The Power of Not Yet

The new year is about making positive changes to our behaviours and mindsets, making it the perfect time to consider the growth mindset made popular by Carol Dweck in her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She explained the two mindsets she found in her subjects: fixed mindset and growth mindset.

Since this book became popular, teachers have been helping students identify when they have a fixed mindset (believing we have a fixed amount of intelligence and ability) and reframe their thinking with a growth mindset (believing we have limitless potential to learn and grow).

As teachers, we can access many resources to help support our students understanding of their mindset and how it affects their ability to learn. How we teach today and the language we use can greatly affect how our students see themselves.

Learning How We Learn Best

Talking about how a student learns best and identifying their strengths helps them celebrate what they currently do to learn successfully. It also highlights what they still need to work on to better improve their learning. Whether it is “finding a good fit spot” to learn in or getting started on work right away, this process allows students to focus on a goal. It also helps parents and students understand how we assess and report on learning behaviours. Reminding students of their learning behaviour goals can help them refocus on the learning process, recognizing their ability to learn.

Goal setting

Encouraging students to set goals for learning behaviours and specific subject areas, helps students to understand what they are aiming for and gives them ownership of their learning. Conferencing in small groups allows reflection and discussion time. Some students find this process quite easy by Grades three or four, others may need support and direction until they are older. Goal setting provides a focus for both the student and the teacher to move learning forward.

Mistakes Are How We Learn

Recognizing a mistake as a learning opportunity requires a mindset shift for many students. Regularly discussing the mistakes made and finding out what can be learned helps students reframe their thinking. The obvious place for this to start is math where there is a clear right or wrong answer. Talking about the thinking process allows students to understand how they calculate and listening to others provides a different perspective. Learning from our mistakes and seeing them as an opportunity changes how we approach everything.

The Power of Yet

Building resiliency in students can be challenging but having the language to understand what the “Power of Yet” means that students can understand the possibility of achieving their goal. A wonderful song from Sesame Street says it all:

“Keep trying and you will learn how.

Just breath don’t lose control

Keep trying and you’ll reach your goal

You just didn’t get it yet, but you’ll make it soon I bet

This is what you get with the power of yet.”

Learning is a Journey

Identifying learning as a continuum and helping students understand they are all in different places and that that is okay, takes time but is a worthy pursuit. For example, I ask my students to solve a one/two-step problem in math and when they are finished, they have an option to try a more complex word problem. They begin by highlighting the most important information, then find the math and the operations, then work out the steps. We always do this problem as a class later and students who completed the problem lead the discussion, explaining what they did. We talk about the fact that some students just completed step one where they highlight the important information, others are further along the process. The importance is placed on effort and learning from what we did, not the correct answer. This is all part of building understanding and respect for the learning journey.

Lifelong Growth

We can all learn and grow by thinking about our mindset. Talking to our students about our own mindset and attitude towards learning helps reinforce what we are teaching. I tell myself I spell badly just to help my students see my growth mindset as I am publicly corrected by a student! Demonstrating mistakes and explaining what we learn from them helps students understand that everyone makes mistakes and what we learn them is important.

“You just didn’t get it yet, but you’ll make it soon I bet”

Written by Chris, a teacher in Manitoba

Touchtronic Letters Review

We were given a set of Touchtronic Letters from Quality Classrooms to try out and review. This is a new resource and combines the more usual physical letters with the digital world, which our students are now familiar with. I am a fan of good phonics teaching resources, having taught many EAL students, and so was excited to try this resource with Fred.

Fred just recently turned four so he has had no formal teaching yet. His daycare is play-based and he is a book lover so any information about letters he has was picked up organically through reading and play.

Fred was very excited to play with an iPad, he doesn’t get to use it very often. These Touchtronic Letters work on a regular iPad and a mini iPad. Daisy organized the letters into the alphabet format and although this doesn’t mean much to Fred, it helped her find the letters. She was happy to lead the activity and is a natural teacher. The Touchtronic letters were colour-coded which made letter recognition easier for Daisy but not a noticeable difference for Fred.

There was no need to learn how to use the app. Daisy and Fred went straight into placing letters and learning their letter sounds and a corresponding word with the same initial sound.

He accidentally placed a letter upside down and the voice corrected him. There is no time lag and Fred remained engaged.

He did have a few issues placing the letter correctly. Occasionally the app did not seem to read the letter until it was lifted and placed a second time. Daisy had it figured out within a minute, Fred may need a few reminders to place the letter gently and, if it did not read right away, to lift and place again gently.

The word building CVC game was a little advanced for Fred but with help, he was able to find the letters correctly and have success. The part of the app he will grow into.

I liked the colour coding, vowels in red and consonants in blue.  This is consistent with many other phonics resources and consistency often makes learning easier. The app is easy to use, free and allows students to work independently. I would use these as a centre in kindergarten or for early EAL students to learn letters, sounds and shapes. At home, Fred will continue to learn his letter sounds in a fun and engaging way.

Light Panel Early Learning Bucket

With a multi-age group in a licensed family childcare home it can be difficult to balance the needs of all the children. Nap time is especially challenging when I need to be able to supervise the youngest children napping as well as the older ones who do not. It can be tricky to find quiet activities for the older preschoolers that will keep them engaged without disturbing the little ones who need to sleep.

