Category Archives: Motivation

Courage Zone

I am really working on developing a growth mindset in my students this year.  On Monday I mentioned that I was trying to think of a visual to use in my classroom to remind my students that they should focus more on learning than on being perfect.  This bulletin board is the result.  It is not what I initially had in mind, but I think it gets the message across.  I found this graphic that helped to lay the groundwork.  Apparently, it is based on The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Teens by Sean Covey.  From that graphic, a 98-cent huge disc and some neon green tubey kind of ribbon from Michael’s, some blue straws from Ikea, and a cute piece of clip art from MS Word, I came up with the bulletin board below.  In case you can’t tell, the student has climbed the ladder from the safety of the Comfort Zone to walk the tightrope of the Courage Zone.  Someone (I can’t remember who, so let me know if it was you!)  gave me the idea to give the students neon-colored post-it notes so they can write something that they have done in the past that was out of their comfort zone and stick it to the board.

For more resources on teaching about a Growth Mindset, here is my Pinterest Board on that topic.

Comfort Zone

 

Make Glorious & Fabyuluss Mistakes

I saw a link on my Twitter feed the other day to a post done by Eric Sheninger called, “Students Yearn for Creativity, Not Tests.”  It’s from March of this year, and I can’t believe I missed it back then.  However, that’s the great thing about Twitter – the treasures come around more than once.

Featured in the post are a few videos created by students based on an assignment they were given which involved reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. One of the student videos really resonated with me because of so many other experiences I’ve had in recent weeks that emphasize the value of making mistakes.  The video is by Sarah Almeda, and I highly recommend you watch the video, “Let’s Make Some Good Art” and her “afterword” video which appears at the end of the post.  Her tribute to the educators who fostered her creativity in the latter one is very inspiring.

image by Sarah Almeda
image by Sarah Almeda in her video, “Let’s Make Good Art.”

This year, I really plan to make it my mission to motivate my students to take more risks and challenge themselves.  As Sarah says in her video, though, schools inherently discourage this by punishing mistakes and only rewarding “right answers.”  I have a couple of ideas for changing this in my classroom as I continue to teach my students about having a Growth Mindset (check out my Pinterest Board if you would like some more information about this).

This weeks’s TED Radio Hour was all about making mistakes.  And one of the speakers, Margaret Heffernan, mentioned this about schools: “… we do bring children up to imagine that there is a right answer, and that intelligence is about knowing that right answer, and therefore if you get a wrong answer, you’re stupid. So what we do is we teach people not even so much to have a passion for the right answer, but have great talent for second-guessing what everybody wants the answer to be.”  As Sarah Almeda draws in her video, this is the inevitable outcome in schools that foster this type of thinking:

 

image by Sarah Almeda in her video, "Let's Make Good Art."
image by Sarah Almeda in her video, “Let’s Make Good Art.”

Even James Dyson, in an interview with Science Friday, said the following: “In life, you don’t have the right answers available all the time.  You have to work them out.  So I would actually mark children by the number of mistakes they make because they’ve experienced failure and learned from it.  Whereas the brilliant child who gets it right the first time because they remembered the answer isn’t necessarily the one who is going to change the world or succeed in life.” (I’m assuming he meant that students who make more mistakes would get higher grades as opposed to the current system.)

How can we change our current system?  We need to create a learning environment that encourages taking risks in thinking and finding the value in mistakes.   As teachers, it will help for us to admit our own mistakes and to tell how they changed us.  And, though there are times that only one right answer is acceptable, we should also give our students plenty of opportunities to engage in thinking that is open-ended.

I have a small idea germinating about a tangible way to show this in the classroom that I may share later this week…

The Most Magnificent Thing

Once again, circumstances in my life have neatly meshed together without any conscious effort on my part;)

I have been seeing a book called, The Most Magnificent Thing, touted on many blogs.  Not sure I actually wanted to pay for it, I went ahead and requested my local library to add it to the e-books selection, as it wasn’t currently in their inventory.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

In the meantime, I attended a staff development yesterday during which we discussed a book called, Letting Go of Perfect. It’s about how to help young people deal with perfectionism.

When I checked my e-mail in the afternoon, I had a notice that my requested e-book was available.  I quickly downloaded The Most Magnificent Thing, and realized that the main character definitely has an issue with perfectionism, but finds a great way to cope with it.  This delightful picture book portrays a young girl who has an exact idea in her head of what she wants to make, but can’t quite seem to create a tangible version.  She gets quite frustrated, but gets a little distance from the project and then returns to improve it.

This book fits in so well with the message that I am trying to get across to my students about the importance of having a growth mindset and learning from setbacks.  It is very similar to Rosie Revere, Engineer.  Both of these books appear on a wonderful list posted on the blog, “A Year of Reading,” of Picture Books for Genius Hour.  (I recently added that list to the bottom of my Genius Hour Resources Page.)

Even the author’s biography at the end of the book emphasizes the importance of perseverance!

Author's Bio from The Most Magnificent Thing
Author’s Bio from The Most Magnificent Thing

For more great picture books about “doing your own thing,” check out this post from Joelle Trayers.  Also, Dot Day and the Global Cardboard Challenge are two great opportunities for your students to try to make their own most magnificent things!

