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Growth Mindset Tips for 1st Graders (and Teachers Too!)

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Written by: Katie Palmer

Have you ever heard your students say something like, “I can't do this” or “This is too hard”? Of course you have! These are common human feelings. However, with a bit of work on growth mindset in first grade, you can create a solid foundation of confidence in your students and level up their rigor. Let's dive into these tips and tricks to improve growth mindset in your students (and you too)!

What is Growth Mindset?

According to Harvard Business School, growth mindset is the ability to “view intelligence, abilities, and talents as learnable and capable of improvement through effort.”

In simpler terms, having a growth mindset gives you the ability to know you can accomplish goals by putting in the work. Now, how can you instill a stronger growth mindset in your students?

Tips & Tricks to Create Growth Mindset in 1st Grade

1. Goal Mountain

If you have been teaching 2nd grade for any amount of time, you will resonate with the story I am about to tell you. One year, one of my lowest readers continuously grabbed chapter books from the shelf. He was definitely not ready to read chapter books, in fact, we were still working on CVC words. It was easy to understand his yearning to hold the chapter book during independent reading time, and he felt the peer pressure of his classmates all reading books above what he was reading. I sat him down and had the first of many duplicate conversations I would have over the school years.

I asked him if he would be able to jump from the ground to the top of a mountain.

“No. No one can do that,” he answered.

“That's right,” I said. “How do you get to the top of a mountain?”

“You climb it.” Insert an eye roll with his response.

“Learning to read is like climbing a mountain, you have to put in the work and go on the right path to make the goal.”

That day after school, I got to work creating Goal Mountain. I used Goal Mountain every school year thereafter, as it made setting goals, and believing them achievable possible for my students.

A goal mountain goal setting organizer.

We sat down with my new template and I asked him about his reading goal for the next month. We came up with three steps to make that goal achievable. Once he made that goal, we set another one for the next month. Slowly, we made progress, and he felt success.

Try setting attainable goals with your students using Goal Mountain.

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2. The Power of Yet

By now you may have already heard about the “power of yet”. But, have you utilized this power in your classroom? Try teaching students that some things are worth the hard work. Help them rephrase their thinking. When you hear a student saying, “I can't do this!” say, “You feel like you can't do this….yet.”

A student thinking, "I can't do this...yet!"

Remind students that their goals are attainable, and in the not so far future, they WILL be able to do things that seem challenging now.

Use this Mojo video to help students unleash the power of yet.

Creating a Growth Mindset Environment in 1st Grade

Students need to know mistakes are okay. In fact, I taught my classes to say, “Mistakes are proof I am trying.” (I even had this slogan displayed along an entire wall.) Be sure to use positive language when talking to students about their mistakes! Remind them that any goal is possible if they work hard at it!

Download Learning from Mistakes Resources

Here are some resources to remind students of the power of yet:

1. Posters to Foster Growth Mindset

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2. Growth Mindset Passages

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Picture Books to Encourage a Growth Mindset

If you notice some students (or your entire class) need a positive boost in the growth mindset department, try one or all of these picture books. Follow up your readings with class discussions.

Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain

by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., Illustrated by Sarah Ackerley

Written by a psychologist in a kid friendly way, this book explores brain growth and how to encourage growth mindset in a healthy way.

Bubble Gum Brain

by Julia Cook, Illustrated by Allison Valentine

This story introduces you to two characters, Bubble Gum Brain and Brick Brain. Once has a flexible, bendable mindset, while the other one is stuck in their ways.

I Can't Do That, YET

by Esther Pia. Cordova, Illustrated by Amanda Poff

Students will meet the main character, Enna, who struggles to believe herself capable of accomplishing hard things..until a dream she has one night.

Routines to Celebrate Growth Mindset in 1st Grade

Make time to celebrate your students' growth mindset successes! This can help reinforce the importance of thinking in a positive way. Try these celebration ideas:

Growth Mindset Brag Tags

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Class Callouts

Now this is not for every child, but some will be encouraged by it. Use your teacher judgement when decided if this celebration works with your class. Let their peers know when a student has made progress towards a goal. This can be something generic like, “Sam has worked so hard towards his goal and we need to praise him!” Follow it up with a “Hip, hip, hooray” or a round of applause.

Parent Pleasers

Send home a “Let's Taco Bout How Great You Are” card with your students to share with parents. This lets parents know the great things their child is accomplishing in school!

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Remember that celebrating growth mindset should NOT be when students make their end goals, it should celebrate the progress they make and the effort they put in along the way.

Want a closer look?

Join me as I lead you through a countdown of our top growth mindset tips!

Hopefully these ideas will help you foster an environment capable of growth mindset in your classroom.

Happy Teaching!


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