In a few past posts, I have mentioned that I am making a determined effort to incorporate a growth mindset into our classroom environment. One of the attributes that is key to a growth mindset is to have “grit.” While reading this article on Edutopia, I came across a link for a great Prezi by Kristin Goulet, “Grit Pie,” that would be great to help illustrate this for students. I love this idea of helping students to realize that blaming others for their problems relinquishes control, and that owning up to their mistakes can actually make them happier with the thought that they have the power to fix them.
On Monday’s post, I told the story of my year as a “poser” – pretending that I was a mathematical genius during my 9th grade year in Algebra 1. Miraculously, this inadvertent deception resulted in inspiring great confidence in my abilities on the part of my teacher. Subsequently, her faith made me see myself in a different light. Basically, I developed a growth mindset about math, that led to 3 more years of success in that subject.
I recently heard a TED Talk on NPR’s TED Radio Hour that supported this “Fake it ’til you make it” philosophy. Amy Cuddy, who is a social psychologist, explains how standing in certain “High Power Poses” for 2 minutes has been scientifically proven to improve your confidence levels. You can listen to Amy’s interview on TED Radio Hour here. She describes how, after sustaining a severe head injury in a car accident, Amy found herself in the position of “poser” when attending college – and succeeded in making everyone believe that she belonged there. This experience ultimately led to her research discussed during her TED talk.
Even though this story does not specifically refer to the Growth Mindset, I feel that it is certainly a good example that demonstrates how your attitude and hard work can directly impact your future.
Update: I just added a 2nd video to this post, “Courage: Ask Amy,” in which Amy Poehler gives advice that makes a lot of sense when you take into account the conclusions Amy Cuddy has derived from her research.
My daughter, 11, is a synchronized swimmer. She also, recently, has become deeply interested in archery (along with most females her age who have read The Hunger Games). So, it was providential when I ran across this video this weekend right after our Regional Synchronized Swimming Meet.
Last year, one of the routines my daughter worked on the hardest on was her solo. She received a lot of encouragement from several coaches that gave us hope that she would be a true contender in that event. So, when she made 4th place (meaning that she did not qualify for Nationals), the news was tough to take.
This year, freshly invigorated, she made another attempt at the solo competition.
If you are not familiar with synchronized swimming, you might be surprised at the athleticism required for this sport. An article in Popular Science states, “According the USOC, the synchronized swimming team practices more than any other sport. Between eight and ten hours a day, six days a week.”
Of course, my daughter does not practice that much, but dedicates at least 10 hours a week to synchronized swimming – a kind of perseverance that consistently astounds me.
This year, even more time was spent on extra preparation. After all of my recent preaching about mindset and working harder, I couldn’t help but wonder if another disappointment might make me relapse into that fixed mindset of despair that we have any control over our own fates.
As I watched my daughter perform her solo, my heart soared at the smile on her face and the obvious enjoyment she felt. Other parents in the stands commented on how fun it was to watch. Several people confided that they were certain she had won.
When the results were posted, my heart sank. She hadn’t won.
She got 2nd place.
Even harder to swallow, her duet got 5th place.
On the way home, I asked how she felt about everything. 2nd place in Solo, which qualifies her for Nationals, and was a vast improvement over the 4th place from last year, made her happy. 5th place in Duet upset her deeply.
And yet, “Oh, we’re already working on what we want to do next year,” she shared about the plans she and her duet partner have been making. “Yes, I want extra practice,” she agreed regarding her solo that isn’t quite good enough – yet. No tears, just a weary sigh and new resolve.
My daughter never ceases to inspire me. As I watched her line dancing with some of her teammates last night at a get-together for the competitors (I would have chopped off both my legs when I was her age rather than dance in front of complete strangers), I realized that I certainly haven’t mastered this job of being a mom, but the “near wins” have galvanized me to want to try. As Sarah Lewis states in the video below, “Mastery is in the reaching, not the arriving.It’s in constantly wanting to close that gapbetween where you are and where you want to be.”
In synchronized swimming, in parenting, and in teaching, the “near wins” are what motivate us to do better, to have hope that we can make a positive difference with the right amount of effort.
Watch the video below to see Sarah Lewis describe what it means to “Embrace The Near Win.”
I’ve been collecting more and more resources on developing a “Growth Mindset.” Today I wanted to share with you some videos that could be used to teach students about the value of embracing challenges and finding a way to learn from mistakes.
A little bit more advanced (vocabulary-wise) than the book, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, this video from SciShow, “Your Brain is Plastic,” shows the importance of continuing to learn and making connections in your brain.
