Sunday, September 20, 2015

Are You Smart?

Last year, I dabbled with teaching my 4th graders about growth mindset.  We practiced adding the word "yet" to the end of most everything we said and by the end of the year, my students became quite good at it.  I've heard that some of them even carried this vocabulary on with them to 5th grade, which is awesome to hear.

This year, we are diving full force into growth mindset and it is very exciting!  As part of this, we are learning about the brain and how it works.  Learning about the brain and growth mindset must go hand in hand.  Students need to understand that the brain is constantly changing with each learning experience.  If they struggle with something, lots of practice can actually alter the structure of the brain until it is no longer a struggle.

Who would have thought that a bunch of 4th graders would be learning about things like neurons, synapses, malleability, and neuroplasticity -- and actually understand it well enough to be able to explain it to someone else!  I know that I wasn't learning about this when I was in 4th grade way-back-when....But I wish I would have.  It may have changed my life.

Last week, I gave my students a short survey to find out what they knew about the brain and learning, a sort of pre-assessment.  Their answers were astonishing and have given me much food for thought. There was one question that received the most answers and I wanted to share some responses with you:

Question:  Are you smart?
*   No, because my brain thinks slow.
*  No, because I am not good at math.
*  No, because every time I let info in, other info gets out.
*  I am smart only when it comes to reading.
*  Yes, I am smart and I believe others are too.  Everyone is smart at something!
*  Yes, I am smart and I am going to keep getting smarter and I am proud of that.

I hope you can see, as I quickly did, that there is plenty of room for growth mindset here.  These last two students demonstrated that they already have a growth mindset hard at work, and boy what a difference it makes!

Have you taught your students about growth mindset?  If so, I'd love to hear how it's going!