ExtraCredit, the official blog of the Ohio Department of Education, offers commentary and insight on a wide range of education issues from department experts and guest bloggers from throughout Ohio’s schools and support organizations. We encourage your ideas, feedback and comments to promote a two-way dialogue. See our Comment Policy for more information.

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8/17/2018

Your Words Matter to Others’ Mindsets

By: Steve Gratz

GettyImages-474868774-1.jpgOver the past few weeks at the Department, I've been overhearing the chatter of my colleagues getting their children ready for the return to school. Some of my co-workers are methodically getting their children up earlier and earlier in preparation for the first day of school. Many took full advantage of Ohio's sales tax holiday. And several shared how excited they were about finally getting back into a routine.

As a teacher, I relished the start of a new school year. Being a teacher of agriculture, I worked throughout the summer visiting students and discussing their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) projects with them and the upcoming school year with their parents. My goal was to visit every student three to four times per year. I have many fond memories eating dinner and visiting with students and their families. A couple of my favorite visits were to the Kain and Carpenter families — both were livestock farmers, and we always had great meals and conversations. On the first day of school, I already would have visited all the incoming freshman enrolled in my classes. The impact of home visits is amazing as you get to see the dynamics of each student’s family and a glimpse of what home life is like for the student.

Aside from reminiscing on my formative days in the classroom, I want to share how teachers’ words and actions impact students’ lives. One of my professors at The Ohio State University, Dr. Lowell Hedges, taught us a simple rule that I borrowed: Don’t prevent the teacher from teaching, and don’t prevent others from learning. A negative comment from a teacher can create a barrier to learning. Throughout my career, I have had countless students reminiscence about statements I made to them that were impactful in their lives. I’m sure many of my former students could share examples of when I was less than positive too. Too late in my career, I learned the lesson of how powerful the words of teachers are to students. The power of words matters not only to students and teachers — it is just as impactful to those you supervise, colleagues and family members.

Not to get too academic, but I want to share with you my frame of reference, so excuse me while I get a little nerdy. In her book, “Mindset,” Carol Dweck looks at the difference between people with fixed and growth mindsets, how one trumps the other and what you can do to adopt the right one. Dweck shows how success in school, and almost every endeavor, can be influenced dramatically by how we think about our talents and abilities. “Mindset” is a great read, and it uncovers how great parents, teachers and managers can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.

To explain a little further, people with fixed mindsets believe talent is everything and your qualities are carved in stone. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality and creativity are fixed traits rather than things that can be developed. If they’re not gifted with the ability to do something, people with this mindset think they’re doomed to fail. Their skills seem to be written in their genes, just like their looks, which is why they never try to improve. Who you are is who you are, period. Conversely, people with growth mindsets believe your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Whatever they want to achieve is theirs for the taking, as long as they work hard for it, dedicate themselves to their goals and practice as much as they can. People differ greatly — in aptitude, talents, interests or temperaments — but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

Apart from our parents, teachers play major roles in how our mindsets turn out. A bad teacher might tell a D student that he’ll never amount to anything, whereas a good teacher would encourage him to study more and do better on the next test.

David Scott Yeager and Dweck (2012) showed that students who believed (or were taught) that intellectual abilities are qualities that can be developed (as opposed to qualities that are fixed) tend to show higher achievement. Yeager and Dweck also showed that believing (or being taught) that social attributes can be developed can lower adolescents’ aggression and stress in response to peer victimization or exclusion and result in enhanced school performance. They conclude by discussing how psychological interventions that change students’ mindsets are effective and what educators can do to foster these mindsets and create resilience in educational settings.

As the new school year begins, take the necessary time to use your words appropriately and make sure you are encouraging a growth mindset. The power of your words can have a positive impact on those who you associate with and encourage a growth mindset. Conversely, the wrong words, your tone and body language can strain relationships, cause stress, shut down communications and support a fixed mindset.

Take a moment to watch Dweck’s Ted Talk on the power of believing that you can improve and then share in the comments what you can do differently as you interact with students, parents and colleagues this school year.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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8/9/2018

A Parent’s Hope for the New School Year

By: Wendy Grove

GettyImages-531229189.jpgThis week, I am writing not as an education professional, but as a parent. My daughter is the child that made me a mother for the first time. Last week, she turned 11 years old, and I want to tell you about her. She is brave, creative, artistic, smart, stubborn, self-centered and difficult. She likes singing songs, watching anime, reading Percy Jackson books, snuggling with her two dogs, swimming and showing off her new polka-dot tennis shoes.

