'Mindset + Mindstorms' photo (c) 2011, Benjamin Chun - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Matthew Becker is a fifth grade teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He taught two of the lessons in my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves, and has written this short guest post about his experience.

You can also find more information about those topics at The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning and at The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset”.

Teaching About A “Growth Mindset” & “The Brain As A Muscle” To Fifth Graders

by Matthew Becker

This summer I became aware of Larry Ferlazzo’s blog and the books he has authored on the subject of helping students to become self-driven and self-motivated learners. I was immediately intrigued, since they seemed to be related to my current reading interests and more importantly, directly tied to student learning. Upon contacting Larry through Twitter, I took his advice and purchased his book “Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers to Classroom Challenges.”

During the first two weeks of school, I implemented two of the lessons detailed in his book. I first presented “The Brain is Like a Muscle,” and two days later I followed it up with the “Grit and Growth Mindset” lesson plan. I chose these lessons for two reasons. First, they supported the idea of developing a growth mindset, which I had read about earlier this summer in Dr. Carol Dweck’s book “Mindsets.” Second, I thought the lessons were set up to make learning concrete for my students with minimal effort to alter them to match the learning levels of a fifth grade classroom.

My students and I interacted with interesting articles, videos, charts, and quotes from notable people; they were fascinated by the information and the various materials. Students participated in paired readings, turn and talk discussions, summarized and drew visualizations of what they read, and shared their learning with the whole class. We worked on important reading skills and had great discussions.

I altered the lessons slightly and assisted in the reading of the articles by adding explanations to help their understanding and meet their reading levels. The article for the “Grit and Growth Mindset” lesson was very challenging, so I used Rewodify.com to simplify the vocabulary and make the readability more appropriate. It worked well with a little editing, while maintaining the integrity of the article, and without diminishing any of the learning that took place.

As a result of implementing these lessons my students are now able to explain how their brains will grow new neurons and connections if they “exercise” it through learning. This excites them. They are also able to articulate the importance of persevering when learning gets messy and challenging, and by doing so, they would become better learners. They get it! I truly believe that the foundation for some great learning is being set for the school year.