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I Did My Best Job Teaching A “Growth Mindset” Today – Here’s The Lesson Plan


As regular readers know, I’m a big believer in teaching and implementing strategies to promote a growth mindset (see The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset”). Plus, you can find additional related lesson plans in my books.

Today, I tried a new version with my IB Theory of Knowledge classes that went very well. In fact, I think it’s the best one I’ve ever done, and it’s very simple.

Here’s what I did:

Students came in to the class finding the phrase “Growth Mindset” on the overhead. I asked people to raise their hand if they had every heard of it before today. A fair number had, since we have a big focus on Social Emotional Learning at our school. I explained that the class today would be a refresher for them and an introduction to those who didn’t know much about it.

I explained that I was going to show three videos (happily, none were blocked by The Best Ways To Deal With YouTube’s Awful Safety Mode).  Each video, I said, would illustrate elements of having a growth mindset.  I told them I wanted to write down on a sheet of paper what elements they saw exhibited in the video and how they were demonstrated.

Here were the videos I showed (I gave students a minute to write after each video, every other row of students would move up one seat after each clip to share with a partner, and I would then ask a few students to say what they wrote to the entire class). These videos and more can be found at The Best TV/Movie Scenes Demonstrating A “Growth Mindset” – Help Me Find More:

Here’s the combined list of Growth Mindset qualities both of my classes developed:


Then, after I gave students a very quick introduction to Carol Dweck and shared a story about my meeting a person who worked with Gandhi who told me that the key to Gandhi’s success was “that he looked at every problem as an opportunity, not as a pain in the butt,” I gave students copies of this NPR report, Students’ View of Intelligence Can Help Grades.  I had them rotate again, alternate reading paragraphs out loud with their partner, and then write a paragraph responding to this prompt:

According to Carol Dweck, what is a “growth mindset” and why is it important? Do you agree with what Dweck is saying? To support your opinion you may use examples from your own experiences, your observations of others, and any of your readings (including this article).

After they wrote their paragraphs, they rotated again and read them to their partner. I called up one student to share it on the overhead and had them read their piece to the class (I’ll actually be publishing a sample of them on this blog over the weekend).

Then, I showed the well-known “Two Mindsets” diagram on the overhead, quickly reviewed it, and told an example from my life for three on the list — challenges (changing careers to become a teacher); obstacles (explaining how I lost the game for my basketball team this week but I didn’t quit the team and, instead, plan on practicing my shooting this weekend) and criticism (how I learned a lot from the anonymous class evaluations students did of my last week). After writing a few words about each one on the growth mindset side of the diagram, I explained that I was going to give students copies and wanted them to think and briefly about when they had exhibited those growth mindset qualities in their own lives. We were running short of time by then, so I only gave them a few minutes, explaining that they didn’t have to write something about every one of the qualities.

We rotated again, students shared with a partner, followed by my calling on a few students to share what they wrote.

Then, with only a few minutes left in the period, I told students that at the top of the growth mindset side of the diagram, I wanted them to write as many adjectives as they could think of that would describe how they felt during and after the moments they acted with a growth mindset. My example was that I felt “confident” in myself after successfully changing careers.

I finished-up by calling on some students (though, in my second class, I had enough time to have everyone share), and got a ton of great words, including inspired, strong, delighted, successful, etc.

It went very, very well. I’ll still do my other growth mindset lesson plans (those are designed for English Language Learners and for ninth-grade students facing challenges), but this one is a big winner, too!

Feedback is welcome!

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I designed an activity for students to “feel” growth mindset. I think it could be a follow up to your introduction.
    First I instructed students that we would do a design challenge for who can design the farthest straight flying paper airplane with no resources but what you remember about making paper airplanes and a piece of paper. Students had 8 minutes and were not allowed to test fly their planes. (I didn’t specify why to them but it is because refinement is part of growth mindset the way I see it)
    After the time has elapsed we went to the hallway and let the planes fly. Students were eager to see who “won” but I placed emphases on looking at where your particular plane ended up.
    We then returned to the classroom and I asked students who feels they could do better? Several raised their hand and I asked what might you need? Through conversation it came up that if they had designs or an expert to help their results would might be better.
    I then instructed students to the website where there are free tutorials about how to make a variety of planes. I talked to them about words like basic, easy, medium, complex and hard will all indicate how much effort they would need to put into their planes. It was interesting to see some students who had the least successful first flight would take on really challenging planes and other students play it safe.
    Even though I gave the same time limit (and last trial everyone was ready at 7 minutes) only a few students were ready the at the end of me second 7 minutes. I had to provide additional time because they were willing to put in the extra effort.
    We then went to fly the planes again and for the most part planes flew further.
    I ended the exercise by asking students how they might improve even more. Students discussed how they needed to learn the best way to throw the plane (eg how hard, how fast, from what height)
    And we called this refinement.
    Our final discussion came back to the question “do you think you can do better?”. Most people do not believe their ability to design a paper airplane is fixed or innate, so they agreed that through effort and some expert help they can develop this ability. To me this is the essence of what growth mindset “feels” like and now I just have to convince my 10th grade Geomety students that there is little difference between paper airplanes and right triangle trigonometry.

    Please feel free to share and use and then if you come up with more activities like this one, please share, for free so all educators can benefit.

    • I really liked your lesson, Faraaz. I have actually done a class activity based on paper planes with one of my classes before, but this approach teaches so much.

      Also, thank you for sharing the link to tutorials on making paper airplanes. I can definitely foresee myself using it with my students.

  2. I love this activity Larry! And Faraaz, I love yours as well! We’ve been working on changing up our PD at school and I’m thinking we could use elements of these activities to craft a great growth mindset learning experience for our teachers. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Dear Larry,
    I very much appreciated what you said in your piece about teaching a ”growth mind-set.” That idea was very much in my mind when I wrote a free e-book for young people titled ”Words I Wish Someone Had Said to Me As A Kid” and which can be downloaded at:

    As someone who lost his father when young, I wrote a book of encouragement for young people to help them make their way in life. Many of the messages have to do with never giving up, being persistent and believing in oneself, many of the things your own students cited. I hope you will share the book with your students.

    Thank you for sharing your piece.

    Bill Zimmerman

  4. I really like this lesson, Larry. Two things stood out for me: the simplicity of it and the blended approach. It is structured in a very flexible way, uses technology in an unobtrusive way, while including low-tech pedagogies such as group and class discussions.

    I can use it in my context due to the flexibility. Technology within the school can be unreliable, so there are ways I can flip various aspects of it. For example, I can have the students view the videos at home and make comments on Twitter or the class website. I can then use my personal tablet to access the comments and conduct a class discussion based on what was written.

    Growth mindset is a philosophy that I am growing to believe is so needed by my boys in school. It is something I wish to look into some more, and implement in some way. Maybe a proposal to Administration for Parents’ Conferences (aka Parents’ Day).

  5. Thank you! I look forward to providing an update. Right now school is winding down, so I am making plans for after our Easter vacation (2 weeks here).

  6. I think students often think this is fuzzy and not applicable in the ‘real world’ where failure is punished. Here, the head of Google X demonstrates the utility and importance of failure in a way that I have found resonates with students:

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