Starting the Year with Growth Mindset

MistakesSchool has not started just yet, but I am already excited to grow with my students. I am ready to launch into Growth Mindset from the beginning of the year. I have found in years past, I’ve often back pedaled to teach Growth Mindset. This back pedaling happens once I hear students use discouraging language or underestimate their own accomplishments. So in terms of growing: this year I will lead with Growth Mindset.

I am going to lead this dialogue with a series of read aloud books. I picked these books, because they specifically focus not on academic growth.

Bubble Gum Brain

This is a fun visual to introduce the idea of Growth Mindset to students, featuring fun cartoon illustrations. I recommend implementing the vocabulary of “Bubble Gum Brain” and “Brick Brain” from this book into your class.

Iggy Peck, Architect

A story about a young architect who, with his second grade class, builds a bridge out of unlikely materials.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Rosie decides to build a flying machine to help her aunt achieve her goals.

The Dot

Vashti is not allowed to leave art class until she draws something, and that is when she discovers her hidden talent.


After or in between these read alouds, I plan to introduce the concept of “Bucket Lists”: skills my students my students wish to foster in the upcoming year. “Bucket List” topics can be linked to the above books by referencing the skills of building, inventing, and drawing, while connected to the students’ lives by having them share skills they wish to develop further.

With your new students in the upcoming year, keep it open ended! I use the below bucket list writing activity to root the students in their goal setting. The pages of the bucket are interchangeable and can be completely customizable to each student. For the younger grades, or students intimidated by writing, there are blank pages for just pictures of their Bucket List goals.

Here are the links to the bucket lists for each grade level: firstsecondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth.

These bucket lists also make great beginning/end of quarter activities as a fresh start! It is a great way for students to independently reevaluate: what goals have I met and what goals have I yet to meet?


Visualize it!

Last year, I looped with my student (remained their teacher from one grade level to the next) for the first time. One of the most notable changes we made as a class was from reading texts with pictures to without pictures. Wow! What a change. As a teacher who looped with her students, I could see an instructional hole in my students’ reading comprehension: the prior year, they had relied almost solely on pictures to support their comprehension of texts.

The first time we read a text without pictures, I noticed that my students were unable to recall basic facts from the story, such as who was in the story or even one event that happened.

We were reading words, but we were not understanding. Where were the pictures!?

Feeling stuck but determined, we backtracked. We reread the story, only this time while holding a pencil and blank sheet of paper (later on, we began to use my Visualization Reading Grids.)

  • A new character was introduced: STOP & DRAW.
  • A character leaves: STOP & ERASE.
  • Characters throw a ball: STOP & DRAW.

IMG_4425We went on STOPPING & DRAWING through the entire story. It was tedious, but worth it. At the end of the story, when asked the same comprehension questions, my students not only had a better understanding of the story, but also had self-made pictures to which they could reference if they were unsure.

As our reading group evolved, my students learned to draw what they read with independence. Students would use arrows to show movement (characters entering or exiting), add details, and be constantly cognizant of the setting & characters.



My students gradually relied on this tool less over time, however they remained eager to use this familiar and fun method.


  • Main idea: Which idea is drawn in the most boxes?
  • Sequencing: Teacher gives multiple events and students order them, then check based on their drawings. Students can actually write on their drawings “1”, “2”, “3” next to each event they find.
  • Literal questions: Students can use the drawing to refer back to during literal question checks.
  • Predictions: Have students flip the paper over and draw what will happen next!



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