When Fixed Mindset Thinking Gets in the Way of Deep Thinking - Here is how one school uses fun characters to communicate learning behaviors to students.
"Speed and perfection are the enemy of difficult learning." -Dr. Carol S. Dweck
The expectations and rigor associated with Common Core requires students to frequently dive into "difficult learning." With this in mind, our school is preparing students through a series of monthly assemblies designed to introduce foundational concepts of the growth mindset. Topics have included grit, "brain sweat," the power of "YET," and playing possum to avoid undesired or difficult tasks in the classroom.
Recently, our students were introduced to a new personality – Race Car Rodney! Rodney is a high-energy individual that enjoys being first at everything. In his mind, every task or assignment given in the classroom is a race to be won against his classmates. Ask him to complete a math problem on a dry erase board and watch how fast he writes a solution, proudly lifting it in the air for others to admire (even though his work is incorrect). Give him an article to read and comprehension questions to answer, and he never fails to turn it in first. Race Car Rodney has come to the errant conclusion that speed equals intelligence. He never checks his answers or completes a second read of the text . . . this would be a waste of his valuable time and only decrease his chances to to be first. This kind of thinking is a common pitfall for our young learners to overcome.
Race Car Rodney joins Mr. Fixed Mindset to make up the two nemeses of Wrightsville Elementary. Mr. Fixed Mindset is a rather stubborn individual who does not like to do anything he cannot master in one attempt. He never learned how to ride a bike, never attempts to solve a word problem in math, and simply skips words he doesn't know when reading a text. In summary, you can count on him to consistently take the easy road. Wrightsville students have been warned that Mr. Fixed Mindset may be near when they hear a classmate exclaim, "This is too hard!" or "I give up!"
We have a pledge at Wrightsville Elementary, the last line of which states, "I am here to learn!" It is our hope that students will find humor in and draw inspiration from the Race Car Rodney and Mr. Fixed Mindset characters. We use posters, morning announcements, and classroom activities to remind students of their existence and how they can keep us from achieving our goal of personal growth and learning.
As a building administrator, there are few things more rewarding than hearing from teachers and parents multiple stories of how the kids are connecting with the growth mindset language we are using with them. Students are talking about the characters at home, they are encouraging one another not to give up in the classroom, they are using "YET" when someone says they can't do something, and they willingly accept challenges even when they know the climb may be difficult. We love it when a student smiles and takes their time after the teacher points to Rodney's poster or simply mentions Rodney's name before an assignment is given to the class.
You can do this too! We used Mr. Fixed Mindset and Race Car Rodney to build a shared understanding of the learning process and what we value at our school. We created "pride tags" like those in the picture to recognize students for the small moments throughout the school day when they demonstrate a growth mindset or embrace a challenge in front of us. For us, it's not "one more thing" but rather the conduit through which we ensure we can successfully do all the things we have been trying to do. Our district believes that what you focus on, grows; and our focus at Wrightsville continues to be the way we prepare our students for the learning that awaits them.
What do you think? Use the comments below to share how you reinforce growth mindset behaviors at your school!