Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Power of Mistakes & Struggles

Loving this book! So glad you're joining us for our summer book study! If you missed Chapter 1, you can catch up here.
Chapter Summary
In this chapter, Boaler focuses on recent neurological research that has shown that our brains spark and grow when we make mistakes, even if we don't know we've made a mistake!  Other studies have found that students with growth mindsets have a greater awareness of errors and they were more likely to go back and correct them. THIS is why it is so important to help students believe in themselves and develop growth mindsets!
Peter Sims, a writer for the New York Times, identifies habits of successful people:
  • Feel comfortable being wrong
  • Try seemingly wild ideas
  • Are open to different experiences
  • Play with ideas without judging them
  • Are willing to go against traditional ideas
  • Keep going through difficulties
My Takeaway
School has become a performance culture. We want students to be successful, often giving tasks that they will get correct. We need to give challenging work, accompanied by positive messages and to teach about growth mindset. We need to change the ways students view mistakes and establish a classroom that values mistakes. Students need to be comfortable with attempting new information, then sharing their process and discussing. Keep a bulletin board dedicated to mistakes (we call this our "Blooper" board). Students love working out their mistakes and sharing their process how these mistakes led to a successful solution. (I don't let my students use erasers because I always tell them I want them to leave all their trials so we can learn from what they tried.)
3 Tips for the Classroom
I love this idea shared by another teacher to introduce the connection between mistakes and brain growth: have students crumple up a piece of paper and throw it at the wall with the same feeling they have when they make mistakes or when something is hard to master. After retrieving the paper ball, have students trace all the crumpled lines with colored markers, which represent their brain growth. Have students keep this paper as a reminder of the importance of mistakes.
Share examples of successful people who have failed and overcome. Students will begin to view mistakes and failures as opportunities for learning.

Educate your families: explain the importance of communicating the value of effort, persistence, and goal setting. I love that Carol Dweck tells parents "that if children come home saying they got all their questions right in class or on a test, parents should say: 'Oh I'm sorry; that means you were not given opportunities to learn anything.'" -p. 19 LOL! Imagine children's initial reaction to this message! Correctness is not a sign of intelligence.  This is a terrific video to show both parents and students:

For more ideas, articles, and videos on Growth Mindset, check out my Pinterest board here.


  1. I enjoyed reading your post! Such great insight on this chapter! I love the poster about the failures of those celebrities, what an awesome thing for kids to see and read. Also, I think your Blooper idea is a great one for a new bulletin board-- celebrate mistakes.

    1. Thanks, Shametria! I'm going to research more to compile a list of people who may have been deemed "failures" then have my students each choose one to create 1 slide in Google classroom to highlight how they turned their mistakes or failures into successes. We can then put all the slides together for a whole presentation. Now I'm super excited!

  2. Love the "Blooper Board!" I definitely want to try implementing that as part of the "favorite mistakes" strategy! And Carol Dweck's quote reminded me of something my student teaching supervisor would tell us...if someone came to her and said they just had their BEST day of teaching, she'd say "Oh, I'm so sorry. Tomorrow isn't going to live up!" but when student teachers came ready to quit after their WORST day of teaching, she would say "Congratulations! How exciting, that means tomorrow can't get any worse if today was the WORST EVER, so you can look forward to a better day!" :)

    1. That's hilarious about your student teaching supervisor's responses! I love that!! What a great lesson to learn :)

  3. You got all the important bits in your post! I love your thoughtful ideas. I really like your famous failures idea and the habits of successful people. I'm going to go back and rethink my first week plans to incorporate more growth mindset/mistakes are awesome ideas! Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Jodi! I know. . . I'm rethinking all my first week plans (& year long), too, to incorporate mindsets!

  4. I love the idea of no erasers. I tell my students that mistakes are footprints of thinking. The part/quote ~ Parents should say: "Oh I'm sorry; that means you were not given opportunities to learn anything." ~ also caught my attention. I really am not sure what the reaction would be :)!

    1. "Mistakes are footprints of thinking"; I love that! You need to make it into a poster :)