In my current group, the older three and four year old children seem content to independently look at books or do puzzles over and over again during quiet time. However, I was beginning to feel like maybe I should introduce some other activities to expand their learning opportunities. I have a small light panel that rarely gets used because it is too small for group activities and too delicate for toddler use. The older children seemed interested in using it but I didn’t have many accessories available to use with the light panel.

I received the Light Panel Early Learning Bucket from Quality Classrooms to provide some additional resources.  Personally, I feel the ‘bucket’ is a little difficult to store – square or rectangular containers are easier to fit efficiently on shelves.  I like that the individually packaged materials in the bucket make it convenient to select which items we want to use without having to dig through all the little pieces.

At first, the children simply tried to fit as many items as possible on the light panel but didn’t seem to have any other goal.

Eventually, they started to sort the pieces by shape and colour and then use them to make pictures.

This one is a ‘car’.

With a little guidance they practiced some numeracy skills.

This light panel is too small to accommodate all the letters so the children couldn’t use it to arrange them all alphabetically.  Instead, we’ve been working on recognizing and matching the letters in printed words.

This has proved to be a little frustrating when they want to try spelling words that have more than one of any letter as the set contains only one of each.  I think it would be nice to have smaller letters and more of them.

Some of the literacy and numeracy activities we’ve tried to do require more assistance than they or I would like – we do value independence.  These children much prefer using the shapes to create pictures and patterns which is a wonderful child-led activity.  As an additional quiet time activity the light panel and accessories have offered an interesting variation but will never replace the books and puzzles that they love so much.

Written by Cheryl, an experienced ECE II who runs her own daycare (Cheryl’s Child Care).

Early Reading Language Resources We Love!

Rose is in kindergarten half time and her reading and writing are developing in leaps and bounds. She is reading sight words and simple readers but her confidence is low. When she is not in kindergarten she wants activities to complete with Granny. These are a mixture of independent tasks and those which will need Granny’s help!

Matching Upper and Lower Case Letters

This is a great activity Daisy enjoyed at the same age. Correct letter formation is important to know at an early age to ensure a student’s kinaesthetic (movement) memory commits to well-formed letters. It is more difficult to unlearn an incorrect method.

Making words with Word Building Pebbles

Letter pebbles are great for the visual and tactile reminder of letter formation and their sounds. As Rose lifts the pebbles she makes the letter sound and places in order to make a word.

Playing with Word Families

This post involves Daisy making cvc words from a game and dice.

Using Letter Tracing Stamps

We all know writing goes hand in hand with reading.

Using Big Box of Sentence Building

Improve sight word recognition, vocabulary, fluency, punctuation and grammar with the Big Box of Sentence Building! Include four blank puzzle pieces that can be used with write-on/wipe-off crayons or dry-erase markers. The pieces are colour-coded by the part of speech they represent. Also included is a booklet with directions, teaching suggestions and games.

Writing Sentences with Sentence Strips

Sentence strips are fabulous for discussing letter formations.

The colour recognition of “dirt, grass and sky” adds an extra step, helping a student remember the letter structure.

Playing Spot It! Basic English.

As well as reinforcing sight word recognition, this game is just pure fun!

Of course one of the main activities Rose does is READING!

Supporting Early Writing

Rose has started kindergarten and is loving it. She is eager to learn and loves to read and write. Her reading is mostly of the illustrations at the moment and she loves her quiet reading time. Writing she is also eager to partake in but her confidence is low. She is hesitant to write many letters without support even though she knows her upper case and lower case letters and their corresponding sounds.

To encourage her to write, with less frustration over letter formation, we are using Tracing Letter Stamps as a guide for writing.

When sounding out a word Rose selects the letters, checks her choice with me and then stamps. Yes, this child is a perfectionist. Daisy would have been happy to choose her own letters and would then argue her choice was right if I corrected her. Rose hates to make a mistake and the stamps seem to be helping to build her confidence as an emerging writer.

When she has completed a word or sometimes a sentence she writes on top. For this I do try to watch and correct, to ensure she does not develop incorrect letter formation habits. Bad habits can be difficult to break as we all know. At this age, once the movement is committed to kinaesthetic memory it is much more difficult to alter.

Rose seems much more content with writing when using stamps as a reinforcement with letter formation. A happy writer is much more likely to write!

Tracing stamps are available in lower case and upper case sets as well as numbers and signs for math.

Letter Formation Practice

Daisy has begun working on lower case letters more earnestly at school and we are supporting this at home. She finds upper case letters much easier and has to be reminded to use lower case letters. Gentle reminders and modelled examples of writing help.

She was struggling with writing on a line so it was time to give more help with the ‘sticks and circles’ we call writing.

I cut up a sentence strip into word-sized strips and taped it onto the light table. The light table makes everything appear cheerier but it is not necessary for this activity.

The alphabet line behind shows both upper and lower case letters. If your children are not familiar with upper case letters, sticking to the lower case might be better.

The alphabet line is coloured with Chubbi Stumps, (my favourite crayon for wee hands):

  • Blue = sky
  • Green = grass
  • Brown = dirt

The bottom three sentence strips are already coloured and the top two are for Daisy to colour.

We talked about how letters are mainly in the grass but some reach up to the sky and others reach down into the dirt. As we identified the letters we made a big (2′) letter with our arm and hand in the air.

Daisy then wrote her name and chose other words to write. She used her pinkie finger to ensure enough space was left between the letters.

There you have it: a colourful way to reinforce the position of lower case letters.

Sentence strips can be bought in many forms, even reusable wipe off versions are available now. Check out the options below: