Sharing Our Blessings - Blog Hop and Giveaway!

Yay!  You're here!  I'm super excited to be joining up with some fabulous teacher-authors to share and celebrate our blessings with teachers like you! As you check out each teacher-author's post in the Sharing Our Blessings blog hop, you'll find personal expressions of gratitude, a chance to win a $25 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card, a link to a flash freebie, and more!  All together, we're giving away $350 in gift cards and 14 flash freebies!

Let's get started!

My expression of gratitude is rooted in one of the most challenging experiences of my life.  Just a few years ago, my middle school teaching job was cut due to budget restraints.  When I was told that I would no longer have a job, I was devastated.  The loss of my job left me feeling defeated, scared, and so very sad.  I was worried that I would never be able to work with children or teachers again.  

However, it turns out that new opportunities were headed my way.  Those new opportunities to impact children and work with teachers came in the form of my shop, Brain Waves Instruction, on TpT.  

Developing lessons to share with teachers and students has been an incredibly fulfilling and wildly exciting endeavor.  I love connecting with teachers like you around the globe.  So, while I never thought I'd say this during those dark days of my job cut, I'd like to shout it from the rooftop...I'm so very grateful for new opportunities.

Speaking of TpT, I'm giving away a $25 TpT gift card!  If you win, perhaps you'll be able to use the gift card to purchase some new and inspiring resources for your classroom.  

(I'll give details about entering below and at the end of this feel free to skim the instructions below and check out the other goodies I'm sharing with you - like a flash freebie!)

 Entering to win is really simple!
➤ Enter with one of these options: a Rafflecopter giveaway 
➤ You can enter by signing up for the Brain Waves Instruction newsletter (and receive a ton of freebies), visit the Brain Waves Facebook page, and/or share what you're thankful for in the comments of a Facebook post.  
➤ If you complete all the entry tasks, you'll be entered to win 3 times!

➤ Entries will be accepted until midnight on Monday, November 20th.
➤ The winner will be notified via email.
➤ The gift card will be sent via email, too.

I'm so excited about this!  As a thanks to you (and all the other fabulous teachers out there), I'm giving away the popular Doodle and Do - Finding the Main Idea resource!  Yes!  Right this minute (until midnight on Monday, November 20th), you can download the entire resource for free!

The Doodle and Do Main Idea resource includes doodle notes on finding the main idea and 5 activities to help students practice the reading skill.  Students will love the engaging notes and activities, and you'll love how much they learn!  

Guess what? There's more!  If you're looking for a great (and free) Thanksgiving lesson, you might want to check out this super fun Listening Comprehension activity that I created with Art with Jenny K.! sure to pop over to the other blogs using the links below to enter for your chance to win gift cards and find links to more flash freebies!

As promised, here's the link for entering to win the $25 gift card again: a Rafflecopter giveaway 

(Fingers crossed that you're the lucky teacher!)

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Mary Beth

3 Fun and Educational Thanksgiving Lessons

Thanksgiving lessons for the ELA classroom that are fun and educational!  This list of Thanksgiving activities move beyond Thanksgiving crafts and ELA skills to students' learning.

I love infusing holiday-themed lessons into ELA instruction. Since students are naturally excited about holidays like Thanksgiving, it's easy to capitalize on their enthusiasm while still teaching critical skills.  That's the key part, right?  I love lessons that keep students learning while adding a Thanksgiving-twist to the lessons.  

Here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving lessons that are not only fun, but super educational, too!

This FREE lesson combines listening comprehension and art!  It's a collaboration between Art with Jenny K. and I.  During the Thanksgiving lesson, students will practice the critical skill of listening comprehension while they learn about the origin of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.  After a mini-lesson on listening and note-taking, students will listen to a passage about Sarah Josepha Hale two times.  They'll take notes during both readings.  Then, they'll answer comprehension questions based on the passage.

Help students develop their listening comprehension skills and learn about Thanksgiving with this art-infused lesson!

Finally, students will create a festive piece of turkey pop art with designs and shapes based on their answers.  This activity is the perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving in the classroom while helping students develop critical ELA skills!  Check it out here.  (Oh, and there's two versions included.  One for grades 4-5 and one for grades 6-8.)

