3 Things On Your Teacher Summer To Do List

teacher plans for back to school

I am definitely the type of teacher who likes to plan over the summer for the upcoming year. When you know which grade level you are teaching it is easy to plan all the things, like classroom decor, curriculum units, and the very important first-day of school lesson plans.


when you do not know what grade level or even which school or district you will be teaching in, planning over the summer and thinking about back to school season can be a little difficult.

I have been in both positions: knowing exactly what the next school year held and not having a clue where I would end up.

Either way, there are a few things that you can research, gather ideas and prepare this summer to get a jump start on the upcoming school year no matter where what, or who you will be teaching.

1. Discover Ways to Create a Kind Classroom

Creating a kind classroom is always a top priority for me, no matter which age group of students I work with. To truly create a kind classroom community, it takes a lot of planning and implementing of intentional lessons and activities. I like to spend the first-month teaching lessons on how students can show kindness through reading several books and discussing classroom expectations. As the year goes on, we continue to visit kindness lessons, but by October our classroom community is already one with kindness. Grab a free random acts of kindness activity HERE.

Get started with these ideas:

teaching kindness in upper elementary classroom

2. Learn How to Teach a Growth Mindset

A growth Mindset is a way of thinking that helps kids persevere during difficult tasks. I truly saw the power of teaching growth mindset strategies when I moved from teaching third graders, to teaching fifth graders. My older students seemed more set in their ways and thoughts about their own abilities than the third graders I once taught. It took formal lessons and discussions during the first two months of schools to start to see a change in my older students. It was the best investment I made in them, and as the year progressed and the work (especially math) increased in difficulty their persistence and stamina in work increased, too. Grab a free digital and printable positive award set HERE.

Get started with these ideas:

3 Things On Your Teacher Summer To Do List

3. Gather Resources to Implement SMART Goal Setting

There really is nothing more important than helping your students set and achieve attainable goals right from day 1. By doing this, you start to develop goal setting habits in your students. Habits that will certainly last a lifetimeWhile we set goals in my classroom at the beginning of the year, the students evaluate their progress weekly and set new goals frequently. The key to teaching students to set goals is to meet individually with students to help them find a goal that is appropriate for them that they are interested in achieving. Head to this blog post to grab the perfect interview form to kick off your student goal-setting meetings.

Get started with these ideas:

3 Things On Your Teacher Summer To Do List

There are so many things to do that first month of school. Plan ahead what you can now by learning and collecting ideas to help you create a classroom filled with kindness, positive thinking and a growth mindset, and SMART goals.  You are well on your way to having a great school year!

Have a great summer, teacher friends!

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teacher must dos for back to school season



6 Picture Books to Help Teach Goal Setting with Students

goal setting for upper elementary

Student goal setting is a powerful way to kick off the school year. It sets the tone that you believe your students can achieve anything and that you are there to help them along the way.

That is why I set time aside the first few weeks of school to meet with students individually, help them set attainable SMART goals, create a plan of action, and teach them how to self-progress monitor the goals that they set.

Goal setting is also an important component in classroom communities that focus on a growth mindset. When your students set their own goals, they take ownership of their learning, and persevere to reach their goals; setting new ones frequently.

Start your goal setting lessons with these picture books to get your students invested in their own learning and set individual learning goals to help them stretch and grow AND grab the free goal setting printables at the bottom of this post that you can use with any of these books!

SMART goal setting for kids

Jeremiah Learns to Read written by Jo Bogart

This book is probably the most borrowed book from my extensive collection. Teachers of all ages love reading this book to their students. Jeremiah Learns to Read tells the story of an elderly man who wants to go back to school to learn to read. Jeremiah ends up setting his goal, discussing it with his wife, and then attending school to achieve something he never thought was possible. This book sends two powerful messages: you are never too old to learn something new and every goal is attainable.

