Growth Mindset in English
Jenny McGovern
By Jenny McGovern
Middle School Humanities & Homeroom Teacher
 
February 15, 2019
 
By now, we have all heard the buzz about growth mindset, Carol Dweck’s term for an approach to learning that hinges on curiosity and a willingness to make mistakes and emphasizes effort and taking on challenges. While every subject area is a place to practice growth mindset, middle school English teachers are finding the English classroom to be a natural place to practice process, persistence, reflection, and receiving feedback.  
 
Writing by its very nature is process-oriented work- drafting, writing, revising, re-envisioning, and editing may all happen multiple times before a piece is published. Even after a work is published, students know they will apply the skills they just practiced and improved to their next piece of writing. Of course, persistence is a necessary ingredient in process. Growing as a reader in middle school requires not just decoding and comprehending but returning to a passage over and over to look at the layers of a story revealed through nuanced word choice, details of setting, or character responses. As part of the writing process, a middle school writer is encouraged not to settle for her first idea, but to try out several strategies before selecting what she feels is the strongest way communicate her ideas and draw in her reader.  
 
Learning from a process requires reflection. In our independent reading units, students often use written reflection to share their thinking about what they are reading as well as what they know about themselves as a reader: what genres they prefer to read, how much reading they are doing outside the classroom, or what gets in the way of finding time to read! After completing a piece of writing, students frequently name the strengths and stretches they demonstrated using a rubric or checklist of standards. Goal-setting naturally flows from this reflection as students look forward to their next challenge.  
 
Because much of what a student writes in English class is intended to be read by others, students learn to receive feedback. During workshop times, students conference one-on-one with teachers and are also encouraged to solicit peer feedback. Many of our writing classes use publication celebrations after major writing pieces are completed, inviting in other classes, grade levels, or teachers to celebrate their hard work. In sixth grade earlier this year, for example, students circulated through homerooms to read each other’s personal narratives and left each other compliments on sticky notes at each desk. This celebration of persistence and effort in the face of challenge acknowledges student successes small or large in their work as readers and writers.
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