Thursday 17 November 2016

Draw Your Brain: a Growth Mindset Activity

Today I shared an activity with my colleagues and they seemed to like it so I thought I'd share it here too.

I told my colleagues (Maths, Science and Learning Support teachers) that they needed to get into the mindset of 15 year olds so that they could get the most out of the demonstration. Of course then one of my colleagues got a little bit too in character and drew an item of male anatomy on his piece of paper. Actually, knowing this particular colleague's personality, he would have done this even if he wasn't pretending to be a fifteen year old. (Typical Physics teacher).

But anyway, I had given everyone a piece of A5 paper and a felt tip. I told them to pretend to write on their piece of paper, and pretend they were answering a really difficult maths problem. They had to pretend they had worked on it for ages and they were really struggling. Finally, they come to an answer. However, a minute later, their teacher tells them their answer is wrong. I asked my colleagues to think about the emotions they would experience then. They gave me some examples: anger, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment. Then I told them to take all of those emotions, and channel those emotions into crumpling their piece of paper up into a ball. I told them to really make sure that all of their anger, frustration, and feelings of failure were screwed up into that ball of paper. And then I told them to throw their piece of paper as hard as they could, and with it release all of those negative emotions.

Then I asked them to retrieve their piece of paper and uncrumple it, and smooth it out so it's nice and flat. I told them that the piece of paper represented their brains. All of the tiny crease marks on the paper are the synapses, or pathways, inside their brain. I got them to draw over the crease marks with a felt tip pen, and as they did that, I asked them to think about the knowledge flowing through their brains thanks to these pathways. Every time you make a mistake, your brain gains an extra synapse. The only way to gain extra synapses is through making mistakes. So all of the connections and pathways in your brain are due to making mistakes. The piece of paper representing their brain would not have any synapses at all if it hadn't been crumpled up. Those pathways are only there because they made a mistake.

With students, I then tell them to keep this picture of their brain in their folder, and every time they make a mistake in Maths, they should look at it and think about how their brain has just gained another synapse. They can even draw on another synapse each time they make a mistake, and by the end of the year they will be able to see how much their brain has grown, and how much progress they've made.

This is a great activity to do with a class that lacks confidence or is stuck in a fixed mindset. I did this with my year 11 intervention class last year, and I think it was a real turning point for them.

Please try this with a class and let me know what impact it has!

Emma x x x

PS I got this idea, plus many others, from the book Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler.


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