Over the summer I read the book, Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci. Similar to Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Mindsets in the Classroom outlines the importance of a growth mindset and how effort and dedication can turn into success (in a kid-friendly way). I love the idea, and want my students to be aware of what a growth mindset is. Awareness of their mindset can help students make conscious decisions on how they learn and how they plan to grow as a learner. Here’s a starter guide for creating a growth mindset in your learning space.
I wanted to have a measure of what my students knew about growth mindset and what we were going to be discovering together. I asked students to complete a quick write on the word mindset. The prompt was: “Today we are going to do a quick write in our journals. Put the date at the top of your paper and write the word Mindset underneath. Before I say go, think in your mind what that means.” I counted down from five, and then students were given five minutes to write as much as they could.
When the timer went off, we shared thoughts on what mindset meant first with a partner, then as a whole class. Next, I had students complete the same procedure with the word fixed and then the word growth. We gathered at the carpet and charted our data. Students volunteered ideas such as, “fixed means something that is not broken, it does not need to change” and “growth is something that goes on and changes.” To close this session of exploring, I explained to students that we would be learning more about our mindsets and how our brain is connected to it.
When we met again to talk about growth mindset, I wanted students to find a connection within a story. It was almost like planting a picture in their head with an example of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset for students to refer to when approaching a task.
To do this, I used the book, The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney. As I read the story, we started talking about the traits of the tortoise and the hare. I prompted students with questions like: “The hare seems to be quite confident that he will not lose. He uses his talent and believes he does not have to try to win. Is this a fixed mindset or a growth? What about the tortoise? He knows that he is slower than the hare and chooses not to give up. Fixed or growth?"
After reading the story, we talk about all of the reasons why the hare is displaying a fixed mindset and the tortoise a growth mindset. I can now use the story as a reference when talking with students. I might say, “Are you going to be the Tortoise or the Hare today?”
We find connections to the story within ourselves when I ask students to write about a time they displayed a fixed mindset. This is a reflective writing that we will use in our next growth mindset session of comparisons.
I Google searched "growth mindset" because I just wanted more to talk about with my students. I found a chart of what students would normally say to themselves when approaching a new or difficult task, compared to what they should try saying with growth mindset. I took this idea from the many images I found and used chart paper to recreate the poster in my homeroom. I asked students to go back to the fixed mindset writing they did before and reflect. "Think of yourself when you’re up against a challenge. What do you say when you're approaching it? What do you say when you fail?” Students raised hands and called out responses as I recorded in the “ I used to say” column. I left the “Now I’ll try saying” column open for students to come up and add what they think would be a growth mindset statement. We did the first one together so they could see what an example of a growth mindset statement might look like.
My plan is to keep this chart up for the remainder of the year. It is a good reference point for students. They can look back at the chart at times when they feel challenged and are unsure of how to verbally express their plan to approach it.
This was just the beginning of our growth mindset discoveries. We will continue to model growth mindset in our learning experiences and find examples in the stories we read. Here are a couple of other picture books that share the message of growth mindset:
I have noticed my students are more aware of their thinking. Using growth mindset as a reference and knowing we are all working towards the mindset offers us the opportunity to fail without being laughed at or criticized and offers us the power of “not yet.” If we have not mastered something, it does not mean that we never will. We must continue working hard and applying effort. We’ll get there, just not yet.
Are you sharing the growth mindset in your classroom? I’d love to hear how it is going and resources you are using! Please comment below.
Thank you for reading.