My daughter is in special education where she gets help learning because she has dysgraphia. This is a learning disability where her brain does not translate her ability to tell you a story or read a book into writing with a pencil. She cannot spell or write words, sentences or paragraphs like a child her age is expected to. In addition to this learning disability, she is diagnosed with extreme generalized anxiety. Her anxiety is with her everywhere, not just in specific situations. Recently, as a fifth-grader, she received a brand new diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. This means she struggles to pay attention, especially during instruction. She also has been identified by her school district as gifted in science and accelerated in math, reading and social studies.

In less than a month, my baby starts middle school. A new school. A new social situation. A new routine. New teachers. A lot of new kids. My heart is racing just listing all the new things coming for her. I wonder, how will she do with all that newness? My daughter has an individualized education program (IEP) that gives her academic and social supports. Staff from the middle school met with me, and the IEP is in place and ready to go when school begins. They told me she will be supported and wrote down how and when and who will provide the support. I want to believe this so badly. I remain hopeful, but my mother’s heart wonders if she really will be okay. Really, I wonder if she will be more than okay — I want to know if she will thrive. Will my daughter thrive in middle school with everything that makes her so uniquely her?

In partnership with her school’s educators, I am trying hard to make sure my child gets to be her best self, even on her most difficult days. I am sharing this with you because I want you to know us. I want you to hear my hopes and dreams as an educator and as a mother. I hope that by sharing my story, I can encourage other parents to partner with their schools to ensure their students’ success.

Maybe you have a child going through a similar transition. Maybe, like me, you also are tired. And, maybe you have not had a great experience at the school or with a person who works there. But, let me assure you this: educators care. They became teachers, principals and school counselors because they want to help kids. They genuinely want success for our children. They want our children to feel safe and supported in their learning. For these reasons, I must believe that she will thrive. I believe her teachers will spend time getting to know who she is as a student, so they can help her achieve her goals. I also know my role in this is important, as a partner, communicator and a support to both my daughter and her teachers.

I want to encourage you to think about what kind of partner you have been, or could be, with your child’s school. What beliefs do you have about teachers based on your experiences? Whatever the past experiences have been, this year is a fresh start. Take time to tell your child’s school about your perfect baby girl or boy. Tell someone there about your concerns and what you hope for your child. Be brave. Use your voice, and be confident that you know your child and your contribution to his or her success is critical. Be present. Be open as a partner with your child’s school. Trust in the educators’ knowledge and experience and to the underlying goodness of their intentions to do right by your child. You’ve got this! We parents can do this! Together with the schools, we can positively shape the experience of school and make sure our kids thrive.

Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office for Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. You can learn more about Wendy by clicking here.

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8/2/2018

Building Relationships…Building the Foundation of a Successful School Year

By: Kimberly Monachino

GettyImages-893988484-1.jpgIt is hard to believe that another school year is fast approaching. Before we know it, the yellow school buses will be en route and the “20 mile per hour” school zone signs will be flashing. The marquees outside many schools will read “Welcome Back Students!” or “Good luck students and staff for a successful 2018-2019 school year!” 

Even after 30 years in education, I still get butterflies in my stomach the night before the first day of school. There is a renewed excitement about starting a new school year. Teachers, parents and, most importantly, students wonder what the new year will bring.

As we start to get back in the swing of school and learning, remember, one of the most important tasks a teacher must start with, and continue all year, is building relationships with students. Building relationships is the keystone for a successful year. If a teacher has a good relationship with her students, the students are more willing to please the teacher, which can lead to less discipline and more learning. Relationship building is not something you can do the first day or the first week and then forget about. It is something that, for some students, may take all year. For some, those connections may be on the first hello, for others, it will be on the last goodbye.

