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  • Gina Olabuenaga

Keeping an Open Mind

Updated: Jan 8

These times call upon us to stay open. I know I can feel them challenging me to hold onto my ideas a little more gently. As if preparing me to let it go once I realize it is no longer serving me or the moment. Maybe you are, too.

With school now well underway and a lot of uncertainty still remaining, we wanted to offer you and your students a way to practice open-mindedness.

For Students

Learning is a process. It is fluid and recursive. Difficult and affirming. It requires effort, revision, and a willingness to be and stay curious. This is not, however, how most students understand it. To make learning and shifts in thinking visible and strengthen students’ growth mindset, we present the Open Mind Reflection.


Purpose: To make in-the-moment thoughts visible over time for the purpose of developing deeper metacognition and promote greater self-awareness

This activity spans across the duration of a lesson or series of lessons. Here is how it works.

Before beginning an activity or extended learning experience

  1. On a piece of paper, draw the top of a head at the bottom of the paper. (Feel free to encourage creativity here!)

  2. Ask students to imagine their mind is open and they can peek inside. Pause for a moment to reflect.

  3. Now, students should draw, doodle, and/or write (in words or phrases), what is in their mind.

  4. Students set aside their open mind drawing for now and engage in the activity or learning experience.


During the activity or learning experience (at least once)

  1. Before beginning, decide on one of two options: Option A - Return to the original open mind and record using a second color. -OR- Option B - Create multiple open mind entries.

  2. Complete another open mind “snapshot.” Ask students to again imagine their mind is open. Pause for reflection.

  3. Students again draw, doodle, and write (in words or phrases), what is in their mind. (Note, there is no need to revise the original entry.)

End of activity or learning experience

  1. Ask students to take out their open mind drawing(s) and review. Ask any of the following: What patterns do you notice? Were there any changes in your thinking? What caused those shifts? What, if anything, do you see differently or understand more clearly?

  2. (Optional) Have students share with a partner or small group. Consider using a Conversation Calendar to facilitate this discussion found on page 22 of our e-book or on our resources page.

  3. Close by asking students to complete the exit ticket: Share what you want to learn more about or name any support you want from a peer or me, your teacher. (If appropriate, ask them to plan how they will go about seeking that support or getting that information.) Add the goal to any ongoing Learning Plan, if desired.

Check out our poster to help you with the steps above and click to download yourself.


For you, the Educator


Allow this activity to grow you in your practice. Here are some ways to leverage Open Mind in service of you!

  • Allow this to challenge or disrupt your assumptions about what students know and are able to do. You may find that what students discover or can articulate is different than you expect. Celebrate this gift of knowing.

  • Practice sitting with discomfort: yours and students. Learning doesn’t always come quickly (and often it shouldn’t). Students may experience discomfort with not “getting it right” quickly or the first time. And if you are anything like I was as a teacher, I struggled to recognize that as part of the process. I was quick to put the cape on and engage in un-helpful helping. Allow them a runway to explore and figure it out.

  • Related to moving through discomfort... use the Open Mind activity to break bias. Check out the Breaking Bias project and how the Open Mind journal is used to track learning and beliefs throughout.

  • Try this with adults! This activity works great with adult learners as well. Use it in a staff meeting, professional learning experience, or in your professional learning community. The possibilities are really endless!

Until the next time, wishing you a holiday season filled with belly laughs, creativity, and peace.





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