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A Picture Book That Pushes the Growth Mindset

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Carol Dweck is the Stanford psychologist whose work around achievement and success has helped us understand the power of having a growth mindset.  Someone can accomplish a lot more through hard work and dedication, rather than by relying on their smarts alone. Educators know the benefits of having a growth mindset, rather than having a fixed one. We learn from trial and error. There is value in failure.

The Most Magnificent Thing, which is written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, is a super way to initiate a conversation with students, or your own children, about the importance of possessing a growth mindset. The girl in the story tries over ten times to build something and get it right. Through hard work and some help from her trust sidekick, her pug, she eventually gets succeeds.

Here are some of the things you can use The Most Magnificent Thing to teach student writers if you’d like to use this book in writing workshop (and you should!):

  • Character Development: This girl is into building and inventing.  She perseveres even after failing many times. This kind of strong girl character is a rarity in picture books, which is one of the reasons I loved this book!
  • Effective Ending: The character eventually succeeds. First, she succeeds after so much hard work, which left a lasting impression on me as a reader. In addition, what she built put a huge smile on my face.
  • Pictures & Words Work Together: Like most of the texts young writers compose in writing workshop, Spires is also the author and illustrator of this text. The art enhances the words (e.g., the facial expressions of the girl evoke her true feelings). You can show students how the two work in conjunction with one another so they can add meaning for their readers by spending just as much time on the words as they do on the pictures.
  • Print Features: There are a variety of manipulations done to the print throughout the book. There are several words that are capitalized for emphasize. Font size is changed to evoke frustration and pain.
  • Pronoun Use: The girl is a she and her pug is a he.  Neither one is named. Therefore, there are lots of pronouns throughout this text.
  • Repetition: There is a purposeful recurrence of words to create rhythm at several places in the text.
  • Varied Sentence Lengths:  The first sentence of this book is long, “This is a regular girl and her best friend in the whole wide world.” Then there’s a shorter sentence, “They do all kinds of things together.” Next there are four shorter, simple sentences like “They race. They sat. They explore. They relax.”  This text has sentences with a variety of comma usages as well as compound sentences. While this kind of variation works well in the text, it also gives you plenty of examples if you want to teach kids about using and punctuating different kinds of sentence structures.
  • Verbs: Spires choose precise verbs to power her sentences. (See the left side of the page spread farther down in this post for an example.) Strong verbs drive sentences, thereby eliminating superfluous language.

Ashley answered several questions I had about the book, as well as her writing/illustrating process. I hope the interview that follows will be one you will share with your students when you read this book aloud.

SAS: Your bio says that all of your books have at one point or another made you cry, scream and tear your hair out as you tried to get them just right. Tell me, how does the regular girl’s struggle in the book compare with the writing process?

AS:  It pretty much describes it to a tee. I think this book is my most personal to date, as it acts as an allegory for my attempts to become a better illustrator. The eraser is my favorite tool because I make SO many mistakes. When things don’t turn out, my inner critic chimes in, “You sit here until it’s perfect!” But years of experience have taught me that some distance and distraction almost always lead to new ideas and perspective.

 

SAS:  How come you decided not to name the girl and her dog in The Most Magnificent Thing?

AS:  This book, unlike all of my previous works, is not about a character but an experience. I wanted to ensure that the readers identify with the feelings she is having by keeping the character general and unnamed. Hopefully all readers will see themselves in the girl’s struggle, not the girl.

 

SAS:  Sentence after sentence, your word choices were so precise that I could’ve closed my eyes and pictured the story you drew in my head.  Tell us more about your quest to find the perfect words when you write.

AS:  You should probably direct that question to my editor! Where would I be without her? We really did struggle to find the right tone. But we must have done something right, because I’ve been reading this book aloud a lot lately and it’s such fun. It is so very much my voice. Sentences like “the mad gets pushed out of her head” and “too full of all the not-right things” won’t win me any grammar gold stars, but it’s totally how I use and abuse language.

 

Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.

SAS:  I noticed you scribbled a dark line over the girl’s head when she was getting angry. (I’ve seen Mo Willems do this in the Pigeon books too.)  How come YOU choose to do this to represent the girl’s frustration?

AS:  For the same reason I left the characters unnamed. I want every reader to identify with her feelings, and the dark squiggle is one of those visual symbols that we all inherently understand. I wanted every child who is following along with the pictures to see that line and immediately think, “I’ve felt like that.”

 

SAS:  How do you think The Most Magnificent Thing can help teachers talk to kids about the importance of having a growth mindset?

AS:  The character is a perfectly capable girl with a great idea and the skill to make it, but she has to try, try and try again in order to succeed. Most kids (I was one of them) think that if it’s not perfect the first time, then they should move on to something that comes to them more easily. Working hard to succeed is what true success is.

 

SAS:  How do you use a writer’s notebook?  What about a sketch notebook?

AS:  I use both as a constant resource. Any germ of an idea or doodle could turn into my next book. I speak to kids about the importance of having books that are your “safe place” — journals where you are free to make mistakes without judgment. Feeling free enough to allow yourself to make mistakes is the only way to let your imagination reach its potential.

 

SAS:  Since you’re an author/illustrator, tell us more about your process.

AS:  My process is very different from book to book, but it always involves a great deal of chocolate. Some of my stories start from a drawing I’ve done, some are from my own experiences, and others are flights of my imagination inspired by those around me. I almost always start with a character sketch before I write the first draft. I still think in pictures before words, which is probably why I don’t really get swept into a book until I start to draw it.

 

SAS: What are you working on now?

AS:  I am working on three books right now! I am doing a spin-off story from my Binky books starring a new character. I am illustrating a picture book written by Alison Hughes about a dog made of spare parts. And I am working on a picture book about an overscheduled chickadee. Oh, yeah, and I am writing The Space Chronicles monthly for chickaDEE magazine. Yikes, I better get back to work …

Want to learn more about the growth mindset? You can read Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Pscyhology of Success, or check out one of her talks by clicking here or here.

Ready to use The Most Magnificent Thing with your students this fall? Be sure to check out this chart I found on Twitter first:

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of The Most Magnificent Thing.  Many thanks to Kids Can Press for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of please leave a comment about this post by Friday, June 27th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Monday, June 30th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Kids Can will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field.)

Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone for their enthusiasm about this text.  A copy of The Most Magnificent Thing will go to Dawn Sunderman whose commenter number was selected using a random number generator.  Here’s what she wrote:

I will definitely be looking into using this book. Thanks for the suggestions on how to use it. Thanks for the author interview. I will be using some of it to show my students the writing process from an author’s point of view!

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

164 thoughts on “A Picture Book That Pushes the Growth Mindset Leave a comment

  1. I was totally facinated with the ‘hook’ of the article and the brief encounter of what the book has to offer not only in written text features but in the illustrations and how both communicate powerful mentor examples for using in writing lessons and conferring! I’m anxious to get my copy!

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  2. I am always on the lookout for beautiful books to teach growth mindset! Can’t wait to add this book to our collection of growth mindset read alouds! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I stumbled upon this book about a month ago and fell in love. There is so much to celebrate with this book and I’m so happy that you shared so much more here! Great review and love the insights! I have one copy — that is at home (my girls win every time when it comes to new books) but would love an additional copy for school! 🙂 Thanks again Stacey!

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    • I am so glad I read about your book. It is a great piece of literature that can be used in so many areas of the curriculum with kids of all ages. I will use the book with my K-5 students next fall even if I don’t win. Thank you for your inspiring book!

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  4. I can even think about how I would use this with my department members too. Both students and colleagues need to be reminded of the growth mindset.

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  5. This post is AMAZING! Whether I win the book or not, I can’t wait to use it with my students. And the ideas for use are just lovely. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this!

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  6. Sounds like a book every classroom K-12 should have in their library. Can’t wait to use it with my second graders.

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  7. This book looks great! I’ve been looking for a way to start a growth mindset conversation with my students. If I don’t win, I’ll definitely have to purchase this for the fall. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  8. Our GT magnet school has a block every morning to examine guiding principles, one of which is perseverance. This sounds perfect.

