Book Study: Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: Chapters 1 & 2

Welcome to the first linky of our book study!


What do you think so far? I am only on chapter 5 but I already feel like I’m getting new ideas and just feeling refreshed. Something that has been assuring to me is that I (and most of us) are putting these strategies to use in our classrooms! It’s not like we don’t know that brainstorming and field trips are important, but to see it in print and backed up by research just makes me feel encouraged. Reading the words have felt like a pat on the back.

Even though I know I am putting a lot of these strategies to good use, I know there are ways I can improve as well. There are so many great ideas and I want to always find ways to do things better in my classroom. Many of us have visited RCA and have felt the ripples of change (for the better) in the education world. Ways to encourage our kids, make learning come alive and keep the content relevant and fresh.

I was out of school for an entire week (#snowweek) two weeks ago and I spent some quiet mornings reading through these pages and trying to soak it all up!


So, to help us all, I have created these grown-up graphic organizers to help us all keep our thoughts straight. Here are my thoughts for chapter 1.


I feel like I’ve done a decent job of letting my students brainstorm together. In Kindergarten, there is a lot of guiding…which I’m sure it’s like that in every grade all the way up! Someone asked me how I get my kids to go to the board without playing and getting off task. First of all, I model and then model…and then I model some more. I also have a group this year that LOVES to teach. They all want to be teachers and their parents tell me that all they do when they get home is play school. I tell my kids what my expectation is for when they go up to the board to lead. Going up to the board and getting to “teach” is a privilege. My expectations are clear and they know they will not get to lead the discussion if they are being silly or if they get the class off task. They take their job seriously 🙂


This is one of my little “teachers” leading the discussion of our Wednesday Word Problem this week. I think some teachers (guilty as charged) feel like they have to be in control all of the time and sometimes it’s ok to let your kids take charge. When it becomes the  norm in your classroom, students learn from each other in the coolest ways! I just need to keep my mouth closed at times (even when it gets messy) and let them get to their answer together by talking through it together as a group.

Strategy 2 was all about artwork and allowing students to express themselves through drawing and artwork. I saw some really great examples of how teachers were implementing this strategy this week! One teacher had her kids create a pictionary of their vocabulary words. I loved getting to see all of these strategies in so many different ways this week! Art and drawing isn’t just for the K-1 grade classrooms! The author did a really great job of discussing the various positive research that demonstrates how powerful art and drawing can be for the brain.


This was a way that I used art during literacy by reading a story and having the students write about the character and create their own character.


This is a way that I have used art in math. Students created their own snowmen and then we did a lesson on measurement.

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This George Washington craft (from Kim Adsit) worked great this week while we were studying about President’s Day (snow days have really thrown our whole planning thing off). Students were so engaged while building factual sentences about Washington. Projects like this allow students to design and learn at the same time. I am a firm believer that art and drawing should have a place in every classroom! Anyone that asks you about the importance of art should have this quote taped to their car, “Different areas of the brain, including the amygdala and the thalamus, are activated when people are involved in art activities”. It makes me sad when I hear that administrators and other teachers don’t approve of art because they don’t think it’s purposeful. They obviously haven’t read this book!


You are more than welcome to grab this graphic to use on your own blog when you link up. All you have to do is right click as save it as a jpg. The easiest way to write on it is to plug it in to PowerPoint and insert a text box. Then, re-save it as an image. I can’t wait to read all about how you are applying this strategies to your classroom! Make sure to pop around to other blogs and grab some inspiration and leave encouraging comments!

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Link up (click on the blue button) and prepare for your chapter 3 discussion over at Mrs. Wills Kindergarten on Saturday! Here is the rest of the schedule and you can join in at anytime!

