Behind the Blog

Behind the Blog
My name is Cindy Kruse and I've been learning from elementary students for the past 16 years. I enjoy discovering new technology and implementing it in the classroom, absolutely love literacy, and am passionate about Responsive Classroom. I am constantly striving to learn new and innovative ways to teach students in order to provide authentic, interesting, and joyful classrooms.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

"You speak our langauge!"

Today I was teaching a group of tech savvy fifth graders. I had given them some time to investigate Mangahigh, a new interactive math website that I had just discovered the night before. I told them they were my "beta-testers" and would have 15 minutes to try out some games before recess, and then we would be gathering on the rug after recess to share what they discovered and give their recommendations.

The students were so engaged while using the website that they didn't want to go outside for recess (and today was a beautiful 80 degrees outside - so outside they did go)! When we gathered on the rug to share, all of the students said that they absolutely loved the site and wanted the url and password so that they could access it from home. I asked them what they liked about it, explaining that I needed to hear more details - specifically, what did they like about it? They loved the graphics - manga is creative and colorful, couldn't get enough of the way the games interacted, they were surprised by some of the games - "not your usual math games where you figure it out and get bored after playing it twice."

After a few minutes of sharing I explained that they would be finishing their mystery stories by continuing to create SCRATCH projects to animate them. At this point one of my students raised their hand and said with a huge smile, "Mrs. Kruse, you speak our language." I honestly wasn't sure what she was referring to and didn't have the opportunity to respond before all of them began to chime in with their thoughts.

Their language is digital. I have to admit, I don't speak digital nearly as well as they do...but I do try. The sad part is that most of their day they sit in classrooms where they are not speaking their native language. When put in this perspective, it seems so sad. Imagine trying to learn, really desiring to learn, but not being able to learn in your native language. This is no fault of their teacher, it is the result of lack of resources, time, and training. Interestingly enough I have found that the best way to teach these "digital speakers" is just let them go. Given time to investigate independently with a focus they are able to do amazing things and teach me a thing or two in the process.
Friday, April 1, 2011

Having a "Growth Mindset"

I'm enjoying some time this weekend at the Northeast Foundation for Children; catching up with the most amazing group of educators - Consulting Teachers for Responsive Classroom, and learning about having a "Growth Mindset". Does our belief about ourselves determine our ability to succeed?

Carol Dweck has completed some intriguing research which answers this question with a resounding, "Yes!" She has coined the phrase "Growth Mindset", which she explains can be developed in both children and adult learners. When people have this mindset, they believe that they can develop their brain, abilities, and talents. People that have a "Growth Mindset" care more about stretching themselves and challenging their learning. They are OK with not knowing everything. This mindset can influence both behavior and achievement.

Learning environments and learning tasks can be designed and presented to help learners develop a "Growth Mindset", which in turn, can lead to short-term achievement, ultimately resulting in long-term success.

Take a few minutes to watch this video that explains this research:



This research has profound implications for teachers. Dweck offers some concrete suggestions to help teachers create learning environments and meaningful learning tasks that will encourage students towards developing a "growth mindset": creating a classroom culture that supports risk-taking, providing specific feedback when giving students praise or encouragement, emphasizing deep learning rather than fast learning, directly teaching students how the brain works, personal goal setting, and evaluating student work with "growth mindset" criteria. While I don't believe that having a "growth mindset" will cure all academic ills, I can envision benefits for both adult and student learners; such as increased motivation and effort as they are nurtured in an environment that values "becoming" rather than "being".
Some of the questions that I'm left with to ponder:

Am I creating a risk taking environment for my students?
What does this look like as I work with adult learners?
How am I cultivating a "Growth Mindset" for myself?


Interested in finding out more about Dweck's research? Check out her book: Mindset or her website for kids: Brainology.