9.02.2014

Magnificent Mindsets

Last night I took the helm and played hostess for our #tlap Twitter Chat. Click {here} to read the script and prepare to be positively inspired and influenced by our charACTer chat. Oh, and grab some new ideas for your character building.

Today I'm delighted to share a new find that I first read about
over at Books That Heal Kids in early July.


This spunky little scientist sets off to make the most magnificent thing. She imagines it, believes she can do it, and gives it her best shot. But it's an epic fail. When it doesn't work out as she'd hoped, "she gets MAD!" Then the self-talk begins. "I'm no good at this. I QUIT." How many times have we heard this from students? If we're honest, we'll probably admit that we've thought and said this before, too. How do we reframe this to get passed that fixed mindset and move to a growth mindset? Sometimes it's as easy as adding the word yet. I'm not good at this ... yet. There's good news. When this girl's four-legged friend takes her for a walk, she rethinks the project and gives it another try with a much more desirable outcome. Check out this book; you'll find it a valuable tool in your mindset arsenal.


We did a book study with Carol Dweck's Mindset three years ago and now there's mounting evidence out there that teaching mindset is key. So much of what we do in education has to do with unlocking that fixed mindset and helping move it to a growth mindset.

Love this Shel Silverstein quote; thank you, Amy Lynch, for its eye-catching presentation. Click it for a freebie download.


Here's a graphic by Nigel Holmes that helps us better understand the two mindsets. Click it to go to its original source.


We're going to be talking about mindset in our first peace class this week. Look at our focus board for students as they come in while I'm greeting at the door: 



A great clip that showcases optimism is The Greatest
an inspirational PSA from The Foundation For A Better Life. 

I'm going to reinforce the idea of mindset with pictures like this:


Someone with a fixed mindset might say something like this:
That bridge isn't going anywhere. What a waste.
How would someone with a growth mindset reframe that?
Your answer might depend upon what you see. What was this bridge built to transport? Is it a walking bridge or is it made for vehicles? How does that change how you feel about or react to it? Hmmm ... 

What might someone with a fixed mindset have to say about
this little maple tree we're attempting to transplant from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin to the subtropical gumbo of the Gulf Coast in Texas?




Show this to students and encourage them to try their hand at reframing those thoughts to view them through a growth mindset lens.

Here are some more fixed-mindset thoughts for reframe:

1. You have to be a genius to learn a second language, and I'm not, so what's the point of trying.
2. Well, she comes from that side of town.
3. He has test anxiety so he won't ever pass that test.
4. Wow, isn't he so so smart!
5. He excels at gymnastics because his family is rich.
6. My parents weren't any good at science either.

Want to know more about fixed and growth mindset? Read Dr. Maurice Elias' post about starting the year off with a positive mindset {here}. Amy Conley wrote about nurturing intrinsic motivation and growth mindset in writing {here}. 
And Glen Whitman discusses the power of the word yet {here}.





8.29.2014

Superheroes Of The Character Kind

Happy Friday. 
We did it. 
We survived thrived through our first week back!
What a blast it has been to reunite with our school family 
and talk with the kids about being superheroes.
Because they are, you know.
They have the power to change the world.
For good!
Can you feel it?
My friend Jamaica from Inked Designs created a graphic
so we could encourage others to follow suit.
To cape up.
To soar to new heights.
To be a superhero of the character kind.
Wouldn't it be an adorable T?


I'm headed home now to take in some Friday night lights, then I'll be unplugging until Tuesday. First I must share this adorable story about an encounter I had with my first-grade friend Harley, who routinely stops at my morning spot to check in. She told me sincerely and in no uncertain terms yesterday that everybody loves me. And her kind words warmed me to the core. I almost began to cry when she added, "You know why everybody loves you so much, Mrs. Gruener? Because you look so so cute every day!" I don't mind telling you that this veteran wasn't feeling very cute this week, but that little superhero has the power to change the world with her exquisite expressions. And because she says it's so, I believe it's true. And my heart filled to the brim with joy and soared to new heights.

What sends your heart soaring?
I'll be back on Tuesday with a fun mindset post.
Until then, happy weekend!






8.28.2014

A Thursday Pick-Me-Up

Today I spent the day out in the gym helping the coaches train our littlest leaders on how to use our new Buddy Benches. We decided to ask the kids how they would envision using these colorful additions to our playground, then we role-played with them in starring roles how that would look, sound, and feel. Our superheroes saw them as a conflict-resolution spot, a place to rest if you're hurt and need someone to help get you to the nurse, a seat for someone who's sad or lonely and needs a friend, or simply a place to go to solve a problem. A second-grade girl encapsulated it perfectly when she summed it up like this: 
It's like of like a Buddy Pick-Me-Up place! 

And speaking of pick-me-ups, maybe you've seen this amazing clip about gymnast and acrobat Jennifer Bricker. If you haven't, you must watch the beauty of her story unfold. She was adopted as a newborn into a home in Illinois where the word can't simply wasn't allowed. As a result, Jennifer never saw the fact that she was born without legs as a limitation. At all.



Isn't her attitude positively contagious?

In other news, my blogging buddy Barb over at Grade ONEderful wrote this beautiful review of my book {here}. Talk about your pick-me-up! I appreciate her thoughtful insight and kind affirmations. 

Finally, a cyberspace counseling colleague over at The School Counseling Files shared a link about Social Superheroes; click the graphic to read about her work and grab a super freebie. Thank you, Laurie, for keeping us in the loop!