Here are some tips teachers can use to build relationships with their students:

  1. Greet your students every day. Let them know they are important enough for you to stop and say hello.
  2. Have a “family meeting” several times a week with your class. Take some time for your students to share what is going on in their lives.
  3. Write positive notes or make positive calls home. This allows the child to see you notice and care.
  4. Stop and have a personal conversation with your students. It will give you insight to what is going on in their lives. This also is a good technique for working with your more difficult students.
  5. Try to make connections with your students by including things that are important to them in your classroom or teaching. For example, if a student likes baseball, you can use that as an example in a math problem.
  6. Speak to the students with respect. All relationships, including student-teacher relationships, flourish on mutual respect.
  7. Attend extracurricular activities. By attending an activity outside of school, it shows the students you are interested in them as people and not just “students.”
  8. Share stories about yourself. Let the students see you as a person. This will allow them to make connections to you just like you make connections with them.
  9. Let students have a voice in the classroom. Let them know this is not “my room” but “our room.” Try to stay away from the pronouns my or mine and go with we and ours.
  10. Trust your students! What better way is there to build relationships than to build trust? Also, students must trust you. Trust is the foundation of any good relationship.
Kim Monachino is director of the Office for Exceptional Children for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Kim by clicking here.

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7/19/2018

GUEST BLOG: The Ohio State Fair…The Ultimate Summer Learning Adventure—Eileen Corson, Ohio Expo Center and State Fair

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-691987756.jpgSuppose you wanted to take an in-water kayak lesson, learn to fish, plant a garden and taste the fruits of your labor, milk a cow, watch a horse show, discover fine arts and attend several music concerts. This sounds like an overflowing summer calendar. Now, imagine accomplishing all of this in a single day—it’s possible at the Ohio State Fair!

As mid-July approaches, families are trying to fit as many summer activities as possible into their remaining days of summer vacation. The Ohio State Fair (July 25-Aug. 5) is the perfect place to experience a variety of summer adventures and include some STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning for the new school year ahead.

With hundreds of exhibits and one of the largest junior fair shows in the nation, the 2018 Ohio State Fair has something for everyone.

The Ohio Farm Bureau Land & Living Exhibit is packed with agricultural activities for the whole family. Young children will enjoy driving pedal farm tractors, planting corn in a tractor simulator, harvesting wheat in a combine simulator or shopping in an interactive grocery store.

Visit the hands-on, interactive Ag is Cool education stations to learn how agriculture impacts your daily life. Milk a cow, learn the difference between hay and straw and see baby animals with their mothers. As a bonus, Ag is Cool allows exiting fourth grade students (2017-2018 academic year) and one chaperone to attend the Fair for free any one day by presenting a valid report card or homeschool form at the entrance gates.

Local Matters’ hands-on food and growing sessions empower kids of all ages to learn how to grow healthy foods, what healthy foods provide the most benefits, and how the healthful choice can also be the delicious choice! Whether you're getting hands dirty planting seeds or helping to prepare a delicious and healthy snack, you will learn that healthy eating is tons of fun. Stop by and taste different whole foods that keep your minds and bodies strong and full of energy – perfect to fuel your fun at the Fair all day long.

Enjoy free fishing for kids, kayaking, archery, a butterfly house, a watercraft simulator and so much more in the eight-acre Natural Resources Park. Kids can get up close and personal with native Ohio wildlife, dip their hands into the Scenic Rivers touch pool with crayfish and small stream fish, walk through the world’s largest geological map showing all of Ohio’s 88 counties, and explore a tall grass prairie with plants native to Ohio.

The Lausche Youth Center is the hub for all things science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Kids can unlock their invention powers at the Invention League booth, see robots in action with Technology Education, conduct experiments with liquid nitrogen and “the spinning barf wheel of science” at “Phun with Physics.” There is always a new hands-on experiment for you to try!

Inspiring art is everywhere at the Ohio State Fair. Enjoy art from Ohio’s best student artists in grades 1 through 12, as well as the Fine Arts Exhibition featuring amateur and professional Ohio artists. The Cox Fine Arts Center is a relaxing environment to soak in the arts or visit exhibits throughout the Fair featuring arts and crafts.

Music lovers will enjoy special performances around every corner! Listen to the talented students in the All-Ohio State Fair Band and All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. Attendees will want to pause and hear one of the many strolling performers or free concerts, or indulge in a big-name national music concert. Whatever your taste in music, you will find it at the Fair.

Make the most of your time this summer and visit the Ohio State Fair during its 12-day run July 25-Aug. 5. With a 165-year history of family fun, education and entertainment the Fair is a great place to build memories to last a lifetime.

