Beacons of Hope: Growing A Growth Mindset

The following is a guest post by Jessica Ryan. This year, she co-authored Growing a Growth Mindset: Unlocking Character Strengths Through Children’s Literature with Dr. Kevin Sheehan. She field tested the lessons in the book with her fourth grade students from Waverly Park School in Lynbrook School District. She has a strong belief in innovative professional development which is why she teaches math methods courses and summer institutes as an Adjunct Professor at Molloy College. You can connect with Jessica on Twitter at @MrsJessicaRyan and find out about her book at

The Premise

There is no question that we want each of our students to be successful. We constantly plan curriculum, have extensive instructional strategies team meetings, and design our classroom to meet the learning styles of our students. As part of strand four of the Social Studies Inquiry Arc, teachers should be addressing Individual Development and Identity. This is a standard that has often been overlooked.

Teachers and parents have the unique opportunity to foster and, based on our research, actually grow a growth mindset. According to Carol Dweck’s research, there are two schools of mindsets:

  1. Fixed Mindset- learning is a measure of the capacity or innate abilities of the learner
  2. Growth Mindset- achievement is incremental, based on effort rather than inborn capacity.

While your mindset varies depending on the situation, students should be self-aware of their own mindset while learning. We found that after teaching the lessons in our book, our students applied these lessons across the content areas.

How can Teachers and Parents Promote a Growth Mindset?

The power of children’s literature provides a common playing field for our students. It gives students a platform to begin a discussion and an opportunity to make connections. When you have a sense of the positive psychology themes that pervade each picture book, ask compelling questions, and follow up with an activity that extends those ideas, anything is possible!

Chapter 7 of Growing a Growth Mindset is entitled “Hope Creators: The Power of Others.” Each of the activities try to address the compelling question: How do other people affect our hope? This begins with a close read of Taylor Swift’s “Shake if Off” lyrics. My students truly were able to make inferences, make connections, and analyze the lyrics to a song they each knew so well.

Next, students participate by “Turning and Talking” during a read aloud of Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer. They discuss how Rosie felt when people laughed at her inventions and the evidence that lead them to their conclusions. The students engage by discussing how even a “great flop” can be an example of “failing well.” Finally, they talk about how her Great-Aunt Rose was a hope creator for Rosie.

Following the read aloud, students ponder:


  • How would the story have changed if she really did “keep her dreams to herself?”
  • How did Great-Aunt Rose support Rosie’s dreams?
  • Why did Rosie cheer on her classmates’ failures?
  • How has a role model inspired you?
  • How can you motivate others?


Then, students write a personal narrative about a time someone inspired them. After writing about this small moment, students can publish and illustrate their work using Buncee as a vehicle to create and share. Students can embed their published work while adding graphics and animations that bring their writing to life. This adds a visual component to their writing!

One of the most powerful parts of the Growing a Growth Mindset lessons are the “Taking Informed Action” which is part of the new Social Studies C3 Templates. In this lesson, students share their personal narratives with their parents and brainstorm strategies on how to be hope creators. The students work with their families to create short video skits, where they can share these strategies. We used QR codes to share these videos with the school community. This application of what they learned was the most memorable part of the lesson.



Technological Applications of Growth Mindset

This summer, I am enjoying a change of pace by teaching a few online technology professional development courses for teachers. In preparing for my online summer institutes at Molloy College, I created a “Growth Mindset Choice Board” utilizing QR Codes. I created this for the “Tech Savvy Teacher of Today!” class. It combines the importance of growth mindset, technology, and the power of student choice. Follow #MCtechsavvy for even more ideas from educators in the field.


One of the other courses I am teaching at Molloy College is Brand Your Class: Social Media for Educators. When designing the course, I knew Buncee would be the perfect fit. Each of the teachers created a Buncee that they would use with their class. The feedback I received was that it would be a powerful tool to not only present to students in a lesson, but they couldn’t wait to see the Buncees their own students would make! See the masterpieces from #brandyourclass:

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