6 Picture Books to Help Teach Goal Setting with Students

After the Fall written by Dan Santat

This book tells the story of Humpty Dumpty and what he does after his fall. I love the message about getting back up again, dusting yourself, and trying again. The surprise ending will have your students remembering this book and its message for a long time. This is perfect for goal-setting lessons as Humpty sets a goal, collects ideas, and perseveres as he puts it all into action. Engage your students with activities that they will love focused on this book!

salt in his shoes picture book activity

Salt in His Shoes written by Deloris Jordon

This true story about the childhood of Michael Jordan is both a crowd-pleaser and inspirational. In this book, we meet young Michael who has big dreams but does not believe in himself. He sets up an action plan, gets to work, and with a little help from his loving family, he sees the power in himself. I read this book the second day of school every year and each year it sparks such meaningful discussions about goal setting and growth mindset. This is a must to add to your classroom library.

goal setting lessons for elementary

Ruby's Wish written by Shirin Yim Bridges

Ruby's Wish is a true story written about the author's grandmother, making it extra special to read during goal setting lessons. Young Ruby wants nothing more than to be able to learn and attend a university like her male cousins. It takes bravery and courage for Ruby to reach her goal. this book lends itself to amazing conversations about much more than just goal setting.

picture books for back to school

Because written by Mo Willems

Anything by Mo Willems is a home run, but this will be your new favorite! Because works backward telling the story of a successful orchestra conductor's start to where she is now. This book lends itself perfectly to explain the why and how of setting and accomplishing goals.

free smart goal setting activities for kids

Thank You Mr. Falker written by Patrica Polacco

This book is especially powerful for goal setting lessons because it is an autobiography. This book follows Trisha as she struggles to learn how to read. After connecting with a very special teacher, she learns that she has dyslexia. This helps her to realize that she needs to learn a different way and set goals with specific strategies for herself. This book will support your discussions of how important having a growth mindset is the learning process, the use of different strategies, goal setting, and perseverance.

When it comes to back to school activities, make sure that student goal setting is at the top of your list. It is well worth the time spent setting individualized SMART goals with your students to set the tone for a meaningful year ahead.

You would also love to read:

Looking for more engaging read-aloud activities? See more HERE.

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6 Picture Books to Help Teach Goal Setting with Students

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Back to School Must Haves to Kick Off the Year Smoothly

upper elementary back to school ideas

The beginning of the year is an exciting time. The newness of everything, the excitement of new students, anticipation for the year ahead, and the reunion of friends and colleagues make those first few days of school the best of the year.

The only problem is the exhaustion that comes along with it!

Back to School Must Haves to Kick Off the Year Smoothly

That is why I like to work smarter not harder during the back to school season. And you can, too!

Here are a few of my favorite ways to kick off the year smoothly and effortlessly so that I can spend more time getting to know my new students and get myself back into the school swing of things.

Back to School Activity That Serve Double Duty

Nothing says welcome back to school then a fun and engaging getting to know you activities. There are so many fun ice breakers and community building activities to get to know your new crop of students, but I like to do activities that serve double, or triple duty.

My favorite back to school activity are these Acrostic Apples Activity. I love this project because it ties together a getting to know you activity with poetry writing. The best part is that it makes an adorable bulletin board to leave up as long as you like! It makes a great display for Open House and Meet the Teacher Night and helps the students to get to know each other.

Teacher bonus:This activity is a great informal assessment of students brainstorming, writing, and fine and gross motor skills.

Back to School Must Haves to Kick Off the Year Smoothly

One and Done!

Another way that I like to work smarter, not harder, is to create bulletin boards that I can leave up all year long. One way I do this is by creating bulletin boards with meaningful information and anchor charts that will help the students succeed, especially at the start of the year when everything is new. Another great bulletin board that you can leave up all year long, is one with positive messages and motivational quotes.

My favorite academic bulletin board to leave up all year long is focused on the Writing Process and the different writing genres. This helps the students stay on track during writing workshop and by including a writing process clip chart to the bulletin board it helps me get a pulse of where students are in the writing process. Grab this FREE back to school writing activity to kick off your year that your kids will love!

Teacher bonus: This writing process reference bulletin board will help students stay on track even when a substitute is in charge!

Back to School Must Haves to Kick Off the Year Smoothly

Meet the Teacher Night Forms

As soon as the school calendar is released, I immediately look for the date of Meet the Teacher Night. Even after so many years, I get so nervous to speak in front of parents. That is why I love having student information forms for parents to fill out during Meet the Teacher Night. Since so many of them complete the forms that I give them that night during my presentation it takes some pressure, and eyes, off of me. I also add fun pages like this one for parents to fill out so that students get a surprise letter on their desk the next morning. Keep the communication going with your parents with this FREE communication log.

