Instilling A Growth Mindset in Students with 4 Easy Ideas to Try Today 

Picture of cartoon brain with lightbulb by a stack of books and apple with text that reads, "instilling a growth mindset"

Growth mindset has become a buzzword in education these days. So, how can educators change it from just a buzzword and work on instilling a growth mindset in students in a meaningful and positive way? 

Please note, there are some affiliate links included in the post. If you use any of these links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. 

What are growth mindset ideas? 

To start, we need to explore what a growth mindset in students looks like. The growth mindset focuses on growing our brains over time with repeated exposure, learning from mistakes, and recognizing our ability to grow and change over time. 

When looking at a growth mindset, comparing it to a fixed mindset is often useful. A growth mindset looks at a challenge with ideas like “I can’t do this yet” or “What resources can I use to better understand this material” while a fixed mindset approaches problems with ideas like, “I am not smart enough for this” or “I am going to work on this quickly and move on.” 

Picture of 2 silhouette heads that read fixed mindset and growth mindset with a person holding a light bulb over their head and text that reads, "compare growth and fixed mindsets"

In general students with a growth mindset will embrace challenges, keep working through problems, accept mistakes and failures as parts of learning, and make learning a priority. 

Picture of the "Mindsets in the Classroom" book with text that reads, "Growth mindset for book for educators"
Caption: If you want to learn more about the growth mindset ideas and specifically how they relate to the classroom I highly recommend Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci [affiliate link]. It provides example lesson plans and ideas you can implement right away

Instilling a Growth Mindset in Students 

The first step to instilling a growth mindset in students is to teach them a little about brain science and how their brain works. I love using the Growth Mindset video series from Class Dojo during the first week of school to lead this discussion.  

Another way I love to incorporate facts about the brain is through math facts and brain facts! Students solve basic multiplication facts to reveal a hidden fact about their brains. They can record the facts from each practice page on a recording sheet. I like to have students keep this paper in their folders or somewhere we can refer back to throughout the year. 

Picture of math pages that lead to a secret message about the brain for growth mindset perfect for instilling a growth mindset in students
Students practice basic math facts while also learning about brain facts. This is a great way to share growth mindset messages whenever you work on fact fluency.

Once when students understand how their brains can change and grow with experience and support, you can use this wording with students. For example, I like to remind students to lean in and grow their brains during a difficult task. I also encourage students to ask specific questions and for specific help as they work through a task to grow their brains. 

Sometimes growth mindset ideas make their way into back-to-school lesson plans only to not be revisited until the following year. To instill a growth mindset in students, it needs to be a part of classroom culture all year. 

One way I have encouraged growth mindset thinking in my classroom is by using critical thinking games for early finishers and during set aside mindfulness time. Students can work on solving different puzzles and activities in an engaging way where failure seems less intimidating. While working through more difficult puzzles, students can grow their endurance and persevere through difficult tasks. 

Picture of Hopper frog game that reads "routines that instill growth mindset ideas"
I love using critical thinking games in my classroom. This is a great way to promote growth mindset ideas all year long!

One of the cornerstones of the growth mindset is using mistakes as a point of growth. This means that mistakes must be expected, encouraged, and used as a point of growth. 

So how is this possible in the classroom? Especially when we are tasked with assigning grades and looking at standardized data to make decisions. 

Some of this can happen in the language we use in the classroom. What happens when a student makes a mistake? Is it celebrated? Sometimes, I say something like, “That’s a great mistake. Let’s look at how we can fix that together.” Especially during the instructional time, students should be able to make a mistake. 

Not only should students be able to make mistakes, but so should the teacher. Teachers should be able to talk about their mistakes in class and explain their thought processes.

Picture of math page and an error analysis correction page with text that reads, "error analysis for test scores"
Grab these test error analysis pages for FREE!

When students do poorly on an exam or test, students can still grow and learn from these experiences. One way to do this is by allowing students to make text corrections with an error analysis lens. Let students fix their mistakes and explain what mistake they made and how to make it right. You can choose if you want to change a student’s grade, give partial credit, or use it as a learning experience. 

A part of growth mindset ideas is to keep trying during a difficult task and embrace challenges. However, I think it is important to note this does not mean that a student should continue working on the same strategy over and over again that clearly isn’t working. 

Not only does effort play a role in the growth mindset, but so does asking for help and looking for other learning methods. As a teacher, it is our job to help students discover different tools and try different learning methods. 

For example, suppose a student is having difficulty memorizing multiplication facts. In that case, we don’t want to continue using the same method over and over again as part of the “effort” of the growth mindset to achieve growth. Instead, we must teach students and help guide them using alternative methods. For example, if initial students are using an online platform to learn facts try switching it up to flashcards, look at patterns with each factor set, or find multiplication fact games.

Picture of clipboard with lightbulb and text that says, "plan with data and growth mindset ideas"
Use data to see areas that students need to practice. However, don’t fall into the trap that the growth mindset means to continue trying something “harder.” Instead, use the data to find another route or strategy to help students continue learning and growing.

Look at the student data that you have (both testing data and observational data) and have conversations with students about difficult areas. What other ways can they work to learn the material? What support exists to help them improve with a difficult concept or subject area? 

A Growth Mindset In Students Creates A Positive Classroom Climate

When students are ready to embrace challenges, work together, and grow their brains, a positive classroom climate is born. 

Wishing you and your students lots of growth (mindset) this year! 

Signature that says, "Love, Julie from Llama with Class"

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