By: Lindsay Prodorutti
Have you ever heard a child say, “I can’t do this!” or “This is too hard!”? An individual who makes these comments most likely has a fixed mindset. Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford University, researched and discovered the idea of mindsets.
There are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. An individual with a fixed mindset believes that their intelligence is an inborn trait (Dweck, 2010). They believe that talent is everything and if you are not a good math student you will never be a good math student. Individuals with a fixed mindset “believe that if they have ability, everything should come naturally” (Wiersema, Licklider, Thompson, Hendrich, & Haynes 2015, p.1). A growth mindset is established through commitment, hard work and training. An individual with a growth mindset believes that you are able to develop intelligence over time (Dweck, 2010). Individuals with a growth mindset also “believe they can improve their skills with hard work” (Wiersema et al., 2015, p.1). Teaching growth mindset in the classroom focuses on the emphasis of challenge rather than success. During her research studies, Dweck was “demonstrating that teaching young students how the brain is capable of change when faced with challenges helped them persevere and develop a growth mindset” (Hochanadel & Finamore 2015, p. 48).
Educators “should not focus on making just good grades, but how to challenge that person and teach them to create solutions” (Hochanadel & Finamore 2015, p. 49). As a teacher, it is also important to be aware of the way you praise and encourage students in your classroom. To promote a growth mindset, you would praise a student on their effort rather than the result. For example, instead of stating, “WOW! Ryan you were so smart on the math assessment!” a teacher could say, “WOW! Ryan I am so proud of all your hard work on your math test, I noticed you were struggling on problem #4 but you never gave up and you tried your best!” Educators who create a classroom environment of risk taking also promote a growth mindset for their students. “Teachers who strive to design challenging, meaningful learning tasks may find that their students respond differently depending on the students’ assumptions about intelligence” (Dweck, 2010, p. 17-18). As an educator, it is key to have students feel comfortable to be themselves. If they do not feel comfortable in the classroom setting it will make it harder for them to see the advantages of having a growth mindset
Dweck, C. S. (2010). Even geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-20.
Hochanadel, A., & Finamore, D. (2015). Fixed and growth mindset in education and
how grit helps students persist in the face of adversity. Journal of
International Education Research,11(1), 47-50.
Wiersema, J. A., Licklider, B., Thompson, J. R., Hendrich, S., & Haynes, C. (2015).
Mindset about intelligence and meaningful and mindful effort: It’s not my
hardest class any more. Learning Communities Research and Practice, 3(2), 1-13.
- Giraffes Can’t Dance By: Giles Andreae
Andreae, G. (1999). Giraffes can’t dance. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Giraffe’s Can’t Dance is a picture book about a giraffe named Gerald. Gerald is good at standing tall and munching on leaves from tall trees, but he struggles when it is time to participate in the Jungle Dance. All of the other animals in the jungle are able to tango, waltz, and cha-cha. This book demonstrates how Gerald and the other animals have a fixed mindset by using the key word can’t. Children see how Gerald overcomes this obstacle. This book teaches children a good lesson about never giving up and the power of the word ‘yet’. The bright colors and large illustrations throughout the story keep students involved. Readers are clearly able to see character emotions. The expressive rhyming text also interests the ears of young children. This picture book is a great read loud to the class in the beginning of the school year. There are many things they may not be able to do the first time, but with a positive attitude and effort they can overcome any obstacles.
- Ada Twist, Scientist By: Andrea Beaty
Beaty, A., & Roberts, D. (2016). Ada twist, scientist. New York, NY: Abrams
Books for Young Readers.
In this picture book you will meet a young girl named Ada Marie. She is a passionate scientist who asks lots of questions. These questions are helpful for her to make new discoveries and expand her knowledge and imagination. She learns from her mistakes and in the end she realizes how important it was that she made them in the first place. The illustrations throughout the story are excellent and extremely detailed. At the end of the book, there is a special note from the author, which includes fascinating information about women scientists and why she decided to name the character Ada Marie. A wide range of vocabulary is presented throughout the story. This book is a great example for children to show the power of asking questions. Ada Marie is a perfect peer example to show students not to be afraid of failure. This inspiring story is a great resource to teach children to take risks.