These Thanksgiving-themed reading comprehension centers are not only designed to give students meaningful opportunities to practice reading, they're also incredibly fun and engaging!  The resource includes EVERYTHING you'll need to easily bring the Thanksgiving reading comprehension centers into your classroom.  

There are five different centers.  Students will practice distinguishing between fact and opinion, identifying the main idea, making inferences, finding the sequence, and comparing and contrasting nonfiction passages.

Thanksgiving reading comprehension centers to help students practice their reading skills and learn about Thanksgiving.

The stations are super versatile.  They can be taught during a single class period or spread out over consecutive days.  You'll find table labels, teacher resources, student pages, all the center materials, a grade tracking sheet, and answer keys in the resource!  The learning stations are super hands-on, too!

Fun and engaging reading centers all about Thanksgiving!

And...there are even two different versions.  One for grades 4-5 and one for grades 6-8.

This activity is all about the primary sentiment of Thanksgiving:  gratitude.  Rather than just teaching about the Thanksgiving holiday, this activity is meant to help students show some gratitude and thankfulness.  The activity is from my Classroom Community resource, but I'm providing it as an exclusive freebie here.

It includes a stack-able poster.  The poster contains a quote about gratitude (one of my favorites).  After a discussion about the quote, students will participate in a gratitude activity.

Classroom kindness poster

During the activity they'll reflect on a person that they are grateful for.  Then, they'll turn their reflection into a personalized note to that person.  The note is on a postcard that students can cut out, design, and mail/give to their own "charming gardener."

I hope you've found a few fun and educational ways to teach Thanksgiving in your classroom!  Here are some of the links from this post:

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Mary Beth

9 Fun Book Projects

The days of dioramas and book reports may be long gone. (Is it wrong that I’m a little sad about that?) Yet the expectation that students read and express their understanding of what they’ve read remains as strong as ever.

So what’s a teacher to do? More specifically, what’s a creative teacher to do, when she doesn’t want to rely on worksheets? Get creative, of course!

I’ve compiled 9 Fun Book Projects for you. They’re quick and easy to prepare, and best of all, they’re engaging – for both your students and you. No more slogging through piles of “Why I Liked This Book!”

Take a look:

Write a different ending -- What if the main character didn’t make it in the end? Or the dogs had lived? Or the culprit was the best friend? Your students’ imaginations can really wander with this assignment. Maybe their alternate ending will be even better than the original! Offer to let students draw their new ending as a bonus.

Give a book talk --- Book talks are a wonderful way for students to demonstrate their understanding of books that they have read while practicing their writing and speaking skills.  They're a great book project because they combine so many skills...and students love listening to one another.  Oh, and the added bonus is that students can learn about books that they're interested in reading as they listen to the book talks.  

If you'd like to give them a try, then check out this FREE BOOK TALK GUIDE.  It includes an overview of book talks, pre-write, final copy, and tips and tricks for presenting a book talk.  Find it HERE.

Book talk planning and presenting guide!

Write a sequel -- If you have the time, your students may want to extend their alternative endings into a whole second book (or at least a few pages or a chapter). After all, who hasn’t reached the end of a great read and wished for more? This will be a challenge, as students will have to build on the original plot lines and character outlines. Refer them to some famous book series for inspiration.

Write a letter to the author -- Take a page from Beverly Cleary’s classic Dear Mr. Henshaw and have students write a thoughtful letter, with questions for the author of their current reading selection (or a favorite book). Most authors love to write (of course!) and appreciate opportunities to interact directly with their readers. Address letters (or e-mails) to the publisher, or see if the author has contact information on his or her website. It never hurts for students to practice their letter-writing and envelope-addressing skills, either – at least as long as snail mail is still around. Your students will be thrilled to get a response, too.

Great news!  I've put together three stationary templates that students can use when drafting their letters.  They're a special FREEBIE just for you!  Click here to check them out...and download them for free!

