In the past year I have come to be more and more convinced that the most important thing I can do for my students is help them develop grit. Last March, I posted about what grit is and my thoughts on how it could be taught in the classroom. Unfortunately, as I dabbled last spring in trying to foster a gritter classroom, I didn't see the results I had hoped for with my students.
This led me to my last post, Growth Mindset in the Classroom, What NOT to do. I outlined some practices I am going to do my best to eliminate from my classroom. I found that even if you teach students about and model a growth mindset, it isn't enough to overcome their own basises they have already developed at age 7. Furthermore, I have come to believe that the way I was measuring student achievement, celebrating student learning, and responding to student mistakes may have contributed to students developing a fixed mindset.
This post is going to be a Game Plan for developing a gritty classroom which pushes all students to adopt a growth mindset. I am going to write down my intentions as a starting place to develop my own teaching practice, and hopefully create a more effective classroom for my students. It is my aspiration that I can help them develop a mindset that will last a lifetime.
Caveat: I am not saying I have all the answers. In fact, if you, dear reader, have any ideas to add, please share them in the comments section. With your help, I can make this plan even better. I look forward to your juicy strategies and techniques.
The Growth Mindset Game Plan - Part I
1. Celebrate Mistakes. From the first day of school I will teach students that mistakes are how you learn. I will model this by making my mistakes transparent and explaining what I am learning from them. I will also create some simple posters celebrating mistakes to keep this idea present at all times and make it clear to anyone who is in the room teaching what this class believes. Lastly, I will share stories of people, such as Helen Keller and Albert Einstein, that used their mistakes to learn to do great things. And perhaps most importantly, I will try to always frame student mistakes as a positive experience.
2. Growth Oath. I will develop a growth mindset oath that my students and I can read at the beginning of class each day. I am a big believer in "fake it until you make it". Developing a growth mindset will be difficult for some students. Stating our aspirations over and over will help them
make the mental leap when they are ready.
3. Track Growth. Last year we had a classroom tracker on the wall for reading levels. It was based on trying to achieve a benchmark goal. As students moved to a new level, they moved their name card to the next numbered level. What this tracker didn't do was measure growth. Some students were already meeting their benchmark goal in September but only grew one level all year. Other students started as pre-readers and grew 5 levels. I want a tracker that celebrates how much a student grows. I plan on expanding this idea to other trackers such as math and MAP testing. It will have all students beginning at zero and move up as they make growth. Ultimately I want students to internalize that the way we measure success is by progress, not product.
4. Lessons on Grit. One of my school's values is tenacity. I will make grit an extension of what it means to have tenacity. I will make grit explicit by teaching lessons about why it is important and how it is developed. I will give lessons on how each person can actually grow their brain by making mistakes and learning from them. Mindset Works has a program I plan to use as a model.
5. Teach Parents about Growth Mindset. I am not sure how to do this yet to be perfectly honest. I do know that it essential that I get parents on board to support this initiative. This will include a letter home, part of our first Saturday school, and part of our conferences. At minimum I want parents communicating to their child the key messages: I believe in you. You can do this. I will not give up on you. Mistakes are how you learn.