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Habits of Mind Across the Curriculum

Edited by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick

Table of Contents


The story—from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace—is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.
—Ursula K. Le Guin

The network of teachers and schools that are practicing the Habits of Mind increases daily. We hear from teachers from all over the world, including teachers in formalized networks in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, Hong Kong, and England, and in informal networks in the United States. Our Web site ( has been a place of exchange for many of these educators who share our vision of a fundamental set of behaviors for thoughtful teaching and learning.

The stories in this book mark a place in the ongoing narrative of changing classrooms into thoughtful places. As teachers describe their ways of introducing and sustaining the Habits of Mind, they are providing a vision of what is possible at a time when we too easily forget that the real purpose of education is to create a critical, discerning, and creative citizenship for the future of democracy.

This book provides an entry point for seeing through the lens of practice how to introduce and sustain the habits. The stories tell how teachers get started, how they integrate the habits into their curriculum, and how they have changed their ways of planning for curriculum through building lessons and units of study incorporating the habits. We suggest using visualization as one means to familiarize students with the Habits of Mind. To that end, we've included icons related to the Habits of Mind in Figure 1 (see p. x).

Figure 1. Habits of Mind

Although it might be easy to think of the habits as a set of behaviors that we want students to have so that we can get on with the curriculum that we need to cover, it becomes apparent that we need to provide specific opportunities for students to practice the habits. Habits are formed only through continuous practice. And to practice the habits, our curriculum, instruction, and assessments must provide generative, rich, and provocative opportunities for using them. So, for example, when we are concerned about persistence, we need to provide the kinds of problems and rich tasks that engage students and hold their attention long enough for persistence to be important. When we are concerned with the habit of metacognition, we need to provide opportunities for students to plan for, monitor, thoughtfully reflect upon, and become explicitly aware of how they are thinking. We, as teachers, need to interact with their metacognitive thinking so that we understand better how to reach each student and motivate learning. We need to continuously be asking, what have we done today that creates the opportunity for expressing wonderment and awe? Has there been a problem, an event, an observation that really deserves the exclamation "Awesome!"?

Our Purpose in This Book

The intent of this collection is to provide a wide array of models of lessons. The models are not intended to be adopted or copied per se, but rather to serve as a stimulus for further development of additional lessons in a variety of content areas with diverse populations of students. We encourage schools and school districts to begin to collect archives of such locally developed and tested lessons that may be used for professional study groups, as models to orient new staff members, and to celebrate masterful accomplishments of the craft of teaching.

This book serves as an additional resource for teachers who are learning to implement the Habits of Mind. It builds upon the previous works on the Habits of Mind by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick—namely, Habits of Mind: A Developmental Series (2000), which consists of the following volumes: Discovering and Exploring Habits of Mind, Activating and Engaging Habits of Mind, Assessing and Reporting on Habits of Mind, and Integrating and Sustaining Habits of Mind. And it is meant to accompany the most recent publication: Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind (2008), all published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The collection of stories presented in this book demonstrates that teachers deliberately adopt and assess Habits of Mind as outcomes of their curriculum and instruction. Focusing on, teaching, and encouraging growth in the Habits of Mind can change the design of their activities, determine their selection of content, and enlarge their assessments. The collection also illustrates that there are many ways to teach the habits. You are encouraged to refer to Chapter 5 "Is Your Instruction Habit Forming?" in Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, where you will find several approaches to designing lessons with Habits of Mind in mind.

How the Book Is Organized

In this book we have carried over and updated some of the chapters from our earlier book Activating and Engaging Habits of Mind. And we have added new chapters, most of which represent a different discipline and developmental age group.

After laying the groundwork in Chapter 1, we move on in Chapter 2 to a delightful piece by Nick D'Aglas of Victoria, Australia, whose culinary skills have obviously improved with the Habits of Mind. His survey may also serve as a review of the 16 habits.

We are often asked, "Where do I start?" In Chapter 3, Lisa Davis-Miraglia suggests you start with your own students and gives many classroom examples of how to begin.

Alan Cooper and Georgette Jenson from New Zealand get down to specifics in Chapter 4 and present helpful ways to make the Habits of Mind more meaningful to students. Their suggestions apply to students at any grade level or in any area of content.

Many students will be unfamiliar with the Habits of Mind in terms of their meanings and the skills and strategies necessary to apply them. Chapter 5 includes many suggestions for ways to teach the habits. We include this to demonstrate that we not only "infuse" the habits into content instruction; we also must teach these habits explicitly. The chapter explains each of the Habits of Mind and includes strategies for their development. As teachers, you will want to add to these suggestions and bring your own creativity, experiences, and knowledge to bear.

You are then taken on a grand tour of lesson types, visiting the Habits of Mind at several grade levels and seeing how they can be applied in commonly taught school subjects: reading, social studies, the performing arts, math, foreign language, character education, poetry, and physical education.

Because the separation of the disciplines may deter transfer, we include a reminder in Chapter 19 from James Anderson about the need to apply learnings across the disciplines. The separation of the disciplines may produce episodic, compartmentalized, and encapsulated thinking in students. When the biology teacher says, "Today we're going to learn to spell some biology terms," students often respond by saying, "Spelling—in biology? No way!" In this mindset, biology has little meaning for physical education, which has no application to literature and even less connection to algebra. The goal may be incorrectly viewed as the need to master a series of subjects rather than to habituate the search for meaningful relationships and to apply knowledge beyond the context in which it was learned. The Habits of Mind transcend episodic, separated thinking.

As with so many educational initiatives, it may be easy to get started with the Habits of Mind but difficult to sustain the effort. (You've probably heard statements such as this: "Outcomes-based education—we did that last year.") Habits of Mind, however, is not another program to be added to an already overcrowded curriculum. Rather, like a tapestry, it is woven into curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Chapter 20, "Sustaining a Focus on the Habits of Mind," provides many suggestions for sustaining the Habits of Mind over time.

How to Read This Book

The book is not meant to be read in a linear fashion. Rather, each story stands on its own, replete with examples that might inspire your own practice. We suggest that you not limit yourself to reading the story that matches your subject matter. Rather, read the stories for the experience and insight they convey.

All the stories reveal each author's dedication to students' acquisition of these lifelong, enduring, and essential learnings. The goal is to guide students toward success in their future, which in turn will create a more "thought-full," cooperative, and compassionate world.

As you read the stories, consider how you might adopt—or adapt—something that would work well for both you and your students. And finally, create your own story.


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