Team Building Activities for Students That Promotes Critical Thinking and Collaboration

Critical thinking, solving problems, making good decisions, and working collaboratively are some of the most important skills teachers can teach their students. What is the best way to teach these skills to a class full of elementary students?

Teamwork building activities and games are a fantastic tool to help students develop essential thinking skills. Such activities and games will help them to learn how to listen carefully, work together, think creatively, and communicate their thoughts clearly.

Furthermore, team building activities for students give them the chance to get to know each other better. Such activities will help them build trust together as part of a community, and of course, learn to have fun as they work.

Group activities and games are incredible for kids. They are engaging, educative, and fun at the same time. In this article, you will learn some of the best team building activities for students. Similarly, it explains the benefits of the activities and some tips on how to deliver them.

How Do Teamwork Building Games Benefit Students?

Students, particularly those under the age of 12 are brimming with curiosity. They are curious about the world and wish to learn. With their ever-curious mind, the childhood is the perfect time to teach kids essential life skills such as creative thinking and teamwork.

The challenge, however, is that they may be too young to grasp these concepts if you introduce them through theoretical learning. That being the case, the best way is to teach the concepts through learning by doing, meaning through group activities and games.

Teamwork Building Activities Help to Build Self-Confidence

Teamwork building activities for students are fantastic for building self-esteem. With these activities, the student can learn more about his capabilities and push themselves to attain the goals they might have previously thought to be impossible to achieve.

The self-confidence the students gain by completing a team activity can also transfer to other aspects of their lives. It can help them not only in school but in extracurricular activities and at home as well.

Teamwork Building Activities Help Develop Social Skills

When kids work together to complete an activity or game, the collaborative spirit also helps them develop social skills. After all, teamwork building activities require the participants to work together closely to achieve their desired result.

As they work together, the children learn to communicate. They also learn to express their ideas while also compromise with others. From working collaboratively to complete a project, they can learn how to collaborate with each other in social situations.

Types of Teamwork Building Activities for Students

Teamwork building activities for students, particularly elementary students, can be either simple or fun or both. You should leave the more complex group of activities to the older age group or those better suited to these challenging activities. Simple and fun activities are best for kids because they have a shorter attention span.

For that reason, it’s crucial to introduce them activities that are engaging. A fun activity will keep them entertained and focused, limiting the chance of them losing interest and refuse to participate. On the other hand, simple activities are essential since children usually have not the capability to understand complex concepts yet.

With that, introduce to them activities where the end goal will be easier for them to understand. Even though the team building activities are fun and straightforward, they will still offer a fantastic learning experience. The lessons are in the experience as what they felt during the activity will have a huge impact on their learning capability.

The main types of teamwork building activities suitable for elementary students are those focused on communication, teamwork, and building trust.

• Communication
These types of group activities will encourage the teammates to communicate with each other. Along the way, they can learn communication techniques and express ideas better with their peers.

• Trust-Building
This type of activities helps children to develop interpersonal skills. While completing the activities, the participants build relationships with their peers. The shared experience allows them to relate to each better.

• Teamwork
This type of activities helps children to learn how to cooperate with each other. The lessons imparted during the activity include respecting each other’s perspective. Similarly, the teammates positively interact with each other as they work towards a common goal.

Best Teamwork Building Activities for Students

If You Build It…

It is a flexible team-building game where you divide the children into teams and given equal amounts of materials. Next, provide the participants with something to build then provide them with a challenge. For instance, you can challenge them with which team can create the tallest structure or which team can make them fast.

Touch Blue

In playing this game, the participants need to find an object inside the room with the same color as the one called out by the facilitator. The participant has to touch the item to win the game. Remember, however, that the item must not be on themselves or another person. It will be more exciting and fun when unusual colors are called out.

Traffic Lights

This fun game involves using traffic light commands. For instance, green is for a run; red is for stop and amber or yellow for a walk around. The group must follow the commands of the facilitator. If a participant does the wrong action for the command, they are out of the game. The facilitator can also increase its difficulty by calling other commands thus confusing everyone.


It is a simple enough game for younger children. Group size could be 10 children at a minimum. In this game, the facilitator or teacher calls out categories. The children work on arranging themselves based on the category said. It’s an excellent activity for the children to get to know each other and encourage communication. Do not limit the categories to physical traits like hair colour and height.

Save the Egg

This activity may be suited to older children since it can get messy and requires following safety instructions when at work with raw eggs. The goal is for the team to find a way together to “save” the egg, like the Humpty Dumpty rhyme, from being dropped from a certain height. In this game, you probably need to find a spot for a soft landing, create a device, etc.


It is a classic teamwork building game. The idea is to form the students in a circle, each of them given a unique picture of an animal, object or whatever you fancy. You start the story using your assigned photo then the next student continues it using their own photo, and so on until the last student does.

It’s a Mystery

Who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery? Children sure do, and this game is perfect for them. Design a good mystery that the students can solve cooperatively. Each student must be given with a numbered clue, and for everyone to solve the mystery, they have to work together. If possible, you can devise the activity in such a way the participants move from one area to the next.

Applause, Please!

Group the students together. One person from each group will be the finder and steps out of the room. The rest of the group then picks an item inside the classroom and hid them for the finder to find. The finder tries to find the item guided by claps. Each time the finder gets close to the object, the claps get louder. Each time the finder gets far from the object, the claps become softer.

Hey, Me Too!

It is an excellent game for the students to learn more about each other. Before the start of the game, the students create auction puddles of emoji plates and a huge Popsicle stick. The class sits on their desk while the teacher calls out a trait, like freckles or black hair. Everyone who has the trait raises their paddle while the rest takes notes or tally who has what trait.

Marshmallow and Toothpick Challenge

In this game, you will have to divide the students into equal numbered groups. Each group will be given a same number of marshmallows as well as wooden toothpicks. Using the toothpicks and marshmallows, challenge the groups to create the largest, tallest or most creative marshmallow structure given a set amount of time.

Tips for Conducting Teamwork Building Activities for Students

Kids, as mentioned before, have a short attention span. It can make managing them a bit of a challenge. The key to managing them effectively is first to capture their interest and attention. When you tell them they will play a game, they can get a little too excited. Before starting the game, however, make sure to have them listen to the instructions.
For teamwork building activities, you will need to utilize some classroom management techniques. For teachers, you probably already know a few of them. One tip is to talk to the kids in normal speaking tone but firm voice. Don’t raise your voice or things can get out of hand. Instead, communicate with non-verbals and gestures while keeping the activity light and fun.

Perseverance for Elementary Students-What is it and Why is it Important?

perseverance for elementary students


Perseverance for elementary students is vital to help them achieve their goals. Perseverance is defined as the steadfast pursuit of a mission, task or journey despite the distraction, discouragement, and obstacles. On the other hand, grit is argued to be a trait of perseverance allowing individuals to accomplish their goals despite obstacles over an extended period of time.

What is Perseverance?

Perseverance could also mean fighting through, past individuals’ comfort zone. This means never giving up when things or tasks become ultimately challenging that you didn’t actually believe they would. The term perseverance encompasses what’s to fight until the very end of a particular pursuit to finally achieve completion.

It’s easy to give up when things go wrong or get hard. Nevertheless, persevering through particular things or pursuits is essential in building your character. This is a form of self-test to identify how far you can really go. Your own strength will be demonstrated, and you can prove your capability.

Once you have achieved your goals through hard work and perseverance, the sense of pride and accomplishment is very empowering. Completing tasks makes you satisfied, however, if you fight through the challenges and obstacles and put your best effort, you will encounter the feeling of satisfaction and pride.

Why is Perseverance Important?

Perseverance is vital because this plays a vital role in building a character that keeps on no matter how hard things are. This acts as individuals’ inner strength that helps them ignore and overcome obstacles and keep moving forward towards their goal or their chosen path. Perseverance is essential because this is what individuals need to overcome diversity, criticism, and setbacks.
This trait has to be learned and then further developed. Individuals’ ability to persevere at any given task, journey or quest can incrementally be improved. If they have succeeded in persevering to accomplish even simple goals, they will find their ability to do it again in a higher level next time they are called on to use this trait.

Individuals’ ability to persevere at any given task, journey or quest can incrementally be improved.

Perseverance is closely aligned yet different from determination and resilience. In order to accomplish and achieve big things in life, you need to develop these three.

