Today, I tried a new version with my IB Theory of Knowledge classes that went very well. In fact, I think it’s the best one I’ve ever done, and it’s very simple.
Here’s what I did:
Students came in to the class finding the phrase “Growth Mindset” on the overhead. I asked people to raise their hand if they had every heard of it before today. A fair number had, since we have a big focus on Social Emotional Learning at our school. I explained that the class today would be a refresher for them and an introduction to those who didn’t know much about it.
I explained that I was going to show three videos (happily, none were blocked by The Best Ways To Deal With YouTube’s Awful Safety Mode). Each video, I said, would illustrate elements of having a growth mindset. I told them I wanted to write down on a sheet of paper what elements they saw exhibited in the video and how they were demonstrated.
Here’s the combined list of Growth Mindset qualities both of my classes developed:
Then, after I gave students a very quick introduction to Carol Dweck and shared a story about my meeting a person who worked with Gandhi who told me that the key to Gandhi’s success was “that he looked at every problem as an opportunity, not as a pain in the butt,” I gave students copies of this NPR report, Students’ View of Intelligence Can Help Grades. I had them rotate again, alternate reading paragraphs out loud with their partner, and then write a paragraph responding to this prompt:
According to Carol Dweck, what is a “growth mindset” and why is it important? Do you agree with what Dweck is saying? To support your opinion you may use examples from your own experiences, your observations of others, and any of your readings (including this article).
After they wrote their paragraphs, they rotated again and read them to their partner. I called up one student to share it on the overhead and had them read their piece to the class (I’ll actually be publishing a sample of them on this blog over the weekend).
Then, I showed the well-known “Two Mindsets” diagram on the overhead, quickly reviewed it, and told an example from my life for three on the list — challenges (changing careers to become a teacher); obstacles (explaining how I lost the game for my basketball team this week but I didn’t quit the team and, instead, plan on practicing my shooting this weekend) and criticism (how I learned a lot from the anonymous class evaluations students did of my last week). After writing a few words about each one on the growth mindset side of the diagram, I explained that I was going to give students copies and wanted them to think and briefly about when they had exhibited those growth mindset qualities in their own lives. We were running short of time by then, so I only gave them a few minutes, explaining that they didn’t have to write something about every one of the qualities.
We rotated again, students shared with a partner, followed by my calling on a few students to share what they wrote.
Then, with only a few minutes left in the period, I told students that at the top of the growth mindset side of the diagram, I wanted them to write as many adjectives as they could think of that would describe how they felt during and after the moments they acted with a growth mindset. My example was that I felt “confident” in myself after successfully changing careers.
I finished-up by calling on some students (though, in my second class, I had enough time to have everyone share), and got a ton of great words, including inspired, strong, delighted, successful, etc.
It went very, very well. I’ll still do my other growth mindset lesson plans (those are designed for English Language Learners and for ninth-grade students facing challenges), but this one is a big winner, too!
Earlier this week, I saw some of my IB Theory of Knowledge students showing videos of machines they had created in Physics class, and thought they were pretty neat.
I asked our school’s talented Physics teacher, Arthur Sisneros, if he would mind writing a description of his lesson, and also invited teachers to share their videos.
Here’s Arthur’s description, along with a few student videos (I’ll be adding more as students remember to send them to me!):
The Rube Goldberg project is meant to be a summative assessment for my first semester. Like most physics classes, my first semester of physics is dominated by motion (kinematics, forces, momentum, and mechanical energy). I introduce the Rube Goldberg project at the end as an engineering project. We talk about engineering vs. science (defining problems and solving problems as opposed to asking questions and developing explanations). I also require them to include a theme and to be creative. After the project is built, I require them to isolate a few of the events, measure them (distance, time, mass, or whatever they need to measure), and use those measurements to calculate various quantities (average velocity, acceleration, force, etc.). On the presentation day, I have students do a gallery walk to see the other projects, and I conduct group interviews where I delve a little deeper into the understanding of the major physics topics.
ASCD’s monthly “Educational Leadership” magazine is usually great, but it’s even more special in February with a special issue titled Helping ELLs Excel.
Usually, I provide a brief review of a few of the articles that aren’t behind a paywall and which I think are particularly worth reading.
However, this month, I’d recommend you go and read all the ones that are freely available AND pay a few bucks to read all the others (if you aren’t already a subscriber).
As I explain in that post, teachers using this strategy place examples, typically (though not always) from unnamed student work, under the categories of “Yes” and “No.” The class then constructs their own understanding of why the examples are in their categories. It’s a great tool for many lessons, and I like it especially for grammar and other writing.
Last week, though, I had a brainstorm, and came up with a revised strategy that I’m calling “Concept Attainment – Plus,” and it has worked very well. I think teachers of English Language Learners and non-ELLs alike might find it useful and, I hope, offer suggestions on how to improve it further….
“Concept Attainment – Plus” has three steps:
I pick an example of student writing that especially illustrates one writing error and put it under the “No” column. In this case, I’m focusing on the tendency for many ELLs to have very long run-on sentences, along with the frequently made mistake of how to write “the United States.”
Parallel to that passage, under the “Yes” column, I re-write the paragraph correctly. Student have to compare the two passages, identify the errors in the student’s writing, and explain why they are mistakes. After students have completed their review, I call them up to the overhead individually to identify one mistake at a time.
The second sheet contains a short humorous passage in the “No” column that I write and which mimics the errors in the first student passage.
Students have to identify the errors and re-write it correctly on the left under the “Yes” column. Again, I call students up to the overhead frequently.
I then give students a simple and engaging prompt where they need to write a passage demonstrating their understanding of the writing feature we have learned in the first two sheets.
Students always like “regular” Concept Attainment, but they have loved this more intensive scaffolded process. It takes about one full class period to do from start-to-finish, and takes me about an hour to prepare it. It’s definitely worth the time.
Let me know what you think of the strategy and, importantly, how you think it can be improved….