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Lesson Plan: Growth Mindset

Students love to learn about themselves.  In this lesson students peer into their brains to better understand its incredible capacity to keep learning.

Carol Dweck, Ph.D.’s research has challenged the beliefs of many that there are limits to learning, ability and expertise.  Dweck’s reserach shows us that the brain is not static, it can grow and learn continually.  More importantly, her research shows how empowering it is for students to believe in their ability to grow their brains.

This lesson and its resources will help you introduce your students to their brains and its incredible abilities.

The Lesson Plan: Growth Mindset Lesson Plan

Materials you’ll need:

Let me know how it goes!



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A natural antidote to stress

These days stress can feel like a constant companion.  It’s present in our daily lives, at work, and even in the minds of our students.  Stress stinks.  We have discussed how stress can evolve to toxic levels which can threaten proper development and learning.

Even here the laws of physics apply: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  In this case, our bodies create a natural antidote to stress: oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a hormone (just like cortisol) with the power to counteract stress.  Oxytocin is also responsible for family bonding, generosity, trusting new people and compassion for others.

What’s more, we can control our levels of oxytocin.  When we are treated kindly, our levels of oxytocin increase.  When we share experiences with loved ones, oxytocin spikes.

Interestingly, dog owners have a slight advantage when it comes to increasing their levels of oxytocin.  This study compared increases in oxytocin after playing with dogs and cats and found that the only subset which experienced increased oxytocin were dog owners who were playing with a dog.

The study piqued my interest.  It’s ripe for classroom discussion and is a perfect segue into analyzing experimental design and results data.  Of course, it’s also a wonderful tool to give to students.  Imagine how empowered those who deal with chronic stress would be to know that a K9 companion could soothe their stress.

Are you a pet owner?



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Who do you respect?

Becoming emotionally intelligent requires a willingness to share your views on life and an ability to listen when others share theirs.  That’s why these short conversations are so important.  They give kids the chance to practice sharing their feelings, opinions and big ideas in a safe and structured way.  As students practice each week, their comfort will grow alongside their voice.

Last time we discussed respect.  What does it mean?  How do you know if you’re getting (or giving) it?  Now, let’s apply it to people they know and love – their friends.

Start this conversation: What do you respect most about ________?  Or, who’s someone in your class that you have a lot of respect for?

Of course, follow these with the big W:  Why?

Here’s why this question is so important.  We gravitate toward people we respect.  We try to emulate their strengths and live according to their morals.  If kids can grow up developing an awareness of the kind of people they respect and if they know why they respect those qualities, they’ll have an easier time (1) navigating future opportunities, (2) making friends with beliefs they support and (3) accepting the differences of others.

Through respecting others we choose the people we rely on as guideposts.  Let’s help kids identify those guideposts.

For younger kiddos try asking: What do you like about ______? (insert friend’s name)

Remember, the objective isn’t to influence who children respect, it’s to instill in them an awareness of their values as it applies to their relationships.

Let me know what they come up with!



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Emotions vs. Moods

In the new book I’m reading Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become author Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. reminds readers that emotions are fleeting, temporary experiences.  This triggered me to dig deeper into how emotions are measured.  I found interesting research that explained the distinction between emotions and moods.

Emotions are discrete experiences triggered by an identifiable event which consist of three parts:

  1. A psychopysiological expression (how we react verbally/our thoughts)
  2. A biological reaction (how our body reacts)
  3. A mental state (how we process in light of our emotions)

Moods are less well defined.  They are considered a mental state which can occur without a trigger and can last an indefinite period of time.  If you’ve ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed,  you’ve experienced a “mood“.

Another difference: emotions can occur simultaneously.  Moods, on the other hand, are experienced in sequence.  Typically, we have to conclude experiencing one mood to move into another – consider those days you are just “in a funk”.

So, as educators, what can we do with this information?  First, let’s explain this to our students.  Let’s give them the appropriate vocabulary with which they can explain their experiences.  Then, let’s listen to them.

Once we can all distinguish between a mood and an emotion, we can take better care of one another.  Personally, I feel lighter knowing that emotions are temporary.  No matter how challenging, I know they will pass.

On the other hand, with an understanding of these differences, I can now communicate with my students in a way that sets their expectations.

When I explain that I am in a sad mood, they will know that this (1) has nothing to do with them and (2) might last a while.  Likewise, when they come to me with that explanation, I can tailor my approach to them to support what they are experiencing.

Imagine how these words could change student-to-student interactions!

What do you think?  Have you ever discussed with your students how you are feeling?  How did they respond?




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