Every teacher at one point or another will encounter a stuck student who utters the four most frustrating words in the teaching world: “This is TOO hard!” That’s usually followed up with an equally maddening, “I can’t do it!” At times like these, it’s important to remember that our students are simply echoing the type of thinking they may have been taught in the past—one that is based on a fixed mindset. In order to change this type of thinking and to empower students to push through the challenges they face both inside and outside the classroom, we must model for them a different mentality: a growth mindset.
In order to help you truly internalize the language of growth mindset, I’m going to tell you all about what it is, what it looks like in the ELA classroom, and why it is essential for student success.
Download FREE printable growth mindset worksheets for you to use to increase student “buy-in” and excitement.
Growth mindset has been a buzzword in the teaching world for quite some time now. But just what is it, and why is it so transformational in the classroom?
Well, a growth mindset is the opposite of what we call a “fixed mindset.” When students have a fixed mindset, they think of their intelligence, abilities, and talents as “fixed,” meaning they cannot change how “smart” they are, so there is no use trying. In a fixed mindset, when students encounter something “hard,” they immediately assume they just aren’t smart enough to figure it out, and they give up. That leads to frustrated teachers and discouraged kids who don’t feel any motivation to learn, since they’re convinced that their failure is pre-determined from birth, based on their IQ and innate abilities.
When students have a fixed mindset, they think of their intelligence, abilities, and talents as “fixed,” meaning they cannot change...
On the flip side, students with a growth mindset understand that they can develop their intelligence and talents if they continue to try even when faced with challenges and failures. They understand that success is something all people can achieve if they cultivate the resilience and grit needed to keep overcoming obstacles. They see failure as another opportunity to learn and to improve for a future attempt. This leads to engaged, motivated students who want to learn and feel that success is not only within their grasp but is also under their control.
Having a growth mindset benefits all students in the classroom: struggling and at-risk students feel a sense of hope and potential, neuro-typical students learn to push themselves even further, and above average students learn that talent means very little without hard work and resilience.
Let’s face it, teachers: changing the way students think can be tricky business. A mindset is something that students internalize over the course of their lives based on messages received from teachers, family, friends, and the world around them.
In order to move our students away from a fixed mindset and towards a growth mindset, we must constantly model how we want students to think about learning, growth, intelligence, and success. That requires us to be very intentional about the way we instruct about and respond to failure in the classroom.
To effectively change the way our students think about their own abilities, we also must first shift the way we as teachers understand our students’ intelligence and potential.
In order to move our students away from a fixed mindset and towards a growth mindset, we must constantly model how we want students to think about learning...
That requires us to operate with the same basic (and vital) assumptions.
If we want our ELA students to feel accountable for their own success, we must both fully believe in the potential of ALL students to succeed, and communicate that assurance to them.
In order to cultivate a growth mindset in your classroom, download a Developing Growth Mindset in the ELA Classroom Kit that includes:
Below I’ve provided an overview of each resource included in the kit. This information will give you insight into how each worksheet can be used and make the most impact.
The first resource included in the kit is A Guide to Growth Mindset for Teachers. Great for using in PD workshops, or as a reference while teaching, this FREE printable covers…
Constant reinforcement is the key to any good habit. That’s especially true of ensuring the success of a growth mindset in your classroom. Download and print this handy-little reference, hang it up, put it in a frame—whatever you do, use it as a guide to help keep growth mindset a priority in your classroom throughout the day.
Before communicating with a growth mindset in the ELA classroom it’s important to reflect on what kind of commentary aligns and doesn’t align with growth mindsets. Use The Do’s and Don’ts of Praising Students guide to review what effective praise is and learn how to craft growth mindset-based compliments. At the bottom of the worksheet, take time to reflect and write down specific phrases you can use in your classroom.
Even when you’re committed to developing a growth mindset in your class, it’s easy to fall back on old habits. That’s why it’s important to keep a list of growth mindset phrases on hand. The Phrases to Help Build Resilience in the ELA Classroom handout lists ideas for shifting thoughts and communication from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Written from a student’s point of view, this tip sheet gives great ideas for changing common phrases said in the classroom so they promote resilience. Eventually (as you and students internalize this way of thinking) these little tid-bits of positivity will roll off the tongue naturally.
One of the main differences between those with a fixed vs. a growth mindset is the way they respond to challenges and failures. With a firm growth mindset in place, you begin to see your failures as opportunities to learn and improve in the future. Help you students see the benefits of a growth mindset by researching famous figures who, when faced with difficulty or defeat, met their obstacles head on.
With the Famous People That Failed: Growth Mindset Activity students will choose one person from a list of “Famous People That Failed,” and research how this individual used a growth mindset to overcome his/her challenges. This activity can be completed individually, in partners, or in groups. For an added extension, have students share their findings with the class.
Download your FREE printable and expose students to a famous example of growth mindset in action.
In order to empower all students to succeed, regardless of background or innate ability, we must make cultivating a growth mindset a priority in our classrooms. Modeling a growth mindset in your instruction and how you respond to student success and failure will help students break out of a fixed mindset about their own intelligence, thereby increasing student buy-in, motivation, and engagement. Not only will your students begin to see their failures as opportunities to learn, this increasing engagement will ensure that they learn more and push themselves to reach an even higher potential than they ever dreamed.