Teacher bonus: The forms that parents complete give me valuable insight into each student as an individual and help me to build meaningful relationships with parents right from the start of the year. It is the perfect piece to add to your student files.

open house parent forms

Classroom Wish List and Meet the Teacher Letter

Speaking of Meet the Teacher Night, there is no better #teacherwin than enlisting the help of your parents in the form of classroom donations. I love displaying my wish list on our "Classroom Walk Through Day" which is the day before school AND on Meet the Teacher Night. It is is simple:

  • Create an eye-catching display.
  • Create cards with items you want and need to be donated to your classroom.
  • Ask parents to take a card and donate that item to the classroom.
  • Follow up by sending thank you cards from the class.

Teacher bonus: Reuse this classroom wish list display during parent-teacher conferences in the spring when you need to restock your supply closet.

Back to School Must Haves to Kick Off the Year Smoothly

Print, Copy, Keep a Stash

Printing thank you cards ahead of time at the beginning of the year is a great way to always be ready to show gratitude for every small gift a student or teacher surprises you with and especially for the holidays as they always seem to sneak up on you! I print different styles at the start of the year and keep them in a large baggie with colorful pens. That way when I need them, I just pull them out and write or take the bag with me to write out thank you cards at home.

Teacher bonus: Digital thank you cards allow you to have an endless stash of thank you cards that you can print at any time, year after year!

Back to School Must Haves to Kick Off the Year Smoothly

Teacher friends work harder not smarter this back to school season! Remember these easy to implement tips:

Have a great back to school season!

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back to school to do list

Looking to get organized and prepared for open house or meet the teacher night in a snap? Grab this completely editable in PPT or Google Slides™ presentation! This set comes in many different designs to match your classroom decor! 

meet the teacher presentation



Growth Mindset Picture Books Already On Your Shelf

growth mindset books and activities for kids

Teaching a growth mindset in your classroom is a great way to improve your students' persistence and effort when it comes to completing challenging assignments.

Teaching strategies to help students develop a growth mindset is a year-long commitment that in time, will become part of the culture of your classroom community. It is no easy undertaking, but the benefits for students are profound.

One way that I have found to drive home the concept of having a growth mindset is by using picture books. This is because students instantly connect with favorite and new characters as they accompany them on a journey of growth and change. Picture books also help begin conversations about growth vs fixed mindset.

I know that building a classroom library can be expensive. That is why I created a list of picture books that you probably have on your bookshelves already. Don't worry if your students have already read or heard these books before. Rereading books with a different lens will strengthen your students as readers and help them make connections between the characters that they already know and the concept of a growth mindset. Grab free growth mindset activities to be completed following a read-aloud of any of these books at the bottom of this post. 

Check your classroom library shelves for these classic books!

growth mindset activities and book for teachers

Brave Irene by William Steig

Do not let the snowy winter setting of this book stop you from reading this story at any time of the year! This book follows the determined main character, Irene as she travels through a terrible storm facing many obstacles to deliver a dress for her mother. This character shows a great deal of perseverance, persistence, and determination along her journey. Not only is it inspirational to read this book as you discuss growth mindset, but you can revisit and reread this book when you are teaching character analysis for a quick refresher on growth mindset.

read aloud books for upper elementary for growth mindset

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

This is absolutely one of my favorite books to read! It is written in prose and let's be honest, reading aloud poetry books is engaging for teachers AND students. For the main character Gerard, the thing most difficult for him to do is dance. After he is teased over and over, he realizes that he needs a different strategy to help him be successful at dancing. This book is a great way to reinforce to students that the learning process is more important than the outcome.

growth mindset vs fixed mindset activities

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Warning: you may cry during your read-aloud of this book! I love reading this book during growth mindset lessons because it is a true story. This book follows the main character, who happens to be the author of the book, as she struggles to learn how to read. After connecting with a very special teacher, she learns that she has dyslexia. This helps her to realize that she needs to learn a different way. This book will again support your discussions of how important the learning process, different strategies, and perseverance are as you teach students to have a growth mindset.

growth mindset read aloud activities

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

I love this book and you probably do, too! This book can be read for your kindness, empathy, and theme lessons, but it is also perfect to read and discuss growth mindset. The main character in this book, along with her family, are determined to save enough money for a new chair for her mother, after a fire in their last home destroyed theirs. I love the message and theme of the story of working together and appreciating what you have. This can easily be tied to a growth mindset as we teach students to work together, use their strengths, and what they have to help them succeed. 

