For the second year now, I’m involved with the Missouri Teacher’s Academy professional development cohort. This year, however, I’m part of the graduates group, which means we already did one learn of basic training and now get to spend a year delving into a topic of our choosing. So this year our focus is on growth mindset in the classroom. We meet once a month to discuss new strategies, work on a book study, and share best practices from our own classrooms.

For the year, we’re reading the book Mindsets in the Classroom to guide us in learning strategies to infuse more growth mindset into our teaching. One teaching strategy that I took away from the latest reading was called “Learning About the Brain.” It’s a technique to get students to monitor their learning and give feedback to the teacher for the next phase. The strategy is really simple: ask students to identify 3 things they learned, 2 things that surprised them, and 1 question they have about the lesson’s topic. I made a really simple graphic organizer from examples I found online and tried it with my German students after we learned about Christmas traditions in Germany.

I have to admit: when I first decided to use this strategy I thought that with my high school students it would prove to be useless. I assumed they would write down obvious answers and would leave the question space blank. Boy was I wrong! What the students wrote down was not only valuable insight into what they took away from the lesson, but they also wrote intriguing questions that I didn’t know the answer to.

This discovery connects to another important discussion this book opened for our cohort. We teachers must recognize our own fixed mindsets and become growth mindset role models for our students. It’s incredible just how much our own thoughts and attitudes affect the outcome of an activity or lesson. It’s easy to stick to what’s comfortable about teaching and not take risks because we’re afraid of failing. However, the best teaching happens when we reflect on our lessons to improve them every year. That means taking risks to challenge our students and ourselves in the process. Through this challenge, we can show students how to think through challenges and handle failure. 

Reflecting on my experience with this new teaching strategy, I will definitely use this strategy more in the future. The 3-2-1 organizer showed me what my students actually remembered from the lesson and also helped guide me in preparing for follow-up learning. 

Sample 3-2-1- graphic organizer I used