So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind? Pt 4 – Exact, Understanding and Silly


This is my final reflection on the 16 Habits of Mind. Next week, I return to school after Australian Summer School holidays and we’ll be moving straight into discussions about how to incorporate Habits of Mind into the curriculum. I hope after these reflections I’ll be returning prepared!

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind? Pt 1 – Control

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind?? Pt 2 – Cognitive

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind? Pt 3 – Supple/Sensorial

Striving for accuracy

As a Learner…

          • Do you check the validity of information in research and look for multiple sources of information?
          • Do you meticulously edit your work individually AND seek out the advice of others?
          • Do you constantly investigate ways to improve your skills and abilities?
          • Are you proud of your achievements and efforts?


          • Do you just find the first half decent reference related to a topic regardless of its source and use that support your work?
          • Do you strive more to FINISH work rather than produce quality?

As a Teacher…

            • Do you enforce achievable high expectations on your students and instil a sense of pride in them to always produce their best?
            • Do you have routines in place that support students in ensuring accurate editing of content and structure?
            • Do you allow sufficient time for students to be accurate?
            • Do you model quality writing, research, editing, etc?
            • Do you monitor the accuracy and comprehension of student reading?
            • Do you have processes in place to check the validity of student research?
            • Do you expect students to precisely organise their working out of problems in Mathematics?


            • Do you put more emphasis on completing a quantity of work as data to assess rather than quality that represents the true ability of the student?
            • Do you prefer students to finish rather than show understanding?
            • Do you take more notice of the presentation of work rather than the accuracy of information?
Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

As a Learner…

                  • Do you revise your texts to ensure your message is getting across in the most efficient and effective way
                  • Do you seek out a test audience to check whether your message is understood?
                  • Do you stick to facts and clearly differentiate between fact and opinion?
                  • Do you check that your opinions and ideas are supported by verifiable evidence?
                  • Do you plan and rehearse your oral presentations to ensure you succeed in communicating effectively with your audience?

OR…. Do you quickly write down your thoughts at the last minute, neglect the need for your audience to understand your message, say or write anything that will achieve the outcome of making your  deadline, generalise, exaggerate and omit important information due to a lack of effort?

As a Teacher…

            • Do you carefully plan your lessons so that your objectives are met, ensuring you know the strategies you’ll need to address different abilities and are in clear in your mind what the specific skills and concepts are being addressed?
            • Do you have structures like rubrics and checklists in place so students know they are expected to communicate with clarity and precision?

OR…. Do you enter some lessons with a general, sometimes vague understanding of what you hope to achieve and without the resources to address potential roadblocks to student success? Are your students unsure of expectations on them?

 Listening with understanding and empathy


As a Learner…

                  • Do you respect the rights of other students/colleagues to put forward their point of view and reflect on the life experience their opinions are based on?
                  • Do you ask questions as you listen to show the speaker you’re interested and want to understand, even if you show your disagreement?
                  • Do you put forward your point of view and encourage and expect a reaction from others to promote discussion?

OR…. Do you just switch off because you think you know what the speaker is going to say and you disagree, make no effort to involve yourself in the discussion or cut off other people or disregard them when they disagree with you?

As a Teacher…

            • Do you allow students to finish expressing their viewpoint before you respond?
            • Do you model/teach how to listen and also how to respond when you agree AND disagree?
            • DO you have routines in place for discussions in your classroom?

OR…. do you cut your students off when you disagree, foster an environment that emphasises your viewpoint as sacrosanct to the detriment of open discussion, allow students to talk over the top of others or respond negatively without justification?

 Thinking interdependently

Work together! Being able to work in and learn from others in reciprocal situations. Team work.

As a Learner…

                  • Do you seek out opportunities to collaborate, share your work with others and encourage feedback?
                  • Do you offer advice and support while also seeking it for yourself when needed?
                  • Do you share the workload and plan effectively with others to ensure deadlines are met?

OR…. Do you prefer to do everything by yourself, demonstrate a lack of commitment or reliability when forced to work with others and never trust others enough to share ideas?

