Habits of Mind


“High mental ability alone may serve us well when we’re sitting at a desk, our pencils poised, but good habits of mind keep us going in the rest of the world.”

- David Perkins in Leading and Learning with Habits of Mind

At Emerson-Williams Elementary School, we strongly believe that the Habits of Mind will help our students acquire the critical thinking skills needed for success in the 21st century. When we integrate core content knowledge and skills with the habits of mind, we are shaping students who will be well-prepared to handle anything and everything that comes their way in the future: in school, in their careers, and in life in general.


Habits of Mind is not a specific, packaged program, rather it is a research based approach to nurturing critical thinking skills by helping students form good solid habits around 16 specific behaviors that support critical thinking and creative problem-solving.

For an interactive explanation of each habit click the image above.

Habits of Mind at EW for 2018 - 2019

All of the 16 Habits of Mind listed above are critically important. However, for the 2018 - 2019 school year, we will be focusing our school-wide efforts on five in particular.

  1. Listening with understanding and empathy
  2. Managing impulsivity
  3. Persisting
  4. Striving for accuracy and precision
  5. Taking responsible risks

EW School-wide Book Club

For our EW School-wide Book Club this school year, we will all be reading books at the same time that address a specific Habit of Mind. This will allow all of our students to engage in a common, unifying experience and language that will help support the Habits of Mind culture and climate throughout our school. Thank you to our PTO for purchasing the Book Club books for us! These are the books we will be reading this year in our School-wide Book Club:

Habit of Mind

Listening with understanding and empathy

Managing impulsivity


Striving for accuracy and precision

Taking responsible risks

Book title

Stand in My Shoes by Bob Sornson

My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook

You Can Do It, Bert! by Ole Konnecke

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett

What Do You Do With a Chance by Kobi Yamada

Operational example / definition charts

Together, as a full staff, we have developed specific, operational example / definition charts to help guide us all consistently with our explicit teaching of the Habits of Mind to our students. Teachers may also develop similar operational example / definition charts together with their class of students, and then add to the charts as students begin to recognize more and more specific behaviors and actions that fit under each the category for each habit. Here is an example of our operational example / definition chart for “Listening with Understanding and Empathy”:

Listening with Understanding and Empathy

Here’s How This Habit Should Look Like / Sound Like / Feel Like in Our Classrooms:

  • Students validating their classmates’ feelings.
  • Students listening to their classmates carefully, without judging.
  • “I hear what you are saying.”
  • “I hear you saying…”
  • “I understand what you mean. That has happened to me too.”
  • “That must make you feel…”
  • The understanding that we must all attend to basic human needs, before any of our instruction can be effective.
  • The understanding that everyone comes from different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. Students acknowledge this.
  • Students not only saying they are sorry if they hurt someone’s feelings, but truly attempting to right the wrong and change their behavior.
  • Students putting themselves in their classmates’ shoes.
  • Students being active listeners, so that the speaker truly feels important when they are speaking.
  • Students recognize that they do not always need to try and solve their classmates’ problems...just being a great listener can help so much.
  • Students being comfortable with silence. Pausing, and thinking before speaking is a good thing.
  • Mindful / active listening. No distractions when you are really trying to listen to your classmate.

As a staff, we have completed operational example / definition charts already for all 16 Habits of Mind.

Parents...We need your help and support!

Parents, you are the most influential teachers in your children’s lives. We hope that you will all partner up with us as we teach your children all about the importance of the Habits of Mind. We strongly encourage you to take some time to educate yourselves about the Habits of Mind approach to teaching important critical thinking skills for all aspects of life. There are a lot of available resources to help educate you on the Habits of Mind. Here are two suggested ones for you to check out: http://www.habitsofmindinstitute.org/

Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success, Edited by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick