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Think back to your elementary years, your middle school years, and then your high school years. What was the little voice in your head saying to you about your abilities, your strengths, and your value as a human being? What were other kids or teachers saying to you about your abilities and your challenges? Likely, it was during these formative years that your beliefs about your own potential and capabilities developed.
Sadly, research shows us that children feel less and less capable of achieving success as they get older. In fact, by the time students reach third grade, nearly half of them don’t believe that their brain and intelligence can grow and change. They believe that their intelligence is fixed regardless of their effort to change it. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci, it is well worth your time. Not only is it a quick and easy read, but you will also have a firm grasp on fixed and growth mindset concepts and their effects on the students in your class. She also provides tools for teachers to develop a growth mindset culture where students are challenged to change their thinking about their potential.
REPLACING NEGATIVE MESSAGES
Another way to arm children with a defense against those negative messages playing in their brains is to replace them with positive ones. The research on using affirmations in classrooms shows a positive effect on self-esteem and an increase in grades for low performing students. Here is an excerpt on research reported by Psychology Today:
“An emerging set of published studies suggest that a brief self-affirmation activity at the beginning of a school term can boost academic grade-point averages in underperforming kids at the end of the semester. This new work suggests a mechanism for these studies, showing self-affirmation effects on actual problem-solving performance under pressure,” said J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
These findings are not surprising or new, as many research studies have reported similar trends.
How, then, can teachers implement activities that align with the findings in growth mindset research and the power of positive affirmations?
IDEAS FOR USING GROWTH MINDSET AFFIRMATIONS
Create a bulletin board with affirmation posters
Choose one affirmation each day, each week, or each month. Students can discuss the affirmation, apply it to their own lives, and incorporate into their self-talk.
Create smaller affirmation cards that students can keep in their desks, backpacks, or at home
It is beneficial for students to have their own stack of cards to draw from. Affirmation cards may even be housed in the classroom and given to students when affirmation behaviors have been exhibited.
Lead a short discussion about a given affirmation
Students will talk about its meaning and how the affirmation might look in action (inside and outside the classroom). Describing specific situations or instances where the behavior might occur is beneficial. Allow students to come up with their own ideas.
Students discuss their own self-talk
Self-talk is the voice that students hear in their heads regarding their own potential and abilities. How are those messages the same and different from the positive affirmations discussed in class? Allow students a few days to pay attention to their self-talk before you ask them to reflect on it. Most of the time, people don’t pay attention to their self-talk (and may not even realize that they use negative self-talk regularly). Allowing students time to increase their own awareness of their self-talk will lead to more meaningful discussions.
Train students to listen to each other
When a student makes a limiting remark (indicative of a fixed mindset), classmates can be trained to respond. “Rephrase that statement using a growth mindset affirmation,” for example. If a student says, “I can’t do this, it’s too hard,” a possible rephrase might be, “I can do hard things!” Other options include “when something is difficult, I have the determination to see it through,” or “I am capable of doing difficult things.” Rephrasing limiting remarks can work to change the mindset of that student.
Teach students about the malleability of the brain and the importance of adopting a growth mindset
The more a student learns and the harder a student works, the smarter they become. It’s a fact. Every student has unlimited potential. Their motivation and their willingness to accept challenges increases when they understand these concepts. This blog post, 10 Things You Need to Know About Growth Mindset, will provide you with a solid base for understanding growth mindset concepts.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS?
Search the internet
Choose affirmations based on the needs of your students. Create posters and/or affirmation cards or sticks (popsicle sticks, as shown below, work very well). If your students are struggling with a particular skill or strategy, focus on affirmations that will improve their mindset related to that skill.
Think about individual students in your class
Develop your own affirmations designed to combat their negative thinking and self-talk. For example, you may have students who struggle with anxiety, self-esteem, or confidence. Affirmations that target specific issues can be helpful for students to combat those struggles.
If you have limited time, snatch up affirmations that are already made
Many of the sets you see in these images were designed specifically for teaching growth mindset in the classroom. I’ve created many different sets of affirmations with varying purposes that can be found here. To snatch them up on TeachersPayTeachers, click here. You can also find sample affirmations in various products from my FREE resource library here. Not a member? No worries. It’s easy to sign up here. The password for the free resource library will come in your welcome email.
Ask students to create their own
Brainstorm affirmations as a class and ask students to write down the ones that resonate the most. Use index cards, tongue depressors, or half sheets of paper to jot them down. Also, remember to provide clear expectations about the number of affirmations each student records.
Please use the comment section below to share all the clever ways that you utilize affirmations in your classroom. How does it impact student learning? the classroom climate? students’ attitudes towards each other? Share your thoughts!
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