Queen of the First Grade Jungle Chapter 4 (March 10th)

Fabulous in First  Chapter 5 (March 14th)

One Extra Degree Chapter 6 (March 17th)

Mrs. Jump’s Class Chapter 7 (March 28th)

The First Grade Parade  Chapter 8 (March 31st)

In April, you will be visiting these girls for the remainder of the study:

Mrs. Ehle’s Kindergarten Chapter 9 &10 (April 4th)

What The Teacher Wants Chapter 11 (April 7th)

First Grader At Last Chapter 12 (April 11th)

Erica’s Ed Ventures  Chapter 13 (April 14th)

KinderGals Chapter 14 &15 (April 18th)

A Rocky Top Teacher Chapter 16 (April 21st)

The Inspired Apple Chapter 17 (April 25th)

Little Warriors Chapter 18 (April 28th)

Falling Into First Chapter 19 (May 2nd)

Kickin’ it in Kindergarten Chapter 20 (May 5th)

If you are not a blogger (which is totally fine!!!) we still want to hear from you! Leave a comment below to let us know how you are incorporating this book in your classroom!


  1. Hi, Elizabeth! I’m excited about this book study – even the title of the book has me cheering! 🙂 I love your idea of having your little ones “teach”, a perfect example of playing to learn. I’ll bet her classmates were really listening to her and mentally honing their own teaching skills … almost like us in workshops!
    Thanks for hosting this study, and for sharing your graphic. I’m just finishing up my own post and getting ready to link!
    Primary Inspiration

  2. Thank you for getting this conversation started! I look forward to reading it!

  3. I just love this! I want to thank you again for starting this book study. So far, this book has validated so much of my thinking and teaching and for that I am invigorated and encouraged!

    I linked up!

  4. Alisa merriwether says:

    I don’t have a blog but I do follow them. I am thoroughly enjoying this book as well. I love your graphic organizer. That is a really good way to reflect on what we are doing in the classroom. I enjoyed reading your post.

  5. Love this post (and you!) so much. With reading about 8 books right now for my grad classes, I don’t quite have time to read another one, but I plan on reading this book throughout the summer and still following along with the linky. I can’t wait to try some new things just based on your post alone. Thanks for continuing to inspire us girl!

  6. Liz Asbury says:

    Thanks for the graphic organizer. This is a great resource to help organize my thoughts. I’m excited to participate in this book study!

  7. What a great job on getting us started with this book study! I really liked your paragraph about the students becoming the teacher. That is where I really want to improve. We are a Leader in Me school and that really incorporates our beliefs in that. I linked up today just to show what I’m doing this week to get the kids learning with our Dr. Seuss week. …..without using a lot of worksheets. As you scroll down the post, I have links to your first post and then for this post. I’ll be linking up again with ideas and my completed graphic organizer tomorrow evening. Thanks for preparing the graphic organizer template!! Thanks, Elizabeth!!

  8. i don’t have a blogspot but am thankful you all are sharing thoughts on this great book. I have been teaching for 35 years and am always open to new ways to grow my kids and myself. Like you said so far there are “aha” moments as I am reading as well as “what haven’t I done that” moments. I am so excited about this book study. Thank you.

    • Lori Carlson says:

      I, too, have been in the classroom 33 years this year, and set to retire after next year,(not sure what I will do when I don’t need to read teacher blogs or buy from TPT, but that’s another story!:) but I am the one that sent this out to my first grade team to do…probably only two of us will check it out, but I am glad I did. I’ve read to Strategy 6, but will stop and ponder what I’ve read and try to write my thoughts down into the graphic organizer Elizabeth provided. Thanks for sharing!

      • You are ahead of me, Lori! So glad that you are joining in and excited to hear from you throughout the course of the different linky parties! I’m sure with your experience you are going to have so many great ideas to share!

    • I can’t wait to hear what ideas you have to share with your experience!

  9. Sheryl Qualls says:

    I do not have a blogspot but appreciate being able to be a part of this great book study. I have been teaching for 35 years and am always looking for ways to grow my children and myself. It’s like you said , there are “aha” moments as well as “why haven’t I done that” moments as I’m reading this book. Thank you for this opportunity.

  10. Christie Fine says:

    I am so very excited about this book study! My fellow teachers and I had the privilege of hearing Marcia Tate speak last summer…it was the best professional development workshop EVER! She makes you fall back in love with teaching! I’m already enjoying reading the other posts and gaining new ideas to take back into my classroom on Monday! Thanks Elizabeth!