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  9. This book excites me because I just went to a Differentiated Instruction class and we learned all about a growth mindset. I’ll be teaching 3rd grade this year in a PYP school where risk taking is huge, so I think I’ll be getting this book!

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  10. Thank you for the recommendation! This would be great to reinforce perseverance especially during the first few weeks of school in the fall!

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  11. I think book would be amazing to use with the fourth grade students in the area of writing! You may not get it right the first time but keep writing! Also, I work with teachers and this would be great to read during staff development in regard to how students don’t always get it the first time they are receiving the instruction.

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  12. Delighted to find this book. We talk lots about ‘growth mindsets’ and this will fit in perfectly. Thanks for writing it.

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  13. This book would make a great addition to my classroom. I enjoy guiding my students into understanding that they are, and can become great leaders. The growth mindset moves that thinking forward!!

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  14. Thanks for sharing this book! It is perfect on so many levels both for Teachers Growth Mindset as well as students. I will use this in PD for Teachers as well as in my Classroom. Once again you all are amazing here at the Two Writing Teachers! Thank you!

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  15. I saw the same growth mindset chart and saved it to use with my students in the fall. I’d love to use the book with my students, as well. It looks great! 🙂

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  16. Nothing is more important than developing a growth mindset in the children we teach. Thanks for the outstanding article, interview, and teaching ideas!

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  17. The book looks perfect for writer’s workshop and the anchor chart is so perfect for the beginning of the year! Thank you for sharing!

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  18. I will look for this book. I like that the concept is about trying again and again, despite failure. Also, I presume the book will have a repetitive quality. My son is autistic and it can be very hard to get him interested in reading. (Pulling teeth is actually easier.) But the short sentences and captivating pictures might help draw him to the story. Fingers crossed, that we might win!

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  19. I am so excited to get my hands on this book and use it in the fall. I know all my students will identify with this determined character. Lots of ways to apply it with writing and attitude!

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  20. I would love to share this book with my reading/writing workshop 8th grade students. They are at an age where they would rather quit or give up when things get tough instead of persevering through to improvement or success.

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  21. This sounds like a great picture book to launch reader’s workshop, especially at the middle school level (when that critical voice inside our heads can get extremely loud and believable.) Thanks for sharing!! -Danielle

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  22. I can’t wait to start the year off reading this book to my class! It sounds like a book we will use all year long! Thanks for the amazing teaching ideas that can go along with this book!!!!

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  23. What a great message for students starting off the school year. It’s always great to have some teaching points to drive student discussion but more than anything a strong theme to embed throughout the school year, whether introducing student personal goals or tracking growth as a class!

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  24. Thanks for sharing! I am looking forward to sharing this book with my staff when we return to school so students and teachers can benefit from the focus on a growth mindset. I can see using it as the starting point for many conversations.

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  25. I will definitely be looking into using this book. Thanks for the suggestions on how to use it. Thanks for the author interview. I will be using some of it to show my students the writing process from an author’s point of view!

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  26. I would like to have this book for myself. I am barely learning to have a growth mindset myself! It would be a wonderful reminder! And I will be ordering this book for my children’s department!

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  27. This book is fabulous!! I plan to use it with my staff in September and give tem each a copy to use with their students. Our staff professional learning community is using the work of Carol Deck next year to learn about growth mindset.

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  28. I would love a copy if this book. I have read Dweck’s book several times and believe in what she says. I am anxious to share this book with my daughters for my grandchildren.

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  29. This book does, indeed, look like a magnificent thing to share with students. They don’t quite believe me when I share these ideas. It will be nice to share it “in print”. (“It’s in a book…it must be true!”

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  30. Hi Stacey,
    Thanks so much for this great review. It sounds like a wonderful book. I have linked to your article in a post on my blog. http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-hj
    I’m disappointed I’m not in with a chance to win a copy (I live in Australia.). I guess I’ll just have to buy my own!
    Best wishes.

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  31. I want this book, both to share with my fifth graders as well as to read over and over and over again to my three year old daughter!

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  32. I love Carol Dweck’s work! Our school has been studying the effect of a growth mindset on math in particular and this would be a fantastic book to add to our professional library.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

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  33. Sounds like a great book that can be used in so many ways! I know my third graders were always wondering why authors chose not to name the characters in books, so I will definitely share the interview with the kids as well.

