Growth Mindset Activities Can Help Your Students Meet Their True Potential

This is the sixth article in the “Creating the Classroom of Your Dreams” series. This series will uncover a multitude of concepts for teachers to implement that will create a well-functioning, parent-inclusive classroom. Check out all articles in this blog series HERE.

Have your students quit before they even begin? Growth mindset activities can help your students meet their true potential.

I can’t do it. I’m no good at math. I don’t know how. We have all heard these phrases uttered from frustrated students. Once upon a time, you may have even said something like this yourself. If something didn’t come as easily to you as it did to others, you may have told yourself that your abilities are not as strong in this area.

Over time these ideas can become part of your identity and even prevent you from engaging in activities which may help you reach your true potential.

The same is true for our students. If a student is a struggling reader, they may feel defeated before they even begin a new reading. Negative past experiences might make them feel like there is no point in trying. What if we could reframe these difficult experiences?

Instead of seeing obstacles as an impending failure, what if students could see them as an exciting challenge? The good news is they can – it’s as easy as changing your mindset because changing your mindset changes everything.

What is Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is a term coined by psychologist and leader in the field of motivation, Carol Dweck. It is the idea that there is no permanency to what we do and do not know. This opposes the idea of a fixed mindset, which is a belief that intelligence is directly linked to ability, and cannot be changed. With a growth mindset, anyone can learn anything.

Benefits of a Growth Mindset Classroom

  • Encourages perseverance, and gives students the tools needed to overcome obstacles.
  • Reframes failure so that it is no longer seen as a defeat but as a challenge. This makes students more comfortable learning new things and taking risks.
  • Requires students to learn through struggle, which provides more opportunities for problem solving and independence in the learning process.
  • Stands on the premise that anyone can learn anything which prevents students from having preconceived ideas about in which areas they will flourish, and in which they will flounder.

How Do I Promote Growth Mindset in My Classroom

Helping students develop a growth mindset is simple, and only takes a minimal amount of classroom time. You are probably already doing things in your class that promotes a growth mindset. During the past school year, I worked to promote a growth mindset in my classroom.

Here are some steps I took that will help you get you started:

  • Replace words and phrases in your daily language with students to encourage this different kind of thinking. Instead of saying “I don’t know” encourage students to say “I need more practice.” Instead of saying “I hate when I mess up” encourage “I can learn from my mistakes.” Over time, this language will become part of your classroom culture and your student’s inner dialogue when they experience challenges.
  • Display posters in your classroom that encourage a growth mindset dialogue. The following links are free posters from Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • Carve out at least 15 minutes a week to have a meaningful discussion or to work through an activity promoting a growth mindset. This took the form of Mindful Mondays in my classroom. We started every Monday morning with a growth mindset activity. Most of these activities started with an inspirational video clip or a read along. They all ended with a class discussion and an independent activity. It was a positive and motivating way to start our week, and the students loved it!
  • Throughout the year, my students also kept a growth mindset journal that required them to think about their experiences with challenges and successes, and then reflect on those experiences. I purchased a helpful journal on Teachers Pay Teachers called the Growth Mindset Journal. Included in this bundle is also a true or false survey for students to take. It can give you a good idea of whether your students are operating under a fixed or a growth mindset.

For more information about growth mindset, you can visit Carol Dweck’s website Mindset Online. She has a full growth mindset curriculum you can purchase at Mindset Works. I challenge you to try at least two of the ideas I’ve used in your own classroom. It is possible to easily promote the Growth Mindset in your classroom – even mid-year!

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Shaya Helbig has been a lower elementary teacher for twelve years, teaching kindergarten and second grade. She earned her undergrad and graduate degrees from Western Michigan University. She is currently in her seventh year at Benton Harbor Charter School Academy (BHCSA) and has taught second grade for the past six years. This year, she is teaching second grade at BHCSA’s new Accelerated Learning Center, a classroom setting which services second-grade students most in need of intervention to reach mastery at grade level in reading and math.