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By Kylie Walker - 5th Grade Educator

Have you ever stopped to think critically about information and products you consume? Who were the creators? Why were these things made? Were the creators successful? Who was their audience? What was their process? Have you asked yourself these questions about products that you create yourself?

Imagine experiencing this level of critical thinking in elementary school! At Sycamore School, we challenge students to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, and effective communicators - both as producers and consumers.

This blog demonstrates how our 5th graders navigated the process of creating content to educate others about growth mindset….while embodying a growth mindset themselves.

Recently, I charged my 5th grade students to create engaging posters to inform an audience about what a growth mindset is, and to persuade their audience to develop and utilize a growth mindset. Rather than directing students down a narrow path to make a poster, I led my students through an open process by asking questions to invite interpretation, perspectives, and collaboration.

To begin, students pondered a couple of questions: What do we need to know? What questions can we ask?

Using the Communications Literacy toolkit, students began to consider: Who is our audience? What does it mean to persuade and inform someone? What techniques are important to effectively serve your purpose and reach your intended audience? What does engaging mean? Here are some student thoughts:

  • “To inform is to tell or teach someone about something.”

  • “Persuading is more than suggesting, it’s more like convincing!”

  • “Engaging means bringing them to it and making them interested in it.”

Students brainstormed many ideas, researched growth mindset, and decided on the most effective design. They were challenged as collaborators to communicate effectively, to find compromise where necessary, to think critically, and to live imaginatively.

At Sycamore, our students regularly create drafts, share, reflect, edit, and offer feedback.

Once they felt they had gathered all the information needed from their first draft, considered feedback, and reflected on their own ideas, students started working on their final drafts.

In order to self-assess, Sycamore students are asked at the end of activities and projects to reflect on their process and learning. They reflect by giving themselves feedback and by seeking feedback from others.

“Why do we give and receive feedback?”

  • “So we can learn from our mistakes!?

  • “So we don’t just walk away with a D and move on.”

  • “So we can iterate on how it works.”

  • “Because we value thinking, not finished products!”

While giving feedback, we like to ask each other these questions.

  • What worked? What didn’t?

  • What would you change and why?

  • What was most challenging? How did you overcome it?

  • Did your techniques work the way you had planned to engage your audience? How do you know?

What kind of feedback do we give, you ask? Students had this to say:

  • “We give constructive and kind feedback.”

  • “Feedback is helpful because it offers suggestions on how to improve”

  • “Feedback includes both good things (things you liked) and things you think could be better.”

  • “We give feedback that is relevant to the targeted audience and purpose. For example, what you might choose to do for Kinders is different from what you would do for adults, so it’s important to know who it was intended for.”

The last part of our process was sharing our learning with an authentic audience - standing behind the piece you created, speaking about it clearly and proudly, and again, opening yourself to feedback - a vulnerability for many adults, let alone elementary school kids. Our authentic audience was Brie’s K-1 class. Fifth graders presented their posters, answered questions, received feedback, and helped the younger students practice the language of growth mindset by sharing their knowledge! Here are a few K-1 thoughts while we shared:

  • “Growth mindsets are mistakes that help your brain grow.”

  • “Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t do something big.”

  • In response to the lock that one group drew on their posters to represent a fixed mindset, K-1 students suggested adding a key that fit inside the lock. “The key is unlocking things so that you can learn more!”

The prompt was for 5th graders to create posters that informed about a growth mindset that engaged an audience and persuaded them to utilize one. One of my goals as a teacher was to engage my students’ deeper learning about what a growth mindset is, and to recognize the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. My higher learning goals were for students to explore the process of creating something purposeful and to be reflective about their work.

You see, for us at Sycamore, the finished product isn’t really the end, but the next step in an authentic learning process.


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