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The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do: Discussing a Growth Mindset

“The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do” by Ashely Spires is a very accurate depiction of what kids go through when they are confronted with something that they cannot do.  Lou has never climbed a tree before and when her friends want to play pirates, the tree is the perfect ship.  Lou procrastinates, makes excuses, gives alternatives, and pretends she just doesn’t care.  All tactics we’ve seen kids that we know try.  Ultimately, Lou faces her fear and in a surprising turn of events, she fails.  The effort and attempt empower her, encouraging a growth mindset to the reader.

Another noteworthy part of the book, aside from Lou’s growth mindset, is her friend’s compassion when she fails.  They offer her tips for climbing the tree and ultimately end up moving the game. This book is a perfect choice for a read-aloud in your classroom; it brings up discussions of courage, resilience, facing challenges, compassion, and more.

Skills to teach with “The Thing Lou Couldn't Do”:

  • Characters
  • Character development
  • Theme
  • Setting
  • Inferences
  • Retelling
  • Beginning-middle-end
  • Growth mindset

Important Discussions:

  • The power of a growth mindset
  • The importance of friendship
  • Power of a positive attitude
  • Imaginative play
  • Trying new things

Here are 5 meaningful activities to accompany “The Thing Lou Couldn't Do.”

5 Favorite Activities for “The Thing Lou Couldn't Do”:

1. All about friendship

Lou and her friends have so many fun adventures.  One thing that I personally love is the imaginative and outdoor play that the characters promote.  A fun activity is to have students think about the things that they like to do with their friends.  They can list hobbies and try to find a classmate that has similar interests or you can have them write down games or things they like to play and focus on screen-free ideas to give kids ideas too!

2. Facing challenges

Lou had never climbed a tree before and is quite nervous about trying.  Something new that she wasn’t expecting arose and was a challenge for Lou.  Have students write about a time that they were faced with something new that they did not want to try.  Everyone’s experiences will be different, but you can discuss the feeling of being overwhelmed when a challenge presents itself, just as Lou was.

3. Making excuses

Lou gives her best effort to NOT climb the tree and is full of excuses.  Many students can probably relate to Lou’s excuses and have maybe tried some of them themselves!  Have students think of a time that they made an excuse and write it down.  As they consider the excuse that they gave and the situation that they were in, have them write down what they could have said instead of giving an excuse.

This is a great way to show students that while making excuses feels easy at the time and telling the truth may feel difficult; your friends, family, classmates, etc. will support your feelings when you are honest.

4. Feeling frustrated

Lou really begins to feel frustrated when she can’t climb the tree.  Students may be able to relate to her frustration as she watched her friends all conquer the feat while she was left behind.  This is a great opportunity to discuss strategies we can use when we feel frustrated.  Have students brainstorm some things that they do when they feel frustrated.  Share and keep track of different strategies.

5. The power of yet

Lou is determined.  She uses other methods to try to get up the tree and does not give up, she determines that it is just something that she cannot do yet.  This is so powerful to think that while they moved the game to another location so that Lou could play, she did not feel defeated, she knew that at some point she would try again and probably be able to climb just as her friends did.

Have your students think of something that they cannot do YET and then make a list of things that they can do to help them get there and do it.  They will all have different goals and different ways to reach them, but putting them to paper will help them see that they can make it happen.

“The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do” is such a cute story; you will love Lou, you will love her friends, and her little cat too.  Your students will connect to Lou and her persistence…maybe her excuses too, and her growth mindset is a lesson that they’re sure to remember!

I hope you and your students love it!

You can grab a free one-page guide for using this book in your classroom here:

You can find more of my favorite read-aloud books HERE.

And read more about why I think reading aloud is so important HERE.

You might like this blog post about self-love.

Check out all of my favorite read-aloud books and grab free guides for reading them aloud HERE.

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Happy Teaching!

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