Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review and a Pairing: Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Carol S. Dweck
Random House, 2006
Genre: Nonfiction, professional/personal development, psychology,
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Ada Twist, Scientist
Andrea Beatty
Illustrations: David Roberts
Harry N. Abrams, 2016
Genre: children's, picture, growth-mindset,
Rating: 5 out of 5

I thought I would try something new today in my review of Mindset by Carol S. Dweck where I connect this to a completely different genre of book.  It's pretty common now to do this is middle and high schools, pairing nonfiction texts with fiction texts, but why not pair this with a picture book?  We'll see how it goes!

Mindset explains the differences in psychological mindsets and how they affect a person's chance at success.  This book was chosen as our school's book discussion for our professional learning community (PLC).  It's not necessarily a "teaching book" but it's very applicable to teachers, coaches, and parents because it lays out the difference between a fixed-mindset and a growth-mindset.  Dweck also discusses the strengths of the growth-mindset and how a person might find himself or herself in the fixed-mindset early on in life.

For much of the book, Dweck gives anecdotes to illustrate her point, using celebrities, sports stars, politicians, heads of famous companies, etc. as her examples.  I will admit this was sometimes annoying.  I understood what she said when she explained it, but then I had to read through multiple little stories and examples of people who exemplified that idea.  I skimmed through some of these.  The parts that I found most compelling were the chapters on teaching and the development of children and young adults into one mindset or the other.  It kept me questioning my methods and ways of speaking to my students and my own child.  I just finished this book last week and I'm already very conscientious of the words I'm using with both.  I've added in a new way for my students to question their own growth throughout the year and I'm devoting more class time to looking at our personal growth.

What I was disappointed in, was the lack of direction in how to teach growth-mindset to students.  There was much talk about how teaching students the growth-mindset is doable--even if they are in a fixed mindset--but there wasn't any real suggestion as to HOW to do this.  The best was suggestions on the words to use when dealing with a student or your child one-on-one.  I wanted something more concrete that I could incorporate into my classroom.

It was through this frustration that I started thinking of Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beatty.  My daughter got this book for Christmas and we love it already.  In this story, Ada questions EVERYTHING!  She makes messes and tries to figure out the answer to all the questions.  Each question brings on new questions.  Her teachers don't know what to do with her and her parents are supportive, until she ruins dinner, tries to put the cat in the dryer, and makes everything smell bad. But Ada starts thinking and thinks some more and more and more and more.  And the questions keep coming.  She's learning, she's not stuck.  She's not a bad kid, but one who just wants to know and has a love of learning.  It is a truly adorable book written in rhyme that emphasizes the need to question and to learn on one's own and how it's okay not to be perfect.  It's okay to make mistakes.  That's a lesson that we all need every once in awhile--especially a kid.

So I thought that it would be applicable to meld these two books together--as different as they are.  Adults:  go read Mindset by Carol S. Dweck and look at yourself, how you think of your abilities.  Consider what you expect of your children or the children in your life.  Then go read Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beatty and share it with those children in your life.  Talk about Ada and how she continues to question and even if she's wrong--it's okay.  She just needs to think a little more, question a little different.  Encourage the mistakes, encourage the thinking, encourage the growth!

Are there any "strange" book pairings you can think of?  What do you think of your mindset?  Are you stuck thinking of your inability to do something, or do you need to reconsider what it truly takes to improve oneself? 

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