Growth Mindset & Helpful Thinking

“Bubble Gum Brain” by Julia Cook

In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about the brain and growth mindset by reading the book, “Bubble Gum Brain.” In the story, students learn about two types of brain mindsets: “bubble gum brain” and “brick brain.” Bubble gum brain has a growth mindset and likes adventures, learning new things, and doesn’t worry about making mistakes! Brick brain, on the other hand, has a fixed mindset and is convinced that things are just fine the way they are and there’s not much he can do to change them. This creative story teaches children the valuable lesson that becoming is better than being and that we can always learn and grow! This lesson also includes an activity for students to brainstorm some positive and encouraging “Bubble Gum Brain Thoughts” that they can remember to use when they’re being challenged.

“Jabari Tries” by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari is making a flying machine in his backyard! “It’ll be easy. I don’t need any help,” he declares. But it doesn’t work! Jabari is frustrated and wants to give up. In this relatable story, students learn some strategies they can use to calm down and feel better when they’re feeling frustrated and challenged. In this lesson, Ms. Shaw also invites students to do a drawing activity (download here) in which they draw a picture of something they’re learning to do and can’t do quite yet as well as a picture of how they will keep trying.

“The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do” by Ashley Spires

Having a growth mindset is an incredibly important lifelong trait. In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about what a growth mindset is by showing a model of a human brain and talking about how we are not automatically born knowing how to do everything. Instead, with patience and plenty of practice, our powerful brains help us learn how to do just about anything we set our minds to! Ms. Shaw challenges students to think of things they can’t do yet, but would like to learn or get better at. This lesson also includes an “I Can Grow My Brain” coloring page.

“Trying Again” by Emily Arrow

In this lesson, Ms. Shaw is joined by special guest, Kitty, to talk about perseverance. When we run into a challenge and think, “I can’t do it,” we need to add the simple word, “yet” (e.g., “I can’t do it YET”) and try again. Ms. Shaw reads a story with a song all about trying again and remembering to think “yet” (listen to the song here). This lesson also includes an “I Can’t Do This Yet” coloring page.

“The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes” by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein

In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about the importance of trying things and making mistakes along the way. Mistakes show that we’re learning—we’re not born knowing how to do everything after all! Ms. Shaw also talks about how it’s okay if we feel worried about making mistakes and reads a story about a girl who was afraid of making mistakes until one day she learned an important lesson. This lesson also includes a “Mistakes Help Me Learn” coloring page.

“Beautiful Oops” by Barney Saltzberg

Mistakes can be beautiful! In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about the opportunity mistakes create when we use our imagination and creativity. Ms. Shaw reads the book “Beautiful Oops,” which uses many entertaining examples to illustrate how any old mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful and unique. This lesson also includes a simple art project that helps students practice being creative and flexible, as well as a “mindful moment” to further exercise their imagination.

“The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires

Have you ever been trying to make something or do something and it just isn’t working out? This can be so frustrating that sometimes you might even feel like giving up. In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about a strategy we can use to work through these feelings and persevere through a challenge: self-talk! Self-talk really just means the words we use to talk to ourselves. Ms. Shaw talks about unhelpful self-talk (e.g., “This is so hard. I quit.”) and helpful self-talk (e.g., “This is so hard, but challenges help me grow.”) and invites students to use this Growth Mindset Self-Talk poster to brainstorm some helpful self-talk they can use the next time they’re feeling challenged!

“Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions” by Daniel Amen

Does your child struggle with negative thought patterns like, “I’ll NEVER learn ___” or “This is the worse day ever”? If so, enter Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions! In this lesson, Ms. Shaw teaches students about ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that enter our brains and try to sabotage our happiness. In the story, a superhero by the name of Captain Snout, teaches children to use his super power questions to overcome their ANTs. The super power questions students can use to challenge their ANTs are: (1) “Is that thought in your head true?” and (2) “Are you 100% sure it’s true?” These questions help children learn to question their ANTs, rather than accepting them as true, by looking for evidence, problem solving, using coping skills, and adopting a more positive outlook.