TED Radio Hour – Disruptive Leadership

I love listening to the TED Radio Hour on NPR.  Each hour has a theme, and includes excerpts from excellent TED Talks that revolve around that topic.  The speakers are interviewed by the host of the show, Guy Raz, and give some great background insight into the TED Talks. One of my favorite shows that I heard this summer was the one on “Disruptive Leadership.”

Now, I’m going to admit that, when I listen to these shows I don’t usually have on my “teacher filter.”  This means that I am so engrossed in the message that I don’t notice if there are any details that might be inappropriate for the classroom.  So, I would definitely recommend you listen to these yourself before playing them for your students.  Or, you can view the transcript that is included with each one.

Drew Dudley, who I mentioned before on this blog in my post about Lollipop Moments, is one of the leaders featured on this particular show.  He has an excellent message about the way we often impact people without realizing it.

One of my favorite stories, though, is the one from General Stanley McChrystal in which he talks about the way leaders deal with failure.

Click here to listen to the interview with General Stanley McChrystal on NPR's TED Talk Radio Hour
Excerpt from transcript of Guy Raz speaking with General McChrystal.  Click here to listen to the interview with General Stanley McChrystal on NPR’s TED Talk Radio Hour

Also featured in this episode are: Sheryl Sandberg, Bunker Roy, and Seth Godin.  All of them are worth a listen, and will make you consider leadership in many different ways!

Grit Pie

In a few past posts, I have mentioned that I am making a determined effort to incorporate a growth mindset into our classroom environment.  One of the attributes that is key to a growth mindset is to have “grit.”  While reading this article on Edutopia, I came across a link for a great Prezi by Kristin Goulet, “Grit Pie,” that would be great to help illustrate this for students.  I love this idea of helping students to realize that blaming others for their problems relinquishes control, and that owning up to their mistakes can actually make them happier with the thought that they have the power to fix them.

Click here to view the "Grit Pie" Prezi by Kristin Goulet
Click here to view the “Grit Pie” Prezi by Kristin Goulet

For more resources about developing a Growth Mindset, you might want to check out my new Pinterest Board for this topic.

Let’s Move It, Move It!

It may seem a bit paradoxical to be staring at a screen while you are trying to get fit, but there are more and more tools available out there to allow you to do just that.  As you begin planning for the new school year, you might want to check out some of these tech resources for encouraging kids (and adults) to take brain breaks.  Multiple studies have shown that these are valuable for both the mind and body.

  • I’ve mentioned GoNoodle on this blog before.  I highly recommend this free online tool for an awesome way to motivate your students as well as track how many minutes they are spending on “moving it.” Erin Klein just did a great post on GoNoodle on her blog, and is offering a t-shirt giveaway, so head on over there if you want more details!
  • This summer, I found out about an extension for the Chrome browser called, appropriately, “Move-It.”  You can set it to remind you at certain intervals to take a little exercise break.  To use the extension, you need to be in the Chrome browser.  Click on this link, the “free” button, and “add.”  A small icon will appear in the top right of your browser.  You can click on that icon to set the time periods for intervals.  At the set time, your browser will open a new tab, and give you instructions for a short exercise.  It’s a nice little reminder – though some teachers may find it annoying to have the pop-ups. (You can easily disable it by getting rid of the checkmark in the window or right-clicking on the icon to manage your extensions.)  I did notice a couple of grammar errors in the pop-ups that might make for a fun editing lesson while you are “moving it.”

Move It

  • Finally, Collin Brooks has come up with a fun way for students to get moving at home by creating augmented reality fitness task cards using the free Daqri app.  I love this idea, and hope you will take a look at the short video on this post where he explains how it works.

Global Cardboard Challenge 2014

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  Yesterday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year.

Since most standardized tests used to measure “success” in schools today do not assess creativity, this skill tends to be less emphasized than ones that easily translate into multiple choice questions. However, I haven’t met one person who thinks that creativity is frivolous and many articles I’ve read, such as this one, from various news sources seem to indicate that it is a valuable attribute in the 21st century job market.

That being said, it’s sometimes difficult to fit creative activities into the school day.  The Global Cardboard Challenge is the perfect opportunity to revive the imaginations of your students.  First, show them the fabulous Caine’s Arcade videos.  Then, get your students to brainstorm and sketch their own ideas.  Next, give them time and resources to build.  Then, let them critique and improve.  And, finally have them share their creations.

Cardboard Theater (with a scrolling moving picture) created by one of my 3rd graders
Cardboard Theater (with a scrolling moving picture) created by one of my 3rd graders

There is not one right way to do this.  It can be during school, after school, on a weekend.  You can do it big and invite the community, or you can do it small and just involve your class or grade level.  The official date for the 2014 challenge is October 11th, but you can do it any day you want.

Last year, I just had my GT students participate.  I gave them an hour or two each week for about 4 weeks to work on their projects.  (If you want to see students completely engaged with absolutely no interest in even talking you, I promise this is the activity to try!)  Then they designed their own tickets and invited classmates to see their projects during recess.  This year, we’re going bigger.  I will still have my GT students make projects, but I will also have an after school Maker Club.  The GT students will be researching charities and choosing one.  The school will vote on the best projects, and we are teaming up with Main Event to host a “Pop-Up Arcade” of the student projects in their party rooms, charging $1 for the community to play the games.  All money raised will go to the charity my students select.

For more ideas on how to host your own event, you can check out the Organizer Playbook here.  More information is located here.  But remember, you can “think outside the box” and make the event fit what suits you and your students.