“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
– Indian Proverb
Once upon a time at a primary school in Brighton, New York, a teacher was inspired by Habits of Mind. She wrote four stories featuring characters from a magical kingdom who need to use their Habits of Mind to solve problems. The teacher’s son illustrated the characters, and the teacher added the illustrations to Power Point slides that correspond to each story. The stories are now for sale at the Institute for Habits of Mind website so other teachers can use these stories with their students and then, of course, live happily ever after.
I’m the teacher in the above fairytale, and I am beyond thrilled to share these Habits of Mind stories. At our school, we tell one of these four stories each semester to the kindergarten and first grade classes. Each story features four Habits of Mind and includes a mini-lesson about the habits and a student activity that connects to the story. Over the course of two years, all 16 Habits of Mind are shared through the following stories:
- A forgetful wizard asks students to help him find missing habits in the Wild Woods.
- A frustrated king seeks the wizard’s help to improve the habits of Queen Quitter, Know-It-All Knight, and Prince Rockhead.
- A bored prince and princess plan a garden for the palace.
- The King plans a birthday feast for the Queen.
Students remember the habits because they remember the characters who use them. When a child is stuck in a task, I might ask him, “What did the Queen need to do when something was hard and she wanted to give up?” This leads to a good conversation about persisting. Or I might say to a child creating her own piece of writing, “You’re planning something important just like the King when he was planning the feast for the Queen. Which Habits of Mind helped him? How might they help you plan your writing?”
In the Habits of Mind Teachers’ Companion, authors William Sommers and Walter Olsen write, “Stories have been used by people from the dawn of time to teach, illustrate, hand down community values, entertain, and laugh.” Sommers and Olsen explain that stories reach learners because they present ideas from different points of view. My Magical Kingdom stories allow young children to examine Habits of Mind from the point of view of the magical kingdom characters. These stories are yet another tool, specifically for early learners, to illustrate the habits, captivate young imaginations, and engage students in developing thinking dispositions that lead to success.
Andrea Yawman is an enrichment teacher at Council Rock Primary School, a certified Habits of Mind Learning Community of Excellence, in the Brighton Central School District in Rochester, NY. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.