Make Many Glorious Mistakes This Year!

By Shannon Anderson, author of Penelope Perfect: A Tale of Perfectionism Gone Wild

Make Many Glorious Mistakes This Year!If you’re a teacher, you know that establishing a culture of kindness and courage from the get-go is SOOO important. When I kick off my first week of school, one of my biggest goals is to encourage kids to take creative risks and understand that mistakes are a good thing! We need to be kind to ourselves and others as we make mistakes too.

I even came up with a name for our mistakes. We call them growth spurts because we grow from them. I announced to my students on the first day of school that I hope they make many glorious mistakes this year.

We discuss the word fail too. Think of fail as what it really is:


Of course, all this is setting students up to learn about having a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means you believe that you can continue to learn and grow as you make mistakes. We are all on a continuum of learning and can improve with practice, time, and effort. (This is opposed to having a fixed mindset, which is the belief that we cannot improve our intelligence or abilities.)

There are many activities you can do at the beginning of school to set students on the path to developing a growth mindset:

  • Use mentor texts about characters who have learned from mistakes.
  • Show videos of people who have overcome obstacles and become successful.
  • Share quotes about growth mindset. They can lead to great whole-group and small-group discussions. Here are a few you can use:
    • Thomas Edison, one of America’s greatest inventors, had an incredible growth mindset. He had been trying to invent a battery for several months when an associate said it was a shame that all his work hadn’t produced any results. In response, Edison said, “Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.”
    • Albert Einstein, who was a genius in math and science, has been (probably wrongly) attributed as saying, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Mistakes are part of learning new things.
    • You may have heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” This is good encouragement. However, Kid President has another version of this quote that may be even better: “If at first you don’t succeed . . . you’re normal.”

Make Many Glorious Mistakes This Year!I like to wear this shirt during the first week of school and have the kids discuss what it means:

  • Mistakes are expected. They are gonna happen!
  • Mistakes are inspected. We can look at why they happened.
  • Mistakes are respected. We can appreciate what we learn from mistakes to make improvements and try again. In this way, we respect the process of making mistakes.

A great game for teaching growth mindset is Twenty Questions. Someone writes down or thinks about an object. The other people playing the game have to come up with questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. Players are limited to a total of twenty questions to try to finally guess the mystery object.

Discuss the process you go through to figure out what the object is. It is really rare to guess what the object is on the first try, right? No one would expect you to know it. How could you?

Make Many Glorious Mistakes This Year!With each new piece of information, our brains start to make connections and sort objects and their attributes. We start to categorize and analyze. Making wrong guesses, or mistakes, is what eventually helps us narrow down the right answer. After enough questions about what it is or isn’t, we may be able to finally figure it out. It takes trial and error to answer correctly.

This game is just like our learning process. No one would expect you to learn a new skill on the first try if it is something you’ve seldom or never done before. Once you put all the pieces of information together, though, you start to make those connections and learn enough to do something really well.

Playing this game, along with other similar challenges, allows us to have some important discussions about mistakes and their outcomes. We talk about how we can let a mistake define us, diminish us, or develop us. We have the power to choose our reactions when we “fail” at something.

If we fail when we try to draw something, we can let it define us and say, “I can’t draw.” (fixed mindset thinking)

Or . . .

We can let the experience diminish us and think, “Everyone else is better than I am.” (fixed mindset thinking)

Or . . .

We can use it to develop us and say, “Okay, my pencil has an eraser for a reason. I’ll watch the demonstration one more time and then try again.” (growth mindset thinking)

Once kids see that making mistakes is a good thing and learn how to react accordingly, they are already on the path to success. I wish you all the best and a happy, success-filled year with your kids! I hope you make many glorious mistakes!

Shannon AndersonShannon Anderson has her master’s degree in education and is currently a third-grade teacher, high ability coordinator, and presenter, and a former first-grade teacher, adjunct professor, and literacy coach. She loves spending time with her family, playing with words, teaching kids and adults, running very early in the morning, traveling to new places, and eating ice cream. She also enjoys doing author visits and events. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband, Matt, and their daughters, Emily and Madison.

