than myself, the social worker, and the interventionists can give together combined. Please, if you have ANY ideas or strategies that I can utilize, please share because this student needs everything and anything that is out there. UGH this is a case that breaks my heart. I want to do everything I can but my hands are tied. I feel useless. I will take anything you can give me!!

Goodbye Break, Hello 3rd Trimester

I don’t know about you but I am ready for spring! We just came back from our spring break and I am now pumped for sunshine, flowers, and warm weather! I’m also feeling the effects of the final trimester feels at school.

This week started our 3rd trimester for the year, which means we are officially 2/3 of the way to the end! That’s crazy to me because this time of the year is jammed packed with so many things and I don’t know if I’m ready for all of it!

We came back slow and easy this week to start the last 1/3 of the year off right. Monday was a professional development day so for the kiddos, it was only a 4 day week. At my school, 3rd graders receive swimming lessons as part of their phy ed curriculum. On Tuesday and Thursday this week, they walked over to our high school (which is right across the street) and had an hour of lessons in the morning. This was during my reading and math blocks. The afternoons were filled with their other specials (art, media, and music) and intervention pull outs, which meant that I really didn’t get to work with my class at all those days. Today, we had our “swimming celebration” at our local community center for half of the day and a movie party in the afternoon.

This meant that Wednesday was my only main day to teach. Because I wasn’t on a regular unit for the week, I decided to dedicate my reading block to letter writing (since writing gets pushed back in my curriculum, we don’t have much extra time to fit writing in.) I wanted a fun and light project to do since we were really just getting back in the swing of things.

I found a letter writing activity using the model text, The Day the Crayons Came Home on Pinterest that was exactly what I wanted. I read the story to my class and then we talked about features of a letter. (We have pen pals this year, so they have some experience with it but not a lot.) They then got to pick their favorite colored crayon and think about what their journey would’ve been like if they were a lost crayon wanting to come home.

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I modeled on the board an example of a letter they would need to write. We talked about including what color they are, why they left in the first place, what happened while they were away, and why they want to come back. They were super creative with their writings and really used their imagination!

 

This has been another crazy week. Starting next week we have to really jump into preparing for our state standardized tests that come up in April. I’ll be sharing different reviews that I use and activities we do in order to prepare for these. My kiddos are in 3rd grade and in the state of Minnesota, 3rd grade is the year they begin their standardized testing. Over the next month, I’m going to have to really dig into test taking strategies and test taking rules they will need to use and follow when the big day comes. Wish me luck!

 

For more day to day fun and live activities, go follow my instagram account @lifeoftherookieteacher!

Back to Normal (Kind of)

This week has been a normal and solid week. We came back to school on Tuesday after having Monday night and it was a nice refresher. It was hard to wake up Tuesday but once I got my butt to school everything was fine!

We had winter testing this week and OH MY GOODNESS it takes forever! We take the NWEA reading and math tests twice a year and then our standardized grade level tests in the spring. The NWEA test is supposed to show what level each kid is at based on the questions they get. If they get things wrong the questions get easier and if they get them right they get harder.

We tested reading Tuesday morning and math Wednesday morning. I wanted to get them done with as soon as possible so I didn’t have to think about it. I did feel bad giving them these tests right after a 3 day weekend but they did great! Everyone in my class did better in reading! Most of them did better in math which I’ll take since my class really struggles with putting in their best effort when it comes to anything math related.

On top of those tests I had to retest their fluency levels. Once again, most of my class improved by at least 10 words per minute (which doesn’t sound like a lot but when your class is as low as mine that’s a huge win!)

Because of a 4 day week and testing, we had pretty much no reading time this week. We tested during our reading block and then jumped right into math right after. I know I probably could have switched my math test to be during our math block but because my kids aren’t the biggest fans of math, I needed to use the time on that!

Today we started our persuasive writing unit and I am SO EXCITED to share with you what we did! I won’t post anything now but let me just tell you that the activity I did was a complete success and my students are putting their bests efforts into making the best persuasive essay they possibly can! (I may or may not have bribed them with donuts if they do well……..oops.) I wish I could take credit for this awesome TPT resource. Today we did prewriting and rough draft writing so tomorrow we can dive into the final product.

The other great thing about this week is my kiddos are FINALLY back to getting along! I think they just needed some time apart because I don’t have any of the same issues I had last week! (It might help that a few of my instigators have been absent but I’m going to pretend that’s not the reason.)

On top of school, my gymnastics coaching schedule has been crazy! We’ve had at least 2 meets a week which gets pretty draining coming from a full day of school. Things are starting to wind down though and I’m pretty sad about that. This weekend we get to go compete at the Minnesota True Team State competition which will be super fun! Only the top 10 teams in the state are invited and we managed to squeak our way into it! It’s all day Saturday but it’s totally worth it!

I have had a week with some interesting medical issues going on. 2 years ago (around this time of the year) I got this weird rash/allergic reaction on my hands. It lasted for about a week and then disappeared. Last year, the same thing happened but it lasted almost a month before I finally went to see my dermatologist and got some heavy duty ointment to go on my hands. Then, what do you know, Sunday it shows back up again when I wake up. The weirdest part is it showed up on the SAME day it showed up last year! It’s super painful and keeps me up at night because it itches so bad! Last year, my doctor came to the conclusion that I had touched something I was allergic to while my body was fighting off something so the reaction was intense and didn’t go away. I believed her until it showed up for the 3rd year in a row. Luckily, it’s not as severe as it was last year and I’m able to function without putting lotion on my hands every 5 minutes but I’m still at a loss for what it might be. This might be a little gross to some of you but I do have these 2 pictures I took of them on Monday morning if anyone has any idea what my problem is.

 

The weirdest part is that I’ve tracked what I’ve eaten, the weather, cleaning supplies that I’ve used, and anything else I could think of and nothing has related to just these incidences. I’ve eaten the same as I do any other time of the year, it hasn’t been super cold like it can be, I’ve been using the same cleaning supplies and laundry detergent for my entire life…..ugh it just makes no sense to me! I went to urgent care twice last year before I saw my dermatologist and they were convinced I ate or touched something different but I hadn’t. I’m just a medical mystery I guess!

Apart from my hands, it’s been a good week and I have a good feeling the week will end just as great! (My kids will have inside recess for the next week though so you might need to pray for me for the next 5 school days! Next Thursday our HIGH is supposed to be -10 degrees….yeah people that’s not including wind chill……..)