Carol Dweck is a psychologist working at Stanford University. Over 30 years ago, she became interested in the attitudes versus achievement of students. She studied the success of individuals and compared it to mindset. Her findings are extremely important in the area of education. Dweck divides people into two different groups: fixed mindset and growth mindset.
A Fixed Mindset
People with a fixed mindset assume everyone has a restrictive aptitude. They also have a specific personality and a certain moral character. Creative abilities and intelligence are static. People with a fixed mindset wonder. — “Will I look smart?” “Will I succeed?” Due to this, they avoid difficult tasks that might show limitations. A person with a fixed mindset avoids tasks that seem challenging. The thinking is if a person avoids difficult tasks, the person won’t make mistakes. People with a fixed mindset feel the need to prove themselves over and over again.
A Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is based on the idea that basic qualities can improve with effort. Even though all people are different, everyone can grow through practice and experience. Challenges help people with a growth mindset become stronger. They like to try new things. Persons with a growth mindset see failure as an opportunity to grow. Feedback is a good thing. They welcome input from others. Individuals believe their talent will develop by using good strategies. They are inspired by the success of others.
Ways Teachers Can Promote a Growth Mindset
- Teach students about the two mindsets.
- Reward students for effort.
- Praise students that seek others for help.
- Inspire students to try new strategies.
- Urge appropriate risk-taking even though some tasks won’t work out.
- Encourage students to:
- share information
- seek feedback
- admit errors
Activity #1 – Brochure Fold Graphic Organizer
Use this brochure-style organizer to teach students the definitions of fixed mindset and growth mindset. Inside have students list statements to show what each mindset thinks.
Activity #2 – YouTube
ClassDojo and Stanford’s PERTS Research Center created this five-episode video series. They highlight the power of having a growth mindset.
1: Your Brain is Like a Muscle
2: Mojo Bounces Back
3: The Incredible Power of Yet
4: The Mysterious World
5: Mojo Puts it All Together
I shared this activity a while back, but it works so well to promote a growth mindset, I’m sharing it again.
Number the Stars Summary
In the novel Number the Stars, Annemarie lives next door to her best friend, Ellen. Times are difficult for people living in Denmark during the Nazi invasion of World War II. Annemarie witnesses this firsthand as she protects her Jewish friend by pretending that Ellen is her sister when the soldiers search her home looking for Jews.
The two girls travel to Uncle Henrick’s house on the coast with Annemarie’s mother and younger sister. A number of events have Annemarie puzzled. Finally, she pieces everything together in her mind and realizes that Uncle Henrick is helping Jewish people escape Denmark. He hides them in his fishing boat and takes them across the sea to freedom.
The day Ellen and her parents are set to sail, an object is dropped by one of the Jewish people on the way to Henrick’s boat. Annemarie doesn’t know what the package contains, but knows it is extremely important in the escape. When Mom falls and springs her ankle, Annemarie knows it is up to her to get the special package to Henrick.
The mission is dangerous. The woods between Henrick’s house and the dock are full of Nazi soldiers. The package is placed inside of a basket with Henrick’s lunch. Annemarie must travel through the nighttime woods. If the Nazi soldiers stop her, she must pretend to be just a young, silly girl delivering lunch to her uncle.
As Annemarie walks through the woods, she gathers her courage by comparing her trip to Little Red Riding Hood’s trip to Grandma’s house. Annemarie pretends she is telling the story to her younger sister.
Read this excerpt from Number the Stars to see an example.
“The grandmother lived deep in the woods, didn’t she?” Kirsti would ask. “In the dangerous woods, where wolves lived.”
Annemarie heard a small noise—a squirrel perhaps, or a rabbit, scampering nearby. She paused, stood still on the path, and smiled again. Kirsti would have been frightened. She would have grabbed Annemarie’s hand and said, “A wolf!” But Annemarie knew that these woods were not like the woods in the story. There were no wolves or bears or tigers, none of the beasts that populated Kirsti’s vivid imagination. She hurried on.
Still, they were very dark, these woods. Annemarie had never followed this path in the dark before. She had told her mother she would run. And she tried.
“So little Red Riding-Hood carried the basket of food and hurried along through the woods. It was a lovely morning, and birds were singing. Little Red Riding-Hood sang, too, as she walked.”
It wasn’t far now, and it was getting lighter. She ran almost as fast as she had run at school, in the Friday footraces. Almost as fast as she had run down the Copenhagen sidewalk on the day that the soldier had stopped her with his call of “Halte!”
Annemarie continued the story in her head. “Suddenly, as Little Red Riding-Hood walked through the woods, she heard a noise. She heard a rustling in the bushes.”
“A wolf,” Kirsti would always say, shivering with fearful delight. “I know it’s going to be the wolf!”
Have students combine two stories in the same manner that Lois Lowry did when she wrote Number the Stars.
- Read the short story “Story of the Engine that Thought It Could” (included in the download).
- Read the excerpt from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that follows “Story of the Engine that Thought It Could.”
- Edit The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by adding Lion’s thoughts as if he is talking to someone. Lion needs to tell the “Story of the Engine that Thought It Could” in the same fashion that Annemarie intertwined the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.”
- Decide what Lion thinks to encourage himself before jumping over the ditch. Use lines from “Story of the Engine that Thought It Could” as his encouragement.
- The revised story should be similar to Lois Lowry’s Chapter 14 of Number the Stars.
IMPORTANT – This link takes you to the Google Slides file. Save it to your Google Drive and then it will be editable.
Activity #4 – Accidental Inventions
Assign each student one accidental invention to research. Include popular foods such as potato chips and Popsicles. Medical discoveries such as Penicillin and X-ray images are interesting. Don’t forget about the inventions that make life easier such as Teflon, Post-it Notes, and Velcro.
Download this handout for a detailed list of inventions. The handout also contains a printable for student research.