Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Opening Minds: #cyberPD Begins Today

"The language we use in our teaching changes the worlds children inhabit now and in the future."  Peter Johnston, Opening Minds (p. 7)

The Conversation Begins
Today we begin our conversation about Opening Minds by Peter Johnston, our second annual #cyberPD event.  (Here is the Jog to last year's conversation about Patrick Allen's book, Conferring.)  I'm happy to be hosting this event with Jill Fisch (July 18, Chapters 4-6) and Laura Komos (July 25, Chapters 7-9).

Today the conversation about the first three chapters begins here at Reflect and Refine.  If you are participating in this event by posting on your blog, please add your link to the comments below.  As the host blog, I will then move your comments into this post.  If you do not have a blog, you are welcome to comment on Twitter using #cyberPD, leave a comment at one of our blogs, stop by our Opening Minds Wallwisher or any other way you can think of to join the conversation.  We're flexible.

Foundational Conversations
During my training for Reading Recovery we focused on the language we use to support readers.  We talked about the prompts we could provide for generative learning.  As I moved into work as a literacy coach, conversations continued to focus on the language we use with young learners.  We looked at ways to use language to help students become strategic thinkers and move them toward independence.  Peter's first book, Choice Words, changed the words I used as I sat beside my students each day.  When I saw he had a new book released I was excited to read it.  Language is such an important piece of learning in our communities.

In the first chapters Peter shared his beginning points about the language used in conversations in our classrooms.  Peter reminds us, "In classrooms, events happen, but their meaning only becomes apparent through the filter of language in which we immerse them."  In these beginning chapters he shares the way the conversations we have as a community shape the way learning will look in our classroom as well as the way students will perceive their ability to change, learn, and grow across the school year.

I thought the first chapters were the perfect chapters for thinking about the significance of the first weeks of school as we lay the foundations and set the tone for all that is to come.  I want young learners to think, as Peter says, "When you make a mistake, it means nothing more than that.  Fix it.  Learn from it. (p. 3)"  In our classroom students need to see themselves as "people who can act and have an impact (p. 3)" in our community.  They need to know their voices, their thinking, their learning matter to everyone in the community.  These first weeks are important in creating this learning environment.

Reader's Workshop
Across these chapters I thought often about Reader's Workshop.  The conversations we have as a class often lead into the independent reading students do within our day.  Johnston demonstrates the significance of these conversations in Manny and Sergio's conversation as they read A Picnic in October by Eve Bunting (p. 5).  Those are the kinds of conversations I hope students are having as they read during our workshop.  Many students like to read and talk about books with friends.  Having conversations that allow them to think more deeply about books, to negotiate meaning with friends, to agree and disagree, but most of all to understand that these conversations help them to grow as readers.

Goal Setting Conversations
Our school has been focusing on goal setting.  In our workshops across the day students set their goals for learning.  I have found this to be a way to shift the narrative by giving ownership of learning to the students.  Johnston's focus on changing the narratives of our classroom is powerful.  His discussion of the work of Carol Dweck and her theories of fixed and dynamic mindsets is important.  I read her book last summer and found it to help me reflect on the way students may perceive their learning.

As I think about the students in my classroom last year it is easy to think of students who had a fixed mindset.  These students worked under the premise that they were smart or they were not smart.  Those with more of a dynamic mindset looked at learning differently.  Students with a dynamic mindset were willing to work hard to improve.  They didn't seem to mind if things were hard for them.  Instead they noticed, and took pride in, the shifts in their learning.

Goal setting, especially when goals are about the process and strategic thinking, can be a way for students to see their growth.  It is a way to shift thinking from right/wrong, smart/not smart, and toward an understanding of how they change over time.  Students own this learning.  Instead of talking about how many levels students have improved in reading, they are talking about the ways they've grown as a reader.  Instead of talking about how many math problems they got right, they are talking about the strategies they can use to begin to solve a problem.  Instead of being a good writer or not a good writer, they are talking about new crafting techniques they've tried in their latests pieces.

Some Quotes
  • "My intention with this book is to offer a basis for choosing more productive talk - how to make the most of those opportunities children offer us. (p. 4)"
  • "In a dynamic view, the process - how they did things - is most important (p. 16)." 
  • "Process information removes the 'genius' from performance and replaces it with both a dynamic-learning frame and the strategic knowledge of how the success was accomplished (p. 21)." 
  • "interdependent reading" (p. 32 -- loved that term)
Some Questions
  • What does all of this (especially the student conversation on page 5) mean for conversations during Reader's Workshop?
  • Is it possible for someone to have a fixed mindset in one area and a dynamic view in another?  
  • How do we help students with a fixed mindset develop a more dynamic view of learning? 
  • What does this conversation mean within the process of RTI? 
Language for the Classroom
  • Let's see which of these problems is most interesting?  p. 18
  • Repeat what he said for us so we can think about it. p. 27
  • How did you do that?  p. 31
  • How did you know that? p. 31
  • How could we figure that out? p. 32
It's Not Too Late To Join
As I finished chapters 1-3 it was all I could do to not start Chapter 4:  "'Good Job!'  Feedback, Praise and Other Responses."  That usually only happens in fiction.  I can't wait to continue this discussion.  If you'd like to join us, but are just hearing about this for the first time, you can jump in at anytime.  The book is available at Stenhouse for 20% off during their Blogstitute Event.  Peter Johnston will be posting during the event as well so keep watching.

Stop By Participating Blogs
Wow, there are a lot of blogs participating in this year's event.  I know I'm going to have to spend some time in the next week revisiting everyone's thoughts.  The conversation adds so much to a book that already provides much to think about.  We also have people participating at our Wallwisher, writing reflections in the comments on our host blog, and sharing thoughts at #cyberPD.  Make sure to check it out.  (Also, it is never to late to add your post.  Just be sure to leave a comment below.  I'll see it.)

Laura Komos shares her reflections at Our Camp Read-A-Lot.  In Opening Minds Part I, Laura shares some of her favorite quotes and expands upon each.

Sit down with Michelle Nero at Literacy Learning Zone.  In #cyberPD:  Opening Minds - Part 1, Michelle talks honestly about the importance of the conversations we have with children.  She reminds us that every word matters as we sit beside by learners each day.

Maria Caplin shares her thinking at Teaching in the 21st Century.  Maria talks about the implications Johnston's work has on her thinking for her learning community next year in Opening Minds Ch. 1-3.  She shares some of the points of influence she considers in shifting students toward a dynamic frame for learning.

At Inspired to Read, Amy Meyer shares her reflections in Opening Minds Chapters 1-3.  Here she talks about the significance of the language we use to help build children.  She discusses her role as a third grade teacher in helping students to change beliefs they may already hold about themselves as learners. In her post she shares many questions that will keep you thinking.

Jill Fisch, another #cyberPD host, shares her thinking at My Primary Passion.  In her post, Opening Minds - Chapter 1-3, Jill focuses on the role of language in our classrooms.  Her synthesis of the chapters, plans for practice, and snippets of language make this a post you need to read.

Stop by Tony Keefer's Tumblr page, atychiphobia 2.0, as he shares his thinking in #cyberPD Opening Minds:  It's About Time.  Tony is joining this discussion on his own freewill this year.  How could he resist?  In his post he shares his reflections on Johnston's books including thinking about his planning of mini-lessons, considerations for developing a dynamic learning frame, and getting to know our students.

We are happy to have Dawn Little, The Literacy Toolbox, joining our conversation this year.  In her post, #cyberPD - Opening Minds:  Using Language to Change Lives, Dawn shares her reflections of the first chapters.  She discusses the significance language, links to the Common Core, and the mindset of young learners.

Barbara Phillips has also joined the discussion again this year at Wondering Through 2012.  In her post, Opening Minds #cyberPD Part 1, Barbara shares her reflections about the beginning of Johnston's book.  Barbara shares important quotes, mindsets, and questions to guide learners.

You have to stop by to view Mary Lee Hahn's graphic response to the first three chapters at A Year of Reading in CyberPD.

Barb Keister joins us this year at Reading Teachers / Teaching Readers.  In her Opening Minds post Barb shares the key points of each chapter as she reflects on the implications in her classroom.

Make sure you stop by Thinking Stems where Tracy shares her reflections on Opening Minds.  I think you will like the way Tracy pushes Johnston's thinking even deeper.  Her emphasis on what is next, change, and the forward momentum of learning is refreshing.

Karen Terlecky joins us at Literate Lives.  In her Opening Minds reflection she weaves together Johnston's points with small narratives from her classroom.  I very enjoyable read.

Valerie Ruckes joins us at The Sensibly Savy Teacher where she discusses Johnston's key points.  Her "quote" and "important words to think about" sections give more to ponder.

We are happy to have Noreene Chen join us for #cyberPD at My Beautiful Planet Earth.  Noreene talks about the connection between dynamic learning frameworks, process, creativity and innovation.  Lots to ponder here.

Stop by Lit Prof Suz's blog, In the Heart of a Teacher is a Student, to gain a clear understanding of Johnston's message in his bookin #cyberPD Opening Minds Chapters 1-3.  Important points in moving toward a dynamic learning are discussed as well.

Dun da da.  (That was red carpet announcement music.)  Let's welcome Amber & Lisa into the blogging world at FOCUS:  Clarity through Collaborative Reflection.  I'm always so excited when a new blog starts during #cyberPD.  Stop by as Amber shares her reflection in Stop:  Engage the Growth Mindset where she discusses that point when we stand between a fixed mindset and a dynamic perspective.

Ann shares her reflections of Opening Minds Chapters 1-3 at Work Hard, Be Courageous, Celebrate Growth.  Stop by to see what she has to say about these important words:  already, mistakes, mindset, influence, yet.  Ann also shares her next steps here.

At Raising Readers and Writers, Julie shares her reflections in her post, Opening Minds #cyberPD.  You'll want to stop by to read Julie's messages for her community of learners in the coming school as she begins creating an environment that empowers her students and moves them toward a dynamic learning framework.

Aimee joins us from Australia.  Stop by Teaching Journey where Aimee shares her reflections of Opening Minds by Peter Johnston.  In her post, Aimee begins to address the question of how to make the world bigger for the children we work with each day.

Stop by Nicole's Book Nook where Nicole shares her reflections in the first part of our discussion.  In Opening Minds Part 1, Nicole talks about our role in helping students' develop a dynamic learning framework.

Jacquelyn Sticca joins #cyberPD at Miss Sticker.  In her post, Opening Minds #cyberPD, she shares interesting points to consider about the language we use with parents.

Stop by Creative Literacy where Katie DiCesare shares the parts of Johnston's book she loved the explanations for his thinking.  In Opening Minds #cyberPD, Katie also shares some of the language she anticipates she will be using in her classroom this year.

Katie Keier joins the conversation at Catching Readers.  In her post, Opening Minds:  Sumer Cyber PD, Katie shares her "cheat sheet" of language she will be adding to the conversations she has with young learners next school year.

Melanie Swider joins us at Two Reflective Teachers.  In Opening Minds #cyberPD Post, Melanie discusses the type of self-talk we should model for young learners.

Stop by Snapshots of Mrs. V.  In Opening Minds Chapters 1-3, Mrs. V discusses the significance of this book on the work we do each day.


  1. My thoughts:

    Thanks for hosting today! I love your connection with the first couple chapters to the beginning of school because you (and Peter) are right! We need to set the stage from day one to create the dynamic performer mindset: We don't know how to do it YET, but we'll learn and grow smarter this year together! And this leads to the perfect tie in with goal setting.

    I like your quotes and questions as well. (May have to borrow that idea.) I also thought about the possibility of someone having a fixed mindset in one area and a dynamic view in another. I do think this is feasible because I felt like that was me!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts - look forward to reading more later today!

  2. I am excited to be participating this summer with the book talk. I really like how you make your "instead" comments and end with the bullets of Language in the Classroom. I plan on creating an index card so I can change the way I ask questions. Here is my link:
    Thank you for hosting today.

  3. Here's my post,

    Thanks for hosting! I learn best when hearing others thoughts! I liked how you talked about kids talking about their growth as readers, and the strategies they used as mathematicians rather than what they were good at. Great post. I loved the quotes.

  4. Cathy,
    Thanks for getting this event started. I enjoyed your post - especially the section on goal setting. It made me think about my own goals for my students and one of my biggest goals is to try to help each student develop a growth/dymanic mindset. I feel like all of the other important learning (learning to read, write and solve mathematical problems) will follow this goal naturally. Your discussion about having students set process goals would fit nicely with this. Now I have more thinking to do. Thanks.

  5. Cathy,
    Thanks for kicking this off again. Liked your questions in your post. I do believe we can have both fixed and dynamic mindsets. I think it would be tough to always have a dynamic mindset. Here's the link to my post

  6. Cathy~ I enjoyed your post you are so thoughtful to connect your learning directly to the classroom. This spurs my thinking… and after last nights porch chat, all I could see was paint strips!
    I am sad to say I continue to be without the book, but my FAVORITE bricks and mortar bookstore promises me it will be here TOMORROW!
    I just finished reading Mindset, this seems be a perfect compliment to Opening Minds! MIchelle and Cathy Tony is correct Dweck talks about having varying mindsets in different areas.
    Thanks for hosting I can't wait to start reading, glad to have these blogs to get started!

  7. Cathy,

    Thanks for doing this! I'm glad I can participate this year. I, too, like your connection to building a foundation first. It's so important to set that foundation from the beginning. I also think it's important for us as educators, to really think and plan before we speak -- we need to be explicit in our planning and language. I do believe that people can have a fixed mindset in one area and a dynamic mindset in another. I read Carol Dweck's book last fall and it really helped me gain an understanding of my own family, colleagues, and students. Here's a link to my post today:

  8. I love your quotes, questions, and language for the classroom section! What a neat way to share gems from the reading!

    Your post really makes me reflect on giving children those opportunities to connect with each other to have those grand conversations. It reminds me of the importance of modeling the conversations for them (in the classroom and in our own reading lives.)

    Thanks for hosting our event today!

  9. Cathy,

    Like you, I reflected on my own students last year and thought about what kind of mindset they had. This really helped me visualize the characteristics of each framework.

    I love how you connected the dynamic-learning framework to goal setting and helping student see themselves as changing over time. I think I need to be more transparent with my students in letting them know I how change as a learner during the year.

    Thanks again for organizing #cyberPD this year and for hosting this week.

    Here are my reflections of chapters 1-3


  10. I'm taking a minimalist approach to reading response today with one graphic and a single word:

  11. Cathy,
    Thank you for hosting. This is my first cyberPD. I love reading your thoughts as well as those on other blog sites as my thinking is confirmed!

    As I read chapters one and two, I read from the perspective of a mom as well as a teacher. I thought about my son, who definitely has a fixed mindset when it comes to writing but waivers between fixed and dynamic mindsets in other areas of his life. I think children naturally shift between fixed and dynamic mindsets because they are still maturing and are impacted by many role models (parents, teachers, coaches, etc). As teachers, we have a tremendous opportunity to impact students' mindsets as they mature.

    I reflected upon the ways in which Opening Minds will impact my teaching as I guide the building of a classroom community with my students in September. I also reflected upon how this book aligns with our curriculum (TCRWP) and the responsive classroom model. The jazz analogy struck a chord with me as I feel like each day, each lesson I teach is an improve performance.

    As a former Special Education teacher, I also thought about RTI and special education. I was trained to write performance goals. What would RTI look like if intervention teams shifted to dynamic learning, process oriented goals?

    The section in chapter 3, Stability and the Meaning of Error, caused me to wonder about good read alouds for the first few days of school that would spark discussions about respect and freedom from personal judgement and what this might look like and sound like in our classroom. If anyone has suggestions, I would be most grateful.
    I am looking forward to the next three chapters and discussion!

    1. Lesley,

      I had the same thoughts/wonderings about Special Education and RTI goals. I do think it would make a difference for the kids if we switched to process oriented goals. It would probably require some type of major revamping of the "system" to be allowed to do this. Lots of work but definitely worth the effort to try.

  12. Cathy,

    I'm so excited to participate in this discussion!

    I really liked your list on classroom language. As I was reading the first few chapters, I thought about putting the language on an anchor chart as a reminder to me each day of the words I'm choosing. I have been working hard on intentionally planning how I respond to my students since reading Choice Words! But for me, I think having it visually available in the classroom would be helpful for me and other staff members that participate in the learning community.

    In regards to your question about what this means for the workshop? I think as teachers we need to add many more minilessons to our units to explicitly teach how we talk about books and respond to one another during conversations. It's important for teachers to be using the language that will create dynamic thinkers, but we need to explicitly teach children how to have good conversations around books and give them daily opportunities to practice it. Anchor charts would be valuable to reinforce the talk that we use in the classroom community as well.

