Sunday, February 25, 2018

Updated Close Reading with Salt in His Shoes: Includes Mindset for Learning Lessons

We have greatly improved our Close Reading with Salt in His Shoes resource!

We LOVE using REAL people to teach students about growth or learning mindset and Michael Jordan is a perfect person to introduce a learning mindset.

In the book Salt in His Shoes, young Michael Jordan feared he'd never be tall enough to play the game that would eventually make him famous. To lift his spirits, his mother told him that salt in his shoes would help him grow tall enough to make baskets. This heartwarming picture book, written by the superstar's mother and sister, and exquisitely illustrated by artist Kadir Nelson, teaches hard work and determination are much more important than size in becoming a champion.

We believe that it this is perfect close reading picture book because of its high interest (basketball and achieving dreams!) and it leads to an inquiry about how people achieve their goals. We’ve also found that the lessons learned from this text connect beautifully to the CCSS mathematical practice 1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, and the concept of having a mindset for learning, making it an anchor lesson that can be referred to again and again over the course of the year.

Michael Jordan’s mindset played a huge role in achieving his dream of being able to make baskets. His mindset is what continued to help Michael achieve great basketball success throughout his career.

In our updated product we have lessons and posters that introduce and help students practice the Mindset for Learning traits, found in the book A Mindset for Learning by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz.

The Mindset traits are:

Optimism: Putting aside fear and resistance to learn something new.
Persistence: Keeping at it, even when a task is hard.
Flexibility: Trying different ways to find a solution.
Resilience: Bouncing back from setbacks and learning from failure.
Empathy: Learning by putting oneself in another person’s shoes.

In our Close Reading with Salt in His Shoes resource we include:

  • Close reading questions to stick into the book Salt in His Shoes. (see our post about Post-It Sticky Notes)
  • Mindset Posters to hang up with a place under each trait for students to sign when they are "caught" using a trait
  • Eight Step-by-step lessons that include close reading for what the text says, how the text works, and what the text means
  • Student Printables
  • Intertextual Connections- nonfiction, video
  • Links to videos and challenging tasks resources
  • An inquiry lesson about Achieving Dreams
  • Application of learning through Goal Setting

Close Reading With Salt in His Shoes is a comprehensive unit with everything you need to to integrate close reading and growth mindset in an authentic and relevant way!

Students will be engaged and inspired by young and older Michael Jordan as he overcame his barriers to achieving his dreams.

Visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store to preview this incredible resource!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Inventor's Secret Teach A-Long: The Mint Mobile Challenge

Keep At It!


To infer meaning, students must understand the author’s purpose. In the story, The Inventor's Secret, understanding what it means to “Keep at it” like Edison and Ford “kept at it”, requires students to experience “keeping at it” as they go through their own invention process. Therefore, this activity contextualizes the meaning of “keep at it”, enabling students to understand the author’s purpose at a deeper level.

In this lesson, students design, build and test model race cars made from simple materials (lifesaver-shaped candies, plastic drinking straws, popsicle sticks, index cards, tape). They measure the changes in distance and speed traveled by the addition of weight or revision of design features. Students also practice the steps of the engineering design process by brainstorming, planning, building, testing, and improving their "mint-mobiles."

Note:  This lesson is part of our product The Inventor's Secret:  The Study of Two Inventors Who Changed the World.

Making the Inventor's Log Top Tab Foldable®

Before you begin the Mint Car Challenge, set a time for students to make their Inventor's Log Foldable®.

You will need different colored copy paper if possible. If not, white will also work. Cut the sheets of copy paper in half and place them with copies of the cover of the Inventor's Log on a table. I tell my students to take one of each color (I provided six different colors) along with the cover. Then, walk the students through how to cut each piece, using the cutting guide on the cover. The directions included in the unit are easy to follow. Older students may be able to follow them on their own.

 Introducing the Innovation Process

Follow the lesson steps to introduce the Innovation Process. Start by watching the National Science Foundation's video, The Science of Innovation. Use the video viewing questions found in the Mint Mobile Challenge PowerPoint to help focus your students' viewing and stimulate discussion about the process of innovation. I gave my students a copy of the questions to take notes and stopped the video at a few places for them to share their notes.

After viewing the video, students are ready to label the tabs of their Inventor's Log Foldable®. Go through the step by step directions in the unit for labeling the tabs. They connect the video to the book, The Inventor's Secret.

Start Your Engines! Designing the First Mint Mobile Model

I followed the lesson steps for the Mint Mobile Challenge but added some of the following for classroom management.

  1. Because of the nature of my 4th graders this year, I put students in groups of two and three. Mostly pairs. 
  2. I did not set up the ramp ahead of time to discourage testing while making their first model. 
  3. After students made their first model, I had them name it. I wrote the name of their cars on  index cars along with their names and placed it on a shelf, creating "parking lots". I told them that when they finish, they needed to clean up and "park" their Mint Mobile in its spot.
  4. I gave them a time limit. After about 20 minutes, I announced they had 20 more minutes to complete their Mint Mobile. 
  5. I limited the mints to six. I had extra mints that I handed out for eating while they designed their models. 
  6. I did not limit the other materials. 
  7. I had students test their models, one group at a time, during an independent work time. Other students were busy working on something else while I pulled on group at a time to test their car and record the time and distance. I had two helper students time and measure the distance. I set up the ramp under my Smartboard, so we could easily record the results on the results chart. 
  8. When you set up the ramp, test it with a Hot Wheel car first. I had two students create the ramp and test it.
  9. Be sure you have a piece of tape to indicate the starting line and the ending line. The ending line is where you will stop timing. You will measure the distance where the car actually stops. 

After the Initial Test!

After all students tested their Mint Mobiles and the results were recorded in the chart, I passed back their Inventor's Log Foldable® and their Mint Mobiles.  Under the Test tab, I had them draw a sketch of the Mint Mobile and record their test results. Together, as a class, we looked at the results. Which car was fastest? Which went the straightest? Which went the furthest? Could a car have gone further if it were straighter? I had students whose cars produced good results in these categories share their design features and explain why they thought the car did well.

Then, I reminded the students that innovators get inspiration from each other and maybe the designs will give them ideas for improving their own models.

I asked students to complete this sentence in their Inventor's Log Foldable®:  We plan to improve our Mint Mobile by ________________________.

The Final Design

Before starting their final design, I reminded my students of Henry Ford. I asked, "Do you think that with each innovation, Henry Ford built onto the previous model or did he make a whole new model?" Of course, they knew he designed a new car, using what he learned from the previous model, and with that I gave them the option of either making a whole new model or revising the old. (I had more mints).

This time, students could test and retest as they built their final design. Once they had it to where they were satisfied, they parked it in the parking lot for the final test. I followed the same procedure for the final test as I did the first test.


Debrief and Reflect

We finished our challenge by looking at the results. Everyone was happy because even if their Mint Mobile wasn't the fastest or furthest, it still was an improvement on their previous model. We filled in the last two tabs of the Inventor's Log Foldable®. Under Inspire, I asked students to write about who they inspired and/or who inspired them. Under the Reflect Tab, I asked students to answer What design feature worked? What they would do differently? and What did they learn about the Innovation process? How was the process you went through similar to Henry Ford's process?

My student LOVED this STEM challenge and I hope yours do, too.

Do you want to use the Innovator's Log Top Tab Foldable WITHOUT purchasing this unit? 


Would you like to try the Mint Mobile Challenge?

The Innovator's Log Foldable can be used with any STEM activity. We have created a product called Developing the Mindset of an Engineer, which provides everything you need to make the Innovator's Log and do the Mint Mobile Challenge with your students.

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Inventor's Secret Teach-a-long: Close Reading a Picture Book

It's time to read the book, The Inventor's Secret! In the previous lesson, students acquired background knowledge about Edison's inventions and Ford's innovations through inquiry. Today, you will read aloud the story, using close reading questions that guide students in thinking about the key ideas and details and to clarify confusions about what the text says literally. After reading and discussing the text through these questions, students should be able to summarize the text, using vocabulary from the story.


Note:  This lesson is part of our product The Inventor's Secret:  The Study of Two Inventors Who Changed the World.


  1. Print out the three pages of close reading questions (06InventorsStickyNotes.pdf) and the sticky note printing template (07StickyNotePrintingTemplate.pdf) 
  2. Place Post-it® notes on the printing template. Be sure to line them up with the outline of the squares on the template. Make sure they are lying flat to the page.
  3. Place the printing template with the Post-it® notes attached into a printer or copy machine, front side down, so that the Post-it® notes are facing down in the printer or copy machine. If using a copy machine, use the Stack Bypass setting.
  4. Copy or print the questions onto the Post-it® notes.
  5. Place the printed Post-it notes into the book at the page numbers where you will be asking the questions.
  6. Have the photographs of Henry Ford's car models, used in the last lesson. Place them in the order in which they were created, starting with the Quadricycle and ending with the Model T.

The Lesson

To introduce the story, I gathered my students on the rug and explained that today we would be reading the book, paying close attention to what the story is about. I showed them the summary worksheet that they would be completing after the read aloud, and explained that I'd be asking questions that would help them understand the details of the story.

As I read the book to my students, I pulled off each sticky note and placed it on the back cover, before showing the illustrations. I did not use every single question. I knew my goal was for students to understand the main idea and theme of this story, so as I went along I monitored their understanding by their responses.