As a Teacher…

            • Do you foster a classroom environment that relies on collaboration, discussion and teamwork which includes you as a member of the group, not an outsider in charge of everything?
            • Do your students have to justify their answers, strategies, theories and discoveries through shared discussions?
            • DO your students support each other, sharing their skills, deficiencies, challenges and successes?

OR…. is the majority of class time spent with children doing ONLY individual work which they only share with you as the expert?

 Finding Humour

Laugh a little! Finding the whimsical, incongruous and unexpected. Being able to laugh at oneself.

As a Learner…

                  • Are you able see the funny side to your mistakes and not stress out about criticisms?
                  • Do you try to learn from humorous presentations of information like satire, political cartoons and parodies and can separate the facts from the joke?
                  • Do you relieve the stress of learning occasionally by looking for humour in your day?
                  • Do you try to add a bit of levity to your presentations to engage the audience or lighten the mood?

OR…. do you take yourself too seriously, respond badly to a bit of gentle ribbing, go through the day without a bit of a laugh and only seek out serious, purely educational sources of information?

As a Teacher…

            • Are you able to laugh at your mistakes in class and reveal that you are human to your students?
            • Do you use humourous sources of information to engage your students and generate discussion in a fun atmosphere?
            • Do you use humour ( not to be confused with sarcasm) to defuse conflict?
            • Can you handle your students using humour in your grade, even occasionally at your expense?

OR…. are you forever the serious, hard taskmaster who takes your job too seriously and sucks the joy out of life in your classroom?

Phew! That’s my take on the 16 Habits of Mind. A LOT to think about…..and not all in one day! When I started this reflection, I got a bit of pushback from a member of my PLN that I was expecting too much of everyone. I don’t. They’re Habits, not rules. No one can be expected to meet them all on every day. Certainly not me. ( Seriously, the OR… parts are just as much a reflection on my 25 year teaching career as anyone else I know in the business) But when I say they’re not rules, I’m also stressing that we can’t expect them to magically grow in students just by putting them up on posters and ‘teaching’ a habit a week. Habits are part of our lives, whether they are bad ( like smoking or making strange noises by grinding your tongue with your teeth – sorry personal reference there!) or good ( like regular morning exercise and night time reading). So too, the Habits of Mind. They have to be part of our DAILY lives, not just classroom time. Let’s recognise what we do well and what we struggle with. Be open about it and do something real about addressing our deficiencies as well as celebrating our successes. Then, maybe, they will become real Habits, not just another educational theory we’re trying to implement and tick off on the education system’s To do list.

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind? Pt 3 – Supple/Sensorial


Last month I started this series of reflections on Habits of the Mind. I completed Part 1 and 2 quickly….. then Summer Holidays arrived. In the spirit of the Persistence Habit, I’m finally ready to continue with Part 3 – Supple/Sensorial, in preparation for returning to work soon to continue work on Habits as a staff and student community.

Thinking flexibly

 As a Learner…

          • Do you use books, Twitter, blogging, social bookmarking sites or Video sites like Youtube to search for information and advice?
          •  Do you try out new ways of solving mathematical/arithmetical problems and develop a bank of strategies that work efficiently for different situations?
          • Are you an early adopter/trialler of new tools, techniques, strategies?
          • Do you write multiple plans and drafts of texts to test out the best results?
          • Do you seek advice, admit you need help, face the prospect of failure or challenge?
          • Do you take courses in your own time to try out new experiences?


  • Do you steadfastly accept that what you have done and learnt in the past is good enough since it has “got you this far in life quite successfully, thank you very much”?
  • Do you stick with one successful strategy that you are confident in using regardless of whether alternatives are more efficient or can lead to greater understanding of mathematical concepts?
  • Are you afraid to try anything new because you might not find it easy or useful?
  • Do you find excuses to avoid challenge in your life?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you encourage an independent AND interdependent classroom environment in which children make both individual and collaborative decisions?
  •  Do you provide your students opportunities to explore new ways of solving mathematical/arithmetical problems and develop a bank of strategies that work efficiently for different situations?
  • Do you provide a range of options for children to choose and encourage them to use a variety of tools?
  • Do you write multiple plans and drafts of texts to test out the best results?
  • Do you have a classroom where the children seek advice from you, fellow students, other teachers, outside resources ?
  • Do you present open ended problems, project based learning, group and independent inquiry opportunities that require the students to challenge, test, fail and succeed ALL during the same task?


