Growth Mindset Ideas for Upper Elementary Classrooms

growth mindset in the classroom articles to read

I will be the first to admit that when I first heard the words "growth mindset" I figured it was a passing educational trend that would be here one moment and gone the next. An initiative that would never really take off.

Then I moved grade levels.

I was suddenly a new fifth-grade teacher who saw students in front of her who did not persevere, who did not persist, who did not display any passion for learning. Many thoughts went through my head, perhaps its the cohort of students, this particular age group, or maybe my class size. Excuse after excuse, I realized that I needed to invest my time and energy into learning all I could about growth mindset.

So what is a "Growth Mindset"?

In a nutshell, a growth mindset is the thought process that allows students to embrace difficulty, challenges, and their own errors and mistakes. By encouraging a growth mindset in your classroom students begin to try harder, develop resilience, and become empowered to persevere through difficult tasks. Research shows that your brain can get stronger and smarter, and by teaching students to have a growth mindset they learn that through effort and persistence they can succeed, even when something seems too hard.

By taking this approach, I noticed a huge change in my students. The moans and groans of challenging work, specifically math word problems, lessened, and their persistence in working through tough assignments increased. After seeing such amazing growth in my own classroom, I knew that teaching growth mindset was not a passing educational trend, but rather a scientific approach to teaching students how to persevere.

Learning something new can be overwhelming. Here are some easy to implement strategies that I have found helpful when bringing a growth mindset into my classroom that you can use too, without the overwhelm!

Understand What Growth Mindset Looks Like in the Classroom

Learn, learn, learn! Take the time to learn what a growth mindset really is and what it looks like in the classroom. These books are easy to read to learn more about growth mindset:

Need a growth mindset overview right now? This quick video will help you understand the concept of a growth mindset directly from Carol Dweck.

carol dweck growth mindset video

1. Teach Formal Lessons 

Once you have a handle on the concept of growth mindset it is time to get to work to push students out of their comfort zone and scaffold the support you provide. To help students understand what a growth mindset classroom is, formal lessons are a must! Hanging up a poster or two is not enough to help students to understand what a growth mindset is. Students need formal lessons to understand the science behind this concept. Focus beginning of the year lessons on:

These videos are perfect to help you kick off your lessons on growth mindset and how our brains work and grow:

Try this: Have students write down one thing that is difficult for them to do right now on the front of an index card, perfect to tie in the beginning of the year goal setting. Give them a few minutes to brainstorm different strategies that can help them succeed. After a few minutes, have students get up and walk around and share what they wrote with their peers. Have students who wrote similar things down on the front of their cards partner up to brainstorm more strategies to help them succeed.

2. Read Favorite Picture Books

Teaching a growth mindset using picture books in your classroom community is a must! Students instantly connect with favorite and new characters as they go on a journey of growth and change. If you are not sure how to start your growth mindset lessons, start with one of these titles and have your students collect evidence of growth or fixed mindset as they listen to the story.

See more of my favorite growth mindset picture and grab some free printables HERE.

growth mindset anchor chart

3. Utilize Morning Meetings

I love using morning meetings as a time to discuss important concepts and ideas. The students are fresh, focused, and truly enjoy gathering together as a community. They feel empowered and know that their voices are heard when we are all together during this time. That is why it is the perfect time to use growth mindset quotes in the classroom. Instead of sharing quote after quote, we spend a great deal of time with just one quote a week. Here is a quick overview of how we spend an entire week digesting a single quote.

  • Monday: share the quote, hang it up, and let it sink in 
  • Tuesday: have a few students share what they think it means
  • Wednesday: have students discuss in pairs what they think it means 
  • Thursday: have students share how they can apply the quote to their own lives
  • Friday: have students write about or illustrate what the quote means and how they can put it into practice
Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

4. Create Meaningful Bulletin Boards and Displays

After we use powerful growth mindset quotes and positive motivational quotes during our morning meetings, I display them on a bulletin board to leave up all year long. I also display student reflections and illustrations around the bulletin board to remind students how they said they can apply each quote to their own lives. By doing this, students are taking ownership of each quote and the display serves as a powerful reminder for them all year long.

Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Another way I like to display growth mindset in my classroom is with these growth mindset alphabet posters. This alphabet has all of the important vocabulary terms from our beginning of the year formal lessons like neurons, perseverance, grit, and yet. Since students are not just seeing the word, but the definition too, they are able to put the ideas from this concept into action easily and daily. It also serves as a great teaching tool for me when reminding students of the expectations I have in place for a growth mindset.

growth mindset cursive alphabet

5. Teach Students to Reflect on Errors

Helping students to embrace their mistakes and errors is an important part of having a growth mindset. Mistakes help us learn. To take that concept even further, I love having students analyze the mistakes that they make using a graphic organizer. We use this graphic organizer to reflect on our errors to help us learn after any assessment. It provides students the opportunity to look at their
errors, work backward to figure out their mistakes, and ask for help if needed. By setting a small chunk of time aside each week for these types of reflection activities, students understand how important mistakes are. I love helping students reflect and learn during our error analysis timeGrab this organizer for FREE at the bottom of this post.

Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

6. Celebrate Authentic Moments

Teachable moments are everything, especially when it comes to a growth mindset. Be sure to call out your students to celebrate the process of their work and not the product of their work. Focus on praising students' effort, focus, and the variety of strategies that they use when solving difficult tasks. By doing this, the students begin to realize that the process of hard work and perseverance gets rewarded, and not just the right answer. Use motivational note cards to send a personal note to students to celebrate their process. This small act is so motivating for students! The more you celebrate the process of your students' thinking and work ethic, the more the students will begin to celebrate each other when they see a growth mindset in action, too!

growth mindset praise cards

A growth mindset is a powerful concept! It can truly change a child's life. Teaching a growth mindset is an ongoing and yearlong process that begins with formal lessons at the beginning of the year. But by using these simple strategies, ideas and resources, your students will begin to show a growth mindset and enjoy working hard.

growth mindset coloring pages for kids

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Growth Mindset Strategies for the Upper Elementary Classroom

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growth mindset and the brain close reading passages

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