In order to keep students engaged during those last few days of school before summer break, I was on the hunt for some short picture books that would lend themselves to paper craft activities while still having some meaningful content. I found one picture book called Snippets that incorporated paper scraps into an activity about accepting others. Snippets led to a book called Perfect Square, which led to a book called Beautiful Oops.
The list of picture books exploded. I discovered stacks of new picture books that have a STEAM/tinkering element to them. The central messages in most address either persevering through mistakes and developing resilience or appreciating individual qualities and embracing our unique gifts. One buzzword for all this in education right now is “growth mindset”.
Growth mindset is all about embracing a challenge and not giving up. It’s about recognizing that you might not be able to do something… yet. Or, you might be able to do something in a completely different way than your neighbor. It’s about having an attitude where you are willing to take risks and try. It’s about recovering from a set back in a positive way. It’s part of character education, and it’s becoming an essential lesson in classrooms today.
One student roadblock I see every year is the fear of completing an assignment the “wrong way”. Because students are scared of making a mistake (or an even worse fate– the dreaded start-over) they insist on checking with me for approval before completing each individual step. As a parent, I see how we train many children to be dependent on adults for permission before making choices. Kids don’t freely travel the neighborhood making up group games with rules that change and adapt depending on who joins the game, who leaves the game, who is too little or too big… Few kids sit in a room with no screen of any kind and must entertain themselves (i.e. activate their creative thinking skills) to fill the time. So, they need help to get themselves started on a task unless we build in some “let’s look at the problem and find a solution” practice.
How Can You Prompt Students to Trust their Abilities?
- Encourage them to self-solve. Don’t answer a question immediately.
- Ask them to think about what they might have in their possession that would help them complete the task. Do they have a handout with directions? Can they look at what a friend is doing? Can they look at the materials and remember the oral directions?
- Give them one step or hint only to get started and send them back to their work space to continue independently.
- Have the student list what he/she thinks should be happening. Often, saying the task aloud is confirmation for a child.
The activities I used at the end of the year involved changing one type of paper shape into something new. Not only did our class see the relationship between the characters in the pictures books and how it related to our classroom community, they also had the opportunity to alter the paper from a generic shape into something that reflected their personality and style.
I distributed ordinary white copy paper to my students as the background paper for our masterpieces, but you could print THESE TEMPLATES to use with your group’s paper tinkering. Any of the picture books in the list below would make great first week of school read alouds as you begin to set the tone for the year. If you need more specific activity ideas, click HERE and HERE to view and purchase my complete activities for Snippets and Perfect Square.
Crafty Picture Books (a starter list)
- Snippets: a story about paper shapes by Diane Alber (and others by this author)
- Perfect Square by Michael Hall
- Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
- Perfect by Max Amato
- The Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (and others by this author)
- What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada (and others by this author)
- The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
- You are Light by Aaron Becker
- The Color Monster by Anna Llenas
- I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbitt
- I Have an Idea by Herve Tullet (and others by this author)
- The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken