Growth Mindset Open House Projects

Open House Projects that promote Growth Mindset and teach critical ELA skills?  Yes, please!  Check out my favorite Open House project that is not only educational, visually appealing, meaningful, but it's also easy to create!  This Open House activity checks all the boxes!

Spoiler Alert:  There's a free Open House Activity in this blog post! It's a free growth mindset activity that aligns with the Open House project ideas I'm discussing today.

Are you overwhelmed by Open House?  I know I've spent many years in absolute panic about what projects and student work to put on display for children and their families during Open House and/or Parent Night events.  That's why I'm always on the hunt for Open House activities that check all my Open House "boxes."  In my quest for the perfect Open House project, I'm always looking for ideas that are...

  1. EDUCATIONAL - I don't like open house projects that are just "fillers."  No crafts for the sake of doing crafts.  I like open house projects that have some "meat" to them.  I want them to showcase students' learning and their development as students, after all.
  2. VISUALLY APPEALING - While a lot of things might fulfill criteria #1, many aren't very interesting to look at.  So, I like open house projects that have a bit of pizzazz to them.
  3. MEANINGFUL - This is important to me.  I want the work that students are creating to have meaning to them.  If the project can tie into a theme that is important to our classroom culture, then all the better.
  4. EASY - Now, I don't mean "easy" as in not challenging for students.  I mean, easy in terms of being pretty straightforward to make and create.

I was discussing my Open House dreams with my friend, Jenny, from Art with Jenny K. and she mentioned her super popular Growth Mindset collaborative posters.  Have you seen them?  They're incredible! They are two huge posters that students complete by working together.  
Each student completes a portion of the poster and then in the end they create an enormous and visually stunning poster that showcases 14 leaders and pioneers from history that had a growth mindset.  

Jenny's suggestion sparked an idea.  It got me thinking, how could the collaborative posters be combined with a project that students could complete independently?  And then, the Growth Mindset Research Project was born...and even evolved into something that works great for Open House.  The best part?  You guessed it!  It checks all my "Open House boxes!"

Growth Mindset Research Project

1.  IT'S EDUCATIONAL!  - During the Growth Mindset Project students practice their reading comprehension skills while reading an informational text about growth mindset.  This activity helps build background about growth mindset because during the research portion of the project they'll need to determine how each famous person demonstrated growth mindset in his/her life.  
Then, students select a person to research.  Who do they research?  A person from Jenny K.'s posters, of course!  

Once students have selected 1 of the 14 people to research, they practice those ever-important researching skills.  What's cool about this project is that the research is framed with specific guided questions so that students aren't overwhelmed by the research process!  It's manageable and meaningful research!
Finally, students compile their research.  Gotta love some nonfiction writing practice!  This is when it gets really fun because students compile their research onto a super cool 3D Growth Mindset Projects...which brings me to #2 on my list!

2.  IT'S VISUALLY APPEALING - OK, this matters especially during Open House.  I've always liked projects that pop and boy do these 3D projects POP!  Students cut out their research subject's image and add all their research onto the back of the project.  Then, they stand them straight up by displaying them on a ring with the person's name and an important quote.  When the classroom is filled with all the 3D famous faces, it's visually appealing and super fun!

#3 - IT'S MEANINGFUL - One of the coolest parts about the project is the way that students are able to connect their research to the ideas of growth mindset.  During the project, students need to determine how the famous person had a growth mindset. It's amazing to see students' interpretations. The act of discovering and recognizing the struggles that each famous person endured and overcame is incredibly meaningful for students. The message about growth mindset and the 14 famous role models around the classroom is incredibly profound!

Students research famous people with a growth mindset during this project.  The end result is a 3D research project!

4.  IT'S EASY - Of course, the project itself is educational and pushes students to learn new skills, but putting together the 3D projects couldn't be more simple. And that's a major plus!

First students read a nonfiction passage about growth mindset.  Then, they get researching famous people with a growth mindset.  The end result is a stunning and creative 3D growth mindset project!

There's something else that's really special about this Growth Mindset Open House Project...and that's how beautifully the research project and Art with Jenny K.'s collaborative posters work together.  

It's the coolest thing when students finish their projects and then receive their piece of the huge the Growth Mindset posters.  Since they have no idea what they're making, their reactions of excitement and amazement are so special when the entire poster is assembled.  

And can we talk about the "wow" factor! This project has it in spades...parents are wowed by the amazing collaborative poster by Art with Jenny K.  Then, they're awed by the 3D projects sitting on top of their children's desks.  When they see that it's more than just the face, but filled with research, they're super impressed.  And when they get the full circle connection with growth mindset, it's like an Open House home run!  