What was your Thursday Pick-Me-Up?





8.27.2014

Building Empathy

Today I'm excited because I get to talk about one of my favorite topics: empathy!


If you've been a reader at the Corner for a while, then you know about the Becoming A Better You series by Marian Nelson and Kris Yankee. I'm so so delighted to share that I've had a sneak peek at book #3 and its meaningful message makes it well worth the wait. It's due out next week; click the graphic above for more info and/or to pre-order.

It's not so much a storybook as it is a guide for its reader. 
It's a litany of ideas and examples through which children can stretch their empathy
Simple, every-day ways. 
At home, in school, in their communities. 
Through acts of kindness and service. 
By working to understand one another's feelings.
It ends with reflections and tips to help evoke empathy
in our future leaders. We must teach empathy so students can cultivate compassion and practice kindness.

Here's a wonderful quick clip that will complement this text:




We build empathy by witnessing it and experiencing it.
What scenarios will you use to put this method to the test?
Visit these articles for more ideas:







8.26.2014

B2S Books 'n Boards

Here's a first look at this year's Character Case.


I took the picture on bended knee to see it from the vantage point of a first grader. I always want to know which book they'd pick if they could only choose one. I asked our AP, and he said he's curious about What Do You Do With An Idea?  I also like to ask them what they think is going to happen in the book, just from their glance at the cover. Second-grade Emma had the whole story about the penguin in Flight School figured out, and it was great fun to listen to her prediction. I put one book that we talked about last year in peace class, The Invisible Boy, in there just to see what they remember about that kindness lesson. It always warms my heart that they carry nuggets away in theirs. One third-grade girl was curious about Maddi's Fridge because why would there be a story about a refrigerator? The Day I Lost My Superpowers fits nicely with our superheroes theme and my review of The Most Magnificent Thing will be coming next week.

The character cam also caught these visual displays:


Photo booth beauty, superheroes in PE,


And first grade is the place to bee.


I just love the creativity and craft of a great bulletin board!
Then I got this shot from a counselor in North Carolina
and it was the proverbial frosting on my cupcake:



Her name is Sara Crist of Crist Counseling, superhero by day as a school counselor at Olde Providence ES in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools-Charlotte, NC and by night at her part-time private practice. You can follow her on Twitter {@cristcounseling} for tweets about both.

What was terrific about your Tuesday?




8.25.2014

How FAMILY Matters

Another school year started, another first day in the books.
Things went extremely well, with beautiful "I've missed you!" bear-hugs and heaps of hope and happiness. Hope for a successful new year and happiness to be reunited with our school family. Because in the end, for us, it's all about family.


So that I'm not misunderstood, let me say that achievement is important, too. We know that our students come to us to learn so that they can achieve success for a bright, opened-door future. But we also know that they don't learn from someone with whom they're not connected, so look what we feel like has to come first. Family. Family first.

F is for feelings. We have to allow our kids to feel. They're coming to use with a bundle of feelings: easy ones, hard ones, pleasant ones, uncomfortable ones, big ones, and small ones. Honor them, the children and their feelings, because if we don't allow our students to emote, the feelings will sneak out as behaviors down the road, some of which won't be desirable.

A is for appreciation. Affirm and appreciate your kiddos. Not with over-the-top, sticky-sweet praise, but with genuine affirmations of positivity and encouragement. It feels good to be appreciated and, more often than not, those who are appreciated will go above and beyond what you expect from them. After all, what we appreciate, appreciates. Teach them to follow up a kindness with a thank-you. Have them write compliment cards to one another. Role play what affirmations look like, sound like, and feel like.

M is for movement {and music}. We must carve out time for our bodies to move to spark important chemicals in the brain. Couple those brain breaks with music to elevate mood and you've got a recipe for success. Dr. John Medina suggests moving our students every ten minutes to maximize brain power, so you might have to get creative. But you'll buy that time back in spades if you move them enough; you'll see.

I is for integrity. Your students must know what your class values are. Maybe they're set by the school district, like the Six-Pillar framework which, for us, is Board-adopted. Maybe you're a PBS school and your values are wrapped up in your three expectations. Whatever it is, you can't expect students to adhere to standards that they don't know or embrace. We teach students how to count, so why not also teach them that their character counts. First and foremost, character traits are modeled, but we also have to actively teach and reinforce the desired behaviors which accompany the values. Don't forget that there's truth in the adage: If we don't stand for something, we'll fall for anything.

L is for love. Unconditional love. Children need to know that they belong. That they matter. That they are loved. Nicholas Ferroni says this: Children who are loved at home come to school to learn; those who are not come to school to be loved. I would add to that that they all come to school to be loved and I challenge each one of you, my kindhearted readers, to find a way to make each one of them your favorite.

Y is for yearning. We want out future leaders to thirst for knowledge so that they yearn to learn. How do you engage your littlest learners? How about those intermediate kiddos? And our tweens? Teens? The more voice and choice you can give them, the more empowering it'll be. Inquiry learning anyone? How about  digital portfolios? Project-Based Learning? Look for tasks in the classroom that you can give up. Pledge to be the guide by their side. Ask lots of questions without fixed answers and give them food for thought with dilemmas to chew on that'll strengthen them academically as well as socially and emotionally.


How will you connect with your school family
this year to make it the best that it can be?




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