“Growth vs. Fixed Mindset” has great graphics that highlight the main differences between these two mindsets.
This 10 minute video of Eduardo Briceno at TEDx Manhattan Beach would be good to show older students, parents, and teachers.
Have you ever tried to teach origami to a large group of first graders? It can be a challenge, to say the least.
Every year, when my 1st graders study Japan, I attempt an origami project. Every year, I do it differently. And every year I berate myself for doing it wrong. No matter how slowly I give instructions or how many times I demonstrate under a document camera, there are several students who end up frustrated while other students grow increasingly bored with the repetitive instructions and having to wait while I help others make a valley fold.
Last year was a little better when I let the students use iPads and sites that showed videos of origami folding so they could work at their own pace. But many of them immediately chose projects that were too difficult and gave up after finding themselves overwhelmed.
You’re probably shouting all kinds of helpful teacher advice at the computer right now, including, “Give up the origami project, you fool! It’s not like they need to know that as a real-world skill!”
That is very true. But perseverance can be a good skill (until it becomes stubbornness). And learning from mistakes is a good skill. Being aware of your own ability level and how far you should push yourself is a pretty good skill, too.
As I’ve been learning about the advantages of a growth mindset this year, I’ve been trying to share this with my students. It’s become part of our daily vocabulary in some of the grade levels, but I haven’t approached it that way with my younger students, yet. I decided to use the origami lesson to help me do that with my 1st graders. (Here is a great growth mindset chart that you might like to include in your classroom.)
Last week, I asked the 1st graders to think of an activity that was easy, medium, and hard for them. For each activity, they drew a picture to represent it. For example, if reading is easy for a student, she might draw a book. If math is hard, he might draw a multiplication sign.
Then we all made a simple origami rabbit. I asked them to think about how the activity compared to the ones on their “Levels of Difficulty” sheet. We talked about how it was easy for one student because he has a lot of experience with origami, and that it was perfectly fine that it was hard for another student because this was her very first time doing origami. We stapled their projects to their sheets.
This week, I read Your Fantastic Elastic Brain to them (which they loved – perfect level for them!). We related it to the origami experience and discussed how important it is to stretch your brain, and not just stick to the things that are easy for us.
Then I gave them some origami sites, and they worked in partners to do whatever project they chose. I reminded them that if they should choose a project based on their experience.
“If you’ve done lots of origami before, should you pick an easy one?”
“If you’ve never done it before last week, should you pick a hard one?”
I told them that I was not going to help them, that they would need to figure it out on their own, unless they needed help with a word.
I let them go, and held my breath.
“This one is too hard,” one of the students said after a few minutes.
“Let’s keep trying,” his partner said. “I think we can do this.” They unfolded and re-folded several times. After 10 minutes, they did it. They were so proud!
A student working by himself nearly did cartwheels around the room once he figured out his project.
Similar stories played out all around the room. There were some sighs of frustration, but no giving up and no tears. I was able to walk from table to table, giving encouragement, praising perseverance instead of frantically trying to get everyone to the same place.
At the end of class, the students couldn’t believe time had passed so quickly. There was a unanimous vote to continue working on origami next class.
In a way, I felt like I’d just completed my own origami project. It only took me about 5 years to finally get it right.
One of my student’s parents made a request for me to talk more about mindsets with my first grade GT class. I’ve been sending information home to the parents about fixed and growth mindsets, and infusing my own language with “growth mindset” phrases, but I haven’t done any explicit mindset lessons for the K-2 crowd. I went to work hunting for something that might appeal to 6 and 7 year-olds without overwhelming them.
There isn’t much. I’m going to add that to my list of “Books I’m Going to Publish in the Future Because Apparently No One Else Has Thought of Them Yet.”
I did find this gem, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, by Dr. JoAnn Deak. The illustrations are colorful and cartoonish – appealing to younger students. The book is a bit longish, so you may need to split it up into a couple of sessions. It gives a simple explanation of the basic parts of the brain, but the best pages deal with the elasticity of the brain. There are relatable examples of skills that we learn over time, and the importance of stretching our brain by taking chances and trying hard.
There is a $4.99 app for the book, but I haven’t downloaded it, so I can’t give you a review. It appears to be the book in electronic form with some additional interactive features.
The book was published by Little Pickle Press, which is “dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people by stimulating explorations of the meaningful topics of their generation through a variety of media, technologies, and techniques.” You can find other books and interesting resources on their site, including a lesson plan to accompany Your Fantastic Elastic Brain.