  11. Thank you so much for doing this! I am already enjoying this book and I’ve only read the first two chapters! It’s so great to read ideas from other teachers and collaborate with different teachers! I joined the link-up and already checked out the other blogs that linked up! Have a great weekend!!

  12. I love how you said you wouldn’t feel bad about doing artwork with you kids anymore. It seems like we’re always in a rush to get everything in, but when they have time to create, the mood in the class is instantly elevated. I totally agree, we can and SHOULD do more art.

  13. Thanks for the sweet graphic organizer! I am looking forward to a great study!

    It’s so true that Kinders love being the teacher. It’s the ULTIMATE incentive regardless of the activity!

  14. What an organized post… I love how you created the chart that showed where you are at and where you are going. I felt like I did that a lot when I was reading this book…I would think yes I do that and oh yeah I could do better here. It was wonderful to get a peek into your kindergarten classroom. Thank you for hosting this book study. It’s wonderful to be reading and reflecting on our work! Melissa

    • I had a lot of marks in my book as I was reading along. I probably should get sticky notes or something along those lines because my book is becoming a mess! Glad you are joining in!

  15. I feel blessed to work in a school that believes in the importance of the arts! We have a visual arts teacher, a ceramics teacher, a dance teacher, a poetry teacher, and of course there’s me! All the classes rotate through different residencies throughout the year. It’s such a great way to connect different art forms with what we are doing in class. I love doing art with my Kinders and reading along is helping me validate why it is SO important for our kids to have as many experiences as possible. Thanks for kicking off this great book study!

  16. So excited for this book study! We are encouraging our entire staff to take part in this book study . I already feel refreshed and encouraged that a lot of the strategies I use align and are confirmed by this book.

    Feel free to check out my grade level partner and my new blog at:

  17. Hi Elizabeth!
    I really think this collaboration between blogs, and the thorough examination of each chapter of a book with such concrete, research-backed strategies is exactly what teachers should be doing! In an educational psychology class that I’m taking at my University, we discussed a topic known as Levels of Analysis that has to do with the goal of this book. Our professor even cited the title specifically—stating that dendrites aren’t going to be fixed just by worksheets!
    The Levels of Analysis idea is basically that in education we must consider the various levels and players that affect a child’s educational experience: from the higher players like Educational Jurisdiction and the District’s Rules, to the lower levels of cognitive constructs (ideas like working memory) and educational constructs (reasoning and strategies in subjects). Obviously, each level builds off of those below it, and the higher players can’t work without involvement from the lower players. But at the same time, those upper fields can function without the lower fields being totally perfect, otherwise we’d end up what’s known as infinite regress.
    As an example, the players of the classroom and child themselves are in the middle level of the hierarchy, with jurisdiction being at the top and an individual child’s cognition at the bottom. A classroom can obviously still function and be facilitated well by the teacher even if each individual child’s attention isn’t exactly perfect, or if the teacher isn’t 100% knowledgeable about the workings of cognition or higher order-thinking.
    By revisiting the strategies presented in the Dendrites book, you’re furthering your personal understanding of cognitive constructs like higher-order critical thinking and educational constructs like brainstorming and strategies in encouraging creativity. And that is exactly how educators should approach improving their classrooms, in my opinion. Of course, as a teacher you’re aware of the basics when it comes to cognitive constructs, and very informed in educational constructs in order to get your classroom running. However, there is always room for improvement and new knowledge to gain about these “lower levels” that make your upper levels function even better!
    Something I would be cautious of is what is warned in the very title of the book: Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites. Though the title is stating that superficial worksheets aren’t going to change a child’s way of thinking, I think it also can be interpreted as a warning that any individual, specific activity in the classroom (no matter if it be backed by others) won’t always have direct effects on how a child’s cognition occurs.
    This is summarized in what’s known as the “Vertical Problem”, which states that being knowledgeable or active in one level doesn’t always help you in another. This means that having knowledge of good activities that a class should employ, and holding the expectation that it will improve those lower level cognitive constructs (like higher-order or critical thinking) isn’t always good. There will be activities that seem very logical in classroom terms, but when it comes to the individual student’s cognition, it might not affect everyone in the same way. For example, modeling may be considered an incredible classroom tactic, allowing for brainstorming and collaboration, but it may not transfer down to each individual student the way you want it to, and affect their cognition in the same way. One student may be very shy, and feels nervous and pressured when “playing teacher” and then proceeds to associate collaboration with anxiety, and in turn is negatively affected in how their cognitive processes work when it comes to group work.
    Basically, in summary, we can’t always transfer knowledge in one level to knowledge in another, which I’m sure you’re already aware of with experience like yours. I think that collaborating between teachers, sharing your opinions and personal experiences, making them available, and emphasizing reliance on research-based strategies is just what the field should be doing. Yet I think we should all keep in mind that the strategies presented in any grade should all be taken with a grain of salt, as knowledge and success in classroom workings and educational constructs may not lead to success for the individual student’s cognition.

