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! 


Mark Twain once said “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them”. As a 1st grade teacher I know one of the most important jobs I have is to help kids learn HOW to read. However, I know my job is not complete unless I have also instilled a  desire to WANT to read. Motivation is a huge component of learning how to read. While the  National Reading Panel identified five essential pillars of reading instruction: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, I believe (as do many others), that the 6th (overlooked) pillar is motivation.

The NIFTY FIFTY BOOK CLUB is designed to increase the amount of time kids read at home, improve parent partnerships and most importantly, encourage kids to discover the joy of reading. This at-home reading program has been a HUGE success with 1st graders at my school. I introduced it at the end of September and by the end of December ALL but 3 out of 45 first graders had become NIFTY FIFTY Reading Club members! Several students reached the DOUBLE DIAMOND level (250 books) and most had reached the GOLD level (150 books). I have promoted the club by offering three popular rewards; lunch with the teacher (most students choose this!), read to the principal or choose a free book. I also mention the club and its newest members every week in our communication note as well as in our bi-monthly newsletter. I have NEVER had this much at-home reading happening in all of my 20+ years of teaching! I should mention I also send home “just-right” books in a bag with kids every Wednesday and Friday (this is in addition to library books which also go home on a regular basis).

Popular children’s author Rosemary Wells points out that ensuring children do not become “at-risk” but rather “privileged” readers, costs just 20 minutes a day, a parent’s lap and a library card. Wells also states that “Reading to your little one is just like putting gold coins in the bank. It will pay you back tenfold. Your daughter will learn, and imagine, and be strong in herself. Your son will thrive, and give back your love forever.” What more could a parent or teacher want for their children and students? Visit www.rosemarywells.com for a copy of the “Read to Your Bunny” and “Children at Risk” speeches. 

Click here to check out my "Nifty Fifty Reading Club" packet!