When introducing or discussing growth mindset with young students I like to use the book The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper. The story illustrates believing in yourself, positive self-talk, & perseverance in a way in which young students can understand.
Growth Mindset is a theory based on the work of Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck.
People with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence and talents can be improved through hard work and effort. Anybody can be good at anything, your abilities are due to your actions and effort. If you put in effort and challenge yourself, you can get smarter. This view creates a love of learning. People with a growth mindset believe that struggling with something hard doesn’t mean you’re not smart, it is a chance for you to grow, learn, and improve.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and talents are fixed traits. You are who you are , you either are or are not good at something. They believe that it is these talents alone that create success – not effort. You are born with a certain amount of intelligence and you can’t do much to change it.
During and after the story we discuss the difference between the little blue engine’s mindset and the other two engines’ mindsets (the little blue engine had a growth mindset, the other engines had fixed mindsets).
We also discuss how the little blue engine kept telling herself “I think I can, I think I can”. She believed in herself instead of doubting herself. I talk to students about “self talk” or their “inner voice” and how to change their inner voice to a growth mindset voice.
I then have students create a classroom display that will be a visual reminder of the story and its positive message. Hanging student-created displays in your classroom conveys to students that their work is valued and makes the message of the display more meaningful to them because they had a hand in designing it.
Each student thinks of a goal or something that they want to learn or accomplish this school year and finishes the sentence “I think I can…” on a train car. I provide several types and styles of train cars and let students choose which one they wish to use.
I then make a class display by connecting the students’ train cars to an engine that says “The little class that could”.
I wasn’t able to fit the entire display in the picture. At the end there is a caboose that says “We can!”.
I love that this display is a reminder to students to believe in themselves, work hard, and not give up! I oftentimes hear students saying to themselves and others “I think I can!” 🙂
Here are what other educators are saying about using this idea in their classrooms:
On February 16, 2017, Miss May’s K said:
Love this project! I did this with them 2 weeks ago, and they are still talking about it when they get stuck. One of my students told another student, “don’t give up, you have to tell yourself I think I can, and then you’ll be able to!” Love IT!
On April 2, 2017, Wendy Sponseller said:
Fabulous resource! My students love our Growth Mindset hallway display using this! Thanks so much!!
On August 22, 2017, Jessica S. said:
Such a wonderful beginning of the year project. Our school is an AVID school, so my students drew pictures of what they want to get better at this year and we will have it displayed all year, so they remember their goal.
On January 29, 2017, Buyer said:
I loved all the options for writing! This was perfect for Growth Mindset, Whole Brain’s Invincible Grit, New Year’s Resolution, and teaching lesson/theme/message.
On January 29, 2017, Kaitlin M. said:
Hanging in the hallway on display right now! It looked great and the kids enjoyed it!
On March 17, 2017, Tara O. said:
Perfect! We used for the bulletin board for our value of the month- Perseverance!
If you would like to use this idea in your classroom click here.
• Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset explanation
• Links to Growth Mindset Resources
• Instructions for using the book The Little Engine That Could to teach students about growth mindset
• Instructions for how to create the class display
• Train engines in both color and black and white with the words “We can…”
• Train engines in both color and black and white with the words “We think we can!”
• Train engines in both color and black and white with the words “The little class that could!”
• Cabooses in both color and black and white with the words “We can!”
• Cabooses in both color and black and white with no words
• 8 different train cars for students (3 different styles, cars with lined and unlined text, one line and two line sentences, sentences and student illustrations or sentences only)
• Puffs of smoke with the title “We think we can!” in both color and black and white that can be used as the header
• Blank puffs of smoke (add your own words for the title)
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