    • I feel like I need to come learn from you! What a wealth of knowledge you have! I totally agree with you that what works in one classroom might not work in another classroom. Some of the strategies that I’m using this year I haven’t used in the past because it wasn’t beneficial to that group of learners. I think the most important thing we have to remember as teachers are the relationships that we have with our students. Thank you for your thought provoking comment!

  18. Shannon Porter says:

    I am so glad to be part of this book study. I, too, feel validated that I do many of the things mentioned in the book. Yet, I know I don’t let my students talk enough. I am working on adding discourse to my lessons. That is what I am taking away from the first two chapters. Thanks for opening this up to us. I don’t get a lot of PD and this is a blessing to me.

    • I totally agree! I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels that way about giving students more time to talk. Glad you are excited about the book study…I’m already getting so many great ideas!

  19. My big take away from chapters 1 and 2 is letting students talk about what they are learning. I find in my classroom that students don’t know how to discuss their learning with each other or me for that matter. My first step is to teach my kiddos how to talk about their learning…any advice or tips?

    • I think you have to model for them what it looks like. You have to let them try and it and then stop when you hear a group doing it well and use it as a teachable moment. I also think we have to allow more time for it and it’s hard to carve that out in your day! I’m trying to be better about it!

  20. I read the first two chapters and I have to say, it really boosted my confidence. I am doing many of these activities already in my classroom. As I continued to read, I started thinking of all the ways I could incorporate the ideas that I am NOT doing!lol
    I was glad to see that the second strategy was devoted to art. I feel it is so important and yet with all the demands that I feel in my classroom ( standardized testing, pre-screeners for the screeners)it is difficult to get it all in, even for the best cross-curriculum instructor.
    For those who have not purchased the book, you should. It will fill your brain with great activities that you can do in the classroom while giving the “spark” to try something new.
    P.S. Thanks so much for the graphics organizer!!

    • You are very welcome! I’m glad it helped 🙂 I think the best part of this book is just helping us hone what we are already doing and find ways to make what we are currently doing better!

  21. I love that you mentioned interjecting less … I feel that I need to be aware of this as well. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking too much or guiding too much. Sometimes the kids just need to talk it out. I need to remind myself they CAN do it and they need to do it to make the learning their own! Thanks for hosting today!

    • I think it’s just us teachers with our type A personalities! You have to let them stumble a little to get to the point but sometimes it can be watch to watch the almost crash and burn, haha.

  22. Emily Rollins says:

    Strategy 1: I use brainstorming in my classroom daily. My students are in charge of the Morning Board in my classroom and every 2 weeks I have a new leader who leads this for the class. They create a fact family, do the number of the day, etc. I also use turn and talk in my classroom in each content area. I try to have a question before, after, and during the reading that the kids will turn and talk to a partner about. This allows for each child the opportunity to get a thought together and share their opinion. I have found that even my shyest students do really well at turning and talking because they feel comfortable. *I would like to work harder on incorporating more brain storming during Math time.

    Strategy 2: I really struggle at this strategy because I always feel pressed for time. I try weekly to find engaging ways to tie in art with a content area whether it be through vocabulary or a read to self connection with an illustration. I plan on really working hard on this strategy to better engage my students and allow for more creativity.

