Seventh Grade English!Ms. OlsonELA 7, ELA 7 Honors, and AIS 7
Room: MS 204
Phone: (315) 895-7461 ext. 3204What to Expect:Next Generation ELA StandardsMaterials Needed
Required for all
1 sturdy folder (no binder required)1 marble composition notebook (NOT SPIRAL BOUND; 100 pages, NOT 80)Scissors and glue (for home use)Glue sticks (to share in class)
To reduce the amount of supplies required of each student, we will be sharing the following supplies. Please purchase the following.
For last names ending in:
A-H: pencils (mechanical or traditional)
R-Z: Sticky notes
Suggested: earbuds/ headphones, highlighter, colored pencilsClassroom ID: rolsonPassword: Olson204Dear families,
This year in seventh grade ELA, the students will be reading about some challenging topics, including various forms of abuse, neglect, struggle, and war.
Our first unit of study focuses on the text A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park. This text deals with the experiences of people in Southern Sudan. Sudan was engaged in a civil war for many years. In class and at home, students will be reading accounts of people who were affected by the Sudanese Civil War.
In class tomorrow, students will read from the first chapter of A Long Walk to Water, in which there is an account of some violence. It is not graphic or gruesome, but any time we read about violence in the world, it is important to be extra thoughtful to make sure that everyone feels safe. We will discuss strategies students can use during a difficult reading (such as taking a break from the reading, talking to an adult or a friend about your thoughts, journaling, or writing a note to the teacher).
Later in the year, students will read about:
Slavery, Abuse, Neglect, Suffering in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Suffering, Isolation, Death, and Choice in The Giver by Lois Lowry
I ask that you please be open to talking with your child about the aforementioned strategies after our discussion tomorrow and offer your support should your child require it.
If you have any concerns about the content of A Long Walk to Water, the discussion of wartime in our classroom, or any of the topics listed above, please feel free to contact me via email at email@example.com or by phone at (315) 895-7461 ext. 3204.
ELA 7 InstructorHere are some interesting reads about accepting challenges in school work. The concept is known as "growth mindset" and it's inspiring students, teachers, and schools to embrace challenge in order to take on the more rigorous--but worthwhile--tasks we encounter in school (and in life).
What is growth mindset? (EdWords)
Growth mindset definition:
“A growth mindset is when students understand that their abilities can be developed,”
But aren’t some people naturally smarter than others?
Yes and no. People are born with unique genetic structures, meaning they are initially better than others at different things. However, those with a growth mindset believe that one can always improve, catch up, or even surpass others’ natural talents. This is where teachers play a crucial role in shaping a student’s confidence and outlook on school through productive, continuous feedback. It is crucial that “teachers who understand the growth mindset do everything in their power to unlock that learning,” (Dweck, 2015).
Do all students share a growth mindset?
Yes. Carol Dweck, a lead researcher on the topic, states that as humans, we operate in both a fixed and growth mindset.
How is it possible to operate in both a fixed and growth mindset you ask? Here’s an example: Most humans have a fixed mindset about jumping (unaided) off a cliff. No amount of belief in your ability to fly; no amount of “hard word and practice” (e.g. jumping off a stair, a table, etc.) will prepare you to fly. Knowing that you cannot fly and that no amount of work will change your ability to fly, is a normal, appropriate (life-saving) fixed mindset.
Dweck goes on to provide a definition for both:
Fixed Mindset: “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.” (Dweck, 2015)
Growth Mindset: “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” (Dweck, 2015)
Whether a student holds a fixed mindset or growth mindset significantly impacts their learning experience—from elementary school to high school. Students that hold a fixed mindset give up when they can’t solve a problem and admit defeat. This can be detrimental to students’ future efforts and leads to limited student growth. With a growth mindset, students continually work to improve their skills, leading to greater growth and ultimately, success. The key is to get students to tune into that growth mindset.
Why does it matter, anyway?
How we interact and encourage students affects their attitudes toward learning. A positive mindset is the difference between a student giving up because they’re “not a math person” and a productive struggle that yields growth. But a growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Dweck writes, “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful,” (Dweck, 2015)."How To Weave Growth Mindset Into School Culture" by: Katrina Schwartz (Click here for the original article.)Adilene Rodriguez admits she has always struggled with academics. Especially in middle school she hated getting up early, found her classes boring and didn’t really see where it was all going. When she started her freshman year at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, California, just south of Oakland, she was a shy student who rarely spoke up in class and had little confidence in herself as a scholar.
Rodriguez is now a senior and her approach to school has changed dramatically over her high school career. She attributes her shift to her freshman science teacher, Jim Clark, who taught the class about growth mindset from the very beginning and backed up the discussion with action.
“He would tell me, ‘You need to push yourself, that’s how you’re going to grow. Be confident. You’re not always going to be successful on your first tries, but you can get there,’ ” Rodriguez said.
She didn’t believe him at first; she thought she just wasn’t good at science. But with Clark’s insistence and support, she started participating in class more and struggled through difficult units.
‘We’re not always going to have teachers or friends or parents to depend on. And sometimes you will make mistakes on your own, and knowing how to grow from that has really helped me.’High school senior Adeline Rodriguez
When Clark suggested Rodriguez take AP biology she resisted, scared she’d be unprepared for the challenge. She thought that if she had struggled in freshman biology, there was no way she could hack the tougher course. But Clark convinced her to challenge herself, making the case that no one grows inside their comfort zone. Rodriguez says that class changed her life.
