2013 Age 7-9: Y3/4 (2/3 Grade US) Feedback from Day 2

Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin

Teachers spent 3 days going over the mindsets using video and much discussion. Cleverness was discussed. One student said ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks. I just answer it anyway!’ A famous person was picked and children discussed why they were smart. Children also wrote their answers for ‘What makes you clever?’

Mazes were used to see which level of challenge children would choose. Higher achievers picked easier mazes than struggling students.

Children have started to use growth mindset language in the classroom.

One teacher created a poster showing the cycle of learning, showing how competence develops. Children now have more acceptance of their learning growth and are taking more risks. Children are asking more questions and feeling more comfortable with their own learning progress and more willing to challenge themselves.

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Some teachers found that the focus on neurons growing was more effective than talking about the growth mindset.

A dinosaur toy had been used to model rushing into things. Success criteria for encouraging a growth mindset had been created with a class, helping the dinosaur to learn, and they were keen to achieve them. Children were trying hard to exercise their learning muscles.

Learning stories had been used, resulting in children being happier to contribute and in one class a brain trophy was sent home.

One teacher had a growth mindset tree and most teachers had opportunities during the day for children to reflect on their learning powers.

One school took a whole school approach, running lessons in growth mindset and having feedback with the staff. Children have taken ownership of the concept.

Active learning is used in practice, helping children never to give up, using learning powers in lessons. There was a greater effect when the teacher continually reinforced the growth mindset culture.

Introducing spicy and hot maths challenges has led to more children rising to the challenge.

It was felt that talk partners are key, truly learning from each other.

The impact of this work was that there was more awareness of teachers giving praise and encouragement focused around effort. Children were now challenging themselves more and were more engaged, realising that you can’t always get everything right. Some children were still opting for challenges which were too easy or too hard, so this was still a work in progress.


Children have been taking the message home to parents. One parent complained that ‘this new growth mindset’ idea had led to her child telling her off for having a fixed mindset and teaching her how to have a growth mindset! I think she was secretly impressed…

Kentucky (math focus only)

All teachers had encouraged the phrase ‘I can’t do it YET’. Students seemed more confident, liked the change and felt unafraid to fail.

Comparisons with athletes were made, to focus on practise, which students could relate to and knew that hard work was key.

Teachers had also worked on allowing children to decide whether their learning was right or wrong rather than the teacher telling them. Students were talking in class together, becoming more confident about their answers.

The ‘who is the smartest’ activity was used with lots of discussion and questions arising:

Anecdote: 8 year olds

Students worked in groups of 4. I showed the whole class each picture of the famous people and explained who each person was: Tiger Woods, George Washington, Aly Raisman, Walt Disney, Barack Obama, Thomas Edison, Christopher Columbus, JK  Rowling, Michael Jordan, Taylor Swift.

They were instructed to put these pictures in order of intelligence. Some comments I overheard:

  • I don’t think a president should go at the end.
  • But she won a gold medal.
  • You don’t have to be really smart to play basketball.
  • She was poor and then she became famous.
  • The presidents should be together.
  • But she’s the most famous.
  • The paparazzi would like her more.

Behavior I noticed:

  • Students who were normally ‘pushovers’ were adamant about their opinions and would back up their beliefs.
  • They naturally compromised to determine the order.
  • The most popular for this generation were not necessarily at the top.
  • They were really thinking about their justifications.

I then read a book called ‘All Kinds of Smart’ by Judi Lalli.  We discussed ‘smartness’ in different areas: word, logic, picture, music, nature, body, self, people.  There is not just one way to be smart.  We also discussed what each of the people had to do to accomplish what they have and also how they had to excel in different areas.

I learned:

  • I need to give more opportunities to work in this manner – compromise, negotiation, open-ended activities, not necessarily math content with right or wrong answers.
  • Kids can really handle this and can learn from it.
  • I need to LISTEN to them more.  They have a lot to say and need to be heard.

Lori Riney, Washington County Elementary School, Springfield, Kentucky

Kentucky (all subjects)

Two teachers had used ‘Your Fantastic Elastic Brain’, resulting in parents reporting that students were talking about this at home. Children showed interest in how the brain works and began using vocabulary about the brain. They are keen to reread the book.

Three teachers had shown students clips of neurons firing and the black taxi cab drivers research. Students like to talk about this and how their brains can grow like the taxi drivers’ brains.

Students had also sorted growth and fixed mindset characteristics, role played the mindsets, ordered celebrities for intelligence and looked at clips about famous failures. Students encourage each other to take risks and one struggling student eagerly told his mother about the famous failures.


After the first day of school and implementing growth mindset activities, I had a student who tossed a note to me on my way to her desk that morning. This is a student who has struggled academically and with unidentified ADHD for as long as she has been in school and until this year. She has never been a fan of school other than the social aspect. Her letter read:

‘Dear Mrs. Ramey, I am excited to have you as a teacher and I am going to learn more and my neurons are going to fire during class. I love how you teach me and when I go to 5th grade I will be so ready for it. I hope I learn something new and I will work so hard so that we will earn more recess time. Thank you so much.’

Her grandmother wrote the note as soon as she got home that evening. For the first time she had connected to a teacher and was excited about learning. Awesome way to start a new year! We were all in tears!

Melanie Ramey, Johnson County School District

All teachers had introduced the phrase ‘I don’t know YET’ with students now using this openly and without hesitation. Various strategies had been used to discuss the learning powers, and characters had been created to give students easier access to them.

Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin, USA

Patricia Deklotz | deklotsp@kmsd.edu

Kentucky, USA

Kim Zeidler | kim.zeidler@uky.edu

Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

Mel Shackleton | headteacher@st-james-infant.kent.sch.uk