Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Habits of Mind

The sixteen Habits of Mind, just about cover it all for teachers. They serve as a great preface to any school year as they set the standards for the "intelligent" approach to problem solving and being scholars. The Habits have been a cornerstone for the Coalition of Essential Schools and many schools in NYC.

When I read about the Habits, I'm impressed with the sources the author, Costa, uses: Senge, Sternberg, Coleman, Gardner, Piaget, and many others. They are grounded in good pedagogy. When we speak with our scholars, we should be using the Habits as a focal point of our conversation and guidance. In helping our scholars become what they want to be and to achieve their dreams, they need good habits of mind to achieve these ends. Asking them to address each of the Habits and to examine their relevance to the scholar's life is a very useful exercise. Those assessments can become contracts they have with themselves. "How am I persistent in my studies?" they may ask. This is an ongoing question and a reminder we must always apply to ourselves. "What do I already know?" is another worthy question we must always ask as we venture into new areas of knowledge and realize we have some knowledge about this already. It helps us organize ourselves and to work in groups. "How do I gather information?" demands we use all of our senses and tools to collect data. One of my favorites is asking the scholars to take risks. This can be tricky as scholars may not want to jeopardize a high grade. I have told the scholars that they are guaranteed an "A" on an assignment. That frees them up to take that risk. In one school, the AP teacher guaranteed the students would not get a grade lower then their English average. This let them take risks, knowing that "A" they already had was not in jeopardy. If we demand our scholars be creative, one of the habits, then so should we. It is called modeling or being creative in an approach. Use different technologies to produce a document showing what has been learned. A printed essay is standard, how about a PowerPoint or a webpage or a blog or a flash or something new? The habits provide good points of departure in the realm of learning.

Developing good Habits of Mind as a scholar will make the scholar a better scholar and a better citizen, parent, human. Using them from the start of school, making posters for the wall, and referring to them constantly throughout the year will make these end days all the more fruitful and effective in the learningan assessing process. Scholars will "remain open to continuous learning" after a successful year. If we have good Habits, then our scholars will see that and develop their own good Habits of Mind, too.


Erin said...

Hi Ted!

I am also an English teacher and I am very fond of your websites and the information that you post.

I was using Google to find information about AP English Habits of Mind. We are working to develop a pre-AP English curriculum for 9th and 10th grade and I would love to locate this information.

It appears that your habits of mind here are for educators. Do you happen to know where the AP English student habits can be found?

Thanks so much!

Ted Nellen said...


I have inquired without any luck about your request.



Paula Wilkes said...

Ted and Erin,
Here is the new location for the Institute for the Habits of Mind. ) Those sixteen habits are actually great dispositions for AP English students. In addition, I would like to mention a new game a colleague and I created called "The Icon Game: Responding to Literature with Depth and Complexity." There is more information about this game on the website