  • Do you steadfastly continue to teach in the same way as you have  in the past since it has “got you and (most) of your students this far in life quite successfully, thank you very much”?
  • Do you stick with teaching the one successful strategy that you are confident in using regardless of whether alternatives are more efficient or can lead to greater understanding of mathematical concepts?
  • Are you afraid to try  new strategies and pedagogy because they might not improve your student learning in the short term or you may be seen to struggle in front of peers or students?
  • Do you find excuses to avoid changing your teaching or classroom management style?
  • Do you TELL your students how to do something so that they never have to think for themselves?

Creating, imagining, and innovating 

 As a Learner… 

          • Do you try a different presentation tool for every project you attempt?
          • Do you spend a lot of time in your day thinking about new ideas, inventing, looking for a way of doing something no one else has done before?
          • Do you write a lot? Do you have a go at stories, songs, poetry, play writing, comedy sketches?
          • Do you try new apps, web tools, software to see if they can enhance your ability to generate original material?
          • Do you have a go at creative pursuits like model making, painting, sewing, carpentry, etc?
          • Do you try to improve other people’s ideas and solve problems that will make something work better?
  • Do you stick to the same tried and true way of presenting information because you have always done it that way?
  • Do you always ask other people to solve your problems?
  • Do you give up as soon as you can’t solve something?
  • Do you just use other people’s ideas because it saves time and effort?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you vary your presentation styles and tools as a model to students to be innovative?
  • Do you provide opportunities for students  in the classroom to  think about new ideas, inventing, looking for a way of doing something no one else has done before?
  • Do you allow a lot of free time for students to write a lot? Do you model a wide range of genres?
  • Do you model how you use new technology to give students inspiration for new ways of creating?
  • Do you plan for enough opportunities for creative arts and construction in your classroom, and not just during specific lesson times?
  • Are your lessons based on question and one answer opportunities, always follow the same structure, involve passive listening and responding and are largely text based with little opportunity for creative expression or individuality?

Responding with wonderment and awe

 As a Learner…

          • Do you get excited when something new is introduced?
          • Do you look forward to challenges, find new information fascinating, actively look for something of interest in every topic?
          • Actively participate at every opportunity and proactively contribute so that your involvement makes things interesting to you?
          • Do you switch off because you assume you will not find something interesting?
          • Do you have a very narrow range of interests and fail to engage in many activities, leading to self inflicted boredom?
          • Are you judgemental and negative towards new ideas or particular people who present new ideas?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you prepare learning opportunities in which you are actively involved in the learning, don’t know the answer or where the task will lead to?
  • Do your students see your enthusiasm and excitement in the above learning tasks and get to experience you as a learner, not an all knowing teacher?
  • Is your classroom learning environment one that involves investigation, collaboration, discovery, discussion, challenge, disagreement, freedom of expression?
  • Do you set tasks for your students without any involvement from you as a fellow learner?
  • Is your learning environment passive and controlled?
  • Can people sense a lack of excitement in your day to day teaching?

Remaining open to continuous learning

 As a Learner…

          • Are you constantly investigating and searching for new ideas and opinions?
          • Do you actively seek out people who may have a different perspective to you?
          • Do you take on new challenges that you are not an expert in?


          • Do you think you finished learning years ago, you’re happy staying in your comfort zone and don’t want to be challenged?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you always challenge your students to go one step further in investigations and to accept that being finished 20 minutes early is not an achievement but an opportunity to explore further?
  • Do you actively involve yourself in learning new things IN FRONT OF the students?
  • Do you allow students to pursue their own interests to show them that learning is not confined to the classroom or between 9 -3:30, Monday to Friday?
  • Do you allow your students to demonstrate a superior understanding of something than you?
  • Do you reinforce the idea that finishing work is more important than learning something new or taking time to investigate further?
  • Do you always have to be the Expert in the grade and have the Final Say?
  • Do you set homework that involves practising skills half the class already have, thereby discouraging the opportunity for independent investigations leading to new learning?