Perseverance for Elementary Students-Why is it Significant?

Why would elementary students want perseverance in their life? These kids might even be surprised and left clueless on why perseverance for elementary students is significant. The reason is that perseverance is one of the keys to living a life that they want, they can enjoy, and they can be proud of. Why persevere even at a young age? Simply because life is full of challenges. Elementary days will just give these kids simple struggles, but as they age, they will realize that life is never that easy.
Practicing perseverance for elementary students would prepare them for all the things that lie ahead not just academically but in all aspects of life. Perseverance can also serve as their drive to help them get past all the hard stuff of elementary years up to the coming years. Without perseverance for elementary students, these kids will never go far in life.

Perseverance is therefore important for kids to develop. Since life is full of complexities that even kids can experience, perseverance can help them get through it. For elementary students, the challenge can be hard physically like raking the leaves out of schoolyard, staying strong after an intense sports match at school, challenging the mind to learn the new math equation or staying focused on subject matters. There are instances that challenges can be emotional wherein kids get sad and depressed when bullied and more.

Taking the easy way like quitting, avoiding the situation or cheating does not make challenges go away. Practicing perseverance for elementary students is very helpful because this gives the student the driving force to stay strong and always do the right thing.

Helping Students Understand the Concepts of Perseverance
There are ways to help students understand the concept and practice perseverance in school or even at home. These might include the following:

  • Helping Children Find Purpose in Life ​

Discuss their purpose and goals in life. Talk about the necessary steps required so that the child can achieve his or her goal. You can also encourage children to create a dream board and help them visualize their purpose.

•  Conducting Grit Interviews

One way of introducing the concept is to encourage children to conduct an interview with grandparents, with their neighbors or acquaintances who have worked towards long-term goals. Through this, kids will be able to learn the concept and realize the significance of perseverance in one’s life.

grit interview with grandparent

• Share Stories of Famous Gritty People

You can also encourage your children to study about famous people that persevered in spite of the difficulties. Studying people’s success and failures can help kids realize that perseverance through failures and mistakes can lead to ultimate success.

• Take Time to Ask a Child What’s the Hardest Part

When elementary students feel discouraged or are tempted to give up, take time to ask them about the hardest part. Upon identifying challenge through communication with the child ask them what they can possibly do to overcome the challenge or the hard part.

• Try Grit Pie Exercise

This exercise can work bot on the young and old child, but the old ones can better accomplish this even without much guidance. This was created by Amy Lyon, a 5th-grade teacher in New Hampshire. This is based on a book entitled “The Optimistic Child” authored by Martin Seligman, a professor in the University of Pennsylvania and a co-founder of Positive Psychology.

Amy Lyon makes use of this grit pie exercise with her students in order to teach optimism and to also help them be aware of their own thoughts. The Grit Pie Exercise tends to represent the obstacles elementary students face and every slice represents the cause of the problem. For every slide, students assess whether their thoughts regarding these are permanent such as “I will never excel in Mathematics or temporary like “My friends talk too much and are distracting me. The Grit Pie Exercise is something that is not taught in schools.

Find out more about Grit pie

Aside from the ones mentioned above, there are other ways to introduce and practice the concept like focusing on long-term projects, devoting time to accomplish them, joining in sports, learning new technologies and more.

Margarita Marti is an elementary school teacher with 9 years of experience working at schools. She has a Med in “Creative arts in education”. She wrote and self-published a children’s book called “It’s ok to be different”. Don’t forget to check it out here!

Empathy Exercises for kids

put yourself in their shoes

What is empathy

To have empathy in Greek means that you are jealous of someone.

In English, the meaning is: to stand in the shoes of the other. It is ironic how the same world is interpreted differently from one language to another.
Having Empathy, means you are able to understand the other, reach people and make feel better.

empathy for children

Why is it important to develop this ability?

It is no surprise that Forbes places Empathy as one of the core personality traits.
Empathy helps us reach easier solutions. In business, it helps with sales, negotiations and building better teams. In Denmark, the happiest nation in the world, empathy is being taught from an early age in schools. Teachers devote an hour each week for empathy building, discussing with the children about their feeling and their conflicts and all together work to find solutions. This hour
“Klassen Time kage,”

is required for all kids aged 6 to 16. It means “the Class Hour cake”. Students take turns baking a simple cake or snack that they can enjoy together after the talk.