“I Think, I Am” by Louise Hay & Kristina Tracy

In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about the power of positive affirmations. Ms. Shaw teaches students how the things we think have the power to make a big difference in our lives. When we change our negative thoughts (e.g., “Nobody likes me”) to positive affirmations (e.g, “I love myself and other people love me, too!”), then we feel happier, act differently, and positive things happen! Ms. Shaw reads the book, “I Think, I Am,” which provides lots of examples of changing negative thoughts to positive affirmations. Ms. Shaw also teaches a cognitive-behavioral tool called the “Magic Triangle” (download worksheet here), which illustrates how our thinking impacts our feeling which then influences our behaviors.

“I Can Do Hard Things” by Gabi Garcia

What we tell ourselves matters! It becomes our inner voice and can carry a lot weight. The words we say or think to ourselves can make us feel brave and confident or worried and insecure. Ms. Shaw reads the story, “I Can Do Hard Things,” to introduce students to the practice of using mindful affirmations for support and encouragement when they need it. The author of this lovely story, Gabi Garcia, has made fifteen of these mindful affirmations into beautiful coloring pages that children can use to help reinforce this message. And don’t forget, you CAN do hard things!

“My Strong Mind I: A Story About Developing Mental Strength” by Niels van Hove

In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about grit, resilience, and growth mindset by reading the first of three stories in the “My Strong Mind” series on developing mental strength. In this story, students learn the 4 C’s of a Strong Mind: Commitment (setting goals and working hard to deliver them), Control (being proactive and keeping our emotions in check), Challenge (stretching ourselves and learning from everything), and Confidence (having the ability to stand our ground). Check out these worksheets to learn more about the 4 C’s and how to help your child cultivate them.

“My Strong Mind II: The Power of Positive Thinking” by Niels van Hove

In this lesson, Ms. Shaw reads the second story in the “My Strong Mind” series to talk about how to grow a strong mind through the power of positive thinking. The “My Strong Mind” series talks about the 4 C’s of a Strong Mind (Commitment, Control, Challenge, and Confidence). Ms. Shaw focuses on Challenge in this lesson by talking about how we can think and say positive words when we’re being challenged. For instance, instead of saying, “I can’t do this” or “I give up,” we can replace these words with more helpful language such as “I can’t do this YET” and “This is hard, but I am strong”. Learn more about 4 C’s of a Strong Mind here!

“The Friend I Need” by Gabi Garcia

What does it mean to be a friend to yourself? In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about treating ourselves the way we treat our friends. If our friend makes a mistake, we don’t say unkind words to them–we offer them words of encouragement! So why should we treat ourselves any different than how we treat our friends? Ms. Shaw reads the story, “The Friend I Need,” which illustrates how we can we kind, encouraging, and supportive to ourselves. This lesson also includes an activity to brainstorm ways we can be friends to ourselves. You can download this activity here

“Rain Brings Frogs” by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

In this lesson, Ms. Shaw and Kitty introduce students to the positive character trait of optimism! Students learn about what optimism is through the story “Rain Brings Frogs,” which follows a young boy who is always able to see the positive in various difficult situations. Ms. Shaw and Kitty talk about the ability to “turn it around,” that is, being flexible with our thinking in challenging situations to find the good. Students are encouraged to download this Made The Best of It worksheet to reflect on a time they were disappointed, but were able to turn it around and make the best of the situation.

“Baditude! What to Do When Life Stinks!” by Julia Cook

In this lesson, Ms. Shaw talks about attitude by reading a story about a boy, named Noodle, who has a “baditude” (bad attitude). In the story, Noodle, who seems to only see the negative in every situation, eventually learns how change his “baditude” into gratitude by altering the way he thinks. By learning the trick of reframing his thoughts from “have tos” into “get tos,” Noodle’s attitude–and even life–improves! To further explore the power of our thinking, Ms. Shaw teaches students about the Circle of Control to illustrate how we have the power to control our experience by choosing how we view it.