Gather data through all senses:
Use your natural pathways! Pay attention to the world around you Gather data through all the senses; taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight.

 As a Learner…

          • Are you a hands on learner, getting physically involved in learning and creating?
          • Do you actively go to museums, explore natural environments, try to be a tourist in your own backyard?
          • Do you like science experiments, documentaries, playing around with gadgets, building things from instructions, cooking, gardening?
          • Do you like to look at pictures and objects and investigate their physical properties?


  • Do you just like reading and listening to oral presentations, find it difficult to analyse pictorial representations ?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you organise hands on experiences at every opportunity?
  • Do you use models, videos, pictures, guest speakers to support or supplement written material?
  • Do you organise regular excursions so that children can experience things first hand?
  • Do you allow for a lot of physical activity in your learning experiences?
  • Do you rely on textbooks, worksheets, instructions on the whiteboard or verbal instructions that cater for a small percentage of your students?
A couple of things I noticed doing this reflection:
  • many of these Habits overlap and I found myself being a bit repetitive; and
  • I have a lot to improve on in these areas.
While I am a creative person, being a singer/songwriter, guitarist, drawer and story teller, some of this has disappeared from my teaching. I used to teach a lot through music. My classrooms used to be filled with my artwork. I was a great story teller. I have to get back to that. I can also be too text reliant. I’m going to challenge myself to be “less wordy” in this blog this year and use more visuals, not to just to ‘decorate’ but to follow the famous saying, ‘ a picture paints a thousand words’.
What about you? What are your challenges? How can you improve your habits? Do you have anything to add to my points? Join the conversation.

COMING UP – Final Habits of Mind Post: Exact/Understanding/Silly

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind?? Pt 2 – Cognitive


Following on from my previous Habits of Mind post on Control Habits, one piece of feedback I received was that you would have to be a paragon of virtue to have all of these Habits of Mind functioning in your life all the time. It was also suggested that it was good for students and teachers to be aware of these Habits. My response was that I was no paragon  but it was not enough to just be aware of the Habits – that just turns them into another content area to learn and unlearn for students – but that we have to aspire to them for successful learning. No, we are not always going to succeed and sometimes we will fall into bad Habits, but Habits of Mind need to be more than a changeable weekly goal that result in us getting a HoM sticker; they are something we should strive to achieve as much as we can.

In this post we move on to the Cognitive Habits, the ones we need for deep thinking and learning to take place.

Applying past knowledge to new situations
As a learner…

          • Do you keep records of your past learning and spend time reviewing and reflecting on that learning?
          • Do you keep a journal to keep track of your learning?
          • Do you use digital bookmarking tools like Diigo or Delicious and tag articles, websites, reports under related tags so that you can link information together from both past and present?
          • Do you try to build on previous work done, looking for ways to improve on what you have done in the past but keeping successes intact?
          • Do you share your knowledge from previous years and explain how it is still relevant to what you are doing today?
          • Can you compare and contrast current and historical events and find relevance in the ideas and events of the past in your life today?
OR… Do you constantly start from scratch and waste a lot of time trying to create something new, never record anything and forget most ideas presented to you, never revise or make links between what was learnt in previous meetings, conferences, planning sessions,etc., disregard the experience and ideas of the past in an obsessive drive to change for the sake of change?
As a teacher…
  • Do you provide opportunities for students to record their learning for each day
  • Do you set up routines so that children make links between previous and current learning during the course of a lesson?
  • Do you lessons build upon past learning?
  • Dou you link concepts and key ideas from previous terms, weeks, years?
  • Do you expect your students to make links between previous and current learning
OR… do you rush through the end of lessons without giving time for students to record their learning, plan a series of disjointed lessons using worksheets that have no relationship from day to day, wait entire terms before revising skills and concepts with little chance of recall or connection and never review previous units of work and analyse successful components AND areas of improvement?

Thinking about your thinking (Metacognition)

As a learner….

