I usually don’t introduce Growth Mindset right at the beginning of a school year. This time is usually the “honey moon” phase of school. Students are generally well behaved, school supplies are plentiful and fresh, friendships are new, and academics are usually reviews.
So I wait….
And we all know when the time is right – a difficult math topic, a lengthy writing assignment, a challenging social studies project, all these situations can trigger the “I can’t” chant. This is the time when I introduce Growth Mindset. And here are the simple steps I use –
1 – Start with a challenging activity
I like this one. I don’t say “Hey, we are doing a growth mindset activity.” I just offer it up as a puzzle. While they are attempting to solve the puzzle, I document phrases that I hear students say to each other or to themselves, “This is impossible.”, “There is no way I can do this.”, “Hey do you want to work together?” or “I’m not going to give up, there has to be a way to do this.”
After about five minutes, I start writing the phrases on the whiteboard, no names attached and in a random order. I don’t ask for their attention, some students will notice, others will continue. Then after students have had enough, some have figured it out, most haven’t, I turn their attention to the whiteboard.
I lead a discussion on how they felt during this process. How did they feel at the beginning? At the end? How did they feel when they see that some one figured it out?
“When I heard that someone figured it out, I felt dumb and gave up.” But listen to this insight from a student –
“When I heard someone figured it out, I felt like if they can do it, then I can do it, which encouraged me to keep going.”
I then read through the phrases, and ask them “If you were making a team, who would you like to have on it?” We circled phrases that were positive, encouraging, team-building. This is a pretty mind-opening experience.
It’s a really engaging discussion!
2 – Sort phrases
I have a collection of about 30 phrases, similar to the ones above. I print them out, and then cut into small pieces of paper. After giving each partner a set, I tell them to sort them anyway they want.
After everyone has a chance to sort them, I ask them to share their categories, and pick a card that represents their category, and then also share a card that was the most discussed and how did they decide where to put it. We talk about a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset.
3 – Set goals and make it personal – Final activity
Students have a chance to figure out what negative phrases they use, and then think of ways to rewrite them into positive growth mindset phrases. We also discuss why it’s important to have these phrases instead of the negative ones. They write all this out into a brochure that they keep in their data binder. I’m also thinking it would be fun to have students make bookmarks with these phrases.
I also have a final “worksheet” to give us one more opportunity to really see the difference in these phrases. This can be homework so parents can see what my students are working on.
This took about 3 days, during our team meeting: one for the puzzle, one for the sort, and one for the final brochure.