Growth Mindset Picture Books Already On Your Shelf

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

This book is so relatable! The main character Jabari wants to take that giant leap after he finished his swimming lessons, but first, he has to face his fears. Is there a better way to explain a growth mindset to your students? Luckily for Jabari, his father is right by his side helping him see his true potential. The adorable illustrations in this book help the children to feel what Jambari feels as he grows during the story.

Growth Mindset Picture Books Already On Your Shelf

Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty

You may have this book on your shelf to share with students during makerpace, science, and STEM lessons, but this book is just perfect to read with a growth mindset lens. The main character loves to make inventions to help people, but after she is laughed at, her confidence begins to dwindle. But after a little pep talk from her aunt she realizes that the only true failure is quitting. 

growth mindset read aloud

The Most Magnificient Thing by Ashley Spires

This story has an extremely relatable character that your students will not only connect with but love! The main character has the vision to create something amazing and magnificent. But after many fails, she realizes that creating it is not as easy as she thought and she gets mad and gives up. Sound familiar? With a little nudging from her best dog friend, she decides to look at things differently and try again. This book is just perfect for back to school growth mindset lessons!

Have you heard about these books?

growth mindset read alouds and activities

These titles may not be in your classroom library....yet, but if you are looking to grab new titles that can be used during your growth mindset lessons, these are some must-haves!

  • The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett This book tells the story of a girl who loves to be perfect and afraid to make a mistake. She learns that not everything is in her control and that mistakes do happen. Eventually, she begins to embrace making mistakes.
  • I Can't Do That Yet by Esther Pia Cordana This book is about reaching your potential and overcoming your fears. It is a great book to spark conversation about never giving up and growth mindset vs fixed mindset.
  • Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan This true story about Michael Jordan will keep your students engaged and help them to learn that even successful athletes had to work hard to achieve their goals. This book is also perfect to help students set SMART goals for the new school year.
  • After the Fall by Dan Santat This book tells the story about Humpty Dumpty...after the fall. I love the message about getting back up again, dusting yourself, and trying again. The surprise ending will have your students remembering this book and its message for a long time. Grab the activities to use with this read aloud HERE.

One last new book perfect for Growth Mindset!

snail crossing picture book and activities

Snail Crossing by Corey R. Tabor

I love this book! If every there was a book about growth mindset, this is it! This book follows the main character, a snail, on his journey to cross the road to the get some cabbage to eat. Sounds simple, right? But with many obstacles thrown at him and getting all turned around, literally, he realizes that help to reach your goals can come with a little help from your friends! 

Make teaching a growth mindset part of your back to school lessons with the books that are already on your bookshelf. As our school expectations, curriculum, and state testing and mandates increase in difficulty it is important to teach our students to persevere. Helping students have a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset will help students work through difficult tasks and succeed.

Grab FREE PRINT and DIGITAL growth mindset activities to be completed following a read-aloud of any of these books at the bottom of this post. 

You might be interested in these Growth Mindset Resources:

Growth Mindset Picture Books

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Growth Mindset Picture Books Already On Your Shelf

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Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

growth mindset in the classroom articles to read

I will be the first to admit that when I first heard the words "growth mindset" I figured it was a passing educational trend that would be here one moment and gone the next. An initiative that would never really take off.

Then I moved grade levels.

I was suddenly a new fifth-grade teacher who saw students in front of her who did not persevere, who did not persist, who did not display any passion for learning. Many thoughts went through my head, perhaps its the cohort of students, this particular age group, or maybe my class size. Excuse after excuse, I realized that I needed to invest my time and energy into learning all I could about growth mindset.

So what is a "Growth Mindset"?
In a nutshell, a growth mindset is the thought process that allows students to embrace difficulty, challenges, and their own errors and mistakes. By encouraging a growth mindset in your classroom students begin to try harder, develop resilience, and become empowered to persevere through difficult tasks. Research shows that your brain can get stronger and smarter, and by teaching students to have a growth mindset they learn that through effort and persistence they can succeed, even when something seems too hard.

By taking this approach, I noticed a huge change in my students. The moans and groans of challenging work, specifically math word problems, lessened, and their persistence in working through tough assignments increased. After seeing such amazing growth in my own classroom, I knew that teaching growth mindset was not a passing educational trend, but rather a scientific approach to teaching students how to persevere.

Learning something new can be overwhelming. Here are some easy to implement strategies that I have found helpful when bringing a growth mindset into my classroom that you can use too, without the overwhelm!

