Sunday, September 10, 2017

How I Teach Growth Mindset To Young Children

If you're new around here, September is when we celebrate Growth Mindset Month here on Crayons to Confidence! And since I'm such a firm believer in the concept, I dedicate a whole week to it in my classroom at the beginning of the year. All of our books, lessons, and centers focus on learning about and developing a growth mindset, and I'm here to share it all with you!

My school implements what we call the "First Fifteen," where the first fifteen school days are curriculum free. You can teach some of that if you want, but you don't have to. You have the freedom to focus on routines, procedures, class norms, and relationship building, so I toss in a full five days of growth mindset in there, too. In my humble opinion, the more a child can develop a growth mindset early on, the more they will love learning because they will not fear failure.

The Power of "YET." 
I always begin with the power of yet. I introduce several fixed-mindset phrases, and then add the word, "yet."

"I can't do this!" ...yet.

"I don't get it." ...yet.

"This doesn't work." ...yet.

"I don't know." ...yet.

"It doesn't make sense." ...yet.

"I'm not good at this." ...yet.

For kindergarteners, five minutes is forever. So if a lesson or a task makes them feel stupid, they feel as though they will never be able to get it. They feel as if their stupidity will last forever, when the truth is, no one learns anything wholly the first time around. It takes time, and effort, and then some more time. Reminding them to put "yet" at the end of their fixed-minded sentences helps them refocus their brain and stop telling themselves "I'm not good enough." You even see them begin telling themselves "In time, I'll be even better."

The Books I Read 

The Lessons I Use 
Little Engine 
Shared Reading :: We talk about things the students have done that they didn't think they'd ever be able to do.
Writing :: Students draw / write things they worked hard at and accomplished.
Math :: I show them a problem they will be able to do at the end of kindergarten. We set goals for our year, and talk about how we need to learn a bunch of little things before we can know one big thing.

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
Shared Reading :: I introduce my students to "Miss Take" with an anchor chart. She's a good friend of mine...and she messes up ALL THE TIME! We talk about some of the crazy things she does, and students think of what she can learn from her mistakes.
Writing :: Students draw / write "letters" to Miss Take showing what she can learn from one of her mistakes.
Math :: We count Miss Take's mistakes, and we count how many things she learned from her mistakes. (**Teacher hint...she ALWAYS learns a lot more than the number of mistakes she made!)

The Dot
Shared Reading :: We read The Dot, and each make a "boring," little dot on anchor chart paper with paint on our fingertips! We use our little fingerprint dots to make one, big, beautiful, multi-colored class dot. And just like the book, we all sign it.
Writing :: Students begin by drawing a dot! Then, elaborate your drawing. Use pictures and words to make your own story. Be ready to share with a buddy!
Math :: Each student gets a set of popsicle sticks with numbers 1-10, and a small container of "dot" beads. They line up the number of beads on the correlating popsicle stick.

What Do You Do With A Problem 
Shared Reading :: I introduce turn and talk on this day. During the story, students share problems they've had, and ways they solved that problem. They also brainstorm what the little boy might do with his problem in the story! We take this time to really dive in to some mental health education. We talk about worrying, anxiety, conflict resolution, and problem solving.
Writing :: Students use words and pictures to share a problem they had, and how they fixed it / how they could have fixed it. They love sharing how much of an "anxiety warrior" they were when they fixed their problem!
Math :: We play a math version of Headbands! I have a set of cards; half contains a number (i.e. 4) and half contains a visual representation drawing (i.e. 4 hearts). Each child gets one card taped to their head! They have to walk around to solve their problem and find their other half before the timer runs out! (Prompt them to use counting, number lines, hundreds charts, etc. for strategies.)

What Do You Do With An Idea
Shared Reading :: I begin by telling them about an idea I have. I really like oatmeal. But I never seem to have time to fix oatmeal for breakfast! So I was thinking... What if I made little crunchy oat circles that I can eat with milk really fast so I still get to eat oatmeal each morning? They all laugh and say ewwww! because crunchy oatmeal sounds disgusting! But then we eat some Cheerios together, and they say I love Cheerios! and I say Me too! Guess what Cheerios are? Yep. Crunchy little oat circles. Sometimes ideas seem a silly, but they really turn in to something big!
Writing :: Yamada concludes the story with the realization of what you do with an change the world! Students use pictures and words to share an idea they have / had that can help them change the world.
Math :: I have 20-piece puzzles of different ideas that people had and brought to life. Stop lights, pencils, cell name it! On the back of these puzzle-pieces I have numbered them, in order, 1-20. Students put the puzzles together in order of the number, and flip the puzzle to see what idea they made!

Eliminating "I Can't" From Their Vocabulary
As a kindergarten teacher, I can deal with a lot of things. Bathroom accidents, glue spills, tear-induced melt-downs...but there are two things I do not tolerate. I do not let my students treat others disrespectfully, and I do not let them tell me they can't do something.

I start by showing my students several scenarios of when they would use "I can't." They usually agree that it's not a very good growth mindset to use "I can't," in this moment, so I make them sign a contract! Then, as the year goes on and they begin to get frustrated or lose confidence in their work, "I can't," starts popping up again. If they say it and break their contract, they get five tickets to keep at their desk. They have five days (one ticket per day) to prove themselves show themselves that they can in fact do what they said they couldn't do. When they prove themselves wrong, they get to put their tickets into our class cup, and the class is one step closer to their reward party!

If you're a teacher, feel free to email me with any questions you have, and let me know how I can help you bring growth mindset to your classroom! If you're a parent, babysitter, or someone else involved heavily with children, stick around in the next few weeks for how you can help your child establish a growth mindset, even out of the classroom.


  1. How I Teach Growth Mindset To Young Children, is such a great article to read and can have a great help to many people with young kids. Thank you for posting!