Magic Growth Mind Set Moments

The first weeks of term are always busy ones for our adults in school as new classes are met, new schemes of learning and assessment began and Open Evening is planned for. I wrote about the difficult nature of parental/student high school choice last year.

I’ve been out to talk to our feeder primaries last week and over the next few weeks year 5/6 parental requests to visit school on a ‘normal’ day occur every day and it isn’t as easy for me to get into our classrooms, talk to students and teachers and collate all of the learning and teaching ideas that have become part of our collaborative development. Our inset days that I mentioned in previous blogs, introduced the Growth Mind Set ideas that we will begin in year 7 and gave time to read our feedback blog on marking/feedback which colleagues had kindly contributed to in July.

Our first ‘Magic Moments’ blog of the term will focus on-

Growth Mind Set

I explained our Growth Mind Set ideas and shared other great examples from other schools in last week’s blog.

I introduced the concept to parents at our year 7 information evening last night and have begun to drip feed more and more resources and ideas to both staff and students. I think it’s a great idea but that isn’t enough to ensure that GMS has an impact on learning across school. It looks good on paper and the posters are lovely but if it isn’t in the minds of everyone and seen as relevant by all here; I’m wasting my time with it! Of course I monitor any initiative or agreed upon pedagogy and check how it is progressing in lesson observations, book monitoring, lesson study, learning walks etc. but it’s up to me to persuade colleagues and students that this is a worthwhile learning and teaching tactic. When colleagues begin to grasp an idea and then adapt it for use in their own subject areas-I’m eternally grateful and of course begin the process of sharing their ideas. Take a bow Miss Filson, because Jen has taken my original GMS presentation, mixed it in with a bit of DIRT and adapted it to share with her maths faculty and the rest of our staff. Just a little taster below.


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Jen used the slide below to share her approach with the year 7 parents and I then tweeted it out over the weekend to show others how our mathematicians were developing their GM approach. The tweet received a lot of interest and deservedly so-thank you! Zoe, who has set up our maths twitter account, said her phone went crazy with retweets and favourites-it’s good to share and symptomatic of a successful school, faculty and individual growth mind set.


It’s also great [and encouraged] for our staff to trawl social media to find the best ideas possible from colleagues at other schools and Zoe used ideas from

to create her GM classroom display. Thank you to the original author and thank you to Zoe for using this to provide a GM learning environment. I’ll feedback on the impact of the maths aspect of our GM initiative later in the year.

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Our other Jen in RE is renowned for her challenging, creative, imaginative and often totally crazy mind set ideas! You won’t see formulaic teaching in her hippy room and having bought her off with chocolate she has kindly photographed her latest ideas.

Jennie spotted the McDonalds cup idea on a US site and developed it to make a happy meal of work.  Students need to fry up all components of the exam questions written on fries. [Fries with questions on are in the holders and match the exam level] Once they have checked model answers below they can hand in their completed happy meal. There are ‘real’ meals available for the most successful. This is a very brief description which doesn’t do the idea justice and I’ll return to it in greater detail in a later blog. The challenge to be excellent is an absolute constant feature of RE lessons.


Last year Jennie used the concept of butterflies to motivate and engage-it worked-look at the amazing exam results! This year she has adapted our flight path idea into her own ‘waves’ creation whereby the students will track their own progress and interventions. She didn’t want to reveal too much-YET- as the concept begins to develop and the students leave the beach behind for the open sea.

“Coral reef display.  Here students have been challenged to dig deep in the coral reef and like the little mermaid, aim to reach the shore and be ‘part of your world’. For us ‘our world’ is the beach of success on the shore.  In my opinion, unless students unravel the barriers to learning on the coral reef or grass roots level, (i.e. motivational setbacks, lack of confidence etc.) they cannot begin to unpack their exam paper and have the correct mind set. 

Once students reach the shore, they will be further challenged to ‘make waves’ and then reach for aspirational targets as they surf across the progress matrix.  Hopefully if all goes to plan we can really push dreams at this stage and look at the majesty of the ocean and explore the concept that life should be lived on high tide!”


The wave matrix stages

Stage 1- Coral reef- challenging barriers to learning, emotional/social. Using data from summer projects to plot how many waves are required to be a +1 student.

Stage 2- Shore- looking at exam skills and how to develop

Stage 3- Waves, using a mixture of exam and motivational tools to tailor teaching to students individual requirements for success. – Both in  academic terms and in terms of their individual  needs. At this stage they will be directing their intervention.  Do they need; more skills? Support? Encouragement? Accountability? Care? Advice? A bit of fun even and sometimes just a hot drink.

Stage 4- Once making waves across the wave matrix, teacher will assess who is drowning despite support.

Stage 5- Emergency intervention lists will be drawn.  Data analysed.  Mocks set. Progress then measured against English grades and other Humanities subjects.

