One teacher used a white and grey mouse story to represent the mindsets:
Both mice fell into a churn of cream and one mouse gave up and drowned. The other didn’t give up, swimming round and round until he had turned the cream into butter and he could then climb out. The grey mouse gave up as he lacked the confidence to try. The white mouse persevered.
Children are now prepared to try, they know that mistakes don’t matter and they have more understanding of each other’s mistakes.
The teacher leaves the white mouse hiding in the classroom with a talking tin message ‘Can you help me sort/weigh….
Children have said ‘If I make a mistake it means I’m learning’/ ‘Next time you won’t make the mistake because you will remember and that means you are learning’.
One teacher printed a picture of a brain with flowers growing inside it. They discussed what flowers need to grow. Then each child had a part of a brain to draw what they wanted to learn. Some drew pictures, some wrote sentences like ‘I like to learn’ and ‘I have a cool brain’. The discussion focused on listening skills – listening to friends, parents and teachers to help learning.
Teachers had introduced different stories, such as Angelina Ballerina, Giraffes can’t dance, Don’t panic, Anika. Discussion about these led to children becoming braver when something was hard.
Giraffes can’t dance was used in assembly – acted out. A child who sees himself as clever took the part of the giraffe. The experience helped him to use praise to others and support his peers. Children now use ‘teacher language’ when praising each other.
I shared the story with the class and changed the language I use when I praised children. The children wanted to perform the story for their assembly because they wanted the other children in the school to know that everyone can do anything they want if they try hard and practice.
The impact of this is that children have changed the way they speak to each other. One child said to her talk partner, ‘You have tried really hard to do a nice picture. I know you find it difficult and you tried hard. I like your picture.’
All children are willing to have a go and try things that are difficult.
We have now been able to move away from the character of Gerald and focus more on the language.
Children created a spider diagram with the teacher for the question ‘What is clever?” Children’s ideas about cleverness have now changed for the better.
Children were given a list of characters to rank for cleverness, including Sponge Bob and David Beckham. All groups of children ranked the characters in a different order, but all groups could justify their choices. Children drew the conclusion that they were all clever in their own way. The teacher has to keep referring to this. Children now know that a friend can help them with their learning so all children are now more aware of individual children’s learning strengths in the class.
Teachers were trying to make positive praise more specific. All adults need to be on board. The free flow nature of Reception means that activities are largely child-led. Adults in Reception are becoming more aware of where children need to be.
Teachers were also adding notes on children’s reports, so that parents can encourage c growth mindset too (e.g….is trying hard and making good progress. Should keep trying to….even when it’s hard/tricky at first.’
One teacher introduced a ‘brain tree’ with growth and fixed leaves (red and green). Children used talk partners to discuss what they had found hard and how to improve. One puppet thought she was good at ICT but cried when she got something wrong. Children were not necessarily honest in their comments, wanting to give the right answer. It helped SEN children build awareness however.
One teacher had a teddy bear called Snow who had a fixed mindset, to whom the children gave advice. The teacher asks ‘What would you tell Snow?’ One child who was trying to avoid handwriting was asked to give Snow advice about how him feeling that he couldn’t write neatly. The child gave lots of advice using the learning power heroes. He then had another go and wrote in his reflective marking ‘Next time I will have a go.’ This child is now much more willing to have a go, sticking at tasks much longer and is starting to develop a positive attitude to learning.
In another class Gerald the Giraffe gave PSHE advice using successful learning language. Children showed that they can have a mature outlook and responded well, knowing how to learn and help others.
Children had been having split screen lessons (knowledge /skills on one side and learning power on the other). When teachers comment on the learning power in action it helps children realise what it actually means. The powers need explicit modelling and teaching to be understood.
In a special school with communication by print and visual symbols, children were able to show physically their understanding of the learning powers (e.g. putting hand to ear to show good listening) so they are now more aware of expectations.
Some teachers had introduced incremental learning boards and were encouraging ‘I will’ and ‘I can’ language. The growth and fixed mindsets had been the focus for the whole school. Children’s attitude had become more positive with more confidence. They could say what they can do and what they had learnt. There were fewer ‘I can’t’ remarks.
In one school, achievement certificates had been replaced with effort certificates (effort is hard to define and also compares children to each other creating a fixed mindset – SC). Older children were helping younger children.
Explicit praise was given to all children and teachers were experimenting with no external rewards. This had led to fewer children having a fixed mindset.
Claire Hodgson | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tower Hamlets, London
Stella Smith | email@example.com
Stella Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
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