Free Spirit books by Shannon:

Penelope Perfect: A Tale of Perfectionism Gone WildCoasting Casey

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Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor DayThe Free Spirit Publishing staff is taking a long weekend in honor of Labor Day, and we hope that you find time during this end-of-summer break to relax and recharge, especially as we head into a new school year. We’ll be spending time with our families and friends (human and furry), getting outside, and diving into a good book (or two).
To everyone whose work supports the social, emotional, and educational needs of young people, thank you for all you do.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Preparing for Kindergarten: What to Do When EVERYTHING Is New

By Celeste C. Delaney, author of ABC Ready for School: An Alphabet of Social Skills

Preparing for Kindergarten: What to Do When EVERYTHING Is NewAs your children head off to kindergarten, you are no doubt thinking about clothes and supplies and lunches and getting them there on time and how much you’ll miss them! It’s a big transition. It’s also important to remember how NEW everything is going to be for them. A few children love new situations, but most are shy at first. And some get really anxious about anything new they encounter. It’s a good idea to prepare them for kindergarten ahead of time. Remember that new kindergartners may have to deal with:

  • A new schedule, including getting up and out the door each day and not being home for hours
  • New adults who they have to listen to and take directions from
  • New children to get to know and interact with
  • New bathrooms—which may produce questions and uncertainty about where they are or how they work or “What if there are other kids in there!?” Many kids also feel anxiety about asking before they go and what to do if they need help.
  • A new classroom, which brings with it questions about where to sit and sometimes stress about the noise and busy walls
  • So many new sounds and sights and smells
  • New foods and drinks—what if they don’t like it? Do they have to carry a tray?
  • New toys and books and games and crayons and scissors and supplies—and lots of sharing and taking turns
  • New rules, like raising a hand before speaking, not talking at certain times, standing in line, crossing the street . . . it’s a lot to remember!
  • New worries, like will they be able to do what everyone else can do? What if no one likes them? What if they need help with something like going to the bathroom or getting their shoes on?

How can you help your child deal with all these new changes BEFORE school begins?

  1. How to Prepare Your Child for KindergartenRead books about going to kindergarten with your child and talk about what to expect. Reassure children that although everything will be new at first, they will get used to their new school and do well there.
  2. Visit the teacher and classroom with your child before school begins, if possible. This will make at least the location and teacher more familiar on that first day of school. Talk to the teacher about your concerns if your child has difficulty separating from you, needs help in the bathroom, has never worked with other children in a group setting, doesn’t speak the classroom language, or is very sensitive to loud noises, busy locations, bright lights, or unusual textures.
  3. Practice some of the skills your child will need to learn, like raising your hand, asking for help, or packing a lunch. Play “school” at home and let your child be the “teacher” to toys or younger siblings.
  4. Try some new things at home, like a new food or game, so your child can gain confidence in their ability to deal with new situations. You can also use this later when your child has started kindergarten as a reminder of how things start out new but soon are familiar.
  5. Start the “early to bed” routine a week before school starts so everyone is getting enough sleep when the big day comes. Go to bed 10–15 minutes earlier each night and get up 10–15 minutes earlier each morning to gradually move into the timetable you will need for school days.
  6. Use this Kindergarten Readiness Checklist, which was compiled with the help of kindergarten teachers. Read the list and check off the skills your child already has. Work on the others before school begins so they can have the best start possible.

What can you do to help once school has started?

  1. Make sure your child is well rested by keeping a consistent sleep routine each night and morning. Some anxiety is normal during the first week of school, and this may make sleeping more difficult too.
  2. Make sure your child eats breakfast before going to school or sign up for the school breakfast program. It’s hard to function at school if you are hungry.
  3. Talk to your child when they get home from kindergarten about what they did and how they feel. Encourage them if they seem overwhelmed or sad and help them with any projects they may have to work on. Ask about friends, activities, recess, meals, bathroom breaks, and anything that is worrying them.
  4. If your child seems to be really struggling with school after the first week, set up a time to talk to the teacher about what is happening and what you can do to help your child adjust.
  5. Teachers can use resources like weighted lap pads, oral motor chewies, Velcro strips under desks, stretchy bands around chair legs, wiggle cushions, or fidgets to help children with anxiety or focus issues. They can move a child nearer to the teacher if the student needs extra help or is easily distracted. A quiet area can be assigned where children who are overwhelmed can take a break. Some children may need a “buddy” to help them follow the classroom rules or move safely from one location to another.
  6. Practice skills at home that your child is having difficulty with at school, like going to the bathroom independently; getting shoes on and off; knowing the alphabet, numbers, and colors; sitting still and listening to the teacher; taking turns in games; or walking quietly instead of running while inside.

Kindergarten is probably the most important year of school that children will attend, because it is when they learn who they are as learners and people in a social setting. If children struggle, they may feel they’re not as smart as others; this can lead to giving up or misbehaving. If they have difficulty interacting with others happily, they may feel that people don’t like them or that there is something wrong with them. There’s a lot you can do to help make this a successful, happy year for children, so they go on in their education with confidence and an excitement to learn. This will help carry them through the challenging teen years and into meaningful and productive adulthood.

