Mindset & MuscleHead: Trying to Bring a Growth Mindset to my Classroom.

A few years ago, when I was still teaching fifth grade, I was asked to change classrooms in order to make room for an additional fourth grade section. After taking what felt like forever to pack all of my stuff into boxes, I turned my eye towards the blank canvas that was my new classroom.

With administrator approval to redesign the space, I decided take it as an opportunity to broadcast the lessons of Mindset, and the importance of developing a Growth Mindset, to my students.

Ever since visiting the new Gettysburg museum earlier that spring, I had been interested in using custom vinyl stickers for classroom wall installations. After a quick search on Etsy, I found a wonderful shop that specializes in this area. My next step was to measure the walls and then design the proper layout. Using Adobe Illustrator, I built a full wall installation that communicated clearly and loudly the “takeaway” message of Mindset: Your brain is like a muscle. It can get stronger with exercise. Once completed, I sent the files along to the Etsy shopowner and awaited their delivery.

A few weeks later, the packages arrived and I set out to carefully install them in my new classroom. Given that they were oversized, it was not easy to get them level; but with the help of my wife, we were able to get them centered and leveled with only a few minor hiccups along the way!

I then turned my attention to creating some curricular materials to provide instruction and support for the development of a Growth Mindset. In order to keep it consistent, I designed a simple logo that would be used for the resources utilized throughout the year.

Resources included excerpts from Mindset, Brainology, and a collection of biographic articles from books and periodicals. Throughout the year, our class read and discussed these articles to identify important personal traits that lead to the development of a Growth Mindset in notable individuals. In addition, students completed writing assignments focused on personal reflections relating to their own mindset, as well as book reports that allowed them to explore the idea of mindset in characters through a variety of literary genres including biography, autobiography, and fiction.

One example of a MuscleHead assignment.

Looking back, my class had some really remarkable conversations that year around what it means to be “smart”, and how we can build our capacity for difficult work with determination and guided practice. And even though it was my last year in the classroom before becoming our school’s library media specialist, I’ve remained committed to communicating the power of a Growth Mindset to our student and faculty communities in my day to day work.

How do you find ways to incorporate Mindset into your classrooms? What resources would you suggest to someone looking to add Mindset to their work with students?


While I was at it, I also had a fabulous quote from Carl Sagan made up as a custom sticker for a different wall in my room.

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