- The Pout-Pout Fish Goes To School By: Deborah Diesen
Diesen, D., & Hanna, D. (2014). The pout-pout fish goes to school. New York,
NY: Scholastic Inc.
The Pout-Pout Fish is a “kinderguppy” who is starting his first day in school. The Pout-Pout Fish visits different classrooms and becomes discouraged when he isn’t able to do the work the other fish are mastering on their first try. The Pout-Pout Fish uses expressions like “I’m not smart, I’ll never get it, I don’t belong, and I should forget it.” After several attempts the Pout-Pout Fish is about to give up going to school until he meets his teacher Miss Hewitt. Miss Hewitt uses positive motivational phrases to change the Pout-Pout Fish’s mindset. This story provides rhyming and repetition to keep young students engaged. The 3-dimenional illustrations create a cartoon like effect that is appealing to the eye. The school setting is extremely relatable for students to make text-to-self connections about a time they may have struggled during specific school subjects. Educators can use the fixed mindset phrases repeated in the text to help guide a discussion about changing fixed mindset phrases into positive growth mindset phrases. This book has a wonderful message about learning that it is appropriate to be a beginner. With practice and effort, students will be able to learn and grow.
- Ralph Tells a Story By: Abby Hanlon
Hanlon, A. (2012). Ralph tells a story. New York: Two Lions.
In this picture book you meet a character named Ralph. Ralph is having a difficult time in school. He struggles to have a topic to write about during writing time. All of his friends have great stories to share and it seems like it comes easy for them. After receiving encouragement from his peers, Ralph is able to overcome being “stuck” during writing workshop. The large font in the text is helpful when reading to a larger group of students. The speech bubbles, onomatopoeias and Ralph’s writing tips adds a special feature to the story. The topic and language is appropriate for young readers and is extremely relevant. This is a great resource to use in the beginning of the school year before starting writing workshop. Many students tend to struggle during writing workshop and this book provides children with a realistic example of how a student is able to stay motivated to succeed.
- Stuck By: Oliver Jeffers
Jeffers, O. (2011). Stuck. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Meet Floyd, it all began one day when he was flying a kite and it got stuck in the tree. Watch as Floyd struggles to find different outrageous objects to make the kite unstuck. Every time he tries to get the kite the other objects get stuck too. He is determined and isn’t going to give up until he gets his kite back. The cursive handwriting script font adds a unique touch to the book. I would strongly encourage the story to be read out loud by an adult since this font may be difficult for beginning readers. Throughout the story, the tree continuously changes colors by visually portraying emotions and feelings. The story also contains repetition of the words like stuck and unstuck. The story opens a conversation to brainstorm different strategies to help if a child becomes stuck in certain situations and appropriate ways to handle those situations.
- Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream By: Deloris Jordan
Jordan, R., Jordan, D., & Nelson, K. L. (2003). Salt in his shoes: Michael Jordan
in pursuit of a dream. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.
Salt in His Shoes is a true story about famous NBA basketball player Michael Jordan. The story is conveyed when Michael Jordan was a young boy. He almost gave up his dream to be a basketball player because he was afraid he wouldn’t be tall enough. His parents intervene and teach him the importance of hard work, drive and endurance. The illustrations are very realistic, bright and show detailed emotions on characters’ faces. The literary style and craft of this book is appropriate for the genre. The language is suitable throughout the text. This story teaches a valuable lesson to discuss with children about being patient, putting forth effort and staying positive if they experience a fear of failure. This story covers this vital topic and allows for discussion.
- Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon By: Patty Lovell
Lovell, P. (2001). Stand tall, molly lou melon. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Meet Molly Lou Melon, she is the shortest girl in first grade. She is teased in school because of her height, “buck teeth” and deep frog voice. But this doesn’t stop her from achieving her goals. Advice from her grandmother turns all of the negative thoughts into positive outlooks. The bright illustrations, clear message and text repetition makes this story a wonderful resource for educators. Educators can use this narrative in their classroom to teach children the importance of being motivated to succeed, and to not be afraid of taking on challenges. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon supports teaching text-to-self connections during reading workshop.
