Discovering the Importance of Mindsets

                        Dressing is to Salad as Growth Mindset is to Achieving Potential

            Reflect:  How do I respond to a challenge?  How does my brain react?

  Do you face challenges with “I either get this, or I don’t” because you believe a solution to a challenge should come naturally, or “I don’t want to look stupid, so I better get this right.”


Do you face challenges with effort, enjoy the process of learning, and capitalize on mistakes?  Do you believe there’s truth in “errors are our friends?”

Selecting the latter response shows a growth mindset.  Carol Dweck’s video interview at the 2013 ASCD Conference discusses the importance of developing growth-mindset learners.  She praises the direction in which the common core is leading educators.  However, more importantly, she shares her research knowledge about the importance of developing students’ minds to meet the challenging curriculum.  She emphasizes the importance of developing school systems in which children are eager for a challenge because the challenge is captivating and not a condemnation of their abilities.   Non-cognitive skills are not what children need to learn; they need skills to take on learning.

It seems that people forget more and more about the most prominent part of learning — students reaching their highest potential.  Educators are to develop minds, preferably growth mindsets — a mindset that believes intelligence can be developed and that effort is key to success — a mindset that enjoys the process of learning and, thus, believes “you can always grow and learn.”

A growth mindset can mean the difference between students reaching their highest potential and not reaching their highest potential.  Developing growth mindsets will increase the number of students reaching success rates on exams and increase achievement, which, in turn, narrows achievement gaps.   Dweck’s research proves that with a growth mindset one will achieve greater success.  No matter what the reach — an exam, a project, a performance, an essay– a growth mindset is necessary for students to reach their highest potential.

Developing growth-mindset learners ensures that, when challenged, students will put forth effort, so they pay attention to learning information and trying out new ways of doing things.  They’ll be motivated to learn and not give up when they don’t succeed.  Whether you prefer to develop growth-mindset learners every day or with every lesson, it is essential that developing growth mindsets is part of your routine so that all students reach their highest potential.  Just like dressing is important to a salad, developing a growth mindset is important to achieving potential.


Growth mindset is a key factor that influences reaching one’s highest potential.  Is it the most important factor?

 Who else impacts the development of a particular mindset (fixed or growth)?

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Are Your Students Comprehending? Tips to Foster Comprehension When Using Informational Text.

The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) encourages teachers to increase the use of informational text in their practice. Plainspoken and honest, the reality is that it is your mission and responsibility to prepare your students to be successful readers with informational text. Thus, every book introduction is an essential part of your teaching and should be done in such a way as to create the greatest impact. Your preparation before teaching will make a difference. The selective process for planning is critical to the success of a reader. A teacher plans a book introduction with the following three action steps in mind: highlighting the text structure, identifying common clue words, and analyzing the function of illustrations. A reflective teacher carefully plans the book introduction with students in mind. Consequently, when a book introduction is suitably devised to ensure success, students’ comprehension increases. As we move forward with implementing the CCLS, we need to use our expertise when introducing a book in order to help our students be successful with meeting informational text demands.

First, it will be important that you engage your students in text introductions that help them learn how the text is structured. Authors organize text in a variety of ways to get their point across. William et al. (2007) and Duke (2000) summarize in a table a list of structures, definitions, examples and common clue words.
Attending to these structures can improve students’ comprehension of informational text.

table 6 text structures

Literacy consultant and author Pat Johnson recently posted a blog about her lesson on signal words in nonfiction text. This is a perfect example to reference as we think about step two in helping students to meet the demands of informational text. You will find her approach, examples, and power point slides supportive as you think about teaching common clue words in your lessons. As a result of Pat Johnson’s lesson, students learned how authors enable readers to understand the meaning of difficult words in the text. Pat Johnson’s expertise with understanding the importance of teaching common clue words helped students learn to pay attention to signals (i.e. dashes, parentheses, commas, etc.) and attend to signal words (i.e. “is called,” “that is,” “which means,” etc.) This skill builds capacity to experience a deeper understanding.

The third step to include in your book introduction is to decipher how well the illustrations support a reader. It is common for informational text to have pictures that do not always support the reader. We need to take the time to search for these slight demands as we attempt to provide a supportive book introduction that will meet a reader’s competencies, which, in turn, will support comprehension.