BUT WAIT...there's more!  I've put together a Growth Mindset Open House Freebie that goes along perfectly with the poster and research project! 

Here's how it works.  First, there's a quick flyer about Growth Mindset that students will leave out on their desks.  The flyer quickly explains Growth Mindset for parents.

Then, there's two quick fill-in-the-blank writing prompts.  One will be completed by a parent during Open House and the other will be completed by a student during Open House.

On the writing prompts, parents and students will be writing about a time when they had a Growth Mindset.  After parents and students are done writing, they can have a discussion about growth mindset together.

The act of sharing in this way is incredibly meaningful for parents and students alike.  Just as students were able to find inspiration from the people they researched, they'll be able to discover how Growth Mindset positively impacted their mom or dad's life!

You can find this FREE Growth Mindset activity HERE.  I hope it's helps you have the best Open House in history!

Check out this video...

Thanks so much for stopping by,

Mary Beth

Open House and Growth Mindset go perfectly together!  Learn all about how combining an interactive growth mindset poster and 3D research projects can make your next Open House a success!  There's even an exclusive Growth Mindset freebie that you can leave out on students' desks during Open House!

10 Great Reasons to Teach Poetry

As you may know, April is National Poetry Month, and as good a time as any for some reminders on why it’s so important to teach poetry. Too often, poetry instruction is seen as frivolous, or worse, dull, when really, the exact opposite is true.
Need proof? Check out these 10 reasons to teach poetry…

1.  It can connect with larger instructional themes. Poems can beautifully complement themes of every topic – from aging to rebirth. A poem can help you take a different angle on a complex historical period, like the Civil Rights Movement, and make it more personal.  For instance, you could easily link poetry to Black History Month with a Poet and Poem study on Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou.

2.  It can be a means of teaching some literacy rules. By showing students what happens when poets break or pervert the rules – e.e. cumming’s lack of capitalization comes to mind – they can form a better understanding of what purpose those rules serve in communicating clearly.  Students can investigate how and why traditional grammar and spelling conventions were ignored by analyzing poems like "In just."  Of course, in order to do so, they'll need to know the literacy rules, first ;).
3.  It can be a welcome break from the rules. For the student hampered by spelling, conventions and grammar, poetry can be a safe place to express herself in writing without having to worry about those things. ELL students, especially, may find poems a relief from the demands of English.  Encourage creativity and free expression as students write different types of poems.

4.  It can be quick to teach.  Poetry can be done in relatively little time. You don’t need to dedicate a whole unit to poetry. Try a poem a day ( offers some great resources, or just once a week. There are tons of great poems in literary magazines like Cricket. And song or rap lyrics work, too.  Or, bring out a poetry lesson on a holiday.  Free lessons like this Limerick Writing Lesson are always a hit with students!

5.  It can explain. In this mixed-up, crazy world, a lot of bad things happen. Heck, just opening the newspaper (or its online equivalent) can be a scary prospect. Poems about tough stuff – mortality, race, aging, politics, war – can provide a softer, more human context than your average news story.

6.  It can confuse. Not all poetry is meant to be understood. Don’t worry about analyzing every poem you present to the class. Some poems are simply meant to be heard, read and felt.  You can find my favorite poems to read aloud to students by downloading the FREE lesson and handout that goes along with a video about how to teach poetry analysis.

7.  It’s an acceptable way for students to express emotion. Students may be too self-conscious, or lack the vocabulary to convey what they’re feeling about themselves and the world. A poem read aloud, or recited by students, gives them the words they need to start a conversation. Or maybe it is the conversation.  These journey poems are perfect for adolescents.

8.  It improves reading and writing of all kinds. Poetry, which begs to be read more than once, gives students the chance to practice close reading strategies, as they analyze the structure, word choice and even the shape of the words before them. With its generally concise format, poetry can help you teach skills necessary in other forms of writing, like using precise words and imagery. One of my favorite ways to just that, is with interactive poetry flip books.  They help students closely read and analyze poems in engaging and approachable ways!

9.  It’s relatable. For every student who feels no one else could possibly understand what he’s going through, there’s a poem by or about someone in the same place. When read in class, a student might see that others around him are connecting to it, too.

10.  It’s a chance to practice speaking and listening skills. With so much emphasis on reading and writing, students don’t always get explicit instruction on how to annunciate, project and listen closely.  There's nothing better than a class full of students who want to read and share poetry that they've written.  Encourage speaking and listening skills by hosting a Poetry Reading after students finish a poetry writing unit.  It's easy!  Just have students select one poem to share.  Give them lots of opportunities to practice reading their poems.  Then, find a space like the library and auditorium for the event.  Finally, send out invitations.  That's it!

