Category Archives: mindset

Motivation: Helping children find their why

He has the potential to do so much more…

She daydreams all the time and never focuses on the lesson.

He doesn’t care and it shows in his work.

How do you motivate an unmotivated child?

In truth, every child is motivated toward something.  It just doesn’t always line up with what the adults in their life want them to be motivated toward.  How can that be turned around?

I believe that the key to motivating a child is to help them find their why.

It’s hard to be excited about learning to read if you don’t see the advantage of it. But what if you know that being able to read means you will open a world of stories and fantasy? What if you learn it will challenge your imagination and creativity? What if you learn it will expand your world and take you places you may never be able to visit otherwise?

It’s hard to get excited about learning math if you don’t see the point of it.  But what if you learn to see it as a puzzle to be solved?  What if you see it as exercise for the brain?  What if you learn that it will help you make money, count money, budget money and buy things?

I don’t know what the why is that will hook your particular child with any given activity. But I think we need to at least help children see the reason behind learning and develop their why.  We need to present learning as exciting, challenging, mind opening and life changing.  Instead it is often presented it as something a student just has to get through to pass a test and make it to the next grade so they can eventually graduate and do what they really want to do.  That doesn’t motivate me… does it you?

What is your why?

Maybe we ultimately need to ask ourselves what the why is behind the work that we do.  If our why is to share the thrill of learning and becoming the best that we can be every day, then we need to ask ourselves if we are translating that enthusiasm and excitement into the lessons that we teach and the life that we model. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Listen to what Marva Collins, renowned teacher who is quoted in the book Mindset said to an unmotivated second grader in her class on the first day of school, “Come on, peach,” she said to him, cupping his face in her hands, “we have work to do.  You can’t just sit in a seat and grow smart… I promise, you are going to do, and you are going to produce.  I am not going to let you fail.”

There are lots of strategies that can be put into place to motivate a child.  We can use stickers and candy and treasure boxes of toys.  But in the long run these things lose appeal and research actually shows that they have an adverse effect on the desire to learn and grow.  Instead what if it is possible to nurture a growth mindset that will encourage kids to become life long learners ?  What if the answer is to truly see students as successful, enthusiastic learners and hold that space for them as they grow into it?

Related posts:

Are you accidentally sabotaging student learning with rewards?

Personality style and motivation

The secret sauce to setting and achieving goals

 

 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

 

 

The growth mindset and success

Which statement describes what you believe:?

  1. You can learn new things but you really can’t change your IQ very much.  It is just something that is just part of your DNA.
  2. You can not only learn new things but substantially change how intelligent you are.

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck distinguishes between two very different mindsets that she discovered among students in her research.  She describes them like this:

The fixed mindset is one where the student believes that their personality, their intelligence, ability or skill is unchangeable.  Consequently, if you believe in the fixed mindset and do well in school you were obviously born smart and without too much effort you will ace the next test and ultimately the class.  If you were born with athletic ability, you will be an asset to the team and while you will benefit from training you’ve got what it takes to be a star.  The flip side of this mindset is the belief that if you were born without the necessary intelligence or athletic ability, it doesn’t matter how much effort you put in, you will not be successful or attain your goals.  Students with fixed mindsets tend to avoid challenges and situations that seem too hard.  They tend to avoid failure by sticking to things that they know they can master easily.

The growth mindset is one where a student believes that their personality, intelligence, ability or skill is changeable and with focused effort and training they can change the outcome.  If you are failing algebra class, you can redouble your efforts, learn the necessary material and pass the class.  If you aren’t the best athlete on your team, you can train and develop the necessary skill you need to become a top notch team player. Students with growth mindsets tend to embrace challenges. Rather than wallow in failure or give up when the going gets tough, they focus instead on the process necessary to attain the goal.

While Dweck distinguishes between the two separate mindsets, she is quick to point out that they frequently overlap.  A student may believe that they are just plain dumb in math and can’t master it, while at the same time believing that with enough effort and practice they can become the next Michael Jordan.  The important piece of the equation is recognizing the mindset and teaching children not just how to cope with failure but how to think about  failure as a learning process and a stepping stone to a goal.

Changing Fixed to Growth

Here’s how we as adults can  help children develop a growth mindset, (yes even our mindset can be changed)…

  • Help children recognize that learning is truly a life long process.  We never arrive at the final destination.  No matter how advanced your knowledge of math, or technology or a sport, there is always more to learn.  That is why the great athletes still have coaches.
  • Help children re-frame failure and disappointing results as an opportunity to learn and grow.  Encourage them to ask “What can I learn from this?” and “Where is the opportunity in this?” rather than focus on comparing themselves to others’ results and abilities.
  • Help children measure growth and success by comparing their current abilities with where they started rather than comparing their current ability with the end result or someone else.  While goals help us chart the course, it is not a good yardstick for achievement.

Finally, one of the best ways to influence the children in your life is by recognizing and if necessary, changing your own mindset from fixed to growth.  Make sure you are modeling and reinforcing a growth mindset in all you do.

Related posts

Creating a growth mindset in kids

Helping kids find their voice

Why failing first leads to success

Check out how Wyatt’s Grandmother helps him develop a growth mindset…

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

 

Positive Storytelling

We can learn a lot from the Olympics.  As you watched the performance of great athletes, did you wonder how they achieved such high goals?  Was it all practice and persistence?  Or was mindset an important part as well?  What if we applied some of the same mindset practices to the classroom?

