What is a Growth Mindset?
One of the latest education buzz-words is “growth mindset.” What exactly is a growth mindset? Simply put, growth mindset is the belief that we can get smarter through hard work and challenges. In schools, this involves teaching students how to persevere through challenges and look for success within their failures.
As a school counselor, I try to incorporate characteristics of a growth mindset into my classroom lessons, small groups, and school-wide programming. This post will provide you with some of the best FREE resources I have found for teaching growth mindset to elementary-aged students.
Growth Mindset Videos
I love kicking off my classroom lessons with a video clip. It draws students into the lesson and provides a quick overview of what we will be learning about in the lesson. Here are 3 of my favorite videos for introducing a growth mindset.
1) Grow Your Brain
This is a great video for grades 2-5. It shows what happens in our brains when we do hard things! I love how the video integrates some brain-based vocabulary into the growth mindset concept.
2) Sesame Street: Growth Mindset
This is a great clip of a Bruno Mars song called “Don’t Give Up.” I use this with grades K-1.
3) Which Step Have You Reached Today?
This is a 30 second clip that I use with grades 3-4 to illustrate the power of our words.
Growth Mindset Hands-On Lessons
One of the best ways to illustrate a growth mindset is by having students attempt challenges. The challenges below involve very few supplies and are quick to set up. Throughout each challenge, stop and discuss what it feels like to attempt something hard. At the end of the challenge, talk with the class about what strategies were used to make each challenge successful. Or, if the challenge was not successful, discuss what students would try differently next time.
If you are a school counselor, and your schedule does not allow you to do many classroom lessons, a great way to introduce these challenges is to try them out with your staff. At a staff meeting, complete one of the challenges as a team-building activity and then make all of the supplies available to staff members. There’s a good chance that if your staff enjoyed the activity, they will try it out with their students!
Here are 3 challenges my students (and staff!) have enjoyed:
1) Index Card Body Challenge
Can you fit your whole body through an index card?! With the correct folding and cutting technique, it is possible! I tried this activity out with 3rd and 4th graders and they were up for the challenge. Have a large stack of index cards available because they will need several cards to experiment with! Here are some hints to give along the way (tip: give a new hint every few minutes):
- Your whole body must fit through the index card without using any tape or glue.
- You can cut the index card, but you must use the whole card to complete the challenge.
- You will need to fold the card in half “hot dog style” before doing any cutting.
2) Solo Cup Pyramid Challenge
Prior to the lesson, prepare several sets of the following materials:
- 13 Solo cups
- 1 rubber band with 4 pieces of yarn (about 1.5 ft long) tied to the rubber band
Place students into groups of 4 and introduce the challenge: Your job is to build a pyramid of cups using the special tool. You can only touch the yarn. You may not touch the cups or the rubber band. You may spread the cups out on the carpet before you begin.
Allow students several minutes to experiment and then give the following clues, if needed:
- There are 4 members in the group and 4 pieces of yarn. Do you think that may help you figure out how to hold the yarn?
- Once you figure out how to hold the tool, experiment with where you place your hand. Does it make a difference if you and your teammates hold the yarn close to the rubber band vs. far away from the rubber band?
- If a team is doing very well, challenge them to create the pyramid without talking to each other!
3) Tie a Knot in a String Challenge
Give each student a piece of yarn about 1.5 feet long. Tell students that they must hold onto the string with one end of the string in each hand. Without letting go, students must tie a knot in the string!
Watch out, students will get creative and try to slip the yarn out of their fingers to tie the knot! Ask students to prove their answers to you. 🙂
Want to see the solution? Here a great video from Barbara Gruener with the solution to the challenge!
Favorite Growth Mindset Picture Books
Besides video clips and hands-on challenges, I also love using children’s literature to teach social-emotional concepts. Ok, I know this is a FREE resource round-up, and books aren’t free, but I have to share my favorites with you! 🙂 There are several wonderful books that illustrate the growth mindset concept. Here are just a few of my favorites! (Amazon Affiliate Links)
The phrase “growth mindset” is new for many parents. When you start working with students on the concept, it is helpful to take a moment to educate parents, too. I love this free resource from Sarah Gardner. She uses parent-friendly language to explain the growth mindset concept and gives parents some practical suggestions to help their children.
My second favorite parent resource is this list of questions parents can ask their children to illicit a growth mindset response. Click on the image below to access the free printable to send home to parents!