What do you have in mind?

This week Two Writing Teachers posted a wonderful article by Stacey Shubitz (one of the Two Writing Teachers) about A Picture Book that Pushes the Growth Mindset.

This post coincided beautifully with the flash fiction prompt posted by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications. Charli’s challenge is to:

 In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about getting stronger.

This is a perfect prompt for a teacher as a major focus of our work is in developing children’s strengths:

Strengths as in abilities; strength as in self-esteem and self-confidence; strength as in willingness to face setbacks and try, try again; strength as in keeping on going even when the going gets tough.

The picture book discussed in the article by Stacey Shubitz is The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. Stacey suggests that the book is a great opener for discussions with children about the importance of a growth mindset.

According to Stacey, an understanding of ‘the power of having a growth mindset’ has been enabled by the work of Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist. It is grounded in a belief that

Someone can accomplish a lot more through hard work and dedication, rather than by relying on their smarts alone.

I agree with Stacey that

‘Educators know the benefits of having a growth mindset, rather than having a fixed one. We learn from trial and error. There is value in failure.’

I will not quote Stacey’s article in its entirety, but suggest you pop over and read it for yourself. (If you do, and leave a comment prior to June 27th, you may win yourself a copy of The Most Magnificent Thing, if you live in the USA or Canada.)

Stacey says that “The girl in the story tries over ten times to build something and get it right. Through hard work and some help from her trust sidekick, her pug, she eventually succeeds.” As well as a starting point for discussing the growth mindset, Stacey suggests eight features of the book which are useful for teaching writing. The article also includes a brief, but informative, interview with the author/illustrator Ashley Spires.

In response to Stacey’s question about using The Most Magnificent Thing for discussing a growth mindset, Ashley responds:

‘The character is a perfectly capable girl with a great idea and the skill to make it, but she has to try, try and try again in order to succeed. Most kids (I was one of them) think that if it’s not perfect the first time, then they should move on to something that comes to them more easily. Working hard to succeed is what true success is.”

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/89499612″>The Most Magnificent Thing Book Trailer</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/kidscanpress”>Kids Can Press</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

My flash fiction, told through the jottings of a classroom teacher over time, shows a growth mindset emerging from one that was previously crushed.


Day one

Timid. Needed help getting things out of bag to put in drawer. Sat towards back of group. Drew knees up under chin. Hunched over. Sucked thumb. Twisted long tangled hair under nose. Rocked.

Day twenty-six

Responded in roll call! Sat with ‘friend’. Legs crossed. Back straight. Smiled – briefly. Someone looked! Screamed, “Stop looking at me!” Dissolved in tears. Again. Retreated under desk. Again.

Day fifty-two

Initiated conversation!! Hair combed!! Nose not running!! Brought toy for show and tell. Responded with one- or two-word answers. Small, dirty, pink unicorn. B laughed. Erupted, but went to desk, not under!


I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash fiction piece.

15 thoughts on “What do you have in mind?

  1. Pingback: Getting Stronger Now « Carrot Ranch Communications

  2. Sarah Brentyn

    I agree with Geoff and Charli–great format for the story. Fantastic description. I wonder what is to become of this child…

    Is this a “flash” back to the childhood of the woman going through her things? They feel like the same character to me at different points in life. Or I’m totally wrong. Whatever. Great flash. 🙂


    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much, Sarah. I really appreciate your comment. I’m pleased you see the connection. I am starting to think about that. We’ll see what situation Charli poses next!


  3. Charli Mills (@Charli_Mills)

    I’m fascinated by growth mindset. I’ve often used the phrase with teams, “be a life-long learner” but had not actually known about growth mindset. They are similar thoughts–that the mind never stops learning. The second video was an eye-opener to the subtle difference in praising effort over intelligence. I took a lot of parenting classes when my kids were little and I experienced those kinds of subtleties. For instance, telling a child “I want you to carry your milk carefully to the table,” is better than “Don’t spill your milk.”

    I agree with Geoff–really like the format of your flash to describe progress. It really tugged at my heart though, as I thought of this child as the character we saw in an earlier flash where she throws away the unicorn as an adult. Flash allows you to bigger stories in scenes that may seem disconnected, but can be linked at a later re-write. I’m beginning to see a bigger story emerging around this unicorn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Charlie,
      The issue of praise is very interesting and Anne Goodwin and I shared quite a few discussions and posts about it some time ago, sparked by Anne’s post about Stephen Grosz’s book “The Examined Life” http://goo.gl/txsanj I think it all took place before we “met” you. How amazing that we seem to have known each other for such a long time, but it is really only a few short months. I think there is a lot to explore in this issue of praise; and while you attended a lot of parenting courses (which is admirable) it is the most important “job” and one for which there is really little training. You might also be interested in the article http://goo.gl/LI2I3T I suggested to Anne in her post about “good” children. http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal
      I am starting to like my “unicorn” and am beginning, with these flash stories, to see how it may be useful in something more substantial.
      Thanks for the prompts and discussion.


      1. Charli Mills

        I think that post on praise was one of the first I read after venturing outside the ranch. Interesting topic. In the US, I think we over-praise children so as to create a false sense of equality–like “T-Ball” where both teams “win.” It’s led to a generation that seems to not want to put effort into anything. After all, no one praised their efforts, just made the playing field easier to everyone would feel “good.” Always good discussions here and at Anne’s place!


        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks Charli. It is always good to hit the ball around and see what ideas gather. I must admit my thoughts on praise are being challenged and stretched. That’s always a good thing!


  4. Teagan Kearney

    I loved your story, Norah. Using the barest of descriptions, your vulnerable little character drew me in, and I was so pleased at her progress – proof of a good teacher in action!


  5. Annecdotist

    Another excellent integration of science and flash fiction. And your flash is really moving, shows the teacher’s patience and dedication – and you gave us that unicorn and again!


    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Anne. I’m a bit taken with the unicorn. I’m thinking of it as a “security blanket” for a child at the moment. Maybe it’s a “security blanket” for my flash!


  6. Bec

    A lovely piece Nor, and I enjoyed the FF – quite moving words to think about this reflected in the behaviour of a child ! Thanks for the fascinating article as always!



I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.