Are you wanting your students to cultivate a growth mindset? Trying to use ideas from a growth mindset in your ELA class? Check out these 10 engaging growth mindset journal prompts and find out more about why a growth mindset is so important in your classroom.

Growth mindset: what is it?

A growth mindset is when people believe that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, as opposed to the idea that people have a fixed amount of talent, intelligence, or ability in a specific given area.

A growth mindset creates a love of learning and the resilience that is essential for people to achieve in life. It encourages the idea that you can continuously improve your ability in different areas and that just because you’re not great at something doesn’t mean that you can’t improve.

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Why is a growth mindset important?

In schools, teachers take children from five or six years old, and as they grow, we teach them the skills and the knowledge that they’ll need to be successful in the world. 

If those students think that their ability to learn something is fixed, then they’re less likely to continue to try hard. As teachers, we know that growth is all about repeated effort to learn knowledge and master skills.

When students believe the same, that their ability to do something is based on effort, hard work, dedication, and practice, they’re far more likely to succeed because they can take baby steps to help them achieve their goals.

Growth mindset: how to develop? 

A growth mindset requires that you make it a habit to reflect on your learning, achievements, and goals. So in your classroom or in your life, you think about the things that you want to improve and you create a plan to take baby steps to move towards those goals. 

You assess what you’ve done well and what you can improve on. Then you find out how to improve. You might

  • Find people who can help, mentor, or teach you new skills
  • Do further reading or research on a topic or skill you want to improve
  • Watch videos to learn how to do something
  • Practice the skill, reflect on how you are improving (or not improving), and try to identify why

You take some kind of action to reflect on your knowledge, skills, or abilities. Then you identify ways to improve and work towards improving until you are satisfied with the level that you are at. 

A growth mindset is a process of continual reflection, learning, and growth.

Why is a growth mindset important? 

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Research shows that the habit of failing and trying again is one of the most important attributes that helps people to achieve.

It’s the old story of the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise plods along and slowly does what it needs to do, while the hare blasts ahead with their natural ability. 

In the fable, the hare ends up losing the race because they are relying on that natural ability to get across the finish line. Whereas the tortoise wins because they take little steps forward towards the goal.

If a growth mindset is to be truly useful in a student’s life, it needs to become a habit or mindset that’s ingrained. 

Why should incorporate a growth mindset in an English classroom?

With so much content to cover and so many skills to refine, why should we devote precious time to developing a growth mindset in our students? Aside from creating an efficacious mindset, English is a great subject to incorporate a growth mindset because it’s centered on stories.

The characters in our books and short stories all have obstacles that they need to overcome for there to be a resolution of the story. 

In doing so, these characters develop. They learn new skills; they reflect on what’s happened so far. They keep trying and tackling smaller problems that help them overcome the greater challenge within the story.

This makes it a perfect breeding ground for a growth mindset because all you need to do is get students to think about how characters overcome their problems and then find similarities with their own circumstances. 

Focusing a growth mindset on characters in stories also de-personalizes the habit. The habit is not about the individual student, it’s about the story. But it also is a great preamble to talking about the individual student.

A growth mindset allows us as people to work out areas of strength, areas of weakness, and areas that we’d like to improve in, and then prompt us to create steps to get them there. We need those smaller goals to help us achieve bigger goals. 

A growth mindset also promotes the try-and-try-again habit that’s essential for progress in English.

English is tricky…

It’s a hard subject. You can write something and it can be right but you can still might only get a C, which is disappointing if there’s nothing wrong with it.  

English requires so much practice because fantastic results rely on being able to 

  • Be specific
  • Describe
  • Identify
  • Research
  • Synthesize
  • Analyze
  • Create emotion 
  • Create mood and tone
  • Communicate with nuance
  • Be precise
  • Use appropriate vocabulary
  • Appropriately use confusing spelling, punctuation, and grammar rules

It requires a lot of reading. It requires a lot of writing. It requires being able to identify how to improve. Unlike Math, where you can learn a formula and apply it over and over again, if write repetitively in English your writing will be stilted and formulaic.

English is varied and it’s flexible. It’s dependent on context. And to be successful in English in school you need to be able to demonstrate all of many different skills with ever-increasing sophistication. 

To be successful in English, you also need to be able to… 

  • Write in a bunch of different ways including creative writing, analytical writing, and research-based writing
  • Use a varied, context-specific vocabulary
  • Write in different genres, including short stories, essays, poetry, discussion, and reflection
  • Understand how a character character talks and why the character talks that way
  • Write for different purposes, including to entertain, to analyze, to synthesize, to persuade, and to discuss 

All of these skills are essential for becoming an effective communicator.

That growth mindset is also crucial in English because for students to improve their writing in particular, they need to be able to identify what they could improve on, practice those skills, and then reflect on the effect. 

10 Growth Mindset Journal Prompts for an ELA classroom

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Okay, now, for the reason you actually clicked on this post – journal prompts for a growth mindset. We’ve divided these growth mindset writing prompts into a few different types: those you can use with content and those where you ask students to reflect on themselves as learners.

Growth mindset questions for content

  1. What did the character do to try and overcome their problems?
  2. What was the character afraid of? What would happen if they weren’t afraid?
  3. Is the character living by their values?
  4. What change is the character resisting?
  5. How can the character grow to adapt to the change?
  6. What emotions are limiting the character’s growth?
  7. Which people in the character’s life support them the most?
  8. How does the character respond to negative situations?
  9. Does the character have a growth mindset? How do you know this? Give examples from the book to explain ideas.
  10. How do the character’s experiences improve them in some way? Give examples from the novel to explain what you mean.

Growth mindset questions for students

  1. How can I use a negative experience to grow?
  2. What are practical ways to achieve my goal?
  3. How do I react when someone criticizes me?
  4. What thoughts are limiting me or holding me back?
  5. What are five things I’m good at and how did I become better at those things?
  6. Explain one thing you’ve done in the last year that you’re proud of. Why are you proud?
  7. What steps can I take to improve my opportunities?
  8. What is something I’ve given up on? Why did I give up?
  9. Name one mistake I’ve made recently and what I have learned from it.
  10. What am I good at? And how did I get good at it?
  11. What do I usually do when I’m feeling sad, upset, or unmotivated?

How can you use these growth mindset journal prompts?

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Easy ways to use these growth mindset journal prompts in your ELA classroom include as

  • discussion questions during novel studies or discussions about short stories
  • homework questions
  • journal entries
  • prompts for personal essays
  • prompts for one-pager assignments

Other ways you can incorporate growth mindset habits into your classroom are to…

  • keep a growth mindset journal for students in the classroom and get them to use it periodically in your class – perhaps as an entry or exit activity
  • when discussing results, explain where students have improved and where they can focus on for the next task
  • get students to reflect on their learning
  • at the start of each unit give students a worksheet with a series of growth mindset goals for students to write their own goals for the unit
  • remind students that a growth mindset applies not only to academic results, but also to everyday life skills such as using manners, developing strong relationships, improving attendance, or developing organizational skills etc.
  • use growth mindset language when students don’t, for example, if a student says, “I can’t do that”, add “Yet!” to the end
  • model using growth mindset phrases, particularly as praise, such as great effort, mistakes help us learn, hard things help us learn/grow, how else can you…, we learned …, we get to…, we’re working on …., we’ll find out…
  • display growth mindset quotes for students on the walls of your classroom
  • engage in growth mindset activities such as reflection, questioning, discussion, and goal-setting

Hopefully, you’ve found some great ideas to cultivate a growth mindset in your classroom. Have more growth mindset journal prompts you want other teachers to know about? Head over to our Facebook or Instagram page and comment to share them.

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