Stage 6- Waves will then become very individual….. and deep as we look at the majesty of the ocean and inspirational stories of the sea.  We will at this stage encourage students to reach aspirational targets- A/A* and host themed intervention which will awaken all the senses to making waves.  Constant reference to position on Matrix….intervention and revision specific and targeted.

Supportive growth mind set at its best!

Jennie enlisted the aid of Katie Gall to create this GMS poster for Anne’s [progress manager of year 7, RE teacher and huge fan of GMS!] RE classroom [next to the McDonalds fries!] Anne assures me that by spring, the tree will be in full blossom, but with what, we shall have to wait and see!


Adele has created her own musical ‘Wall of Excellence’ to promote musical mastery and challenge and encourage a ‘can do’ mind-set in a subject where students sometimes say they “can’t, it’s too hard.” They might not be able to produce a fanfare at the beginning of year 9 YET but with perseverance and support from each other they will.


To help further with engaging the students with ideas and making any key initiative a ‘routine’ aspect of learning I supply a range of personalised marking/feedback stampers and stickers which may sound a tad ‘cheesy’ but experience shows that they work [along with chocolate and lollies!]

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I’ve included some literacy ones from last year’s ‘push’ and you can see, bearing in mind our key growth mind set, deliberate praise for students who challenge themselves, show resilience, overcome learning obstacles, give and accept FISH feedback and who achieve their BSG targets [explained to parents by Leon Walker] As Sarah Cunliffe, our English subject leader, mentioned at the information evening, time is given in lessons for the students to reflect on their own learning and progress-DIRT-Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time-so that they have the opportunity to consider what ‘excellence’ and subject mastery should look like for them as individuals, how they can achieve this and how they can also support other learners and celebrate their success too. By every means possible, the skills and mind-set we know will make a difference, will become part of learning excellence and developed and rewarded as you can see below from this week’s bulletin. [Wendy Senior’s science class]


Over the weekend I read an excellent post from where he made the point that;

 First, those who use growth mindset as pedagogy fail to dignify the lives and experiences of the students, who often show plenty of grit and perseverance in their home lives, much less their managing to make it through time in school where they’re considered unsuccessful. If anything, it’s actually the students coasting through our classes, schools, and assessments who don’t understand what it is to work through adversity and need to be coached in resilience.

Well worth remembering to add my concerns in our last blog-think hard about how and with whom we introduce these concepts. I deliberately have avoided some of the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ themes that some GMS posters use. I was also interested to see him finish his post with;

In their groundbreaking book, Professional Learning Communities at Work, Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker say it clearly when pointing out the issue that comes about when change initiatives are considered “a task to complete rather than an ongoing process.” If we really want to improve our schools, our work, and the education of our students, we can do so by adopting a new mindset — for everyone — that would include:

  1. Being humble enough to accept that there are things about ourselves and our practices that can improve
  2. Becoming part of professional teams that value constructive critique instead of criticism
  3. Treating setbacks as formative struggles within the learning process instead of summative failures
  4. Realizing the restrictive role that timelines can play in reaching high standards, and using foundational philosophies such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to map systems so that everyone’s growth is supported
  5. Create flexible grouping at all times so that nobody’s trapped in any one course level or particular type of work.

How do you encourage a growth mindset in your school or classroom?

I hope that our blogs, especially the ones on CPD and professional portfolios have explained how we have worked hard on 1-3 and it is really important that we introduce our NQTs to the whole school mind-set from the very start. They are incredibly busy as they begin their new career, so I apologise for asking questions of them BUT colleagues who choose to work here, are aware that our aim is to develop them to be the best teachers that they can be in a collaborative learning environment-self-reflection can be a pain when you have books to mark and lessons to plan but it has to happen!

I like to introduce our new NQTs to our collaborative CPD ‘sharing’ of Magic Moments immediately and asked them to consider these early questions;

We will begin our big sharing of ideas later in the term but just to warm you up-please let me know;

1] Have you tried an idea with your class/classes that you have been really pleased with and think it helped their learning? How do you know?!

If you have a slide or photo of the idea/learning-send it to me so I can share with the rest of the staff. Give me a brief description of your idea, how it worked and how your evidence for its success.

2] What’s the best idea you have heard about at a] school b] social media or other means lately. How do you plan to use it/what do you feel that it will bring to your teaching and student learning?

3] Is there an area of your teaching that you feel is tricky for you and would like to see another colleague teaching? Let me know so I can arrange a drop in informal obs for you.

4] It is a sign of strength [and GMS!] not weakness that you let us know if any classes or students are bothering you and causing you to worry-let your subject mentors or me know a.s.a.p. We can talk, give advice, team-teach, model or pop in to have a look.

Greg Thornton has begun his GMS conversations with his year 7 tutor group every Thursday and he has enjoyed using these clips [I think I found them on ideas tweeted by ]

“My form really responded to this as they took for granted that these famous people were just always successful

I do like to show these ‘People are Awesome’ videos to my form to demonstrate what working hard can achieve.”

