Staff Memo

Nov. 13, 2015

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Growth Mindset Thoughts

“So what should we say when children complete a task—say, math problems—quickly and perfectly? Should we deny them the praise they have earned? Yes. When this happens, I say, “Whoops. I guess that was too easy. I apologize for wasting your time. Let’s do something you can really learn from!”
Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

“After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance. How can that be? Don’t children love to be praised? Yes, children love praise. And they especially love to be praised for their intelligence and talent. It really does give them a boost, a special glow—but only for the moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the fixed mindset.”
Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

We all want our kids to grow and learn. Our language matters. Are we praising kids for the attributes of a growth mindset, or does our praise imply our students need to please us?

I need to be reminded of Peter Johnston and Carol Dweck's work every so often. Peter wrote Choice Words: How our language affects children's learning (2004). Instead of the Best Practice guru, Smokey Daniels' "more of/less of" strategy, he uses the "avoid/possible alternatives" model. It looks something like this:

Avoid person criticism like, "I'm disappointed in you."

Possible alternatives might be:

  • "Maybe you could find another way to do that."
  • "You didn't really get a chance to fix that yet."
  • "How could you do it differently?"

Avoid person priase like, "I'm proud of you," or "You're really good at this."

Possible alternatives might be:

  • "How did you do that?"
  • "You found a good way to do it. Could you think of another way?"
  • "You must have worked hard at that."

Avoid "Youre really smart."

Possible alternatives might be:

  • "You used some great strategies. That must have been fun/interesting/worthwhile."
  • "You worked really hard."

Avoid "That's what good readers/writers/mathematicians do."

Possible alternatives might be:

  • "That's what readers/writers/mathematicians do."

Avoid "I like/love the way you . . . "

  • "Look at how you did that, you. . . "

(This keeps the child in control, focuses on the process, and doesn't shift the goal toward pleasing the adult.)

Choose a couple of the possible alternative phrases and post them where you will see them and use them. And if you've got a few extra minutes of time, please watch the short video below.

Mindset language fits right in with our work around questioning. "How did you do that?" "How could you do that differently?" Those are great questions that invite reflection, analysis, and critique.

What's been so great has been hearing staff and students talk about growth mindsets. I watched Finae's class line up for a mid-morning recess today as Melissa stood at their door. When I asked the kids what in the world was going on, the kids boasted that Annika chose a whole class recess because her name was drawn from the growth mindset box. Annika beamed and the kids not only talked about her growth mindset but also her kindness. It's a win-win all the way around.

A Denise Stevens quote I write in my notepad each time I turn the page sums it up: "Growth mindset, baby!" It's for everyone.

Carol Dweck - A Study on Praise and Mindsets

Principles of Learning

One of our Principles of Learning is that learning is a social act which leads to collaboration. We state that we will model collaboration in order to teach our students how to work collaboratively.

I have been part of some collaborative conversations these past weeks where teams have struggled to think about acceptable evidence for scoring a common assessment. I've listened as another team brainstormed and went back and forth as they made decisions about how to create a rubric that all of their students could use to assess a project. Another team is wrestling with how they can support their learners while integrating their beliefs due to a conversation around their trip to Amy Beverland Learning Center.

This is the kind of work that is truly collaborative. These conversations are around student learning and growth. They are about practice matching belief. We are indeed modeling collaboration when we struggle, negotiate, and make student learning our focus. It is great to be part of these kinds of conversations. Kudos to all of you for rolling up your sleeves and doing the work it takes to make CRES the kind of place where we are about kids and learning, growth mindsets and effort, thinking and growing.

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Upcoming PD Reminders and Revisions

  • Nov. 20 - STAFF MEETING -Dr. Bourff plans to share his observations over the past eight plus months. His observations have translated into three distinct suggestions for a referendum.

    Dr. Bourff would like for the staff/community to tell him if he has an accurate account OR are there other needs to be considered.

  • Close Reading Interest Group Dec. 8 @ 8:00 - Interested in learning more about close reading? Join me from 8:00-8:30 on Tuesday, Dec. 8 in the Collab Room and we'll begin talking more about how and why. I attended an all day workshop with Kate Roberts and Chris Lehman, the gurus of close reading, last spring. Recently Fatima Rich, instructional coach at GES and BSE, and I presented this PD to the BSE staff. As we continue to work at helping our students think more deeply, we will need to know how to use close reading.
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Looking Ahead

Monday, Nov. 16 Day 4

  • Pledge/MOS - Hicks
  • 8:15 Share the Load - JW - Greiwe
  • 9:00-12:00 Fourth Grade Social media classes
  • 1:00 Share the Load - TH - Dankoski
  • 3:10 Collab Team 1 - Math PD

Tuesday, Nov. 17 Day 1

  • 8:00 Office meeting
  • 8:15 STL - SC - Snyder - Hill's room
  • 3:10 Collab Team 2 - Math PD

Wednesday, Nov. 18 Day 2

  • 7:45 Design Team meeting - Lisa's office
  • 8:15 Share the Load - ZM - Koewers
  • 3:10 Collab Team 3 - Math PD

Thursday, Nov. 19 Day 3

  • 8:00 New Teacher Breakfast - Collab room
  • 3:10 Collab Team 4 - Math PD

Friday, Nov. 20 Day 4

  • $1 Hat Day
  • 7:35 Staff Meeting with Dr. Bourff - Art Room
  • 1:00 PTO Exec. Board meeting - Lisa
  • 3:10 Collab Team K - Math PD

Monday, Nov. 23 Day 1

  • Pledge/MOS - Coldren
  • 3:10 Collab Team 1
  • 4:05 Discussion - Lisa's office

Tuesday, Nov. 24 Day 2

  • 8:00 Undong/Dismantling Racism Debrief - Collab Room
  • PTO Surprise


  • Enjoy the break. I'm thankful for each of you.