Ultimately, you have the flexibility to customize lessons and select the best approach to meet informational text demands. It is not necessary to change your approach if your students are successfully navigating informational text and demonstrate evidence of comprehending, learning, and remembering content. However, if your students have not had ample opportunity to read informational text with success, then you might think about taking action and applying these three steps to support your students. Remember, these steps are not mandated by the CCLS. Rather, they are considered to be highly effective strategies for making sure “students will successfully read informational text.” The power is in your hands to cause change by being proactive.



created by Clare Baxter

Action 1:

Determine the text structure- prepare how to interact with students using explicit language around the selected structure of the book.

Action 2:

Identify signals and common clue words (signal words) as part of your book introduction.

Action 3:

Analyze the photos or illustrations in the book to decide how the pictures function.

React: Please share other tips that foster comprehension when reading informational text.

Teaching Fluency: Is Speed Reading Enough?

Last week, I attended a concurrent session on fluency at the 2013 National Reading Recovery® and K-6 Classroom Literacy Conference. A highly qualified group of professional educators, who held a variety of positions including but not limited to superintendents, principals, classroom teachers, special education teachers, and Reading Recovery teachers gathered to engage in learning more about fluency. The mixed group of professionals reflected and responded to, “What is fluency?”

After a few minutes of conversing with our neighboring partners, the facilitator surveyed the audiences’ collective thinking and final thoughts. She displayed the textbook definition as a third viewpoint to shape any participants misunderstandings before moving forward with the informative presentation. In addition, to comfort the participants in the audience and help comprehend the discourse, the facilitator explained, “depending upon one’s experiences, role as an educator, and knowledge shapes our fluency understanding.” Furthermore, she emphasized the purpose for professional development, and hopes to help increase understandings through these collaborating experiences.

One knows a conference session is powerful when you find yourself reflecting further about the insightful topic beyond the end of the presentation. The most astonishing part was the wide range of differences with defining fluency. If educators have different ways to define fluency, could this be the reason for our different rationales of teaching for fluency? Is fluency a simple matter of speed or are there more dimensions to fluency? This post is to stimulate thinking about our definition of and our teaching practice for fluency. What might be used to determine the evidence of teaching for each dimension of fluency?

Reflect on your teaching practice: Ask yourself if you have targeted the appropriate fluency language to match the needs of your students. When you consider your student’s abilities to select the best prompt, do you find yourself often parroting language such as “Can you read this quickly?” “Read it, as I do?” “Reread that again a little faster.” “Quickly move your eyes forward so that you can read more words together.” “You read it quickly.” If the instructional language prompts just mentioned sound familiar, perhaps, you might be providing learning opportunities solely in one area: speed. To shift student’s fluency, teachers need to use language prompts flexibly to teach for all the six dimensions of fluency: rate, stress, intonation, pausing, phrasing, integration.

Marie Clay’s literacy work, along with many other literacy experts like Fountas and Pinnell, remind us that skilled and responsive teachers draw on professional judgment, to teach for all dimensions of fluency using precise language. A teacher’s role is to observe, listen carefully, and analyze data to identify which dimension of fluency students need to provide additional instructional support. Fountas and Pinnell have a tool for literacy teachers to use when reflecting, selecting, and planning their student’s next best aspect for fluency. It describes each dimension using a four point rating scale. The rubric helps teachers understand a child’s reading competencies with fluency. A student can read with forward momentum when all fluency dimensions are evenly orchestrated. That’s why it is imperative for teachers to use the appropriate language that expands a reader’s ability and aim for integration. This occurs when a skilled and responsive teacher attends to all dimensions of fluency and does not just attend to speed when supporting the reader.

Fountas and Pinnell compliment the Six Dimensions Fluency tool with another popular resource, Prompting Guide: A Tool for Literacy Teachers. It has a variety of instructional language simplified by each dimension. Together these tools act as our guide, to check on oneself, to be certain we use explicit language for all dimensions to make a significant impact when teaching a student to read fluently.

Click here to view Six Dimensions Fluency video featuring Gay Su Pinnell as commentator.


Do you agree fluency is not a simple matter of speed and all dimensions of fluency should be taught? Please share your thinking?