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My guess is that you fall into one of two categories. Either your administration is pushing hard for growth mindset instruction OR you’ve done research and want to incorporate these concepts because you know they can be transformative. In either case, you have 6 hours to teach 9 hours of material each day and you just can’t squeeze in one more thing. You may also lack the confidence to know how to teach growth mindset concepts in your classroom.
I have to tell you something. You’ll either love this or hate it. You CAN teach growth mindset to your students in 10 minutes each day. However, if that’s all you do, your students will “know” about it, but won’t necessarily internalize it.
Ahem, wait… I said you could teach it in 10 minutes a day, though, right? Yes, you CAN, but you also have to LIVE it each day while you’re teaching every other subject. You need to model growth mindset in your actions, convey it in your speech, and live it all day long. Growth mindset cannot solely be taught in isolation. The entire culture of your classroom must be growth mindset driven. The last thing we want to do is support a “false growth mindset” by simplifying or misunderstanding growth mindset’s core messages.
It’s okay if you’re not sure how to teach growth mindset. I will show you some easy ways to accomplish ALL of these things.
5 General Questions for Reflection: Do I support a growth mindset culture in my classroom?
- What am I conveying to my students with the decor and signage in my classroom? In other words, do I only hang up near-perfect work? Are there hidden messages on posters or bulletin boards that support a fixed mindset in any way?
- How do we celebrate mistakes in my classroom? Am I missing opportunities to show students the benefits of messing up?
- Does my classroom environment encourage students to take risks even if there is a chance they might fail or do my students think that I expect them to be “right”?
- Are my students able to show their vulnerable sides or insecurities? How do I support an environment that helps students feel safe enough to share fears and anxieties?
- Am I more enthusiastic in my reinforcement for students who “say the right thing” or get the correct answers? How do I respond when students don’t get the correct answer? What does my body language convey when students wait for a long period of time to answer a question?
How Do I Shift My Teaching Approach to Promote Growth Mindset Concepts?
- Be mindful of the signage around your classroom. When students read the posters on your walls, are they motivational in a way that encourages risk-taking and mistake-making? Growth mindset posters are easy to come by and when they are utilized as a teaching tool (and not just a decoration), they can be powerful reminders for students. Referencing growth mindset posters when the message is directly applicable to instruction is very useful in shifting students’ mindsets. For example, when you hear a student say, “I can’t do this,” you can point to the poster on your wall that says, “I can do hard things!”. Ask the student to repeat that phrase to himself/herself a couple of times and then try a new strategy.
- Reinforce students for making mistakes during every lesson or activity. You might say, “This mistake gives us the perfect opportunity to learn something new!” “What can this mistake teach us about this math concept?” “Wow! I’ve been waiting for someone to solve the problem this way so that I can show you where many students get tripped up!” Not all mistakes are created equal, however. Mistakes that are a result of laziness or a lack of effort should not be reinforced.
- Build their confidence. If a student gets stuck on a concept or skill, support them without “saving” them. How can the student(s) use the resources already available? Giving away answers without asking them to try new strategies doesn’t do much for their self-confidence. Sticking with difficult concepts and learning how to persevere is an important part of developing a growth mindset.
- Encourage students to support each other’s successes. Yep, even when there is an element of competition between students (or groups of students). When they learn how to celebrate other people’s success, they open the door for others to celebrate their successes. The support they get from each other also nurtures an environment where students feel comfortable taking risks.
- Maintain an environment where expectations are high for EVERY student. When you convey your belief that students can develop intelligence through hard work and practice, your students will follow suit. Provide opportunities for students to share differing points of view. Reinforce students who think for themselves, even in the face of opposition or differing opinions.
How To Teach Growth Mindset Concepts Directly:
- Read children’s literature. There are some incredible growth mindset books for kids which will essentially do the teaching for you. Grade level doesn’t matter. If you’re a 5th-grade teacher and feel hesitant about reaching for a picture book, I promise your students will love it (even if they giggle or roll their eyes when you pull it out). Here is a list of my TOP 10 favorite growth mindset picture books:
- Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak
- The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
- The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
- What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
- What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada
- What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada
- Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
- The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
- Bubble Gum Brain by Julia Cook
- Ordinary People Change the World (Brad Meltzer’s “I am” biography series)
*Since these are my favorite growth mindset books, I created literature units to accompany them here.
- Set aside a few minutes each day to teach, discuss, and reflect on growth mindset concepts. If you aren’t sure where to begin, I created an age-appropriate weekly list of topics that are FREE in my resource library for VIP subscribers. If you’d like to download that list, click here to subscribe (you will get the password through email). These lists can help you build a framework for weekly growth mindset content. They are based on my year-long growth mindset bell ringer journals.
- If you don’t want to spend the time (which you may not have) gathering lessons or materials, you can check out those year-long growth mindset bell ringers here (they cover 40 weeks of growth mindset topics):
- Maintain an environment where expectations are high for every student. When you convey your belief that students can develop intelligence through hard work and practice, your students will follow suit.
- If you set aside time for class meetings, make growth mindset concepts regular topics of discussion. You can talk about the weekly topic (listed on the FREE resource mentioned above) or lead a discussion on a topic that is relevant to your students’ current experiences. Another easy way to begin class discussions related to growth mindset topics is to present a quote. A simple Google search of “Growth Mindset Quotes” will give you a plethora of options to choose from.
A Final Thought
The most important thing to remember is that growth mindset can’t be taught solely as an isolated subject or concept. Growth mindset must be evident in the culture and climate of the classroom all day long.
Direct instruction on growth mindset concepts is also necessary, as it helps students understand the what, the how, and the why. For example, students who understand the science of the brain and it’s ability to grow and change will be much more likely to persevere when things feel challenging.
So, can you teach growth mindset on a budget of 10 minutes? If growth mindset concepts are embedded in your classroom culture and minute-to-minute instruction, you surely can! Break it down into weekly topics, set aside a few minutes each day, and dissect the information bit-by-bit.
What do you think? Share your growth mindset instructional strategies in the comments below!