When people feel insecure and unloved in their workspace, they tend to produce less. When they feel that their employer cares for them they produce more.

“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” —Stephen Covey


empathy exercises

Empathy is at the core of innovation. Being empathetic, means we observe and try to understand the people around us. Trying to understand the other offers insights into solutions.

If the population was more empathetic, then we would avoid a lot of conflicts.
According to Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, empathy makes you vulnerable, because you must come down to the level of the other to connect with her.

empathy exercises

Empathy declines with the future generation.​

According to Goleman focus is linked with the empathy area in the brain. Nowadays we have more distractions than ever. Children are getting their smartphones from a very young age with all the distractive apps that accompany them. Goleman is particularly worried about children exposed to so many distractions, as the brain is the last organ in the body to mature. He supports that if students don’t develop the neural circuitry that focused attention requires, they could have problems with being empathetic.

Goleman has a point. One of the skills of the empathetic person is the ability to listen to the other without being distracted by their own thoughts or smartphone. Most people, we tend to interrupt the other to tell our own stories and opinions. Listening is quite hard.

child playing with tablet

Broccoli covered with chocolate.

Though empathy is an ability we develop, it is very subtle.

Many times we think we are empathetic when we are not. Adding activities that make us understand when we are not empathetic, makes us more self-aware. It’s not that after an activity we are going to stop being egocentric. It’s a first step of being aware when we are not empathetic.

Why are empathy exercises difficult?

Why are empathy exercises difficult?

The aim of the empathy exercises is to build rapport and affinity between the participants. When it comes to disabilities empathy activities can be tricky. Asking someone to get into the place of a paraplegic can cause pity and fear which is not what we want to achieve.

The last thing a disabled person wants is your pity, or you becoming irrationally afraid that you might become blind.

The ugliest part is when charities use empathy exploitatively for money. They induce your pity. Instead, when planning empathy exercises, you should have an aim for rapport, understanding and work together for solutions.

Aim for understanding, not othering. Aim for the abilities of the other, not their disabilities.

Activities and ideas to cultivate empathy

Break up cliques by applying mix it up lunches. Students get the chance to meet and play with new students.
Do the same with Jigsaw lessons.

children eating together

Nourish curiosity

Understanding a new person makes us step out of our comfort zone. This doesn’t mean that we tell kids to start talking to strangers. It means being curious about the new kid in the school, being curious about the kid that never talks in the next classroom. When children form cliques, is because they are looking for security. This minimizes their worldview.

Some children will find this exercise fun while others will dislike it. Challenge the kids to find something new about a kid in their school. Perhaps which is their favorite food, or game. This doesn’t mean just going straight out to the kid and start asking questions. They have to socialize with the child.

At the end of the challenge, the students gather together and share what they ‘ve learned, and how the meeting changed them. The first time will be hard for children but as time passes, listening to how their other classmates engaged with others, they get ideas as well as approaching new kids.

two children talking

Caring about each other and wanting to learn more about your classmates


People do their best in an environment that cares about them. Each week allow a few students 15 mins to talk about their greatest weekly successes and their weekly difficulties. This activity will develop empathy fast.
If you want to focus on positivity then you can only speak about good things.
Useful sentences that children can use are:

One good thing in my life is…
Something good that happened is…

Their successes don’t need to be grandiose. For example, they can say how delicious was the chocolate cake their mom made yesterday. This exercise can easily be converted to a gratitude exercise.

A similar but simpler activity is the temperature check with this simple question: How are you feeling today?
The activity is suggested here.
A feeling vocabulary should be introduced to the students for use. Students can discuss in couples. This activity reminds students to be empathetic and also the teacher can spot if a child does not feel well.

child talking in the classroom

Positivity writing

Sometimes you might have students that are hard to collaborate in the above activities. They try to turn everything into a joke and constantly interrupt or make fun when other students are talking about how they feel, making the whole situation uncomfortable. In this case, prepare a handout with sentences starting like this:

One thing I like about you…
You are very good at…
I really like your personality because…
Some adjectives that describe you are…

Give each child a handout and have them write their name at the top of the paper. Collect the papers back and then give each child the handout of another child. Each child will have to fill in one or two sentences and then give it to another child (not the child that the handout belongs too).

