Growth Mindset: 5 Books You Need to Conquer Fixed Mindsets

Inside: Five awesome picture books and activities that inspire a growth mindset

Have you ever been excited about a lesson and corresponding activity only to hear comments like the ones below?

“It’s too hard.”

“This makes no sense.”

“I don’t have a pencil, so I can’t do it.”

These fixed mindset comments are all too common, and they make my heart sink every time. It’s time to put a stop to negativity and build confidence in our young learners.

After over 30 years of teaching, I’ve heard all the excuses. However, I have evolved from frustrated teacher to empowered mentor by teaching growth mindset strategies. These valuable tools guide our students to become confident learners who are ready to take on new challenges.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Having a growth mindset means you believe you can accomplish your goals with practice and effort. It involves stepping out of your comfort zone, becoming confident, and mastering the art of making mistakes.

A classful of students with a growth mindset looks like this.

  • Learning from mistakes
  • Taking on new challenges
  • Spreading a positive attitude
  • Asking questions
  • Setting goals
  • Beaming with confidence

As your students shift to a growth mindset, you will hear their language change.

No More, “I am bad at this!”

Instead, they will say, “I’m going to try my best to learn this!”

This girl has a fixed mindset.
“You want me to do what?” This girl needs some serious mindset work! Photo by Vidi Studio

How Do You Change a Fixed Mindset?

Bonus: At the end of this post, you will find 5 free activities to help you instill a growth mindset in your students.

Teaching growth mind set strategies can have powerful effects on our students’ confidence, effort, and overall well-being. Here are some easy-to-implement ideas that you can do on a daily basis.

  • Praise students’ effort, risk-taking, and questions.
  • Emphasize the word “yet”, as in, “I can’t read this book, yet. But I will someday if I keep practicing my reading skills.”
  • Emphasize that mistakes are learning opportunities.
  • Offer challenges, so students at all levels can grow.
  • Model growth mindset language, especially when you are learning something new.
  • Share experiences with your students when you incorporated a growth mindset.
  • Have students set goals and make a plan.
  • Celebrate accomplishments on all levels.

Developing a Growth Mindset with Books

One of my favorite ways to help students connect with the concept of growth mindset is through picture books. Below you will find a list of my five favorites.

This post contains affiliate links. I have used all these books to successfully demonstrate growth mindset in my classroom.

1. The Dot

The Dot shows growth mindset in action during art class.

The Dot demonstrates the impact we as teachers have on our students. Vashti starts off with a fixed mindset when it comes to art. Find out how her teacher gently nudged her to become an artist. Then, see how that nudge inspired Vashti to create an entire art display using her creative dots.

Try it: Have students design their own dot for a hall display. On the same paper, have them write a sentence that promotes a growth mindset.

Mindset Lesson: Give it a try.

2. The Most Magnificent Thing

This girl had to learn from her mistakes many times to get it right.

The Most Magnificent Thing tells the story of a girl with an idea. Problems arise when all her attempts fall short of her vision. She becomes very frustrated.

Taking a walk gives her a fresh perspective. The girl examines her previous attempts and realizes there is some good in all of them. Ultimately, her reflections leads to her creating a truly magnificent thing.

Try it: Have students design their own “magnificent thing” and make a plan for how to create it.

Mindset Lesson: Learn from your mistakes.

3. The Thing that Lou Couldn’t Do

A great book to demonstrate the power of yet

Your students will love the adventurous Lou in The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do. Lou started off excited to play pirates with her friends. Who wouldn’t want to sail off on an adventure? Lou was all in, until her friends decided to make the tree their ship. She made every excuse in the book not to climb that tree.

In the end, an “emergency” prompted Lou to climb the tree. She didn’t get very far. Lou realized she couldn’t climb the tree after all… At least not yet.

Try it: Have students illustrate Lou’s mindset shifts by sketching Lou at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. Including thought bubbles would make the shifts even more clear.

Mindset Lesson: The Power of Yet

4. Enemy Pie

Having a growth mindset is important when making new friends.

Your students will easily relate to the story of rivals in Enemy Pie. However, they will be surprised at how the dad is able to turn things around for the two boys.

Dad’s enemy pie forces his son to spend the day with his arch enemy, Jeremy. This changes the boy’s mindset from not being willing to give Jeremy a chance to realizing Jeremy could be a great friend.

Try it: Have students write a recipe for “friendship pie”.

Mindset Lesson: Be open-minded to making new friends.

5. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes

This book demonstrates the power of learning from your mistakes.

Beatrice was The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes. Your students may think this sounds great at first. However, they will soon realize that a fear of making mistakes can prevent you from trying new things.

Your students will find Beatrice’s first mistake amusing, and so does she… eventually. In the end Beatrice sheds her title and dives into new activities she never thought she would try.

Try it: Jot some mistakes and hide them around the room. As students find the mistake, they can share with a partner/group a lesson learned and/or what to try next time.

Mindset Lesson: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Power Phrases

You can remind students of the lessons from these books when they need a quick boost. Try using some of these powerful words when you notice fixed mindsets creeping in.

  • Remember, you want your brain to grow stronger.
  • Practice and effort will get you there.
  • Take it one step at a time.
  • That mistake brought you one step closer to figuring it out.
  • I’m so proud of how you tackled that problem.
  • This activity can make your brain grow.
  • I love that you are not afraid to ask questions.

Keep these phrases in mind the next time you hear, “I can’t do this. It’s too hard!”

Before you know it, you’ll hear, “I got this!”

Beyond Books

In addition to the suggestions above, I have gathered five of my favorite growth mindset activities and made a freebie just for you.

By filling out the form below, you can have my FREE Mindset Mastery Toolkit delivered straight to your inbox.

What’s included?

  • The Power of Yet – Color and Apply
  • Change those fixed mindsets with two pages of quotes to revise.
  • Mindset sort – Promote awareness of fixed mindset statements.
  • .Label the mindset – Identify and Label what works and what doesn’t.
  • Goal Setting page – Plan and Celebrate!

What is your favorite activity to promote a growth mindset? Please share it in the comments.

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Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.