At some point in children’s lives, they learn to view themselves as either smart, dumb, or anywhere in between.

As teachers, we see this all the time, right?

Undoubtedly, this influences students’ self-esteem, motivation, and any number of learning and social behaviors.

As we strive to cultivate a learning environment where students are free to maximize their potential, how do we begin to break down this barrier between smart and dumb?

If you were to ask Stanford researchers like Dweck and her colleagues, striving to instill a growth mindset would certainly be the answer.


The growth mindset is the belief that intelligence is not just something we’re born with, but rather intelligence is something we can grow.  But how do we as teachers develop this mindset in our students?

One proposed way is to teach about the brain and how it works.

Khan Academy has collaborated with Stanford’s research center to create a Growth Mindset Lesson Plan.

You can check it out here, where you can also download a PDF copy.

Like Google Forms?

Using an article from “Health & Science” entitled “Grow Your Intelligence,” here’s one I created for my students:

Click here (*You are more than welcome to add it to your Drive and use it and/or modify it, but please note that you MUST make a copy  or responses will come to me)

Although not intended to be comprehension work per se, accompanying the article are a number of explicit questions requiring students to refer back to the text – skill students can always work on!

These explicit questions are intended to guide students in the acquisition of key text details, ideally resulting in the improved ability to synthesize the central idea of the text, which can (and should be) discussed.

Just to mix things up, I did throw in a little retelling task, as well as a reflection question at the end.

No matter the resource(s) used, teaching the growth mindset is a worthy endeavor.

In my own experience, I find two obvious benefits:

  1.  It provides a sense of hope and encouragement to those who view themselves as “not smart” or “dumb” or “average.”  I personally feel this hope and encouragement is stronger than any words I can offer, like “You can do it!”
  2. It seems to help strip the “I’m smart-and-I-know-it-and-everyone-else-needs-to-know-it-too” students of their lack of humility.  Embedded in the growth mindset seems to be the proclamation of, “Hey, you’re good at something? Great.  You just practiced a lot more than me.”  Take this and compare it to what many times is the alternative: “Hey, you’re better than me, have always been better than me, and will always be better than me.”

Disclaimer:  The growth mindset, like anything in education, is no silver bullet.  It’s important to understand this.  Also important is teaching students the difference between “practice” and what could be coined as “deep, strategic practice.”

That’s for another time though!