“It was one of those classes where the bell rings and you don’t want to leave. You want to keep discussing,” Rodriguez said. “And it’s what I want to do now for a career. I really love biology.”
In the summer between her junior and senior year, Rodriguez even took a college-level genetics class for fun, although she found out later she’d get college credits for it.
Rodriguez may have found her growth mindset in science class, but she’s applying it to all of her life. Take math, one of her least favorite subjects: “It’s not my strength, but I have to get through it to get to where I want to be,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes you have to learn to love things you aren’t as good at. It will be hard, but you will get through it.”
Rodriguez has also taken a whole new approach to class participation. She now sees that when she participates, she’s helping shape the direction of the class. She recognizes that it’s hard for teenagers to speak up and risk being wrong in front of their peers — she always worried about being judged for getting the wrong answer — but when that brave student speaks up, it empowers everyone.
“Don’t be afraid to be the first one, because you can make that change in someone else and that would be awesome,” Rodriguez said.
Perhaps most importantly, the growth mindset Rodriguez has learned at Arroyo will be a big help to her when she leaves high school.
“I’m a senior, I’m going to go out into the real world soon, by myself,” she said. “We’re not always going to have teachers or friends or parents to depend on. And sometimes you will make mistakes on your own, and knowing how to grow from that has really helped me.”
GROWING CONFIDENT STUDENTS
Rodriguez is the product of four years of messaging from her high school teachers. The Health and Medicine Academy, a small learning community within Arroyo High, has been pioneering a focused approach to teaching growth mindset that starts with Strong Start, a summer institute that incoming ninth-graders are highly encouraged to attend.
“We’ll purposefully try to put them in situations where they’ll be uncomfortable, and yet not feel vulnerable — it’s a kinda fine line we walk — and then provide opportunities for them to work their way through it and find some success,” Clark said.
Students deconstruct how working through something challenging felt. Returning sophomores lead the program, many of whom the ninth-graders know from middle school, and who have already been through a year of practicing growth mindset themselves.
Students also talk about the definitions of fixed and growth mindsets and then talk through various challenges from each perspective. When the school year starts, those lessons continue in the classroom. Every teacher in the Health and Medicine Academy has read Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset,” and has discussed how to implement it in their classrooms. The school has moved to standards-based grading to emphasize that mistakes are part of learning and that understanding will come.
“It just reinforces the fact that understanding the first time you hear something isn’t the goal,” Clark said. “Smart isn’t being right fast. It’s working through things and understanding things eventually.”
Clark brought the idea of growth mindset to Arroyo after a chance encounter with Dweck at a conference. The idea that intelligence grows with effort is one that comes naturally to him as a teacher because of his experiences as a basketball coach. Now, he’s trying to get students to approach academics with the same dedication to practice and risk-taking that they bring to sports or other extracurriculars.
“At the end of the day we’re trying to create successful kids, some of whom will grow up to do science and some of whom won’t,” Clark said. “But if they can take what they learn in our classrooms and apply it somewhere else, that’s kind of what we’re here for.”
‘When you believe it, they believe. If I didn’t believe this, they wouldn’t buy what I’m selling.’Arroyo health teacher India Rodgers
He’s clear that his job is to teach science, but it’s also his job to nurture the individuals he teaches.
The kids at Arroyo often have a lot of challenges outside the classroom. Many of these students will be the first in their families to go to college. Clark knows this and it makes him even more passionate about growth mindset.
“Redefining smart as something that’s more effort-based than genetics-based has opened the door for kids,” Clark said. “They don’t feel like they’re behind other kids any longer because they feel that their future is in their own hands, and if they just work through their problems they’re going to be OK.”
GROWING AS TEACHERS
The multiyear effort to infuse growth mindset into every class is paying off in a big way for students like Rodriguez, and in smaller ways for all students. Health teacher India Rodgers said she notices slight behavior changes in her freshmen first: Quiet but competent kids speak up more and struggling kids receive help from peers more readily.
She also knows that for some kids, the message can take awhile to penetrate. She says students have come back to her years later after having an experience that finally drove the concept home. It’s also tough for some kids to transfer the idea that “it’s OK to fail” to the academic subjects students find most difficult.
“It’s really easy to start with my stuff, and then I try to use what they can do here and help them in other classes,” Rodgers said. Students discuss a lot of life issues in her class, so she often has strong relationships with them. She uses those to help them shift their mindsets about classes like math.
She also tries hard to model a growth mindset to her students by being open about her own struggles as a parent and a teacher.
“They’re not used to teachers apologizing,” Rodgers said. “But I tell them I’m going to make mistakes all the time. And I think showing that helps them realize they can actually make mistakes.”
When teachers and administrators say they want kids to have a growth mindset, the school environment has to back up that rhetoric. At Arroyo, the emphasis on growth mindset came alongside a shift to standards-based grading. Kids can see that mistakes along the way aren’t negatively affecting them and keep working to master the concepts.
“When you believe it; they believe,” Rodgers said. “If I didn’t believe this, they wouldn’t buy what I’m selling.”