          • Do you reflect on what you understand and don’t understand and make plans to discover ways to improve
          • Do you recognise when you are challenged, distracted, disenchanted and make the effort to get back on track?
          • Do you have make a concerted effort to reflect on your learning ( or lack of ), trying to identify one benefit from every learning experience you have?
          • Do you set goals and learning outcomes based on the above challenges?
          • Do you take notes as you go along and record questions, possible follow up actions, responses to what you read or listen to/view?
OR…. Do you just go through the motions during presentations, ignore/disregard what you don’t understand, randomly highlight words and phrases without reflecting on them, sit through meetings without challenging your beliefs or the beliefs of the presenters or move on to the next challenge without thinking about your level of understanding or depth of learning?

As a teacher…..

  • Have you set up routines and procedures whereby students reflect on their learning in an organised journal?
  • Do you challenge ALL students in the class to articulate their learning and misunderstandings?
  • Do your students set achieveable goals based on this reflective process?
  • Do you encourage critical thinking by setting tasks that challenge your students?
  • Does your class have collaborative discussions during which they challenge each other’s learning?
OR… do your students move hurriedly from activity to activity without pause for thought, sit silently without having thoughtful conversations with classmates, never get challenged to articulate their level of understanding or never have to use a reflective journal to document their learning?

Questioning and problem posing

As a learner…

          • Do you challenge the ideas presented to you by others and ask for evidence to justify their opinions?
          • Do you pose alternative ideas and solutions and conduct independent research to find out if they are viable?
          • Do you look for you own solutions to problems?
          • Do you dig deeper than the first level of questioning to make sure you have investigated fully?
          • Do you look for a range of resources that have a common answer?
          • Do you persist until you have found the answer?
OR… Do you accept the first idea presented as gospel, stop on the first page of a Google Search, never go beyond the first answer given to a question, lack the initiative or courage to challenge what others say or rely on others to find the answer to what you are looking for?

As a teacher…

  • Do you ask follow up questions to further challenge students to deepen their thinking?
  • Do you teach children the 5Y’s strategy that expects them to go 5 levels deep on questions they pose for research?
  • Do you encourage students to challenge your viewpoints as long as they can back their opposition up with rational thought and alternative evidence?
  • Do you present a range of data for children to analyse?
  • Do you use open ended tasks that encourage students to think about a range of possible outcomes and solutions?
  • Do you provide enough opportunities for problem solving?
OR…. Do you present as an authoritarian who has all the answers the children need, present closed questions that only have one solution, set assignments that don’t allow for independent research and topic choice, don’t allow enough time for children to work out problems before providing the answer or present only one point of view and expect children to accept it as accurate?
How much thinking goes on in your life? How much thinking goes on in your classroom? How good are your cognitive habits?

Next Post: Supple/Sensorial

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind? Pt 1 – Control


Over the last 3 years, we have been working towards integrating Habits of Mind into our curriculum. We’ve had some successes but it’s been a challenge to maintain the momentum. Is it another layer to add to the curriculum and thus more work to do? Have we embraced its philosophy? Or is it a case of teachers needing to accept to what extent they have good or bad habits themselves? As I’ve posted earlier this year, I am a big believer in teachers being role models in learning. Maybe, as teachers and learners ourselves, we ( and I’m referring to teachers as a whole, not just myself or my colleagues) have to reflect earnestly on how developed our own Habits of Mind are before we can truly embed them into our curriculum. How can we expect our students to develop good Habits if we haven’t ourselves?

With sixteen official Habits of Mind as outlined by their “creator”, Art Costa, this would become an extremely long post, even by my rather wordy standards. I’m going to split my reflections into several posts, using the S.U.C.C.E.S.S categories shown in the image above. Today, I’ll focus on the “Control” Habits.


As a learner;– do you consciously make an effort to stay on task during meetings, PD sessions etc, when the content is dry, irrelevant or “boring” so that you are still focused when something enlightening, useful or interesting is shared?  OR… do you just tune out like that frustrating student in your class who never listens to you?
– do you recognize your struggle in understanding a new pedagogy, concept, educational framework and look for alternative methods of learning until you have developed a level of comprehension you are satisfied with? OR… do you just claim you’ve never been good at that subject and never will be so avoid it like that student in your class you always complain doesn’t try hard enough?

