Monday, July 16, 2012

Opening Minds #CyberPD Part 1

Thank you Cathy Mere, Jill Fisch, and Laura Komos for organizing this #CyberPD event schedule for Opening Minds by Peter Johnston.  Please visit their blogs to read many powerful posts about Opening Minds and to find out more about this #cyberPD that is currently in process on blogs and Twitter using the #cyberPD hashtag.

I have read and reread Choice Words by Peter Johnston and always come away with new learning and  a-ha moments. It is a short book, but jam-packed with ideas that impact the language we use in our classrooms to build positive learning communities.  Since reading Choice Words helped me see how powerful words can be and that our language is a powerful teaching tool, I was thrilled when Peter Johnston's new book Opening Minds was published.  I was so excited to read it, that I immediately downloaded the e-Book version to avoid having to wait for the shipping.  I have read the book twice so far and know that I will be rereading parts over and over again until I internalize the language.
My take-aways, thoughts, and reflections from the first three chapters of Opening Minds by Peter Johnston are: 

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset: 
I read and loved reading Mindset by Carol Dweck and shared the concept of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset with my students this year.  It was so powerful to share the concept with students (click here to read more about how I shared it with students).  I love how Peter Johnston discusses the important concept of mindset in Opening Minds and how it relates to the language we use in our classrooms with students.  For example, when we say,"I'm not good at.." or "You are good at.." or "You are so smart at..." we are modeling fixed mindset attributes.  Johnston explains in chapter one that saying someone is smart is just like saying someone is dumb and we would never use the word "dumb" when speaking to students.  Changing our statements from "You must be smart" to "You must have worked hard" models a learning frame of mind rather than a fixed frame of mind.   Instead of saying, "I'm not good at..." we need to use the word "yet" to emphasize the fact that we need to work hard and practice the skill to continue to grow as a learner.

"I'm not good at this yet."  
This word is small in size but powerful in meaning.  Using the word, "yet", is the difference between seeing intelligence as a fixed character trait and as something that grows with learning.  By saying "yet", we are acknowledging the fact that we are in the learning process and are still working on strengthening this skill/strategy.  I need to practice using this in the classroom when referring to myself because I have a habit of saying "I'm not good at drawing" when in fact I never practiced it in my life or even tried to because it never interested me.  So instead of asking students to draw something because "I'm not good at drawing", I can say, "I'm not good at drawing this yet because I still need to practice." Our goal is for students to say, "I'm not good at this yet" and to take the necessary steps to change that.  Yet is a key word and needs to be modeled and emphasized in our classrooms so it becomes internalized by our students and us.

"Our language choices have serious consequences for children's learning and for who they become as individuals and as a community (pg.7)."
Our language needs to show students that we believe things are changeable because if they can't be changed then working hard and practicing is pointless.  We need to model and show students that working hard and trying helps us grow and change as learners in all areas.  Learning is a process, not a fixed trait of being smart or dumb.  To help increase students awareness of the learning process, we can ask, "How did you do that?" How did you figure that out?" These questions get students to think about their thought process and therefore the learning process.  As teachers, we also need to model that making mistakes is part of the learning process and that it is okay to make mistakes because we learn from them.   I love the line on page 3 when the teacher says, "I make mistakes just like you."  She made it clear to her students that when you make a mistake, you fix it and learn from it.  This is an important message to make clear in our classrooms to help create a safe learning environment where students feel safe to make mistakes, go out of their learning comfort zone, and take risks as learners to continue to grow.

I will be posting again for #cyberPD later this week about the next three chapters so stay tuned.  Please visit the blogs linked at the beginning of this post to read more thoughts about this powerful book and to get linked to other blogs participating in #cyberPD.  Thank you again to all of the organizers of #cyberPD :)

Happy Reading! :)


  1. My husband and his school read Mindset last year and I meant to read it but haven't read it yet. I love the idea. I am a huge optimist and I really believe in how powerful the idea of being able to do something if you are willing to try and work hard. We make a point to tell our kids they do good thinking or make good choices instead of being good or smart. It too a little getting used to!

  2. I, too, reread Choice Words every summer and will now have to add Opening Minds to that list, also. You mentioned that your goal was to internalize the language and that is mine, too. I think/hope that participating in cyberpd will help that. Reading and rereading so many of the ideas in so many posts has to be helpful with that. :)

  3. Melanie,
    I know you have been following the event closely, and am thrilled you decided to post your reflections. I'm adding them to the Jog now. Sorry to be late getting them added, but we have limited WiFi (long story) so I have to ration my time a bit.

    I love your points about our own self-talk. I too say, "I'm not good at drawing," adding, "but I will try my best." I like your new way of saying this, ""I'm not good at drawing this yet because I still need to practice." I suppose it is true that we need to think carefully about what we say about ourselves and the way we talk to students. What a great reminder, "Our language needs to show students that we believe things are changeable because if they can't be changed then working hard and practicing is pointless. "

    Looking forward to your continued conversation,