Give them some time and after they are finished collect the papers and give them back to their owners so they can read the positive stuff their classmates wrote. Make sure to scan the papers in case of bad comments.


Model it

To understand empathy the child has to be aware of when someone is being empathetic. Empathy quiz is a great activity for everyone to develop empathy awareness. You read a dialogue between two people and the students have to guess whether this is sympathy, empathy, criticizing, apathy
You give them a card with numbered squares. Each square corresponds to one dialogue. After each dialogue students note down what they think the responder does.

For example
a. I feel terrible today
b. Oh you poor thing


a. I feel so terrible, my dog died.
b. If I were in your position, I would feel the same way

Shutting down

a. My dog died
b. Cheer up. It’s just a dog

Silver lining

a. I ‘ve run out of money.
b. At least you have a home to live. There are people that don’t have to eat.


a. I am overwhelmed
b. Is it bad huh? Do you want some coffee?

Prepare a bookmark or a poster with empathy sentences.

Though it might seem like weird, children don’t know what to say to express their empathy.

I see what you mean.
I can completely understand.
I can help you with that.
I appreciate that you are sharing your thoughts with me.
Thank you for letting me know.
I know what it is like and you are not alone
I don’t know what to say right now but I am glad you told me.

Being empathetic means

Encouraging one to express their thoughts and feelings
Don’t interrupt them
Let them finish
Recognizing their emotion
Staying out of judgment
Ask them if they need help.
Acknowledge what they are saying
Put yourself in their shoes. 

Put yourself in their shoes

put yourself in their shoes

Conflicts between students are a daily phenomenon in schools. In such cases, a handout with questions should be given to the children that will allow them to stand in the shoes of the other child.

For example: What made the other person act this way?
What other situations influence the other to act this way? (take in mind his/her history).

Allow them 10 minutes to write down their thoughts. Emphasize that the goal is to get into the other’s shoes/ thinking. After writing down their thoughts, discuss their writings together.


Have you filled a bucket today?

Empathy is linked with kindness. Kindness and Empathy are all about taking the other in mind. Respecting and helping. A widely spread children’s book is the “Have you filled a bucket today”. Have small buckets or boxes of kindness for each student where someone can write something good about the other. An example would be: You were awesome at basketball yesterday.
Thank you for helping me with the exercise.

Since children tend to fill the buckets of their friends only, you could give random students’ names to the students and then give them a week to write something good about their classmate and put it into their bucket. You could sit in a circle all the class and read the messages in your buckets.

Chinese cookies of empathy

The same activity could be done with Chinese paper cookies. Have them decorate their paper cookies and add their message to their classmate.

Psychological hug

The best phrase that could describe empathy is “psychological hug”

It’s not about which sentence to use but to listen attentively to the other, allow him to speak.

Discuss scenarios with children. The conversation that follows is fictional and the reason is that we give Nicolas empathetic traits which are found in mature people. The reason is we try to make children understand what it is like to be empathetic. We are modeling empathy

Thomas and Nicolas are friends.
Nicolas is going on a holiday with his parents and he can’t wait to tell his friend Thomas about it.

When they meet, Thomas seems to have something very important to say. He starts talking saying: Remember that I told you my mom was sick lately?
“Yes” replied Nicolas.

“Well, it seems she is having a baby!” said Thomas
“Wow! These are great news” replied Nick.
“Yes, I am finally going to have a sibling. Don’t know yet if it’s a sister or a brother. I am hoping for a brother, so we can play.” Nicolas realizes that something is bothering Thomas. He decides that is best to leave the holidays news for later, even though he is pretty excited about it. “Are you ok with the news?” asked Nicolas.

“Well, I am not sure… I am afraid that things might change between me and my parents. I was their only child.” Nicolas replies “I understand, you feel worried that your parents are having a new child”

“Yeah, I am.” “Did you talk to your parents?”
“Mom says she will always love me, so I guess I shouldn’t worry. I am also excited that I am having a sibling. Finally. I hope it’s a boy so I can play with him soccer!” “Anyway boy or girl it is wonderful that you will have a sibling,” replies Nicolas. Nicolas waits a little bit to make sure that Thomas is finished.