Choose a response --- Here's an idea that students love...give them choices!  It's amazing how giving students the ability to select the response or project that they would like to complete instantly increases their engagement.  With that in mind, I created a series of "This or That" reading responses.  Each This or That Reading Prompt includes instruction at the top of the worksheet and then 2 reading response choices for students to showcase their learning.  After reviewing the choices, students can choose to do the "This" prompt or the "That" prompt.  

Make students' book reports a lot more fun with these fun writing prompts.

You can easily turn this into a book project by having students complete 5 (or so) different prompts while reading the book and submit them all as a final project when they finish reading the book.  Learn more HERE.

Set it to music -- Have your students capture a pivotal scene from the book in a song set to familiar music. It can be a ballad, a pop song, a rap – whatever speaks to them or best works with the scene. Encourage students who select this option to put on a concert. For students who are shy to perform, give them the option of recording their song privately, so you can play it without them having to get up in front of the class.

Doodle it --- This is my FAVORITE type of book project!  That's because it combines reflection, thinking and DOODLING!  You can instantly take book reports and book projects to a whole new level with a Doodle Book Review!  First, students complete a planning guide. Then, they design a Doodle Book Review!  Check it out HERE!

Create a File Folder --- I first developed this book project idea many years ago as a summer reading project.  Then, I altered it slightly so that it could be completed during anytime of the school year with any book.  With this project, students compile critical information from the book they read including the plot, characters, setting, and a reflection in a manila file folder.  The file folder book report includes detailed instructions so that students can complete it all independently.  The end result is a compact project that students love!  Oh, and you can store the file folders by your classroom library for students to reference when picking out a book!  Find more details HERE.

Blog about it -- If you have a classroom webpage, it can be fairly simple to create a live (and private) blog that students can use to discuss and debate the merits of their favorite books. This option might work best for students who have read the same book. Make sure you establish expectations for a civil online conversation. You can get in on the convo, too!

Focusing on nonfiction in your classroom? Try one of these book report alternatives:

Ø  Create a scrapbook with images and facts about the book topic.
Ø  Write interview questions for the main character (if reading a biography, for example). Extend this assignment by allowing students to dress up as the character and record their responses to the interview questions.
Ø  Write a diary that one of the story’s main characters might have kept before, during, or after the book’s events. Make sure students emphasize what the character is thinking and feeling to give it an authentic feel.
Ø  Write a news story about the main event in the book (for example, the sinking of the Titanic). This is a good opportunity to practice this very specific form of writing. You’ll want to review inverted pyramid style and how to use quotes if you go this route.

Here's some links for some of the project ideas above:
➧  File Folder Book Project (any book!)
➧  Doodle and Do Book Review (doodle book project)
➧  This or That Reading Response Prompts
➧  Book Talk (freebie)
➧  Letter to the Author Stationary Templates (FREE!)

I hope that you've found some fun book project ideas to try in your classroom!

Happy reading!

Mary Beth

9 Ways to Develop Growth Mindset in the Classroom All Year Long

Dr. Carol Dweck researched thousands of students. Her discoveries about growth mindset have had a direct impact on classrooms everywhere! That's because her work found that students with a growth mindset achieved more than those with a fixed mindset. Of course, teachers took action! Teaching lessons that help students develop a growth mindset became just as important as the other lessons teachers teach...and that's a good thing!

Like many lessons that help students develop as learners, growth mindset is one of those concepts that lends itself to teaching many times throughout the year.  It's not a "one and done" concept. That's why I thought that it would be fun to compile a bunch of ways to help students develop a growth mindset all year long.  And, here's the cool part...I've even teamed up with a bunch of teacher-authors as part of a Growth Mindset be sure to check out their links at the bottom of this post!

Let's dive into those 9 ways to develop a growth mindset, shall we?

Music can be a powerful instructional tool. It can help make lessons more lively, meaningful, and inspirational. So, what better way to expose students to the core values of growth mindset than with a little music? Here are just a few songs that focus on persistence, courage, and perseverance...

➤"It's Not Over Yet" by for King and Country (an encouraging song about not giving up)
➤"Rise Up" by Andra Day (a motivational song about staying strong)
➤"Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor (a classic song about fighting through adversity)
➤Did you know that there is even a growth mindset rap?  Check out this video.