- The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes By: Gary Rubinstein and Mark Pett
Pett, M., & Rubinstein, G. (2011). The girl who never made mistakes.
Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.
In this picture book you meet a young girl named Beatrice Bottomwell. She is famous for never making a mistake. Most community members know her as “The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes”. Until one night, during the school-wide talent show, she makes her first mistake. The reader is able to watch how Beatrice learns to cope with making her first mistake. The story provides the reader with rich vocabulary. The text layout is set-up in a reader friendly way. The illustrations are inviting and the color pencil sketching adds a nice touch throughout the story. This book is an entertaining, gentle reminder that it is okay to make a mistake because one mistake is not the end of the world. Educators can use this story as a way to teach children to learn from the mistake. Mistakes are proof they are trying hard. It is a great resource to use in the beginning of the school year to set the tone for the year.
- The Dot By: Peter H. Reynolds
Reynolds, P. H. (2008). The dot. London: Walker.
Meet Vashti, a young girl who thought she would never be a good artist. Until one day, Vashti’s art teacher inspires her by turning a simple dot into a masterpiece. This motivates Vashti, and she begins to create a collection of dots using different colors. During a school art show, a young boy admires Vashti’s artwork and states he would never be a good artist like her. Vashti uses the same growth mindset technique her teacher used to show the young boy if he challenges himself and stays positive he, too, can make his own amazing creations. This is a wonderful book to encourage creativity in children who believe they “can’t” do something. The repetition of phrases provides an appealing story for young readers. The overall length of the text is short, sweet and to the point. This is a prime example of an everyday struggle children might experience in a school day. It initiates a conversation about using the word “can’t” and teaching children the power of adding the word yet. For example, instead of student saying, “I can’t draw a picture of a dog”, a student could say, “I can’t draw a picture of a dog yet.”
- Ish By: Peter H. Reynolds
Reynolds, P. H. (2015). Ish. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Meet Ramon, he loves to draw. One day, his older brother, Leon, makes a horrible comment about one of his drawings that makes Ramon very discouraged. Ramon gives up on drawing and refuses to produce work until his younger sister, Marisol, shows Ramon the power of “ish”. The illustrations, handwritten notes and creativity add a personal touch to this story. The overall message of Ish is well-defined and relatable for young readers. Ish can be used by educators when introducing the topic of a growth mindset. Since this mindset seeks feedback to help make their work even better. Students can learn the power of adding the three letters “ish” to help them when they are performing new challenging tasks. Their product may not be perfect but it is “perfect-ish”.
- Going Places By: Paul A. Reynolds
Reynolds, P. H., & Reynolds, P. A. (2015). Going places. New York: Atheneum
Books for Young Readers.
In this picture book, you will meet two characters: Maya and Rafael. Their class enters the annual Going Places go-cart contest and all of the students are given identical Going Places Kits. Rafael, a boy with no imagination, and Maya, a girl with an incredible imagination, decide to team up and work together to create a spectacular invention. Thinking outside of the box really pays off in the end. The book’s aesthetics in terms of page format and arrangement is quite impressive. The font is engaging and the arrangement of words is well thought out and intentional. Educators can incorporate this story in their classroom when teaching growth mindset.
- Beautiful Oops! By: Barney Saltzberg
Saltzberg, B. (2010). Beautiful oops! New York, NY: Workman Publishing.
This interactive board book, Beautiful Oops, celebrates making mistakes. The text demonstrates common mistakes that could occur in a child’s daily life such as ripped paper, spilling paint, smudges and smears. A piece of ripped paper transforms into an alligator’s mouth, a bent corner is represented as a penguin’s beak and a hot chocolate stain becomes a frog’s home. The book contains engaging pop-ups, rips, flaps, bends, and so much more! It is extremely collaborative for student’s participation. This simple story teaches an important lesson it shows children how to turn a “mistake” into something beautiful rather than wasteful. The book’s overall aesthetics in terms of page format and arrangement is remarkable. The mixed media and font throughout the book is so unique, creative and inviting. This book is a great conversation starter for all ages about having “oops” experiences and how to turn it into something positive.
