As more and more research comes out about the power of Growth Mindset and more and more people are leaning towards this line of thinking (heck, even my District is getting on board...they talked about it at a training I went to over the summer!), I figured that this would be as good a time as any to teach my students about their own brains and mindset. So I began my first week of school with a few lessons that really set a great tone for my students.
To begin, I wanted something tangible and hands-on for my students to experience. So I searched online and found this lesson here. In a nutshell, I folded some paper in a crazy figure (that didn't actually look all crazy...until I tried to make it...go to the blog for exact instructions) and told the students they needed to recreate it. I had them get into groups of 7-8 students, put the figure in the middle and gave them each the exact same piece of paper I used. There were only two rules: They could not touch the folded paper and they could not have a second piece of paper.
Most of the students got right to it. As they were working, I walked around with a clipboard and wrote down everything that I was hearing in the groups. At the beginning, I heard things like:
This is easy.
Look, we just fold it this way and then that.
Let me get my scissors and we can all just cut it.
Hmmm....I wonder how she did that.
Can you just show me what you are doing?
Then, as time went on and recreating the folded paper wasn't as easy as they thought, the narrative started to change. I started to hear:
This isn't going to work.
I can't get this. What did you do?
Seriously, she had to use tape.
How did she get that part?
Let's only do one paper at a time in case we make a mistake.
This was also the time when I started to see some kids just sit back and watch. They stopped trying altogether and just let everyone else experiment. I also noticed some kids taking charge completely and not letting others have opinions.
Then, towards the end, I heard:
This is impossible.
I give up.
I just can't do this.
What on earth did she do?
She used magic.
After about 10 minutes of working, I called them all together again (no one was able to fold it correctly), I showed the students what they said. It was a bit eye-opening for them to see that some just quit so early on or that they declared the task impossible. Clearly it wasn't, as I had just folded the paper. They just wanted me to tell them the answer. This then lead into a nice discussion about the basic principles of growth mindset. That you have to keep going and trying. That your brain was meant to learn.
Cornerstone for Teachers. (she has a whole Growth Mindset pack that is really useful) They took the quiz, which asks questions about whether students think they can learn and grow or if they were just born that way. Then, we watched a video that Angela links from the Khan Academy about the fact that our brains were born to learn.
We wrote down many ideas from the video, the biggest being that failure = growing. That REALLY stuck with them.
I then asked the students to write down all of the words they could think of that pertained to their idea of what it means that "you were born to learn." The more important words, in their opinion, were to be larger than the less important words. Effectively, they were making a free form word cloud.
I then took their picture as if they were screwing in a lightbulb, glued it onto the word cloud they created, and using tissue paper, they formed a "lightbulb" above their hand.
All in all, this was a fabulous way to introduce the idea of growth mindset to my students. This entire process took two days to complete, but it was well worth it. The students continue to make connections to that first video from Khan Academy and refer to the idea of "failure = growing" still. I am also finding that there is just a much more positive tone in class because of it. I can't wait to continue on with future lessons.