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  34. I am planning to use much of Carol Dweck’s research in my classroom this year; upgrading from last year. I like to point out my list of successful failures to my students to help them see the value in effort. I teach 8th grade and LOVE to read children’s books to my classes. I would be honored to be chosen to receive one of these copies.

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  35. This book will be a book to revisit multiple times throughout the school year with my kindergarten students. I especially like the nameless girl and dog, allowing each listener/reader to see herself/himself in the character. Thank you for sharing this book!

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  36. I’ve already checked this book out of the library and would love to add it to my collection. Thanks for sharing specific teaching points. It’s a great book for all grades. Great chart from Twitter.

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  37. I love that it addresses the growth mindset, a topic our district started addressing this year in a more formal way. I also like all the writing topics covered by this book.

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  38. This appears to be the perfect book for young students to be introduced to a growth mindset. Many students want a quick fix and are not interested in learning to persevere. It’s refreshing to see a book that addresses the fact that problems aren’t solved right away!

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  39. It would be the most magnificent thing to win a copy of “The Most Magnificent Thing” to use with our school district as we encourage a growth mindset!

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  40. Thanks for posting this growth mindset picture book! I can’t wait to put it in the hands of my granddaughters and share it with my elementary school teaching colleagues!

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  41. I have just read Carol Dweck’s book on the growth mindset and plan to use it as I reframe some of my strategies with the high school students I teach. I think this picture book would be a great companion as I move students from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I think it speaks to all ages!!

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  42. I teach Growth Mindset as part of my Differentiated Instruction class at JHU. I think this will be a great book to introduce this concept to the class. This concept is one of the most important concepts that I want my students to walk away and implement in their classrooms.

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  43. Love how your questions guided Ashley to share how she developed the character in a way that all readers could identify with the struggles rather than with the girl. I’m enamored with the uses of this book early in the school year in 3rd grade, but can see the ways a class would hug this mentor text close all year long. Thanks!! Angus327@gmail.com

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  44. Mindset is one of my two favorite teaching books, so I had to read this post!
    I love how you itemized what you liked about the writing itself as well as sharing your reflections on the story and pictures. It inspired me to look more deeply into the picture books I share, as well as to simply enjoy them more!

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  45. I cannot wait to read this book! We have had conversations at the school on which I teach regarding the growth mindset. I immediately began talking with my students about how hard they are working and how much they persevere. I believe in the growth mindset and I look forward to seeing the effects it has on my students. I know they will love this book! I will buy it regardless, but I can never say no to the chance of winning a free book!

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  46. I am always looking for ways to make failure an multiple tries safe in my classroom. This will be another resource. I do believe in the growth mindset as opposed to the fixed mindset. Thank you.

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  47. I think this book would be perfect for my classroom! It will launch a discussion on how everyone has strengths and weaknesses but those weaknesses can become strengths through persistence. Like the author/illustrator mentioned it will help the students see that if you keep trying you will become more proficient at the skill. It will help all abilities, the gifted who at times do not know how to learn if it does not come easily, the kids who struggle as it will help them to see that everyone needs to try hard to master things and the average student who will be inspired to try new things! I love this book! Definitely a classroom must-have!

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  48. Would love this book for my kindergarten and first grade teachers as we explore writers workshop together in the fall.

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  49. I will definitely check this book out! I’m always looking for new books to use as read alouds to discuss and explore the difference between a growth mindset and fixed mindset! Thank you for sharing ths title and great info!

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  50. This book sounds like a fantastic book to use as we begin Writer’s Workshop in the Fall. Modeling lessons on how we all get frustrated, but there are ways that we can work through that frustration to eventually achieve success are exactly what is needed at that time of year! I will definitely be using that book in the Fall! I’ve added it to my list.

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  51. I would love to own this book for a Reader’s Workshop and Writer’s Workshop mentor text. What a great book to read to launch both!

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  52. I am reading Mindset now and looking forward to reading AS book and helping my students next school year. So many ‘aha’ moments for me.