- The Most Magnificent Thing By: Ashley Spires
Spires, A. (2014). The most magnificent thing. Toronto: Kids Can Press.
This is a picture book about an unknown named young girl who decides she wants to make the most magnificent creation. Along for the journey is her best friend dog who never leaves her side. She uses recycled pieces of metal, glue, nails and scraps. It takes her several attempts, tweaking and adjustments before she gets it to be just right. The book gives the reader the whole experience from start to finish. The bold text, enlargement of words and speech bubbles also adds a special touch to the story. The Most Magnificent Thing demonstrates the importance of taking direct challenges and learning from mistakes. The story shows her journey of making mistakes, her reactions to making errors is a great discussion to have with children.
- Brave Irene By: William Steig
Steig, W. (1986). Brave Irene. New York: HarperCollinsCandaLtd.
Irene is the daughter of a dressmaker. Irene’s mother is working hard to create a beautiful ball gown dress for the duchess. When her mother becomes ill, Irene volunteers to deliver the dress. During her journey she encounters brutal winds, heavy snow and cold conditions. She needs to overcome several obstacles before successfully delivering the ball gown. The use of italic print throughout the story adds a special reading effect. The large illustrations are clear and concise for young audiences. The story provides a variety of vocabulary words, which expands various meanings to young readers. The story teaches students the lesson of never giving up and to continue to challenge yourself even when you are faced with extreme obstacles. Overcoming difficult hurdles helps students face their own challenges. Educators can use this story as an example of a brave young girl conquering extreme conditions to help motivate students in challenging tasks.
- What Do You Do with an Idea? By: Kobi Yamda
Yamada, K., & Besom, M. (2014). What do you do with an idea? Seattle, WA: Compendium Inc.
In this story you meet a young boy who sets out to ask important questions about ideas and where they come from. His idea is a colorful egg shape that follows him wherever he goes. At first he is overwhelmed about what others would think about his plan. But, as the young boy’s confidence begins to grow, so does his idea. The illustrator, Mae Besom, begins the book in beautiful black and white whimsical sketches. The illustrations gradually begin to add color as the boy builds his confidence. This is a great metaphor for readers about brainstorming and shaping ideas. It is essential to teach individuals developing a growth mindset to learn to take risks.
- What Do You Do with a Problem? By: Kobi Yamda
Yamada, K. (2016). What do you do with a problem? Seattle, WA: Compendium Inc.
This story is a great follow-up to text after reading What Do You Do With An Idea? also written by Kobi Yamada. What Do You Do With A Problem? focuses on an unknown young boy who has a dark cloud following him wherever he goes. The longer that boy avoids his problem, the larger the cloud grows. The boy finally becomes brave enough to face his problem and realizes it isn’t as bad as he thought. The reader gets the complete experience from the cover page through the end of the book. The illustrations consume the pages and gives the reader detailed pictures of the events happening. The author uses age appropriate language throughout the text. This book teaches students the importance of not running away from problems. It is key to face your problems and in the end it will help shape them as an individual. What Do You Do With A Problem? is a great example of showing how the character in the beginning of the story had a fixed mindset. The boy evolves throughout the story and the reader is able to see the positive message and purpose for experiencing his problem.
Teaching Scenario/ Example
The stories listed above are all great resources for educators and families to use throughout the school year. These stories can be incorporated during student reading workshop mini-lesson instruction. It exposes students to wonderful stories that portray examples of a growth mindset. These mentor texts will help build a rich background for all students.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and Ralph Tells A Story are both perfect of students who struggle in school and are able to overcome their struggles. The text can be incorporated in a reading unit introducing character traits. The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School is a story that is very relatable for students experiencing school environment for the first time. This picture book can be used when exposing students to make meaningful connections as they read. In the story Ada Twist, Scientist, Ada asks questions to help her understand concepts. This connects with teaching readers the importance of asking questions while they read to help deepen their comprehension. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes is a picture book that portrays the importance of not being perfect. Students will be able to make inferences from this book based on using information they already know. Overall, teaching growth mindset will provide students with lasting goals and give them the tools they can use to achieve these goals to be life long learners.