Tuesday is for Teachers, Parents, and Grandparents
I love to research; I love the theory of learning, how the brain works, and finding ways to spark the desire to learn. When I wrote my dissertation back in 2003 and 2004, I loved the pursuit of an idea, tracking down the source, looking at all the variables.
I’ve been pursuing Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. In 2006 her research identified the two mindsets that dramatically affect the way children and adults approach learning. I find this information fits well with the idea Angela Duckworth explained in her TED Talk, “Got Grit?”
A person with the fixed mindset believes he or she has a certain amount of intelligence or a certain moral character that is fixed in stone. This would mean that you would have to prove yourself over and over. Trying and still failing is the worst fear of this mindset.
The growth mindset believes your basic qualities can change and grow — through experience and effort. You believe your true potential is unknown. Failure is an opportunity to improve, grow, and expand.
Her research led her to ask children and young adults, “When do you feel smart?” the answers fell in two categories:
The fixed mindset: “When I finish something fast and it’s perfect.” “It’s when I don’t make any mistakes.”
The growth mindset: “When I work on something a long time and I start to figure it out.” When it’s really hard, and I try really hard, and I can do something I couldn’t do before.”
This is about what you believe.
Encouraging children to try harder, to not give up, to stick with something is not always easy. You may find your child or grandchild already has the tendencies of fixed mindset. One way to begin planting seeds to change this mindset is through children’s books.
“The Little Engine That Could” is a classic children’s book about the engine who kept saying, “I think I can; I think I can.”
“Galimoto” was reviewed here a few weeks ago; this child believed he could make a truck.
Here is another terrific book about belief and art: the dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Vashti believes she cannot draw, but her teacher encourages her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” So Vashti makes a dot in the middle of her paper, and her teacher tells her to sign it. The next day she sees her dot has been framed in a beautiful “swirly gold” frame.
Vashti soon discovers the art she can make by painting dots in many creative ways. You can see a video of the book here.
The key to using a children’s book to teach a concept, a moral, or some character trait is in YOUR questions.
Talk about what Vashti believed about herself, how her belief changed, what made the change. Then relate this to the child’s own belief. And don’t think you can’t use a picture book with a teenager!
Another book by Reynolds, ish, is about a boy who loved to draw but his teenage brother’s harsh criticism changed everything. This book would help an older sibling to see the power of their words. You can find this book on YouTube also.
I’ll be writing more about this idea of Mindset and give more suggestions on how you can encourage the Growth Mindset in the children you know.
I am thankful for the amazing brain God created for us, for its many complexities, for the potential He put in all of us to continue learning and creating.