With a bright and shiny new year ahead, many teachers and students are ready to try something different. But with so many ideas out there, it can be tough to pick one area of focus. If you’re reading this post, you understand and believe in the power of the growth mindset. However, did you know that the growth mindset belief, that we can develop our intellectual abilities over time, is not enough?  Something equally as important as believing you can improve is knowing how to do so.

This is why teaching learning strategies is so critical: to give students the tools they need to be independent learners. Here are our suggestions for Growth Mindset Learning Strategies you can use with your students to start the year off right.


1. Reframe Negative Thoughts

You’ve likely have students in class that are distracted, give up easily, or goof off more than they should. There are many possible reasons for these behaviors, but most boil down to negative self-talk. A student in a fixed mindset will convince themselves they weren’t meant to do hard things, and that’s why they’re failing. 

You can teach students to reframe those debilitating negative thoughts by letting them know it’s normal to make mistakes when we try hard things, and that’s actually when we learn the most. By using growth minded language in the classroom, you can help students change their way of thinking from “I can’t do it right” to “I CAN do this if I apply the right strategy.”


2. Manage Stress

If anxiety is at its peak, students can easily get lost during a challenging lesson when their fight or flight kicks in. As adrenaline increases and the heart beats faster, the body tries to protect itself from perceived danger...even if that “danger” is your lesson!

A simple and effective way to manage stress symptoms in the moment is to use breathing techniques, as the inflow of oxygen breaks down adrenaline. Square breathing is one of these techniques that can be used and is easy for students of all ages to remember. Create a chart or poster to put in the classroom with instructions similar to the following:

Model this for students when you are stressed to show them how it can help them next time they’re stressed out during a test or whenever they’re feeling anxious.


3. Connect New Content To Old

With new information being taught to them almost everyday, students can get confused with unfamiliar concepts. This is because their synaptic connections are still weak! They need a prior knowledge connection to seal the deal.

Encourage students to make content more interesting by connecting it to something familiar. For example, when learning about a historical event, ask students if they’ve ever been in a similar situation and what they would do if they were that character or person. Remind them of how certain concepts such as in science and math build on one another, and if need be go back and spiral in prior lessons to connect it to new content. Explicitly tell your students that focusing on what they already know helps to pave the way for new neural connections.


4. Follow a Healthy Routine

The above strategies will be much more effective when students make positive choices to support attention and memory. Model a growth mindset for your students by talking about your own healthy choices! 

Teach students how important it is to take care of their brain with these simple tips: 

  • Light exercise such as walking or yoga increases blood flow to the brain and will help reduce stress. 
  • Healthy fats such as omega-3-fatty acids found in fish and nuts keep the brain strong and energized. Suggest students keep a food journal of what they eat in a day so they can see where they could make healthier choices. 

Getting enough sleep is important for brain development as well, so it has time to rest and process all the information it received when awake. Here is a post on the benefits of sleep and its connection to better overall academic performance.


5. Practice, practice, practice!

Repetition is fundamental to learning, after all it’s hard to memorize entirely new material the first time you learn about it. Many students don’t understand the value of practice in this fast-paced society!

There are the traditional methods of repetition, but a focus on deliberate practice is what’s needed. Inspire students to reteach the information they just learned to their peers and/or parents. If possible, incorporate presentations into your lessons so students will get in the habit of reviewing on what they just learned. Being purposeful about when, how, and what you practice is critical!

Remember, knowing and believing you can improve is not enough. People have to also know how. Explicitly teaching learning strategies to your students while creating a growth mindset classroom culture will certainly get them off on the right foot for the new year!


Additional Resources

Want to learn how to give Growth Mindset feedback and cultivate a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom? Check out our online PD for teachers: MindsetMaker.

Want to learn more about our research-based and ready-to-use programs for teaching your students about growth mindset, learning strategies, and more? Check out Growing Early Mindsets for Pre-K-3rd grade, Brainology® for middle school, and Applied Brainology for high school.


About the Author:

Sruthi Jonnalagadda worked as a Research Associate for Mindset Works supporting the IES Brainology Project. She currently works at the Park Slope Education Complex at MS 88 as an administrative assistant, supporting the daily needs of the school with a growth mindset.