Admission to the Fair is only $6 with advance purchase through Ticketmaster.com or in Kroger stores. For more information visit ohiostatefair.com or call 1-888-OHO-EXPO, or 1-614-644-FAIR.

Eileen Corson is a member of the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair communications team and mom to three busy kids ages 7, 13 and 15. She enjoys sneaking fun learning into summer and promoting all the great family adventures you will find here in Ohio.

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7/12/2018

Beyond Engagement: Empowering Students to Take Ownership of Learning

By: Virginia Ressa

GettyImages-846567624.jpgSummer “vacation” is one of those things that non-educators sometimes misunderstand. Some people, even our family members, think teachers have three months off to lounge, sleep in and binge watch the shows we missed during the school year. We know differently. First of all, it’s not three months – it’s maybe two and a half after you factor in required planning and professional development days. But that’s not what I want to discuss today. I want to talk about how we use that time. Educators are also learners, using their time “off” to take classes to maintain their current license, earn a new license or an advanced degree.

What motivates us to continue our education and complete graduate classes?
What inspires us to engage in the learning process? To finish the vast amount of academic reading? And to complete the group projects that are so ubiquitous in grad school? I can tell you from experience, there are no rewards that give graduate students bonus bucks to spend at the university store when they complete the required reading. Rather than extrinsic rewards, we develop our own intrinsic motivations that keep us focused. We have ownership of our learning because we know why we are engaged in the learning. We know where we are going and what is expected of us.

Why don’t our students develop the same ownership of learning that we do?
Think about our K-12 classrooms and how we involve students in learning. Many of our schools and classrooms have rewards systems with stickers and bonus bucks in an attempt to motivate reluctant students. We try to provide extrinsic rewards because we have not given students the information and tools they need to develop ownership of their learning and intrinsic motivation. Teachers make the decisions about what students will learn and how they will be assessed. Teachers determine the timing of lessons and units of study. Teachers collect evidence of student learning. Teachers keep track of student progress. Teachers retain most of the control of teaching AND learning decisions, which leaves students as directed, passive participants.  

As classroom teachers or grade level teams, we can offer rewards and privileges that might work for a short time, but rarely result in enduring motivation. Most of our attempts at external motivation fall far short of creating the engagement we genuinely want to see in our classrooms. What we are actually striving for, and what we experience as students ourselves, is ownership of learning. Student ownership goes beyond engagement and motivation, and empowers students with a sense of control and responsibility for their learning. Creating the conditions for students to take ownership of their learning requires teachers to work with students to set and communicate clear learning targets, collect evidence of their learning, track and analyze their progress, and provide opportunities for self and peer assessment.

We often see students engaged in classroom activities – they are busy, on task and focused. But if we stop to ask them what they are learning and why, can students articulate either? They may be on task simply to complete the activity before the end of class so they don’t have homework. Maybe they are on task because they want to earn a spot in Friday’s field trip. They may not know why they are doing an assignment, but have been provided with enough outside motivation to complete the assignment. Yet, research shows that when students know why they are engaged in a learning activity and understand how their learning will contribute to their long-term goals, they are more likely to be self-motivated and to reach their goals. In other words, students are more likely to be motivated to reach goals they’ve helped to set. They are more likely to keep working toward their goals if they can see and track their progress.


“Formative instructional practices involve students throughout the teaching and learning process. These practices – done well – enhance student efficacy and motivation to learn.”
-FIP Learning Modules


If you have participated in any of the Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) professional learning, you will recall it emphasizes four core practices: Creating clear learning targets, collecting evidence of student learning, providing effective feedback and supporting student ownership of learning.

The most critical element of student ownership and FIP is the creation of clear learning targets. Clear learning targets are the keystone in this set of practices because we cannot successfully implement the other practices if we do not have well written, aligned and easily communicated learning targets. Most significantly, clear learning targets provide educators with the key to empower students to take ownership of their learning.

This summer, Ohio’s teachers will have many opportunities to participate in professional learning. it is now easier than ever to learn about formative instructional practices. Free resources are now available on the Learning Management System (LMS). I’ve given you an introduction to student ownership of learning, but there are modules in the “FIP in Action” course that will help you to envision the practices in the context of content area classes. Once you have had a chance to take some time for yourself, visit the LMS and look at the many options available for improving your use of formative instructional practices.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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