Most of us have a memory of a class in high school we just weren’t good at. For many it was math or english. For some it was art. Either way, the results were the same–belief that we’re not good at that subject, that we just didn’t have what it takes to get through it. And, sadly, we  often gave up.

Now I wonder what might have happened if we had known then about Growth Mindset. If we knew the brain is like a muscle, would we have developed greater perseverance? If we were able to implement strategies and interventions for struggling students, would we have been given renewed hope and for success?

Although Americans have traditionally viewed intelligence as something inherited and unchangeable, research on Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck and others have created acceptance of the idea that effort creates intelligence.

However, as Dr. Dweck has stated, effort is not enough. Effort without strategies to learn, or as we call them, “struggle strategies”, will not lead to learning:  over time, students will devalue their effort, since they won’t see benefits from those attempts. 

In order to avoid emphasizing “only effort”, we have put together 8 strategies to help students learn when they struggle. These are part of a free activity and worksheet download called Selecting Struggle Strategies. It’s part of our REACH Strategies Guidebook and it can be used in a classroom to help students who need help. Here are 8 strategies:

  1. Clarify The Task: Have students carefully re-read the directions or ask for more information on the assignment to be sure they understand what they are being asked to do.
  2. Encourage Them To Ask For Help Early: Don’t wait until they are lost and discouraged. Ask them to be as specific as they can about what they need help with.
  3. Check their Steps: Review the process they used to try to complete the assignment, checking to be sure nothing was wrong or forgotten.
  4. Think Out Loud: Encourage students to talk out loud about what they are doing to solve the problem or why you think their approach is the right one. When you talk out loud, you often listen to yourself like you would listen to another person, and the source of a mistake or problem may jump out at you.
  5. Break It Down: Take a large and complex task or problem and break it into smaller steps.
  6. Have Them Write Down What They Know: Have students write down what they know or what they can do in order to identify what they don’t know. When they have identified the gaps in their knowledge or skills, encourage them to seek help to fill in those gaps.
  7. Try Another Method: If they know more than one way to complete the task or assignment, try a different method. Even if the new method isn’t successful, trying a new approach may help them better understand the task or the assignment.
  8. Make a Plan: For tasks and assignments which will take a significant amount of time to complete, have students develop a plan to identify the steps needed to be taken to complete the task, and when they will take those steps.

Helping students understand that effort can increase intelligence is important in increasing student motivation and part of our REACH system of student motivation, Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognition and Heart

Click below to download our free classroom activity and worksheets, part of the REACH Strategies Guidebook, to help your students when they struggle.

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