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, dissects the athletic performance of Michael Phelps.  One of his most significant habits is the role of visualization or positive storytelling.  Each morning before he gets out of bed, Michael Phelps replays a tape in his head of winning the perfect race.  He imagines every detail from start to finish, the feel of the water against his skin, his body executing the perfect stroke, touching the wall in a victorious finish. Again before going to sleep at night, Michael Phelps retells the story of a great race-in his mind.  When asked what winning felt like after a real race, he responds that it felt natural,  just as he imagined it.  Positive storytelling sets the stage for the real thing.

How to use positive storytelling

As educators, we can use the same imagery to plan and create the best school day.  I’ve written in previous posts about setting an intention for our day.  What if we went beyond intention and using Phelps’s example, we created a positive story for the day and shared it each morning with our students?  It might go something like this:

Good Morning students, it’s a great day at XYZ school.  Sit up straight but relaxed, close your eyes and let me tell you what today has in store.  We will begin with a math lesson and I want you to take a minute and imagine yourself focused and engaged in learning about decimals.  You are going to be great at this.  Next is PE and I want you to see yourself…(create your own script here)  Finally I want you to know that you are smart, you are kind and you are someone with great value.  Find someone today to lift up with a random act of kindness.  Open your heart and your mind to the possibilities ahead in this day.  Open your eyes and let’s get started.

Once you have modeled this positive story telling technique with students, you can ask students to write or draw their own story for a positive day.  Then begin the day with a few moments of quiet reflection where they close their eyes and imagine their own positive story.  Not only will you be teaching students how to plan for the day ahead, but you will be teaching them a mindset skill that will serve them in the future.  Positive storytelling is a powerful habit that can transform students’ lives, one day at a time.

 

Related Posts:

Begin School Year with Intention

Change Manic Mornings to Tranquil Transitions

10 things joyful teachers do differently

 

 Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

 

 

 

Begin School with Intention-Plan for Reflection

What was the most memorable and significant year of school for you?

The first year you attended school?

The year you starred in the class play?

The year you won an award?

The year you graduated?

Research has shown that an important part of learning in any environment is reflecting on our experience, the information we learned and the essential life lessons we incorporated. However sometimes we are so quick to move through an academic year that we barely scratch the surface of being in the present, never mind take the time to reflect on and apply the lessons learned.  Regular and planned reflection however results in ownership of new knowledge and practical application of those skills, strategies or facts.

Here are some ways to help your student have some planned reflection time throughout the year:

Intention and Reflection

  1. Being the year by having students set an intention for the year.  What do they want the theme of the year to be for them?  Where will their focus be?  What will need to happen for them to be happy with the school year and feel that they have been successful?
  2. Next set up a regular time during the year to reflect.  You can do this as frequently as you wish but I recommend at least three; the beginning of the year, half way through the year and at the end of the year.
  3. At each point have the student write a letter to themselves about their current experience, what they have learned and what they might expect for the future.
  4. Have the student keep the letters to reflect on in the future/or
  5. Have the student meet with a partner or small group of students and share what they have learned.
  6. Celebrate the learning and insight that has taken place!  Have a party, write a letter of advice and reflection to next year’s students or to themselves, give awards for lessons learned and goals met.  Help students recognize and feel pride in their achievements.

It’s back to school for lots of kiddos.  Here’s a great book for those kids just starting kindergarten…

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt has never liked change, at least not at first.  Once he tries something new, he usually finds he really likes it.  Now that he is about to begin kindergarten, Wyatt is really worried.  Will he make friends?  Will he get lost in the new school?  Will he miss his mom?  Join Wyatt in his latest “wonder-full” adventure!Wyatt-kKindergarten_thumb
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Goes to Kindergarten

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a growth mindset in kids

One thing that parents and educators can agree on is that we all want the best for children. We want them to learn skills that will serve them well in the future.  When we focus on motivation and cajole, threaten or even bribe kids to learn and behave we may think that we helping them  but in reality we are setting a precedent that will be hard to change as adults.  We have to take a hard look at not only what best serves  kids but also what we model for ourselves.

In an effort to create optimum learning for children, many times we have created a false growth mindset.  There are two main culprits:

  • Praising effort alone without regard to the result–this means saying “you really worked hard on that” without giving suggestions for improvement.  The end result is a child who does not know what they are striving for as a finished product.  They don’t know how to set goals and the process necessary to reach them.
  • Teaching ‘you can do anything” without teaching the effort involved:  Perhaps in the distant past, we were too discouraging of a child’s efforts but today with our focus on positive feedback, we have created a generation who not only believe they can do and be anything, they expect it to happen with little effort.

Sometimes we apply techniques to children without spending time evaluating what is most effective for us.

What do you do when you are learning something new?  What is most effective?

How do you handle problems and challenging situations?  How do you keep going despite failure?

Once you spend some time observing your own strategies for learning you will be better equipped to help your students learn effectively.

How do you create a growth mindset?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Help children understand how to set a realistic goal by checking out where they are now and where they want to be in a designated period of time.
  • Teach children to evaluate progress, not by how close they are to the goal but instead by how far they have come from the starting point.
  • Provide positive and encouraging feedback that takes into account not only progress made but the effort involved.  Point out ways they can improve and overcome challenges.
  • Finally, teach children how to encourage themselves with positive self-talk.

Related posts:

How do you change a child’s behavior?

Create success with organizational skills

Are you sabotaging student learning with rewards?

While supplies last… end of school year special!

Four of my best selling books:

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation, Wyatt Learns about Good Manners, Wyatt Learns about Winning and Wyatt Learns about Being Organized.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover

Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_KindleWyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About WinningWyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Front_Covr-Organized[1]

Plus Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Digital Cover New

Regularly: $60 Now: $50 (plus $5 postage)!



I only have a limited supply, so get these while they last:)