Soar with Common Core

Tips, Tricks, and Resources for a Successful Implementation

The Fixed and Growth Mindsets, by Dr. Stephanie Pierce

Much of who you are on a daily basis comes from your mindset. Your mindset is the view you have of your qualities and characteristics – where they come from and whether they can change.

A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are set from birth. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed traits, rather than something that can be developed over time.

A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities and characteristics can change through effort over time. People differ greatly in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments, and everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

In the book Mindset, Dweck (2006) suggests that you can see how the belief that cherished qualities can be developed creates a passion for learning. Dweck (2006) asserts that the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even when it’s not going well is the hallmark of the growth mindset.

How does this simple mindset change your behavior? A fixed mindset creates an urgency to prove yourself and criticism is seen as an attack on your character, and to be avoided. A growth mindset encourages learning and effort. If you truly believe you can improve at something, you will be much more driven to learn and practice. Criticism is seen as valuable feedback and openly embraced.

The following example helps illustrate the two mindsets. After you read this short vignette of an imaginary situation, ask yourself how you would respond to this situation.

One day, you go to a class that is really important to you and that you like a lot. The professor returns the midterm papers to the class. You got a C+. You’ve very disappointed. That evening on the way back to your home, you find that you’ve gotten a parking ticket. Being really frustrated, you call your best friend to share your experience but are sort of brushed off.

How would you respond? What would you think? If you thought, “What a crummy day. I feel like a failure. I am so stupid. I don’t feel motivated to study for the final exam. Maybe I’m just bad at that class.” then you may tend towards the fixed mindset. If you thought, “Well, I probably shouldn’t have parked there. And maybe my friend had a bad day? I’ll have to study harder for the final.” then you may tend towards the growth mindset.

You don’t have to be of one mindset or the other to get upset. But those with the growth mindset don’t label themselves and throw up their hands in defeat. They confront challenges and keep working. The growth mindset enables the converting of life’s setbacks into future successes. The fixed mindset, however, often results in little or no effort; Dweck mentions the many times she is outright startled by how much the people with a fixed mindset do not believe in effort.

You may be thinking about this construct of mindset in the context of learning for our students and us. What are some implications of this mindset in our teaching and learning practice? I think about the students who believe they are either smart of not and the notion of “fixed mindset.” I wonder about those students that desire challenge and are resilient in the face of failure that display the characteristics of “growth mindset.” When you think about how we reinforce learning and what we communicate in our feedback, do we reinforce a fixed or growth mindset? Dweck suggests that the message for all of us is: You can change your mindset!


Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset the new psychology of success:

How we can learn to fulfill our potential, New York, NY:

Random House.

Dear Common Core... by Eileen Moreno

Dear C. C.,

Are all text dependent questions created equal?

-Questioning myself

Dear Questioning,

No, TDQs (as we like to call them) are not all created equal. It is possible to generate many questions that are ‘technically’ text dependent but it doesn’t mean that they carry equal weight. Let’s pretend that you and I read the same story of The Three Little Pigs and that the following are all TDQ’s:

Why did the mama pig let the pigs set out on their own? Why did the little pig build a house of straw? What did the wolf say to the little pig? How did the little pig feel when the wolf came to his door? What was the second house made of? Why did the third pig build his house of bricks? What was at the bottom of the chimney? What is the lesson of this story?

Assuming these are all TDQ’s, should they all be asked? Not so much. When planning text dependent questions, first identify the core understandings you want students to take from the text. What is the overall purpose for reading the text? As in any good reverse engineering or “backwards design” process, teachers should start by reading the text and identifying the key insights they want students to understand. Keeping one eye on the major points being made is crucial for fashioning an overarching set of successful questions. If your TDQ’s don’t eventually work to point students toward the overarching purpose or they may cause them to bird walk, maybe that question—text dependent as it may be—is not worth asking.


C. C.

For more information on text dependent questions

· Read about Tim Shanahan’s POV on TDQ’s on his blog:

· Check out some TDQ prompts and the 6 types of TDQs

o > Introduction to Common Core > English Language Arts Resources > Livebinder > ELA CCSS > Text Dependent Questioning tab

· Have any additional questions or want to get together to discuss further? Let me know and I’ll come to you!

Teaching with Technology: Where To Start? by Dr. Laura Spencer

Did you know that technology is mentioned at least 39 times in the CCSS? No longer is technology an optional activity for the children that finish their work early, or a trip to the computer lab once a week. The new standards require technology use as a way to demonstrate learning. For example, fourth grade students must "use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others." Even in math, students are being tasked to choose appropriate tools for the task - Would Khan Academy or Wolfram Alpha websites fit in to this category? I think so!

So how can we make technology a more relevant part of our students' learning experiences? One way is through the district BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiative, which allows students to bring their personal device and connect to the district wifi to access Internet resources. Another way is by using tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or Twitter to connect with other classrooms and local experts to collaborate on a class project. Students can also access a plethora of free, web-based tools such as Prezi, Smore, and Wordsift.

To brainstorm ideas, or get support integrating technology, contact Laura Spencer, Coordinator of Instructional Technology,

For more Web 2.0 tools, check out my page: