Friday, September 18, 2015

What I Learned From Kristine Mraz


This week I had the opportunity to attend a conference with Kristine Mraz.  She is the smart and hilarious author of the books Smarter Charts and A Mindset for Learning.  She is also on the web at Chartchums and Kinder Confidential.  Listening to her speak, it is 100% apparent Kristi is passionate about teaching and her students.  She has so much to say {and I happen to agree with her} and I'd highly recommend that if you have an opportunity to attend one of her presentations, GO!

She covered SO much {and had me engaged all day, which is a hard feat for ADD me}.  Here are some of my take-aways that I wanted to share.

Build a Mindset for Learning

The conditions for learning anything:

adapted from Brian Cambourne

1.Engagement – You want to participate in everything that is happening

2.Immersion – Whatever you want to learn you surround yourself in it

3.Approximation- One of the most important conditions.  The more you do it you get better.  You have to accept your not-so-great first try

4.Practice – ideally, daily.  The more you practice, the better you get

5.Demonstration-Seeing someone more skilled than you, do it, talking you through it.

6.Expectations – To learn anything, you have to expect that you will be able to. Self-fulfilling prophecy

7.Responsibility – In order to do something, you have to be really responsible. You become responsible by having responsibility, not by hearing about it.

8.Response – Feedback. Specific response moves us forward.  It doesn’t have to be from teachers, it can be from peers.  Reflection is part of it.  Time to reflect makes you 20% more successful.

Build Community Over Compliance

Joyful classrooms have a community.  Classroom management – work for the betterment of people around you.
*Co-construct the community expectations through conversation
*Teach self-regulation strategies..
*Facilitate ownership of materials-they are all of our materials so let’s take good care of it.
*Make room for mistakes. Face mistakes, learn from them, move on.  “If you knew better, you would do better.”
*Have reasonable expectations.

So throw away your behavior charts!! They are a public display.  Would you publically display grades or reading levels of your students?

Remember their age.  Teaching is so much easier when you realize they are 5 or 6 years old.


Structured Time vs. Unstructured Time

Finland Model – work for 45, rest for 15 (unstructured play time)
Willpower depletion – think of it like a gas tank.  Balance things that take willpower to things that don’t take willpower. Ex:  Intense reading workshop- then buddy read, act out your story, build something from your book, color
Building a Growth Mindset
*Nice kids finish first (
Kids with better social skills in kindergarten were more successful in high school than those with higher academic skills in kindergarten.
*Carol Dweck and the 8/10 test
Effort vs. work hard
Effort gets better results. Outcomes are related to effort.
*Angela Duckworth and self-control
The marshmallow test showed us that children need a reliable environment.

*There is real, measurable value in teaching social-emotional traits.

So What is Worth Teaching?
-Empathy** Leonardo
-Optimism – The Little Engine that Could
-Persistence - The Most Magnificent Thing, Ashley Spires,
-Resilience – Ninja, The Dot
-Flexibility – Lilly’s Chocolate Heart
**Most important


Teach kids to have positive self talk.  (Charts)


-Storytelling is how we learn.
-Develops neural pathways
-Visualization – making a memory of the future
Teacher tells a story, students tell a buddy (retell), kids tell another story about same topic.

What worked well?  What didn’t?
How did persistence {empathy. etc.} help you?  How didn’t it help you?

1.Makes learning and teaching visible
2. Grows with the students
3.Supports independence
4.Values student ownership

Extended mind theory
Like when you think that you need velcro in the middle of the night you cannot sleep.  Once you write it down or text it to yourself, you can sleep.
Children don’t have to worry about the process if it’s down on paper.  They can focus on the thinking behind the task.
Charts will look different from classroom to classroom if it based on the 4 criteria above.

*Use songs and chant
*Reread often.
*Make it rhyme.

Take a picture and send it home (or make it a class book).

When planning a unit, think of your3 - 4  big goals.  The big goals are going to drive your charts. 

Examples of charts:


 This was one of the best professional developments I've attended in my 20+ years of teaching!  I am so excited to implement the strategies I've learned.