When we read about Henry Ford's car models, starting with the Quadricycle and ending with the Model T, I posted up the photographs of his real cars onto a chart.
Image result for the inventor's secret thomas

 After we read the story, the students completed the summary. We corrected it together.

The students loved that Thomas and Henry were curious as kids and that their curiosity got them in trouble...a lot! By the time we got to the secret that Thomas shared, keep at it!, they really understood the message. So much that for the rest of the day, my students and I used the phrase "Keep at it!" when experiencing challenging tasks.

Post-it® Note Question Printing Template:  Make your own questions to print onto Post-it®Notes!

We realize that not everyone wishes to purchase the complete Inventor's Secret unit. So we have put together a product at our Teachers Pay Teachers store.  the Post-it® Note Question Printing Template. It includes a template for creating and printing custom questions onto Post-it® notes,  the questions for Inventor's Secret, ready to print, and the Inventor's Secret summary worksheet.

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Next Post: The Mint Car Challenge

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Inventor's Secret Teach-a-long: Invention Predictions Part 2

Invention Predictions:  Ford's Cars

"I have a challenge question for you! A golden ticket goes to the first person who raises a hand with the correct answer! Ready? What is the difference between an innovation and an invention?" 

That is how I started the session today. In Part One of the Invention Predictions lesson, my students had examined Thomas Edison inventions. Today, I wanted to prepare them to make some predictions about Henry Ford's car models. My goal was to quickly get their attention by offering a reward (a golden ticket) to whomever knew the answer to my question, and to have our conversation start moving into the concept of innovations. By offering a reward, I was sending the message to my students that this information is important. (What we reward or measure communicates what we value)

One of my students quickly shot up her hand and presented a precise, accurate definition. Most importantly, she emphasized that innovations made something previously invented better than before. 

Introduction:  Phone Innovations

I then invited students to join me on the floor in a circle and explained that I had some innovations of an invention that is near and dear to them, the phone. I randomly placed ten photographs of phone innovations, from the first phone to the smart phone in the center of the circle. (Note: These phone photographs are not included in the Inventor's Secret unit, but you can download them free here)

I said to my students, "Your job is to try to put these in the order in which they were made. Look carefully at the photographs. Which do you think came before the others?"

One student chose the first phone and I had him move it to the far left so that the photos would be arranged horizontally in a timeline fashion. 

I asked the student to explain why he chose that one; what in the photo provided clues? I then asked, "Which phone do you think came next? Which one made this one better?"

A student chose this candlestick phone and I asked her, "How did that phone improve the last one? What made it better?" She pointed out the earpiece, the mouthpiece, and the "candlestick" which made the phone easier to hold and use.

I continued this way until we had a phone timeline created. As we worked through the photos, other students were excited to add their ideas to other student's thinking, using details from the photographs.

Henry Ford's Cars

Then, I introduced Henry Ford's cars. Oh, first, another golden ticket opportunity! I asked, "Yesterday we learned about Thomas Edison's inventions. Who remembers the other inventor we are going to be reading about?" Of course, someone remembered Henry Ford. I said, "Edison was considered an inventor, Ford was an innovator of cars."

At this point, students had a good understanding of innovations as well as their task. They worked in their small groups to put the photographs of Ford's cars in order. I was very impressed with their focus and how well they used the details in the photos to support their thinking. As they examined the photos, I observed them making changes as they compared the cars. The conversation was always around the features that they thought made each model better than before.  

 Self Checking Their Predictions

In the lesson, it suggests that you end the lesson by going over Ford's cars with the class on the PowerPoint. I thought about that and decided it was going to be difficult for students to hold the order in which they placed the cars in their head in order to check if they were correct. I wanted instead, to have a quick self check for students. So I printed a copy of the slides handouts, 9 slides per page. I wrote the number in which they were created below the car model image. When the groups were satisfied with their order, they used this answer key to check their work.

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Next Post:  Close Reading a Picture Book

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Inventor's Secret Teach-a-long: Invention Predictions

Lesson Two:  Invention Predictions


I love this lesson! Students look at real photographs of Edison's and Ford's inventions and innovations. They have to first predict what Edison's inventions are and then they have to try to put Ford's cars into the order in which they were made.

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Make inferences and predictions about a primary source, using clues from the document to support their thinking.

A critical element in an inquiry-based learning classroom is helping students learn how to effectively access and analyze primary and secondary sources. This activity serves two purposes:
  1. It provides students with some background about Thomas Edison and Henry Ford's inventions and innovations while engaging them in inquiry and;
  2. It teaches students how to make predictions about primary source photographs using the details in the pictures to support their thinking.



