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Developing a Growth Mindset with Student Success Folders

Growth Mindset is a big deal in the world of education today, and understandably so. Students today are facing a more complex, more challenging world than ever before. I believe it is part of our job as teachers to help them learn the skills and gain the mindset they need to successfully navigate their world. There are many great strategies out there to help teachers instill a growth mindset in their students, and I am sharing a super-easy, extra-helpful idea in this post, along with a great FREEBIE to get you started!

Success Folders for a Growth Mindset in action photos

First, however, it may be helpful to identify exactly what a growth mindset is.

The phrase became popular through the work of Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor. In 2007, she wrote a book called Mindset, which explained her growth mindset philosophy. In her teachings, she explains that the way students look at their own abilities can be described in one of two ways (or even somewhere in between):

  1. Fixed Mindset: Students believe that their intelligence, skills, and talents are fixed traits and cannot be changed. Children with a fixed mindset may not be interested in learning or trying to improve. They often are embarrassed when they struggle academically or have difficulty learning new concepts.
  2. Growth Mindset: Students believe they can improve through persistence and hard work. They know they can develop their talents and skills with effort and a persistent attitude. These students have a positive reaction to lessons and teacher feedback. Students with a growth mindset are more willing to try new methods.

When students have more of a growth mindset than a fixed mindset, they often achieve at a higher level and are more self-motivated.

As I mentioned earlier, there are many great strategies that teachers can use to help cultivate a growth mindset in students. One particular strategy that I like is Success Folders. I first read about these growth mindset tools in a great blog post written by Marcus Guido. I liked the simplicity of success folders, as well as the concrete way they can help students see their progress throughout the school year.

Here’s how they work (all materials shown in the photos are included in my FREE Student Success Folders Packet):

1. Have the students color a cover and clue or staple it to the front of a sturdy, 3-prong folder.

in action growth mindset cover sheets








2. Discuss the definition of success as a class. Talk about changing our words to “success words”. For example, instead of thinking “This is too hard,” think “I can do this part of the problem so far.” Have students complete the What is Success? printable and add it as the first page of the folder.

3. Each week, have students each select one piece of work that shows some measure of success. Since each student is coming from a different starting place, their measure of success may look different than someone else’s. I like having students write a sentence at the top of the page they are choosing to add to the folder. By requiring them to identify why that particular page belongs in the Success Folder, they are thinking in the terms of a growth mindset. Here are some examples of what one student might write about their choice of success on a given week:


growth mindset through math problems - "I remembered to regroup!" 

4. As an option, you can also have students write a Success Story for the week. This can tie in nicely with whatever work sample they have chosen that week or it can be about a success they experienced in another way. For example, maybe a student was hesitant to come to the board to try a new type of problem, but by using a growth mindset told herself “I can try a new strategy.” Even though she may not have gotten it correct on the first try, she made progress and tried the strategy. Every time a student tries a difficult thing, it will give them courage to persevere and try again. That is a success story.

Click here to get your FREE growth mindset printables for your elementary or middle school students. Overall, I love this growth mindset strategy because it is simple to organize, doesn’t take up a large amount of time, and requires students to take a good look at their achievements on a regular basis. I also LOVE that it provides opportunities for student-choice within the classroom. Anytime students have an opportunity to make decisions that are meaningful and specific to their own situations, that is a huge win in my book.

Click HERE to download the FREE Success Folder Packet. As you use it, please share your photos! I’d love to see how you are implementing this growth mindset strategy in your classroom!


Looking for More Great Ideas to Start Your Year off Well?

Setting the right atmosphere from the beginning is a big part of creating a welcoming classroom where learning thrives.  One where students are excited to try and where its ok to fail.  Where students know they are loved and cared for.  Here’s some more ideas for creating this kind of classroom.

This post is part of a Growth Mindset Roundup, brought to you by some amazing teacher-authors!  If you enjoyed reading this post related to Growth Mindset, please check out the other posts in this Growth Mindset Roundup! 

Shelly Rees

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I'm Shelly Rees of Appletastic Learning. First and foremost, I'm a mom of 4 boys, wife of 25 years to Aric, and Wyoming girl at heart. I love being creative, making resources for teachers, baking cookies, Diet Coke, teaching, public speaking, and spreading kindness wherever I can. After teaching in the upper elementary grades for over 23 years, I retired early and focused on creating and helping teachers around the world with my teaching ideas and resources. I also serve as a mentor to hundreds of teacherpreneurs and help them get focused on growing their own successful businesses. With 100% honesty, I LOVE my life! Thanks for visiting! I hope you'll stay awhile and come back often. Read More

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