Today's guest post is brought to you by Amber Cichy, a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher in her third year of teaching.
Because I am also working towards my Master’s degree, I decided to use this concept as the basis for my action research project and investigate the impact of implementing growth mindset concepts on student attitude about achievement. That meant that I couldn’t begin to teach about growth mindsets until second semester despite all of the interesting activities that I found boasting about how great they would be to use to start the year. Reluctantly, I waited until second semester to begin teaching my sixth graders about mindsets, however, I am finding that the activities are much more useful as the end of the year approaches! Below is my journey with implementing mindsets into my sixth grade language arts classroom.
We then moved into talking about the brain. I had my students attempt to draw their brains and list any facts that they knew about this vital organ. My sixth graders didn’t have very much knowledge about their brains so I showed a video to address some of the major misconceptions.
I then introduced the two mindsets using one of my favorite graphic organizers, a T chart. Students then collaborated to change fixed mindset statements into growth mindset statements. I anticipated that they might struggle with this activity, but my sixth graders were extremely successful at changing the words. I created, with student help, a bulletin board with growth mindset statements that in the advancing day, I observed my sixth graders referencing while saying things like, “I’m having a growth mindset moment”.
Lesson 2: A few days later, I began to implement “Mindset Mondays” because anything is more exciting with a bit of alliteration. I modeled my thinking and explained to students a time where I have had a growth mindset. I gave students a post-it note and asked them to record their growth mindset moment. This was really challenging for many of my sixth graders, but after peers began to share their examples, many were able to reflect upon their own lives and identify growth mindset moments.
I showed another video of a nine-year-old boy displaying perseverance and a growth mindset through his cardboard arcade. My sixth graders really connected with this video and we were able to have a great discussion afterwards. I did skip the middle section of the video because it shows some social media posts that feature some language that is not school appropriate.
I also created a mindset bulletin board in the hallway with a lot of images and quotes that I stumbled across on Pinterest.
Lesson 3: A week later, I came up with another “Mindset Monday” activity. To begin, I asked students to reflect upon a time where they have “failed” at something transitioning into explaining that a failure is really just a first attempt in learning for something with a growth mindset. Then, I showed a video about a soccer team that lived on an island in the south of Thailand called “Koh Panyee.” Videos seem to really help my students understand growth mindset ideals because it is more concrete and this video lead to some great discussion about mindsets and perseverance.
Lesson 4: This lesson came quite a few weeks after my initial growth mindset lessons. I was worried that my students may have forgotten the information after not mentioning it in a while. However, I found that their understanding of mindsets had actually developed quite a bit. I started with a journal prompt asking them to identify a time recently where they have had a fixed and a growth mindset. I was amazed at student responses. Many were able to identify a moment in school, sports, or other extra curricular activities that they showed an example of these mindsets. Many were able to identify a time within the same activity that they had both a fixed and a growth mindset. I think it is very important to give students time to reflect upon their own lives and where they identify themselves having these mindsets. I also try to share my own mindsets whenever possible.
We then moved into a collaborative sorting activity that I planned to refresh students on the differences between a growth and fixed mindset.
Lastly, we completed a growth mindset post-it note activity that I found for free on Teachers Pay Teachers. I have had this activity saved since last summer and had been waiting for a good opportunity to try it out. To add student choice, I copied two questions back to back. Groups can choose to answer, “What is a growth mindset and why is it important in our classroom?” or “What is a fixed mindset and why should we try to avoid it in our classroom?” This activity gave my students the opportunity to independently respond to the question on a post-it, and then collaboratively create one “best answer.” I hung these up in my classroom and added to my mindset bulletin board in the hallway. With having 130 sixth grade students, this activity allowed me to easily display work from every student!
I taught this lesson the week before spring break and was able to communicate to my students that it is easy to develop a fixed mindset as the end of the year approaches, however, it is important to recognize this and push our thinking towards that of a growth mindset.
My students LIKE doing mindset activities. As we’ve progressed through these lessons, I have seen a drastic change in thinking in many of my students. I like having discussions about mindsets and perseverance with my students because I feel like these skills are so important, not only in my language arts classroom, but in all aspects of life. I also find myself more excited on days that I get to teach mindset activities because my students tend to be more engaged and excited about learning. Teaching my students about mindsets also gives us a common language to talk about pushing ourselves as learners and giving our best effort, despite challenges or set-backs. In a few weeks, when it comes time for our big standardized test, I will definitely engage my students in a discussion about mindsets and how they can have a growth mindset on this test. Teaching about growth mindsets has absolutely impacted my classroom and my students as well as constantly pushing me to reflect on my mindset within the school day as well.
Teaching about mindsets is not just a topic for the beginning of the school year. It’s not too late to teach your students about mindsets even with the end of the school year approaching!
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