You should already have made the copies of the invention photographs from the Edison Ford Inventions PowerPoint (04EdisonFordInventions.ppt) when you prepared for teaching the unit. If you haven't done so yet, see this post for the details. Make copies of the Invention Prediction worksheet (05InventionsPredictions.pdf), one for each group. You will also want to print the notes in the PowerPoint that tells about each invention.
Notes Pages

The Lesson
Part One: Thomas Edison's Inventions


I divided this lesson into two sessions. In the first session, we only made predictions about Thomas Edison's Inventions. I started by sharing some of the examples of inventions and innovations students found at home.

 I then projected the first Thomas Edison invention in the Edison Ford Inventions PowerPoint (04EdisonFordInventions.ppt) and had the Invention Prediction worksheet (05InventionsPredictions.pdf) copied onto my Smartboard so that I could write in it.
I modeled how to look at the invention and fill in the Invention Prediction sheet. I had students get into groups of 2 or 3. We talked about working collaboratively, what that would look like and what I would expect to see in a group working well together. I let students decide who would fill in the sheet or if they would take turns filling it in. We discussed coming to some sort of an agreement before filling it in and the importance of really using the details in the picture to support their ideas.

After everyone finished, I projected the Edison Ford Inventions PowerPoint (04EdisonFordInventions.ppt) and went over each invention one by one. I had each group share their predictions and I asked some to share their thinking. What in the photo made them think that? Then I revealed what the invention actually is, using the notes in the Powerpoint. A note about the notes. The notes are pretty extensive. I highlighted only what I thought was most important and interesting for my 4th grade students to know. I did not read the entire notes section to my class.

My students LOVED doing this. So much that some groups wanted to keep doing it even when it was time to take a recess break. I was so impressed with the ideas that they came up with. All of their predictions were rooted in evidence from the picture as well as their background knowledge. My 4th graders definitely worked best in pairs so I made enough copies of the photos to support that grouping.

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The Inventor's Secret

Previous Post:  What's an Invention?

Next Post:  Invention Predictions- Part Two


The Inventor's Secret Teach-a-long: What's an Invention?


Lesson One:  What's an Invention?

In the book, The Inventor's Secret, we learn about Thomas Edison who invented many things over his lifetime. We also learn about Henry Ford, who was an innovator. His goal was to make the car more affordable for the average household. The difference between what an innovation is and an invention seems minor but it is important. This lesson helps students develop a common understanding of the word invention and innovation. It also helps them see how integral they are to their daily lives.

After this activity, students should be able to:

▪ Identify inventions and innovations in their lives.
▪ Understand the characteristics and the purpose of an invention or innovation.


This lesson takes very little preparation. All you need is the Inventions and Innovations PowerPoint and copies of the Invention Search homework. I also copied the Inventions/Innovations in Our Classroom chart onto my Smartboard.

The Lesson

The lesson went so well! Students were engaged and very interested in the topic. The Inventions and Innovations PowerPoint stimulated a lot of discussion in my class and after presenting it, my students were able to create quite an extensive list of inventions and innovations in our classroom.

They were excited to complete the Invention Search homework.


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Previous Post:  Preparing to Teach the Unit

Next Post:  Invention Predictions

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Inventor's Secret Teach-a-long: Preparing to Teach the Unit

There are some things you'll want to prepare before you begin the first lesson. I started preparing these materials a few days ahead of time.

Before You Begin Teaching the Unit


If you don’t have your own copy of the unit yet, you can purchase and download it in our Teachers Pay Teacher GetReal! store.

Unzip the file and store it somewhere on your computer or in the cloud. I uploaded my files to my Google Drive so I can easily link to them from my online planbook.  

Get a copy of the book, The Inventor's Secret:  What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade

Find it in your library, order it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or purchase the e-book on Teacher's Pay Teachers.

Print the file, 00InventorsSecretTeachersGuide.pdf.

This is your teachers guide.

Open the file, 22EdisonFordQuotes.pptx
This is a PowerPoint of growth mindset quotes by Edison and Ford. Print out the slides and hang the quotes around your classroom. I laminated mine. To make them POP out, you might want to back them with colorful paper.  These quotes will be hanging up during the unit and they will be used in one of the last lessons of the unit.

Open the file, 01InventionsandInnovations.pptx  

Print the following slides, in color, if possible: 2-7, 10-17, and 20. Then, make enough copies to support groups of 3 or 4 students. This is going to depend on how many students you wish to have in the small groups. I am grouping my 4th grade students into groups of 2 and 3, because that is how they work best. 

You may wish to laminate these so you can reuse them.

Print the file, 03InventionSearchHomework.pdf. 

Make a copy for each student. This homework is assigned after Lesson One.

Read through Lesson One: What's an Invention?

Okay, that's it! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

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Next Post: Lesson One: What's an Invention?