Celebrating Dot Day and Growth Mindsets!

 Her teacher smiled. "Just make a mark and see where it takes you."                               ― Peter Reynolds, The Dot

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.” 
― Carol Dweck, Mindset

Two powerful books. One powerful message. Last month I had the privilege of working with 300 elementary students to celebrate International Dot Day. It was an opportunity to let kids express themselves, to be creative, to have some fun, and most of all, to really live the lesson that Peter Reynolds’ picture book, The Dot has spread to 1.3 million kids in 82 counties. Last month I also picked up an enlightening book called Mindset, which I discovered is a perfect complement to The Dot.

This year I am working with Title 1 kids in reading and math. They are referred to as “at-risk”, “struggling”, “below benchmark” and sometimes “striving”. Regardless of the term used to describe these students who are simply not performing as well as many of their peers, the challenge is the same. How do we convince these kids that they have what it takes? How do we move them out of a “fixed mindset” into one of growth? I believe the answers can be found in these two marvelous books.

Vashti, the character from The Dot, is certain that she cannot draw even when her teacher encourages her to “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”  A short time later Vashti is transformed when she discovers that her teacher framed and celebrated the simple dot that she grudgingly jabbed on her paper. In no time she is not only exploring, experimenting and growing as an artist, she is encouraging another student to make his mark and most importantly, to sign it.

If only it were that simple... we educators would be stocking up on gold, swirly frames! However, I believe The Dot is an inspiring story to share with kids of all ages. I also believe implementing the practical and research driven advice from Mindset will create the conditions that can empower kids, not just those who are “at-risk” but also those who are at or above grade level. The idea behind Mindset is that people (kids included) can move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset by learning to do four things. First, listen to your fixed mindset voice. Second, recognize that you have a choice. Third, respond with a growth mindset voice. And fourth, take the growth mindset action. 

The parallel message found in the pages of these two texts sums up my philosophy of teaching so beautifully. Help kids discover their sense of self-efficacy. Teach kids that their effort and strategies matter more than their innate talent or intelligence. As Dweck suggests. “Look for ways to convey valuing of effort, perseverance, and learning – rather than some empty display of ability. Instead of false confidence in fixed ability, these methods will foster an appreciation for the true ingredients of achievement.”

Click on the book icons below to visit websites for each title. And click on the photo below to check out our video: Ogilvie Students Make Their Mark! 

IMG_0685The Dot Mindset

An EPIC Summer


extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope (Merriam-Webster.com).


Expanding Opportunities & Learning

Providing Resources & Support

Inspiring Passion & Purpose

Collaborating with Community & Families

 51 kids + 5 adults + themes + learning activities + field trips + special guests + food + incentives = SUCCESS

 Spending some of my summer with a group of EPIC kids was a lot of work but oh, so worth it! The  five sessions per week, one week each month during the summer, were busy, fun, hot, exciting and most of all, rewarding.

 Getting parents and kids on board was made easier by promises of a consistent and capable crew who would help kids explore clubs, make friends and enjoy summer learning.

 Highlights of the EPIC Summer Program included swimming, learning with legos, cooking, a Veterinarian visit, a cattle auction field trip, reading, math games, Valley Fair, kickball and so much more!

 As one profound young man put it “I’m glad my mom made me come to EPIC... if I wouldn’t have come I would have been bored. If you don’t keep learning, you will be dumber than a rock”!

 And now, the EPIC continues on what we call “Amazing Mondays”. As a four-day week school, our district designates some of our Mondays as extra learning opportunities for kids in Targeted Service, Community Education and Gifted and Talented.

I’m looking forward to a year that extends beyond the usual! 

Making Cards…

One of my favorite authentic literacy activities is providing time and materials for my kids to make cards for others.  There are so many reasons to make cards...  birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, new babies, loss of pet, loss of family member, serious illness, surgeries, goodbye to classmates who move away, and welcome cards to classmates who join us! We also make "thank you" cards to those who help us and "sorry" cards to those we have wronged! Showing others we are thinking of them by making cards is also a perfect way to encourage creativity, neatness, correct spelling and most importantly, empathy!

This card really made me smile! You see, I often share examples and stories with my kids by saying "so and so" instead of using someone's actual name. One day one of the kids asked me why I always say "so and so" and WHO is "so and so". I explained that I say "so and so" as an example, instead of making up a name when I share examples about things... such as "if so and so needs help, what could we do?". 

I guess this little guy picked up that habit as shown by his adorable card for our health para on her birthday!

birthday card

Pudding + Poetry = Palatable Poems!

I love thinking of fun and creative ways to celebrate National Poetry Month! Looking for a guaranteed winner? Pair some poetry with something palatable!

Click here to get the fun freebie from my tPt store!  

Check out the video below to see how far a little container of pudding can go as two of my boys chuckle over some funny poems!

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A tribute to my favorite teacher…

She once sent me to “the bench”... on my birthday no less! “The bench” was a long gray structure, placed right outside the principal’s office. The words “DO NOT DISTURB ME, I AM THINKING” were painted across the front. The year was 1975, before the days of “Responsive Classroom”, when schools still resorted to public humiliation to teach a lesson. My crime? I hadn’t done my homework. It made no difference that this had happened a time or two before and no punishment was typically handed down. This time, my penchant for procrastination was going to get me in trouble.  Maybe, just maybe, I would learn a lesson. 

What kind of mean teacher would hand me a sentence this tough? A teacher who, over the next 38 years, would become one of my dearest friends, one of my biggest supporters, and one of my greatest inspirations. She would become the reason I became a teacher. She would be there at my wedding. She would send a book to my firstborn child. She would receive a bouquet of flowers from me each year on “Teacher Appreciation Day”. She would be there at my mom’s funeral. She would be the nursing home patient I visited and still marveled at. She would display never-ending wit, candor, faith and love. She would be the teacher I thought of whenever asked, “Who was your all-time favorite teacher?”  Today, she is the teacher I will miss so very much. My dear Mrs. Frett has joined the angels in Heaven. I know she is already busy teaching a lesson or two.

She once disclosed that she favored boys over girls, much to the shock of her female fans. When pressed for an explanation of such an outrageous statement, she shared an observation from many years of experience; when boys have a problem with another boy they tend to deal with, right then, right there, and then they move on. When girls have a problem with another girl, they often get catty, they gossip, they hold a grudge. Although it took me just a short time to forgive my beloved 6th grade teacher for this startling revelation, those words of wisdom have stayed with me for almost four decades. I now understand how this insight came to be and I have to admit, my own observations over the years would support the same generalization.

She once chose me for the lead in our class play. ME! The only kid in the class with divorced parents (a not so common thing in a small Iowa town in 1975). She instilled a sense of confidence and self-worth that have taken me from being the first in my family to graduate from college to becoming a teacher who strives to pass on that sense of self-confidence and self-worth to every student who enters my classroom.  She has been my mentor, my friend, my second mom, my teacher.  

So what made her such an extraordinary teacher? She seemed to have a unique ability to let kids know they mattered and she cared. She recognized individuality. She could be tough but she was fair.  She had high expectations and held kids accountable (the gray bench story is proof of that). She made us laugh and she treated us like her extended family. Most importantly, she taught life lessons. I remember more about my one year under her tutelage than all my other elementary school years combined. I can recall, almost word for word, her “talks” on topics such as sex education, work ethic, and family. 

A few weeks ago I stopped by the nursing home to see her. She was sound asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her. So I just sat next to her and waited. I was afraid she would wake up and be startled by my presence. It had been a year since my last visit. Would she even know who I was? I looked around her small room and noticed several books and newspapers, along with mementos from her loved ones.  I thought about how this incredible woman had influenced my life. I knew she had been widowed with four young children, later remarried and finished college through a correspondence program. Clearly this was a non-traditional woman, who overcame challenges with determination and spirit. Her strong faith had surely guided her through it all.  A  36-year teaching career, nearly a thousand students, how lucky I was to have been one of those kids! After nearly an hour of quiet contemplation, I decided to write her a note promising to return.

When I arrived the next day she was sitting up, trying to eat a little dinner. Food, she told me, had become something she could take or leave, most days she preferred to leave it. She looked so tired yet the feistiness I always admired and tried to emulate was still present. She commented on how short my hair was (subtle yet direct, she liked it longer). She told me she still did some reading but often couldn’t remember anything about what she had just read.  She asked me about my mother’s passing and told me she knew she was ready to go, as soon as the good Lord was ready to take her. She mentioned that her obituary had been written and it would not say, “She was someone who liked to bake cookies”. I told her how much she meant to me over the years (the same message I had been writing to her at least once a year for several decades). I held her hand as we shared a few laughs along with some tears.  I told her I would be back in town in a month and would be sure to visit again. She squeezed my hand and said she wasn’t sure she would be around until then, but she would love to see me if it worked out. My final words to her were a promise that when her journey here came to an end, I would not miss the opportunity to pay tribute to her.  I am so grateful that I will be able to say a final goodbye to one of God’s greatest blessings in my life... my dear Mrs. Frett.

Celebrating our 100th Day!

100 days smarter! 100 books to read... 100 things to count... "100" theme stories to write... a 100 poem to read and a 100 song to sing! it was a 100 GRAND kind of day! SO much fun to celebrate this milestone. Only sad thing is that we are more than 2/3 of the way through the school year. So many things to do and learn and not enough time left! I love these amazing kids and coworkers!


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Vocabulary Parade is a SUCCESS!

The finale for our I LOVE TO READ MONTH and celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday was a VOCABULARY PARADE inspired by the terrific book "Miss Alaineous" by Debra Frasier. Our entire elementary joined in on this exciting event! We recognized lots of WORD WIZARDS with certificates and trophies. Check out the photos of some very clever vocab parade ideas! You can download an awesome Vocabulary Parade "How to" packet from Ms. Frasier's website by clicking on this link: 



Vocab Parade featured in local paper!

Vocab Parade featured in local paper!