how do you propel students forward in their thinking?

Deborah Kenny‘s Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential. The moment I finished reading the book was the moment I know I was meant to do: expand out of the walls of my classroom. It got me thinking harder than ever before. It got me thinking creatively, out of my own comfort zone.

After the initial we’re-getting-to-know-each-other phase this year, I wanted to get my students on board with my purpose: fostering innovative minds. I envisioned my students having a broader vision of what they’re capable of, and setting meaningful and concrete goals to reach and exceed their potentials.

Peter Johnston’s Choice Words and Opening Minds gave me the tools to rethink about the way I approached teaching and learning: Let the students take ownership of their own learning. Let students be their own agents of change. Captains of their own ship.

We spent a good deal of time talking about SMART goals- goals that are sustainable, measurable, achievable- and students all jotted down goals they’d like to reach. All looked beautiful. I felt like they “got it!”

What I felt I was missing was the drive to achieve these goals they set up for themselves. Where was the engine to propel them forward? What was the deep purpose, the driving force, that kept them going, even in the face of failure?

Enter the power of read-alouds. I hand selected books that focused on: innovation, courage, and persistence. All incorporated kids who were creative, or more so, used their passion to unearth their creativity, and do something about it.

The order in which you may want to read aloud the books may be different for your classroom. Here’s how I did it for mine with my specific purpose in mind:

  • The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco: Regardless of our differences, we are all individuals who add to the greater community.
  • The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett: It’s ok to be a perfectionist yet we need to have the courage to make mistakes.
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires: Persistence in trial and error. Fantastic tool to introduce action words related to innovation.
  • What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada: It takes confidence in self to grow an idea.
  • Dreaming Up by Christy Hale: Concrete examples of play turning into architectural wonders of the world.
  • Young Frank Architect by Frank Viva: Help launch exploring the relationship between creativity, art and design.
  • Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty: Encouraging to those who hold off on expressing their creativity.
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty: Great story around true failure comes from quitting.
  • Symphony City by Amy Martin: Thinking about the connections between music, art, and imagination.
  • Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson: Curiosity, celestial beauty, and never-ending wonder.

There are many other amazing books to propel courage in exploring ideas, or to set an open-minded community where children feel safe– this was just one list that truly fit the make-up of my classroom at this time.

Next up? Books that foster multi-perspective thinking.

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