Understand What Growth Mindset Looks Like in the Classroom

Learn, learn, learn! Take the time to learn what a growth mindset really is and what it looks like in the classroom. These books are easy to read to learn more about growth mindset:

Need a growth mindset overview right now? This quick video will help you understand the concept of a growth mindset directly from Carol Dweck.

Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Teach Formal Lessons 

Once you have a handle on the concept of growth mindset it is time to get to work to push students out of their comfort zone and scaffold the support you provide. To help students understand what a growth mindset classroom is, formal lessons are a must! Hanging up a poster or two is not enough to help students to understand what a growth mindset is. Students need formal lessons to understand the science behind this concept. Focus beginning of the year lessons on:

These videos are perfect to help you kick off your lessons on growth mindset and how our brains work and grow:

Try this: Have students write down one thing that is difficult for them to do right now on the front of an index card, perfect to tie in the beginning of the year goal setting. Give them a few minutes to brainstorm different strategies that can help them succeed. After a few minutes, have students get up and walk around and share what they wrote with their peers. Have students who wrote similar things down on the front of their cards partner up to brainstorm more strategies to help them succeed.

Read Favorite Picture Books

Teaching a growth mindset using picture books in your classroom community is a must! Students instantly connect with favorite and new characters as they go on a journey of growth and change. If you are not sure how to start your growth mindset lessons, start with one of these titles and have your students collect evidence of growth or fixed mindset as they listen to the story.

See more of my favorite growth mindset picture and grab some free printables HERE.

growth mindset anchor chart

Utilize Morning Meetings

I love using morning meetings as a time to discuss important concepts and ideas. The students are fresh, focused, and truly enjoy gathering together as a community. They feel empowered and know that their voices are heard when we are all together during this time. That is why it is the perfect time to use growth mindset quotes in the classroom. Instead of sharing quote after quote, we spend a great deal of time with just one quote a week. Here is a quick overview of how we spend an entire week digesting a single quote.

  • Monday: share the quote, hang it up, and let it sink in 
  • Tuesday: have a few students share what they think it means
  • Wednesday: have students discuss in pairs what they think it means 
  • Thursday: have students share how they can apply the quote to their own lives
  • Friday: have students write about or illustrate what the quote means and how they can put it into practice
Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Create Meaningful Bulletin Boards and Displays

After we use powerful growth mindset quotes and positive motivational quotes during our morning meetings, I display them on a bulletin board to leave up all year long. I also display student reflections and illustrations around the bulletin board to remind students how they said they can apply each quote to their own lives. By doing this, students are taking ownership of each quote and the display serves as a powerful reminder for them all year long.

Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Another way I like to display growth mindset in my classroom is with these growth mindset alphabet posters. This alphabet has all of the important vocabulary terms from our beginning of the year formal lessons like neurons, perseverance, grit, and yet. Since students are not just seeing the word, but the definition too, they are able to put the ideas from this concept into action easily and daily. It also serves as a great teaching tool for me when reminding students of the expectations I have in place for a growth mindset.

growth mindset cursive alphabet

Teach Students to Reflect on Errors

Helping students to embrace their mistakes and errors is an important part of having a growth mindset. Mistakes help us learn. To take that concept even further, I love having students analyze the mistakes that they make using a graphic organizer. We use this graphic organizer to reflect on our errors to help us learn after any assessment. It provides students the opportunity to look at their
errors, work backward to figure out their mistakes, and ask for help if needed. By setting a small chunk of time aside each week for these types of reflection activities, students understand how important mistakes are. I love helping students reflect and learn during our error analysis timeGrab this organizer for FREE at the bottom of this post.

Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Celebrate Authentic Moments

Teachable moments are everything, especially when it comes to a growth mindset. Be sure to call out your students to celebrate the process of their work and not the product of their work. Focus on praising students' effort, focus, and the variety of strategies that they use when solving difficult tasks. By doing this, the students begin to realize that the process of hard work and perseverance gets rewarded, and not just the right answer. Use motivational note cards to send a personal note to students to celebrate their process. This small act is so motivating for students! The more you celebrate the process of your students' thinking and work ethic, the more the students will begin to celebrate each other when they see a growth mindset in action, too!

growth mindset praise cards

Growth mindset is a powerful concept! It can truly change a child's life. Teaching a growth mindset is an ongoing and yearlong process that begins with formal lessons at the beginning of the year. But by using these simple strategies, ideas and resources, your students will begin to show a growth mindset and enjoy working hard.

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Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

You might be interested in:

growth mindset and the brain close reading passages

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


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