As a teacher;– do you allow your students enough opportunities to re-submit work until they have shown they have grasped the understanding both you and them were aim for? OR… do you reinforce the idea that assessment is a ‘sink or swim’, one chance or you fail opportunity to prove you learnt something?

– do you provide enough time for students to struggle, problem solve, collaborate on solutions, challenge conjectures and answers? OR… do you jump in with the answer so you can move on to your next planned lesson, thereby teaching them that you are the source of all knowledge so its not worth persisting?

– do your students see you working on problems you don’t have the answer to, trying a variety of methods to achieve success, tackling complex problems over a number of days OR… do they only see you present the answers to everything?

Managing impulsivity

As a learner;
Do you…

          • prepare and follow a plan for completing the set task?
          • take in all information?
          • listen to all points of view?
          • weigh up all the evidence (both pros and cons)?
          • reflect on your emotional and logical response to what has been presented?
          • re read, listen to or review notes (written or audio)?
          • ask clarifying questions?
          • investigate/consult alternative sources of information or opinions?
          • And then act
OR… Do you react negatively to the first statement you disagree with and ignore everything else said regardless of its worth, accept the first source of information as accurate fact, adopt every new idea without investigating background information (pros and cons), rush through tasks with the goal of completion rather than achievement. let your emotional state affect your ability to participate meaningfully or rush headlong into a task without any thought of what it will achieve and how you are going to achieve it?

As a teacher; Do you have a set of procedures to follow that allow you to manage challenging behaviour in the classroom rationally and consistently OR… do you react inconsistently to inappropriate behaviour thereby giving students mixed messages about expectations in the classroom?

Do you rehearse possible answers to possible scenarios/questions that may arise during challenging/controversial discussions/lesson sequences OR… do you just react insitinctively to students’ questions without knowing the consequences of your answers and so modelling to the children that its acceptable to say anything?

Do you have a culture of “wait time” in the room so children are comfortable with taking time to record ideas or collaborate with others  before they respond to questions OR… is it a competition to be the first to answer a question or  do you jump in to answer the question before any student gets a chance to?

Taking responsible risks

As a learner;
Do you –

          • Investigate new apps and programs without help, discovering functions by experimenting with menu options and icons?
          • Trial all possible strategies in Mathematics over a long period of time to find out which strategies work best in different situations?
          • Experiment with new skills and activities you have never attempted to see if you can master them at a level you are comfortable with?
OR….. do you just keep doing the same activities and stick with the same interests you have always done and stay within your comfort zone, go running for help from the “expert” so he/she can show you how a software program works, stick with one method or strategy even if it isn’t always efficient or successful?

As a teacher;

Do you –

  • expose yourself as a learner who needs to find out how to do something in front of the class?
  • make mistakes in front of the students and look for solutions on the spot rather than making sure everything is perfect in your lesson?
  • Provide opportunities for students to engage in problem solving that requires testing out multiple possibilities?
  • Encourage students to try out many strategies even when they are not competent or comfortable with them so they can become more accomplished at using them?
  • Experiment with newly advertised pedagogies over an extended period of time to give them time to show evidence of improved learning?
OR… Do you use a one size fits all strategy for all students, stick with the one pedagogy that you believe has worked in the past, only present tools you are an ‘expert’ user of so there is no risk of students seeing you struggle, only present problems you know the answers to or make sure you know everything about what you are about to present and don’t allow any divergence away from your plan for fear of being lead away from your comfort zone?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no perfect role model either. While I am persistent and like to experiment, I don’t necessarily go outside my comfort zone much ( although it is a wide ranging zone in most mainstream classroom – in my extension programs, my students see me struggle) and I still have my days when I don’t follow a consistent management plan.  the point of this reflection is to challenge the teaching community to analyse their own “habits of mind’ before expecting children to just develop them. Practise what you preach. The Habits aren’t just some content to learn about. They have to become part of your being. We have to make sure they’re part of OUR being.

Next Post: Part Two – Cognitive (past knowledge/metacognition/questioning and problem solving