And...besides just playing the songs in the classroom, you could make the messages in the growth mindset songs "stick" with these activities:

---  Pass out the lyrics of the songs. Then, have students select their favorite growth mindset line from the song. You might have students write the lyric on a post-it note. Then, they can discuss their favorite lines with the class or even stick them on their desks for daily inspiration.

--- Send students on a growth mindset song hunt. Challenge students to find songs that have a growth mindset theme. Or, have students find an artist that has demonstrated a growth mindset in his or her life.

--- Have the class pick a growth mindset theme song. Perhaps students could vote on songs that you've selected.  Or students could bring in growth mindset song "contenders." Then, the class could pick a growth mindset song to be the class's theme song. You could play this song and discuss it's meaning at different times throughout the year.

If you're looking for ways to get students excited about developing a growth mindset, the trick may just be with doodles! When students doodle or create sketches of something, they activate different parts of their brains. Doodling helps students make connections to their learning, so what better way to drive home the concepts of growth mindset than with doodles? Here are a few ways to help students get their "doodle on."

➤ Doodle Desk Cards - These FREE doodle desk cards combine growth mindset quotes with growth mindset words and expressions. Students combine doodling with inspiration as they create desk cards that can sit right on their desks as a constant reminder of growth mindset. 

➤ Doodle Growth Mindset Makeovers - When discussing the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset, challenge students to doodle what they look and feel like with a fixed mindset. Then, have them give those mindsets a makeover with another doodle.

➤ Doodle Article and Notes - I've also put together a super fun Doodle and Do resource that combines a doodle article and notes. Students doodle their way through learning about growth mindset before they complete 4 engaging activities (many from the ideas I'll share below).  It makes learning about growth mindset so fun and meaningful!  

After students learn about growth mindset, it's fun to give them a chance to reflect on times when they have demonstrated a growth mindset. I love to use the analogy of a lock and key when discussing growth mindset. A locked lock represents a fixed mindset or a challenge. The key represents a growth mindset. When students have a growth mindset, they can unlock any challenge. You might use this same analogy in your classroom and pair it with a reflection. This analogy works great as the basis for a class discussion, but I've also turned it into a simple reflection activity. 

Help students develop a growth mindset with this fun reflection activity.  First, students reflect on their own growth mindset.  Then, they add their ideas to a lock and key.  Perfect for a bulletin board display!

All you need is a open lock and key graphic. Have students write a challenge that they have faced inside the lock shape. Then, discuss how having a growth mindset can help students overcome the challenge. Task students to write about their growth mindset inside the key. I like to add string to the key and hang it around the lock shape. This reflection activity is great because students can connect growth mindset to their own lives!

What's better than helping students develop a growth mindset AND building classroom community at the same time? That's why I love infusing growth mindset into collaborative activities!  Here are a few ways to do just that...

➤ Have pairs of students or small groups write Growth Mindset Skits that they can perform for the class. Present the class with a fictional challenge. Then, have groups write one skit where the main character responds to the challenge with a fixed mindset. Have them write an additional skit where the character responds with a growth mindset. Encourage students to be over-dramatic when creating and performing the skit. This makes for fun discussions, funny skits...and tons of learning!

➤ Give groups of students Growth Mindset Discussion Cards. These do not need to be fancy. You'll just want a set of 5-7 cards with targeted questions for students to discuss about growth mindset.  

Get students thinking deeply about growth mindset with discussion cards.  Students can work in small groups to discuss thought-provoking questions about growth mindset.

A great way to demonstrate the power of growth mindset is with historical figures. When students learn that great leaders and change-makers overcame challenges, they can see first-hand that intelligence and success is developed, not innate. Here are a few ways to develop growth mindset with history...

➤ Combine research, writing, and growth mindset with Growth Mindset Research Projects. Have students research famous people and find evidence of their growth mindset. Take it a step further and have students make fun 3-D projects!

Help students learn about growth mindset as they research famous people with a growth mindset.  Then, have them turn their research into a 3D growth mindset project!

➤ Set up a Growth Mindset Person of the Week. Each week you could discuss a famous person and his or her growth mindset.

