• Stacy Solis

Growth Mindset in the Classroom

A couple of weeks ago I noticed how much my students were struggling with math. Math is usually hard for students, but it has been especially difficult recently. We are learning algebra right now, and it is no small feat to teach algebra online. Despite numerous “Great jobs” and “You got this” “I can see how hard you are trying” my kids were struggling. I heard a lot of “I hate math” “I don’t get it” “I’m not good at math” and the ever famous “I don’t know” (I hate that response). I decided that we needed a reminder about having a “Growth Mindset”.

I know many of us have heard of a growth mindset, but do we truly understand what it means to our students? A growth mindset occurs when we believe our intelligence and abilities can be improved with effort and the right strategies. My students were stuck in a fixed mindset, thinking that they are NEVER going to be good at math. When that is simply not true.

How do you incorporate a growth mindset into your classroom?

Incorporating it into your curriculum is the easiest and first way to start teaching a growth mindset. When you are reading a text where there is a problem with the character, discuss the differences between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Which one is the character using? How can they change their way of thinking?

Do not praise students just to praise them. Your praise should be in the form of feedback that puts emphasis on the learning process (lots of practice, asking for help and trying new strategies). Do not give praise that focuses on how smart or talented a student is. So, instead of saying “Wow, excellent job! You are so smart!” say “I can see you put a lot of effort into this and practiced a lot. Can you make a plan to do this on your next assignment?”

Incorporate videos and other forms of media into your classroom. I love to show growth mindset videos in my classroom and use these videos frequently. Even though I teach 6th grade, my students still love to color. When I taught 4th grade, I printed out these growth mindset color pages and had my students color them after lunch while my teacher read aloud. Once they were finished, I hung them up around the room. The students loved it and gave them some ownership of the classroom. It wasn’t just me buying or printing posters and hanging them up, the students contributed, which made it more beneficial.

Explicitly teach what it means to have a growth mindset. This is important because many of our students don’t understand what it means to have a growth mindset. When school was “normal” I used this journal every year to explicitly teach growth mindset. It was a great resource, and my students enjoyed working through the journal. Now that we are virtual, I am still using the journal, but making modifications for the virtual world.

Model a growth mindset attitude. I make mistakes when I teach math. Some mistakes are accidents, but many are on purpose. Why do I purposely make mistakes? I make these mistakes to show my students that mistakes mean that you are trying, that you are learning, and it is okay to make mistakes. Honestly, sometimes I do a math lesson cold turkey, without having the answer key in front of me. Why? Because I should not be the answer key all the time for my students. They need to have someone model what it looks like to struggle, and to make a mistake and move on and grow from that mistake. On a side note, sometimes when I make a mistake, it works great because I have my students figure out the mistake for me- works great for teaching math. When I make a mistake, I work through different strategies to show my students how they should proceed when a mistake is made.

The Power of YET. This is by far my favorite saying. When my students tell me they can’t do something, I add the word YET to their sentences. “I can’t do math” turns into “I can’t do math YET”. We watch videos and discuss what YET means. I have big wooden letters on my whiteboard that spell out YET. I have them reflect on what they couldn’t do at the beginning of the school year, and what they accomplished this school year. All the things at the beginning of the year were things they couldn’t do YET. Now, they have accomplished them.

Teaching my students to have a growth mindset this school year has been exceptionally challenging. The virtual world has led us down a whole new path, and I feel we are learning new things about technology every day. My students have had to deal with technology issues, and find a new way to do school, and are faced with having a fixed or growth mindset daily. Teaching them to have a growth mindset, and mistakes are part of learning is an essential part of our day, and I hope that they keep these lessons in mind when they are struggling with a challenge in their lives.

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