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  53. Always love to read new book reviews and this one is a keeper for sure! There is a big push to build “Growth Mindset” in our school and I am looking forward to sharing this book with my new students in the Fall (and colleagues too!). Please keep sharing more mentor texts!

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  54. My whole school has embraced the growth mindset and winning this book would mean so much to my hard working students!

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  55. I love books about determined kids. Grit is such an important characteristic, so we really work to develop it in our students. This book can only help! Thanks for tr recommendation.

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  56. Great ideas to use in workshop and especially in one on one conferring when kids are stuck, refer back to this read aloud! (Which you’ve already shared with class)

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  57. Awesome book! As a Reading Specialist, I can’t wait to share this book with many students at my school who think they can’t… it’s so much better to focus on their growth!

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  58. As a children’s literature scholar, I never turn down a chance to win a free picture book. This one looks particularly interesting.

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  59. As always, when you suggest a book I have to decide if I’ll buy one for my classroom, or two, so I can give it to my grandkids too. I love the picture books your suggest! Thanks!

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  60. This book has so many endless possibilities to use in the classroom! I think it will be one of my read out louds, to kick start writers workshop this fall.

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  61. Just when I thought I had wrapped up my bibliography for my Master’s program (Capstone is next week), along comes this post. Wow! I have focused on the reluctant writer for my action research and as I read this, I visualized how certain students could be impacted so positively by both the book and the author’s comments. (And I should add the great ideas for how to use this book in writer’s workshop). Since I am looping to second grade with the same students, I will definitely use this book to inspire and encourage.
    So, I made more space in my annotated bibliography for this excellent post. As I do my Capstone presentation, I will include how this site has been of such tremendous value to me. I have noted that it is like being able to collaborate with other teachers albeit digitally. Thanks to all who blog and comment. It’s great to feel a part of this wonderful community.

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  62. This book sounds like a great way to begin the conversation on self talk. I am moving to fourth grade and I think it is the perfect year to move students away from feeling down about themselves and transferring their thoughts to “I can do it”.

    faithfulinfirst.blogspot.com

    pinksmyink@gmail.com

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  63. I have Carol Dweck’s book on my Kindle ready for my plane trip to TCRWP summer intensive this Sunday-like Dawn sometimes I think “you” (all the amazing bloggers of Two Writing Teachers) are linked into my psyche. I teach fifth grade and so much of what we do, especially at the beginning of the year, is talk about giving your best effort and not comparing your results with someone else’s. I am always looking for a Malcolm Gladwell for kids- maybe this is it!

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  64. I love the discussion of this book. It seems to be mentor text for so many mini-lessons. I work with many different grade levels in writing. Before I buy the book, what grade levels can I plan to use this with?

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  65. Thinking I’d use this book to help establish routines and procedures during that first week of school. It’s hugely important to establish that growth mindset within your class culture.

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  66. After 20 years of teaching elementary school, this past year I began teaching ELL’s at a transitional adult high school. Talk about a growth mindset! They all work so hard, attending school 3 hours each evening (4 days a week) after working all day so they could learn English well enough to attend high school! They remind me of the main character in your book! It would be a wonderful book to share with them to reinforce their own growth mindset.

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  67. I have this beauty on my list of “Must Haves”. Thank you for the great book talk! The anchor chart is absolutely perfect for teacher or parent to use!!

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  68. Sometimes I think your blog is reading my mind. I teach 8th literacy and I am currently developing a unit called “Got Grit?”. This book will fit in the unit perfectly! I love the heavy squiggly lines above her head. Thanks for sharing this book.

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  69. I was SO interested to read this post this morning! It reminds me, unexpectedly, of a book my friend has been writing, that I’ve been critting with her, that didn’t set out to be about to anything even a little bit akin to the growth mindset but that somehow actually *is*. And, it reminds me how the process of erasing and reworking and erasing and reworking that Ashley describes is so amazing not just for bringing work closer to perfect, but also for layering in nuance and depth that you often don’t even realize that you’re bringing to bear!!

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  70. I love the descriptions of how to use this book as a mentor text, especially using pronouns and character development. But I am more intrigued about the growth mindset lesson here. Many student writers would like to give up rather than edit and revise — this will help them to see that they can do it!