    • I totally agree with that the shyest students feel more comfortable with their peers. It helps them to open up for sure. Thanks for leaving your thoughts, Emily! I know that it can be hard to find time for art but maybe you can work with your art teacher on that? Our art teacher does a really great job at working with us to find meaningful ways to connect art with content.

  23. Elizabeth, You did a great job of “kickin” us off! Did you see what I did there? Thank so much for the thought provoking post and for providing us with a GREAT graphic organizer to help us organize our thinking as we read the book. Can’t wait to read more of this awesome book!!! LOVE YOU!

  24. Thanks for starting this book study for us! I’m loving all these new ideas!!!

  25. Andrea Parsons says:

    I loved reading your ideas about Strategy 1 and 2! Thanks for sharing. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it backs up a lot of things I have been thinking to myself. Ha! Ha! Can’t wait to read more.

  26. Hi Elizabeth– I had not heard of this book but am enjoying reading the various comments/reviews from the link up! I may have to get my own copy so I can join in 😉 I am a first year kindergarten teacher in NC and have a question for you– how do you handle morning work? I have a steady trickle of students for 30 minutes before we start the day, with most arriving in the first 10 minutes of that time. I struggle to find things that are meaningful for students to do during that time but also adaptable (knowing some students will never get through it and others have lots of time!) What do you do for morning work/when students arrive in your room?

  27. I loved reading your blog post!! I love the idea of letting the students become little teachers. It’s a strategy that I used with my students during student teaching, so it’s great to see that others think this is a great strategy as well. I just received my book yesterday and I’m very excited to get started reading it. I look forward to all of the other blog posts, this is really great as beginning teacher!

  28. I am so glad to have found your Facebook post advertising your book study. It has been a treat to collaborate/learn from my own home. I just received my book and hope to join in, but in the meantime I am truly gaining so much from the posts I have been reading. Seeing the strategies incorporated into real classrooms is priceless!
    Burke’s Special Kids

  29. Just joined in today. Read this right book after it came out but am excited to revisit it through this book study. Looking forward to the weeks ahead.

  30. Crystal Young says:

    I am loving this book study and reading all the thoughts of the bloggers that have linked up and the comments from non bloggers on the posts. I do wish we had longer between the chapters as there has been much to read from fellow teachers. I can just see me getting behind, because I want to read everything that everyone is saying about this book. I have gleaned much information already.

    Thanks for kicking off the study and for the graphic organizer. You rock!

  31. Elizabeth

    Great post! I’m so excited for this book study as it follows differentiated instruction theories and practices sow
    well. Yay! I’m a little behind but will be linking up this week, and I’m totally gonna take you up on your graphic organizer offer! Love it and anything that will organize my thinking.

    Thanks a bunch!

  32. Terri McNutt says:

    Thanks for the great info.

  33. I’m so delighted to be following along with this book study. It goes hand in hand with differentiated instruction and brain research! YAY. I’m a bit behind, but I’ll be blogging and linking up to keep myself up to date. I also LOVE that you’re sharing your graphic organizer. You know I’ll be using that to keep my thinking organized and keep me on task. Thanks a ton for sharing and for your hard work.
    A Differentiated Kindergarten

  34. I’ve started trying this strategy out in a couple of ways recently. In my second grade class today we unpacked the standards in small groups. We used that along with our noticing to create the rubric. d

    We’re also building silkworm habitats. Instead of just telling them how to build the habitat, the kids are using some guided research to discover what it is that they need to have to build the perfect habitat.

  35. We were very fortunate to have Marcia come and do our beginning of school inservice this year! We had her all to ourselves for 2 days and it was fabulous. I teach at a PreK-3 through 8th grade school. I know in our lower elementary grades we try very hard not to use to many “sheets”. But it was nice to hear her suggestions for our older grades too! She reminded us of why we teach and reminded us how to put the fun back into teaching! I am so glad to get linked up! It is a great refresher for what we have been working on all year.


  1. […] am excited to be linking up with Elizabeth from Kickin’ It In Kindergarten as part of a book study that started this week.  This wonderful gem of a book will have you […]