➤ Read biographies about famous people who have a growth mindset as a read aloud to students. Take time to discuss how the person demonstrated a growth mindset in his or her lifetime.

Instantly engage students as they learn about growth mindset with a fun art activity or project!

➤ Art with Jenny K. has an amazing resource where students create a huge collaboration poster displaying famous people with a growth mindset.This art project is fun to do any time of the year, but it also makes an incredible Open House display!

➤ Have students design coloring sheets with Growth Mindset Quotes. Then, you can create copies for the class. The entire class can work on each other's sheets at the same time or you can set them aside as an activity for fast finishers.

➤ Challenge students to draw silhouettes or their faces (or provide generic templates).  Then, have students fill the silhouettes with words and images from magazines that represent growth mindset.

Providing students with lots of opportunities to write is an awesome way to help students develop a growth mindset. I'm particularly fond of using writing prompts to spark writing in the classroom. You might give students different prompts throughout the school year. They could even create a Growth Mindset Journal where they respond to the different prompts. Or, you could have them make fun Writing Prompt Pockets with growth mindset prompts. 

Make learning about growth mindset fun with these writing prompts!  Based on quotes, these prompts will have students thinking and reflecting on their own growth mindsets!

Students can create fun growth mindset writing prompt pockets.  Filled with their responses to growth mindset quotes, this writing activity is meaningful and creative!

No matter how you do it, getting students writing and reflecting on their own growth mindset is a win! Here are a few prompts to get you started...

--- Write about a time when you had a fixed mindset. What challenge were you facing? What thoughts were going through your head? How did the fixed mindset impact your success?

--- Imagine that you are visiting a classroom in a lower grade. When you arrive, you see a student struggling with his math work. He tells you that he's terrible at math. He even crumples up his paper. What can you do to help him? How can you teach him about growth mindset?

--- Give one of your thoughts a "mindset makeover." What is something you struggle with? What do you usually say to yourself about that task? Now, give those thoughts a makeover. What new thoughts could you think to help you have a growth mindset?

Another way to help students develop a growth mindset is by giving them opportunities to see how the adults in their lives have a growth mindset. To do just that, you could...

➤ Model growth mindset in the classroom. You're one of most influential people in your students' lives, so be sure to use growth mindset statements throughout your day. Be open about your struggles and model how you can respond with a growth mindset.

➤ Get parents involved.  Set up a collaborative writing prompt with students and their parents. This is especially fun at Open House, but you can do it at any time throughout the year. Just download this FREEBIE and get students and parents writing about growth mindset.

Make Open House or Curriculum Night especially meaningful with this collaborative growth mindset project!

Poetry is a quick and easy way to develop growth mindset. Poems like "Listen to the Mustn'ts" by Shel Silverstein and "The Man Who Thinks He Can" by Walter D. Wintle are great! Once you find poems that relate to growth mindset, you can use them to highlight growth mindset in lots of ways. You could...

➤ Pair a poem with a couple of targeted questions for morning work. Then, discuss the poem and students' responses.

➤ Give small groups a poem along with a few discussion questions. Students can read and analyze the poem together. Then, as an entire class, you could discuss its connection to growth mindset.

➤ Teach the critical skill of poetry analysis with a growth mindset poem. My favorite way to do this is with interactive flip books!

Use poetry to teach growth mindset.  Help students analyze the growth mindset poem with an interactive flip book!

➤ Select a poem to read aloud to students. Reading poetry can even help students settle back into learning after lunch or a special.


Well, there you have it, 9 ways to develop a growth mindset in your classroom all year long. 

Ready to teach growth mindset all year long?  Then, you'll love this collection of growth mindset activities and ideas.  You'll find links to free growth mindset lessons and tons of inspiration!

I hope you've found some ideas to help your own students develop a growth mindset!  Don't forget to download the FREE growth mindset doodle desk cards and writing prompts here...

Check out this FREE growth mindset activity!  Students create doodle desk cards with growth mindset quotes.  They can leave the desk cards on their desks for inspiration all year long!

AND you've got to check out the links at the bottom of this post. Teacher-authors are sharing a ton more ideas for growth mindset.  

You can find their links below.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Mary Beth

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