    Thank you for the opportunity!

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  71. I am so excited to use this as a resource. We have been looking for growth mindset books to use this fall. This resource looks terrific as we are also digging in deeper into writers workshop.

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  72. I love finding new mentor texts for writing workshop, as well as ones that have such a great message! This book sounds wonderful. I’ll have to look for it when I go to Bank Street Bookstore this week!
    Loved the author interview, too!

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  73. I am currently taking the writing institute Abydos and can think of so many wonderful ways to incorporate this book into my new found love of writing in the classroom. I think that having a book tha teaches a growth mindset is so valuable to all students and really helps teach students that they can all be successful if they work hard and beer give up. Regardless if I win I will be adding this book to my classroom library.

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  74. Reblogged this on My Blog and commented:
    I wish I could actually add to this thinking. I will say this, if you haven’t read Carol Dweck’s Mindset and Peter Johnston’s Choice Words and Opening Minds, they should be #1-3 on your summer reading list.

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  75. This looks like a wonderful book, I just placed a hold on it at the library. I’m always looking for ways to incorporate a growth mindset in my classroom and this book and chart will be a great addition! Thank you.

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  76. Thank you for walking me through all the ways to use this text! It sheds light on how I can read picture books closely to find elements I need to teach. It is a perfect book to kick off the school year.

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  77. I can’t wait to pick up a copy of this book. Any time we can use a picture book to teach perseverance and a growth mindset we need to embrace it. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  78. By reading your post, it gave me another “aHa!” for ways to promote a Growth Mindset in our school. I will add this picture book to our library and my lessons.

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  79. As a third grade teacher, this sounds like the perfect mentor text for me to have due to it’s variety of third grade teaching strategies. I would definitely start the school year off with this book since there is quite a leap from second to third grade. I don’t want them giving up, I want them to constantly Stevie to do their best! Second, I love the language arts mini lessons I can teach with this book- pronouns, varying sentence length, style/word choice, theme, and matching pictures to words which is perfect for my third grade readers and authors. I am excited to add this book to my mentor text collection. Thank you for introducing me to another amazing author!

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  80. I love how Ashley Spires talks about her use and abuse of language. That is a great line to share with writers in a writing workshop! Sure, there are rules, but language is meant to be arranged and re-arranged, played around with until the exact right meaning is found. The examples Spires gives of “non gold-star” sentences are great mentors for kids learning to manipulate words in creative ways.
    Also, I came across that language chart a while back on Twitter and it is one of my favorite things I’ve seen this year. Just lovely.

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  81. I love this book. Already planning how I can use it in different classrooms as I spey students with learning disabilities.

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  82. Thanks, also, for the author interview. This is helpful for kids to “see” the writer! I can’t wait to have and read this book for myself. (AND I love Two Writing Teachers!)

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  83. What a great way to make students understand the growth mindset vs. fixed mindset and kick off a year of learning! Thanks for unpacking this powerful book!

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  84. Thank you for the heads up on this picture book. It sounds great and I am excited to use it in both writers and math workshop. I teach a series of mini lessons to give students strategies for how to persevere when faced with challenging problems and this book would be a nice launch for that.

    Keep writing- for I do enjoy your blog.
    Thanks!

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  85. I will definitely add this picture book to my growth mindset collection. I enjoyed reading about the author’s process for creating it,

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  86. I am really excited that you highlighted this children’s book and that it encourages a growth mindset. I really enjoyed the author interview and ideas for using this as a mentor text as well, I will definitely pin this page 🙂

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  87. Thanks for featuring this book. We have had so much growth and positive change in our classroom this year because of our focus on mindsets. This book would be an excellent addition to any classroom teacher’s library!

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  88. Stacey, I love this book topic. Perseverance and a realization that growth never stops are qualities that are necessary for lasting success. I can’t wait to read this book!

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  89. Last summer I read Growth Mindset. My plans are to introduce this concept to my 5th graders. This book would be the perfect kick off.

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  90. Thank you for sharing this book. Not only will I use it in school, I think I will buy it as a graduation gift for someone special.

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