Magnificent Mindsets

Last night I took the helm and played hostess for our #tlap Twitter Chat. Click {here} to read the script and prepare to be positively inspired and influenced by our charACTer chat. Oh, and grab some new ideas for your character building.

Today I'm delighted to share a new find that I first read about
over at Books That Heal Kids in early July.

This spunky little scientist sets off to make the most magnificent thing. She imagines it, believes she can do it, and gives it her best shot. But it's an epic fail. When it doesn't work out as she'd hoped, "she gets MAD!" Then the self-talk begins. "I'm no good at this. I QUIT." How many times have we heard this from students? If we're honest, we'll probably admit that we've thought and said this before, too. How do we reframe this to get passed that fixed mindset and move to a growth mindset? Sometimes it's as easy as adding the word yet. I'm not good at this ... yet. There's good news. When this girl's four-legged friend takes her for a walk, she rethinks the project and gives it another try with a much more desirable outcome. Check out this book; you'll find it a valuable tool in your mindset arsenal.

We did a book study with Carol Dweck's Mindset three years ago and now there's mounting evidence out there that teaching mindset is key. So much of what we do in education has to do with unlocking that fixed mindset and helping move it to a growth mindset.

Love this Shel Silverstein quote; thank you, Amy Lynch, for its eye-catching presentation. Click it for a freebie download.

Here's a graphic by Nigel Holmes that helps us better understand the two mindsets. Click it to go to its original source.

We're going to be talking about mindset in our first peace class this week. Look at our focus board for students as they come in while I'm greeting at the door: 

A great clip that showcases optimism is The Greatest
an inspirational PSA from The Foundation For A Better Life. 

I'm going to reinforce the idea of mindset with pictures like this:

Someone with a fixed mindset might say something like this:
That bridge isn't going anywhere. What a waste.
How would someone with a growth mindset reframe that?
Your answer might depend upon what you see. What was this bridge built to transport? Is it a walking bridge or is it made for vehicles? How does that change how you feel about or react to it? Hmmm ... 

What might someone with a fixed mindset have to say about
this little maple tree we're attempting to transplant from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin to the subtropical gumbo of the Gulf Coast in Texas?

Show this to students and encourage them to try their hand at reframing those thoughts to view them through a growth mindset lens.

Here are some more fixed-mindset thoughts for reframe:

1. You have to be a genius to learn a second language, and I'm not, so what's the point of trying.
2. Well, she comes from that side of town.
3. He has test anxiety so he won't ever pass that test.
4. Wow, isn't he so so smart!
5. He excels at gymnastics because his family is rich.
6. My parents weren't any good at science either.

Want to know more about fixed and growth mindset? Read Dr. Maurice Elias' post about starting the year off with a positive mindset {here}. Amy Conley wrote about nurturing intrinsic motivation and growth mindset in writing {here}. 
And Glen Whitman discusses the power of the word yet {here}.


  1. Barbara, thanks for sharing this! I plan to each about mindsets with my 3rd-5th grade friends next week. Can you tell me how you explained fixed vs growth before reading the story? I'm trying to think of kid friendly ways to explain each. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kayla ... thanks for stopping by. My focus was with a parrot puppet, who would only copy what I said, didn't have thoughts of her own. I pretended not to realize what was happening, and kids inevitably said, "She's a parrot. Parrots can only copy people." So we talked that through, then looked to my word search and found the word mindset. I asked who knew what that meant, and there's was always a student (even in 1st grade!) who thought it meant something about "setting your mind " on something and not changing it." We discussed two types of mindset - closed (or fixed) and growth (or opened). We used our hands to show closed with a fist and opened with an opened hand with waving fingers to show growth. That was key, especially for the little ones ...

      Then I told them I had a magnificent new story with a little superhero and her sidekick who starts out with a growth mindset but their job was to watch and see if it stays that way. If/when they see it close/fix, they were to put up a fist ... and we'd stop and talk about it.

      Powerful stuff! And quite interesting, because it starts to fix when she says, "it was all wrong" but then she decides to try again so it goes back to growth pretty quickly ... but we come to realize that the feelings of frustration and anger are ultimately a trigger for closed/fixed mindset about this project ... and then there's a strategy "Her assistant suggests a walk" to help her process, reflect and open back up.

      Seriously SUCH a great lesson ... and the kids delight in the ending, for sure!

      Followed it up by giving examples, like the bridge picture, then letting them give examples. LOVED their examples because it gave them a chance to connect and make it authentic.

      Please let us know how your lessons go!

    2. Thanks, Barbara! You're awesome! I'll probably do a blog post when I finish up the lessons. :)

  2. It's fabulous that you have actual exercises to practice the mindset. They don't have to practice on themselves first. That's great.


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