Beth, our mathematician, shared her thoughts with me and I was absolutely delighted to be able to see and read her thought process as she tries new ideas, takes risks and learns as she goes. I’m not sure that I was as thoughtful and reflective as this when I began teaching and when the NQTs come into my lessons, I’m going to have be on top form! Beth raises her concerns with ‘challenge’ and ‘peer critique’-these will be met by ‘head-nodding’ by far more experienced teachers and even I don’t have all of the answers BUT I know that by discussing pedagogy, sharing ideas and planning and collaborating together [both internally and externally] we will find what is best for our students and our teaching.


I’m trying to engage with the marking and feedback policy of the Maths department as this was one of my main focuses for this first term.


Example below of how I’ve tried to further the learning of my year 9 students by setting targets and questions in feedback.


DIRT for this class is on Weds afternoon, will send pictures of the responses.


For the more able in the class I have set a further challenge. An open ended task which I feel are so important in maths, in particular to challenge the high ability students. So often in Maths there is often one correct answer. Open ended tasks allow pupils the flexibility to come up with (a number of) imaginative and unique responses, whilst also stretching their mathematical ability.


Example shown below.


I also used an open ended task during a lesson as an extension task, again challenging the more able pupils. This is with a year 10 class who were also on the topic of index laws!


My challenge:


The response:


I have actually just ordered a “Miss K’s Challenge” Stamp. This is for me to use during a lesson to set open-ended activities as extension task. (like the one above) I suppose it’s using myself and my subject knowledge as a tool for differentiation to enrich the learning of more able pupils.


Will send a picture once it has arrived! [it arrived as I was finishing the post, so the picture is below!]


2. One more strategy which I think has worked well is the use of “progress trackers” I have seen examples of these being used in online blogs, and trialled it a few times in my PGCE year.


This time I used it with my year 10 class, who were covering a difficult topic of negative and fractional indices. I asked the pupils to answer the questions right at the start of the lesson. Many of them just put “Don’t know” or guessed at answers (I assured them that this was fine!] They weren’t expected to be able to do them yet and they set aside the trackers and we proceeded with the lesson.


During the last 5 minutes, I asked the pupils to turn back to their trackers and have another go. I’ve shown one response below. The pupils were really pleased that they could now answer the questions, and one pupil commented “Miss this is a well good idea, can we do this again”. This was great to hear! Not what you would expect from a typical year 10 “lad”.

It really helped to build their confidence, and we ended the lesson on a high note.


3. I’m struggling to implement peer-assessment in mathematics rather than the usual “swap your books and mark your partner’s answers” which I don’t see as true peer assessment, it’s peer-marking as all they are doing is ticking and crossing!

I trialled asking my year 7 class to write a question for their partner. This worked well, but I would like to see more strategies for peer assessment in maths.


4. A is still having his moments. I’ve had a chat with Jen and we are both going to have a chat with him tomorrow at lunchtime if needs be.”

Beth sent me her early examples and as the term develops she will be able to see great practice in other areas and discuss FISH, peer verification and decide for herself which of her strategies have the biggest impact and which don’t work! Usually the same tactic which makes you feel like the best teacher in the world with 1 class, dive-bombs with another! Be flexible and be prepared to fail folks!

“Have attached some responses to the questions that I set, and also some responses from those pupils who had to try the open-ended task.

They marked each other’s work. Then each pupil wrote a response on how they now feel with the topic of index laws.”

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“Chatted with Jen about how to input higher quality peer-assessment into maths lessons. I’m trying a peer-assessment task with two classes next week. Will let you know how it goes!”

Beth’s Challenge stamper is now here and in use!

“Two of my year 10 pupils were “coasting” through their work on LCM and HCF. So I set them a harder challenge.

Have attached photos of them “coasting” and then the challenge and their responses.”

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Developing staff mind-set to constantly self-evaluate is crucial to continuing the progress made in learning by both staff and adults. Nationally [and internationally] we do have an issue with retaining some of our brightest young teachers and the loss of any potentially great teachers and leaders of the future needs to be arrested now and ALL schools and school leaders need to carefully consider the best ways of developing and not losing teachers after their initial 2/3 year period. They need to feel valued, supported practically and provided with personalised development plans reflecting their needs as subject specialists and their own perceived areas of ‘marginal gains’ that working on will make them even better teachers. Beth’s ideas have been circulated around the maths faculty [and now everyone!] and will be followed with interest to see where she takes her learning next.


Never give up!

Our year 7 GM photo of the week.

Our next blog will share some more of latest marking/feedback ideas currently being trialled in science.

3 thoughts on “Magic Growth Mind Set Moments

  1. Pingback: Growth Mind Set-a year on-are we opening and growing our minds? | Meols Cop High School

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