If you're ready to infuse your classroom with fun poetry lessons and ideas, then you might want to sign up for my series of FREE poetry lessons.  You'll receive a bunch of free poetry tips and lessons right in your email inbox!  Oh, and you'll get an exclusive freebie for "Nothing Gold Can Stay," right away!  Just sign up HERE. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Mary Beth

No-Prep, No-Excuses, No-Hassle Vocabulary Games

Ready to make mastering vocabulary fun?  Then, check out this set of 3 No-Prep Vocabulary Games!  Students love them!  Plus, there's an exclusive FREEBIE with everything you need to play!
As the old adage goes, if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. It turns out the same can be said about a student’s vocabulary: Teach her what a word means, and she’ll become a stronger reader.

Even better, say researchers, teach your students what eight to 10 words mean, over the course of 37 to 50 weeks, and even your lowest readers could experience a 30 percent increase in word knowledge… And the more words your students know, the more likely they are to comprehend what they read.

But as any of us who has memorized lists of vocabulary words knows, it can be – well, boring. As with many things school-related, the key to your students’ success with building their vocabularies is to make it fun!

Check out these three No-Prep, No-Hassle, No-Excuses Vocabulary Games you can use with any sets of words. Tip: These work best as a review, after students have already heard the words and had a chance to use them (either during class warm ups or in homework). And...great news!  I've compiled everything you need to play the games in an EXCLUSIVE FREEBIE!

Guess Who?
Write the vocabulary words on index cards (or have students do this). Here's a set of figurative language vocabulary cards...
Play "Guess Who?" to review critical figurative language vocabulary in a fun way!

Without letting the students see, tape the cards to their backs. 
Just write important vocabulary words on cards and then place them on the students' backs.  Then, have partners give each other clues while they play this fun and easy vocabulary game!

Have the students walk around the room and give clues to one another about the word on their backs. (For example, if Sam is wearing the word “onomatopoeia,” his partner may say, “The bacon sizzled in the frying pan.” Sam then takes a guess at what the word is. And so on.)

When In Doubt, Bluff
Divide your class into two teams. Write a vocabulary word on the board or write the words on cards and just display them inside this poster...
Play "When in Doubt, Bluff" to review vocabulary words from any unit!  Easy and fun vocab game!

This game is not only fun, it's also a great way to review vocabulary!  Play this vocab game with any set of words!

Students who know the definition should stand up. Students who are bluffing and don’t know the definition also should stand. (Students who are unsure also may remain seated.) Call on a student at random to define the word. If the student gets it, his team gets points for every team member that is standing. If the student does not get it, the team loses points for every team member standing. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Fast Talker
Type the vocabulary words onto a SmartBoard or Powerpoint template (or use a visualizer) and project each word, one at a time, so the class can see it. Or, write the words on strips of paper for students to pull out of a bag or basket.
Have students pick a vocabulary word and roll their "vocabulary fate" with this super fun and easy vocab game!

Once students have a word, instead of asking for the definition of the word, call out alternative commands:

·         Part of speech
·         Synonym
·         Antonym
·         Roots
·         Use in a sentence

(You can also write those commands on a beach ball and have students toss it to each other as you go through the words.) Or, you can put the commands on a paper cube that students roll for their "vocabulary fate."
Make learning and reviewing vocabulary games super easy with this set of 3 no-prep, no-excuses, no-hassle vocab games!

See how quickly the students can come up with an answer as you randomly call on them.

It's a great idea to keep throwing in old words as the year progresses, so your students have a better shot of retaining the vocabulary words. Consider giving points or prizes when students identify vocabulary words in their reading material or outside of class.

They’ll have fun. They’ll become better readers. And you won’t break a sweat! Everyone wins!

Since we're on the topic of vocabulary, I thought I'd share my favorite way to teach vocabulary words.  It's through doodling!

  Yes, doodling!  I've found that combining vocabulary instruction with doodles...and then writing, is an amazing way to expand students vocabulary.  

I even created a set of 160 Daily Doodle Vocabulary words for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8

Just click and print a set of 3 fun vocabulary games.  Use in any classroom.  Use with any set of vocabulary words.  Make learning vocabulary so much more fun with these easy vocab games!

Thanks for stopping by!
Mary Beth

Teach and review critical vocabulary with this fun and educational vocabulary games!  Easy to set up!  Easy to play!  And the best part?  Students are excited about learning vocabulary!  Oh, and there's an exclusive FREEBIE, too!

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