    We can also reinforce this during Interactive Read Aloud and the Grand Conversations we have around books.

    My favorite quote from the first few chapters: "When you make a mistake, it means nothing more than that. Fix it. Learn from it.


  13. Cathy! I loved your blog today! I'd love to join the conversation! Miss you and thanks for keeping me learning and growing!

  14. Cathy,
    Thanks for hosting today ...have enjoyed reading all the reflections on the first few chapters. This is my first year joining in ...nothing like the 11th hour! Here's my thoughts:

    Looking forward to next time!

  15. Cathy,
    Thank you and the team for hosting such a great learning opportunity. I haven't purchased or read the book, but it sounds like one I need to get! I am so inspired by your thoughts and ideas. I will be taking notes on all that transpires here. I know it will be very helpful to have such a positive mindset to start off the new year and rest of my career!

  16. Cathy, Thank you for hosting the first Cyper PD for Opening Minds. I appreciate how you combined all the different reflections on your blog. I am going to consider my post..."fashionably late". :)
    Here are my thoughts:

    1. Tracy,
      I'm so glad you joined us. I hope everyone will feel welcome to join the conversation at anytime. It's summer after all. Who needs rules and timelines? I enjoyed my stop by your blog. I love its arrangement and content. I'm assuming you found the event on Twitter, but I can't match your Twitter name. Are you on Twitter?


    2. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I found out about the event by following your blog, Maria at Teaching in 21st Century, and Amy at Inspired to Read. Your posts inspired me to venture out into the Cyber PD world! I am not on Twitter :( If Maria reads this she will be thinking, "I have been telling you to get on Twitter!" :) That was one of my summer goals!

      Thanks again for hosting!

  17. Cathy,

    Thanks for hosting and I will be back to comment on your post later, but I wanted to at least link mine for today (luckily, as Johnston would say, my post was not done YET yesterday, but it is today :) ).

  18. Cathy,
    Thanks for hosting #CyberPD and providing this opportunity to reflect, share, and connect. As I read your post, I noticed you were thinking deeply about some of the same things I wanted to include in my post.

    The "Fix it" statement struck a cord with me as well because it's part of the common language used in my classroom. We use those words in several contexts. We talk about fixing academic mistakes, such as the ones we encounter in math, but we also talk about "fixing it" as it relates to social/emotional situations where we talk about fixing behaviors (for example, giving a classmate an opportunity to fix an action that was hurtful or annoying to another person.

    There was so much meat in the first three chapters that I couldn't include all of my thinking in that I was attempting to keep my reflection short and sweet. I enjoyed reading your reflection and I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the next three chapters.

    Here are my thoughts:

  19. Cathy,
    Thanks for hosting this. I read with special interest because I knew I would be thinking with all of these clever educators! Many picked up on major points to me. The hard part is not reading ahead! I know I will be able to apply this learning in my classroom

  20. In the first four pages, Johnston knocked my socks off, reinforcing that words are power! What a teacher says shapes life, impacts learning, and constructs identities. Johnston writes about "the simplicity and complexity of the language we use with children" (3). Moving beyond the words we speak, we must consider how often we talk, our tone of voice, volume, and pacing, all of which bring positive or negative power to our words.

  21. My thoughts

    Make mistakes! They are good for you!

  22. I am enjoying the conversation and am looking forward to the continued discussion.
    The book hit me on a personal level, as I share in a new blog that Lisa, my friend and colleague, and I will author.

    Thanks for hosting this online PD opportunity!

  23. Loved this start! My reflection on the blog Work Hard, Be Courageous, Celebrate Growth:

  24. Like you, I did much reflection on how talk affects our community during workshop time. We do need to empower our students and I love the goal setting that you are doing at your school - that's the perfect way to let students know that they just aren't there "yet".

  25. Hi Cathy! So glad I checked out Twitter and found this. I've been in hibernation this summer. :) This book speaks to my heart. I believe wholeheartedly that the language we use with students is powerful and has a huge impact on their learning.

  26. Better late than glad to be part of this awesome event. I am hoping I can keep up:

  27. Excited to be joining!

    Looking forward to reading all of your, no... reflective thinking! :)

  28. Looking forward to joining the discussion: and my slice of life story today was also inspired by the book