Teaching art to kids is a dream; a perfect job where you get to be creative and experiment while inspiring young minds to do the same. Watching kids giggle while they paint and get messy always brings joy. However, often there are students who act out, show unexpected behavior, or give up and refuse to work without having tried the project at all. When students show unexpected behavior, it is usually because they don’t believe in themselves and believe they CAN’T do the activity– instead of asking for help they instead make the choice to distract others or be silly (which is frustrating for the teacher). Teaching “Growth Mindset” thinking to your students in your art classroom can teach them to change the way they think: to allow them to believe they can create art if they practice and try, to know that mistakes help them learn, and that learning takes time and determination and that we are not expected to create the BEST art piece from the start, instead knowing that (like anything) learning the creative process is a journey and and an adventure where you create, experiment, make mistakes, and encounter failures. They will know that it’s okay to go through this journey because we are all life long learners.
I totally want to teach Growth Mindset. But… What is Growth Mindset?
First, Let’s Look at Fixed Mindset:
Students with fixed mindset often say things like “this is too hard”. They give up or don’t even try. To further avoid trying their assignment, they sometimes act out or show unexpected behavior in class to avoid having to do the assignment at all (sometimes they are worried about what their peers think of their work, but if everyone is on board with the Growth Mindset way of thinking, they will know their friends know they are at a different level of practice).
Students with Fixed Mindset say:
-I can’t do it
-I’m not good enough
-I can’t draw
-I don’t know how to make art
-This is too easy
-This is too hard
-I give up
-This is good enough
-I am not as good at drawing as my friend
-I won’t try because I might fail.
Sound familiar in your room? Have you heard this before? Maybe you even said it yourself (I know I used to!) Change the thinking in your classroom to inspire kids to try. You need to try some Growth Mindset!
When you teach this, your first step as a teacher should be to talk to your kids about what Fixed Mindset looks like. You can even record my list on your board or create a brainstorm with them so they understand what it sounds like and what it looks like.
Now, Let’s Look at Growth Mindset:
Students with growth mindset know that learning takes time and and that they will train their brain so that they can do the task. When students use Growth Mindset thinking, they learn to tell themselves that through practice and by trying, they will learn to do the skill, they just can’t do it…. YET! Students who use Growth Mindset thinking know that through hard work and making mistakes, they will get better. It is often that people believe that we are all born with specific “abilities” or “talents”. However, this is not true. I often explain to my students (especially at the beginning of the year, but throughout as well) that we are all born the same, but our own interest drive us toward practicing some things more than others. Because we practice that thing more often than other things, we naturally become better at it. I always refer to my own self as well. For example, I am not good at playing soccer because I have literally never played soccer in my entire life. However, if I actually tried and practiced, over time I would be better at playing soccer.
After having taught what Fixed Mindset is to your kids, you should then explain Growth Mindset and WHY it is important. All it is, is a change in the way you think. You don’t have to be “good” at art; you have to TRY to create art. We all have different levels of practice!
Students who use Growth Mindset tell themselves:
-Mistakes help me learn
-I can’t do it… YET! But I can sure learn how to if I start with trying!
-Is it really my best work?
-I am going to train my brain so that I can do it
-This may take some more time to figure out
-I’ll try a different strategy
-I refuse to give up on myself
-I am going to try my best
-What am I missing?
-I practiced and I learned this new technique
-This will require effort
-I need feedback and help from others to find the right strategy
-If I fail, I can try a new strategy until I succeed
For amazing resources to use in your Art Classroom to encourage Growth Mindset thinking and discussion, I often use books like “The Dot” or “Ish by Peter Reynolds. As well, I use “What do you Do with An Idea?”, “The Most Magnificent Thing”, and “The Beautiful Oops”. You might be thinking… “I teach Middle/High School”. Well… They’re still kids. And I LOVE PICTURE BOOKS and I’m an adult. Everyone loves picture books. They are a quick, short way to inspire and teach a message or theme to kids. As well, these books are related to art making OR creativity. Click here to download a free printable version of this for your kids to use in your art classroom.
Watch my YouTube Episode where I discuss Growth Mindset in your Art Classroom to your kids!
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