Enjoy this time with your young learners!

Celeste DelaneyCeleste C. Delaney grew up in New Zealand, where much of life is lived outdoors. As a child, she loved playing at the beach, reading, playing piano, writing stories, and drawing. She left New Zealand after earning a degree in occupational therapy and has since lived and worked in many countries including the United States, India, Malaysia, China, and Mexico. Celeste enjoys traveling, teaching, art projects, and writing. She works as an occupational therapist with children, which challenges her to be patient and flexible and rewards her with smiles, hugs, and the joy of seeing children grow and learn. Celeste lives near Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Chris.

ABC Ready for SchoolCeleste is the author of  ABC Ready for School: An Alphabet of Social Skills.

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How Helping Others Helps Your Child

By Allison Amy Wedell

How Helping Others Helps Your ChildAnyone who has ever volunteered knows how good it makes them feel—and it’s no different for kids. But did you know studies have found links between volunteering and positive self-esteem?

One such study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, found that 55 percent of teens surveyed enjoy volunteering, and that both big and small acts of kindness had a positive effect on their feelings of self-worth. Interestingly, the kids who got a bigger self-esteem boost volunteered helping strangers—but helping people they know is good for kids too.

But why is it important for kids to have good self-esteem? No, we’re not raising a generation of narcissists. Rather, kids with good self-esteem believe they can handle whatever life throws at them. Good self-esteem is also essential to kids’ emotional health: In essence, it’s important that kids like themselves.

A boost in self-esteem isn’t the only benefit kids can get from volunteering, either. Here are a few others:

  • By causing them to branch out into a field they may be unfamiliar with, volunteering can help kids figure out what they want to be when they grow up.
  • Volunteering connects them to other people they may not otherwise meet, especially after interacting with their peers five days a week. At a volunteer job, kids will meet people of many ages and walks of life.
  • Volunteering can help kids learn new skills, from cooking to working with tools to interacting with the public.
  • At a time when many kids are first experiencing depression and anxiety, volunteering helps them focus outward. This can give them a sense of perspective and achievement.

My daughter Teagan and my niece Erica both volunteer on a regular basis, so I interviewed them to find out what the experience was like and how it made them feel.

Erica, who is 15, volunteered last summer at the child care center/preschool she used to attend when she was younger. She spent two to three days per week with the two- and three-year-olds, playing with them, helping them eat, and generally helping the teachers. She still misses them: “My last day, I was sobbing,” she says.

Volunteering at the child care center made Erica feel good. “The teachers always told me how they appreciated me, because they’re really stressed all the time. They wanted me there, and I was helping,” she explained. “I was positively impacting them, helping them learn something.”

And this feeling isn’t a surprise to Erica, because she remembers how she felt about the older kids who would come back and volunteer when she was little. “I looked up to them and learned from them.” So she knew she was having the same effect on these kids. When she gave them that extra attention, it “made them want to go to child care more,” she says, adding, “And when their parents would meet me, they would tell me how cool it was, what I was doing.”

Teagan, who is 12, volunteered with her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) all year. Her favorite project took place on Valentine’s Day, a day that can sometimes be tough for LGBTQ kids. She explains, “We made little cards for Valentine’s Day, and we handed them out to people. It wasn’t relationship stuff—most of them said things like, ‘You are amazing’ or ‘You’re beautiful,’ to build other people’s confidence and let them know they’re cared about.”

They especially worked on letting LGBTQ kids know they were welcome. “We invited other people who were part of the LGBTQ community to come and join us, so we let people know that it’s okay to be who you are.”

And why did this endeavor make Teagan feel good? Inclusion, empathy, generosity, and self-esteem. “I felt like it was a part of something. GSA was pretty small, so I felt like I was an important part of it. I tried to imagine how I would feel getting the card that I wrote to them. It felt like I made people feel special and brightened their day. It made me happy, because I was making other people happy.”

Psychological studies are all well and good, but that last line pretty much summed up the link between volunteering and self-esteem for me: “It made me happy, because I was making other people happy.”

Allison Amy WedellAllison Amy Wedell is a writer, editor, and mom whose diverse work focuses on sexual abuse prevention, bullying prevention, social and emotional learning, public safety, and theater/acting. She is the author of Shaking Hands with Shakespeare: A Teenager’s Guide to Reading and Performing the Bard (Simon & Schuster, 2004), and her work has been featured here and at,, and Committee for Children. You can find her on LinkedIn.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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5 Ways to Create a Positive Classroom Culture with Your Students

By Liz Bergren

5 Ways to Create a Positive Classroom Culture with Your StudentsI saw a tweet recently that stated that the most important thing to do in the beginning of the school year is to establish rules and routines. Soon after that, someone replied asking about establishing relationships and rapport with your students. Then another tweet stated that classroom management comes down to three things: relationships, expectations, and consistency. Later I noticed this tweet from Tracey Nance Pendley (@2020GaTOTY):

As I continued to scroll through Twitter, I noticed post after post stating that relationships are the key to a well-managed and socially and academically successful classroom. Edutopia (@edutopia) also posted a video exploring the power of relationships in schools:


The video looks at brain science that shows that learning environments with strong long-term relationships between children and school adults and other students are pivotal to the learning process and create positive school culture. In the video, Dr. Pamela Cantor, the founder and senior science advisor for Turnaround for Children, states that closeness, consistency, and trust release oxytocin in the brain, which has positive effects on development. A school that prioritizes relationship building allows the child to experience “attunement and trust” that is strong enough to release oxytocin.

One of my favorite Brené Brown quotes only further solidifies the importance of building relationships with your students. From her famous talk at TEDxHouston, “The Power of Vulnerability,” she states, “Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives us purpose and meaning to our lives. What we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is neurobiologically how we’re wired.”

As the beginning of the school year quickly approaches, it is crucial that we establish classroom norms that can contribute to a healthy and appropriate classroom culture. This post offers ideas and suggestions for engaging your students in the establishment of those norms and for helping you build relationships, manage less, and teach more.

Change Up Your Attendance Routine
A typical first day, first-thing-to-do in a classroom is to take attendance. Instead of the standard method of calling out names with kids saying “Here,” kick things off on the first day of school by including a game or question as part of taking attendance. Ask questions such as, “If you could switch places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?” “What is your favorite movie and why? Your favorite book?” It takes time to get to know your class, but by using little prompts, you’ll learn how they communicate as well as what their interests are. Some would argue that this takes too much time out of the lesson or class period, but these strategies can be crucial to allowing students space to express their individuality as well as to demonstrate to students that their presence and interests matter to you as their teacher.

Use an Inner Circle/Outer Circle Question Activity
Commit to knowing your students right from the start. Be sure to learn about their families and cultures. A fun first-day activity that is also culturally responsive is to kick off with an inner circle/outer circle question activity. The students form two circles: the inner circle faces the outer circle. Prior to the activity, create a list of open-ended discussion questions that they can talk about for about 30 seconds. Before each discussion, require students to greet their partners with a greeting that feels comfortable to them. I’ve suggested fist bumps, handshakes, waving, high fives, etc. This allows space for students to get to know each other better and perform a personal greeting that is conducive to their comfort level and culture.

Let Your Students Decide What Makes a Welcoming Classroom
It is important that students feel involved in their classroom learning communities. Establish classroom norms, rules, and guidelines that students are consistently held accountable to. Divide students into groups and provide each group with poster paper and markers. Have the groups discuss the top five important classroom behaviors that they feel are most conducive to a welcoming classroom environment. Place the posters around the room and use them as classroom behavior guides.

Give Students Space to Celebrate Their Individuality
Another important component to a culturally and linguistically responsive classroom is to provide students with opportunities to share their family traditions and cultures. Have them create “All About Me” projects or posters to celebrate their individuality. Be mindful of your own cultural behavior patterns regarding classroom management and discipline. Remember to practice vulnerability and authenticity in front of your students—you are human too!

Use Learning Stations and Games
Deliver your content using learning stations and games. These strategies help students develop social skills, learn to work together with various people, and make room for all types of learning differences. Include stations that involve creating a piece of art, solving a puzzle, reading an article together, or building something. Use media to create games for test review. Or ask students to create their own learning games and have the class play them together.

Combining different pedagogical approaches keeps things fresh and interesting. Teaching is an art and a complex practice, but when your foundation is the development of relationships, healthy social boundaries and expectations, and equitable disciplinary practices, you won’t feel the need to “manage” your classroom. You can do what you love—teach!

Liz BergrenLiz Bergren is a former teacher with 15 years of classroom experience. In addition to being a teacher, she spent five years working for Park Nicollet’s Melrose Institute where she counseled and taught classes to patients who struggled with eating disorders. She has a B.A. in health and secondary education from the University of St. Thomas and an M.Ed. in family education from the University of Minnesota.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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