Thomas seems satisfied on expressing his thoughts. Nicolas seems ready now to tell his news to Thomas.

Notice how Nicolas did not interrupt, only acknowledge and only ask a question for clarification. He also waited for Thomas to express his thoughts before moving on.

With children, it is harder but empathy can be trained.

There are children who will come complaining or accusing children of not doing that or this. In this case, the handout “put yourself in my shoes” should be given to them.

Let’s take another conversation

Mary comes into the classroom and says to Jenna

“I feel like you are avoiding me. You are not playing with me”
Jenna has two options. She can either deny or ask for clarification

“What do you mean Mary? Can you explain?”
“Oh don’t pretend that you don’t know. Yesterday you were playing with Nicky and Alice and you didn’t tell me to join you”.

Jenna could start objecting, instead, she says:
“Oh, I am sorry Mary. So what you are saying is that you were alone all day yesterday? I didn’t realize it.” She stops. She leaves Mary to continue her thoughts.

“Well, yeah, I guess you didn’t realize it, but I was all day alone… “
“We can play today!” replies Jenna. “Yes, I guess we can” replies Mary
“Again I am sorry Mary”. (Being empathetic requires from Jenna to set aside her ego).

Let’s see another example

Mary is a difficult kid and seems to get disappointed easily with her girlfriends and this can be hard on the girls too.
This is another day that Mary feels bad and doesn’t want to talk or play. She just sits miserably in her seat.

Kelly approaches her. “Is there something wrong Mary?”
“No, It’s ok” replies Mary. Kelly stays there. “You don’t seem well and this makes me feel sad. Is there any way I can help?” In many cases, kids like Mary will still wish to stay silent. This means that Mary does not want to express herself. She just needs time alone. However, let’s assume that she wants to express herself.

“I feel neglected by you and Jenna. You always play together and you give more attention to her”.
Kelly could start to get defensive but she chooses the empathetic route. “I am sorry that you feel this way. Why do you say that?”
“This week you played more times with Jenna”. The truth is that Kelly had invited Mary plenty of times to play but she refused.
“Mary, we told you many times to come and play with us and you refused. Why do you refuse?”
“I told you, I feel that you don’t want me.”
“So you refuse because you think that we don’t want you.” Notice that Kelly doesn’t object, doesn’t ask more, she acknowledges what Mary says.

“Yes, each recess you go out and meet with Jenna and I have to search for you. You don’t wait for me”. Kelly doesn’t interrupt. She waits for Mary to say more. Mary needs to express her feelings. “And when I want to play a specific game, you don’t like it and play another.” Even though that is not completely true, Kelly refrains from interrupting her. “I see what you mean. You feel that we don’t play the games you want” replies Kelly thoughtfully. She waits for Mary to say more. Mary replies with a simple: “I guess… I am not sure”.
It seems that Mary has now gone into reflective mode. Kelly is not defensive so this allows Mary to lower her defenses. She doesn’t continue talking.

Kelly then asks: “What can we do about it? I don’t like seeing you sad.”
Mary already feels better that she hasn’t been criticized. Kelly wants to be a friend to Mary despite their differences and this can be sensed by Mary.
“I am really sorry that you feel this way. Sometimes it happens to me too” says Kelly. Mary already feels better.

“Well, sometimes I overreact. I feel better now”. Notice that Mary is calmer now.
Kelly sees that Mary is in a better mood so she can explain.

“It is just that you came later in the morning and that is why I start playing with Jenna”. “Yeah, I haven’t thought about it” replies Mary.
To avoid new conflicts, it seems that the girls need to decide on which games to play. A good solution would be paper and scissors. Another solution would be to decide on a program where each girl will have her own day to play the game. This is a discussion that follows the empathetic hug. First, it is vital to listen to the other and avoid being judgmental, which is a very very hard skill.

 As you may have noticed, the scenarios above show how ideally a child would respond. Not even adults find it easy to respond with empathy. Analyzing dialogues where empathy is being used, can help children and adults respond with empathy.


Happy empathetic exercising!


Margarita Marti is an elementary school teacher with 9 years of experience working at schools. She has an Med in “Creative arts in education”. She wrote and self-published a children’s book called “It’s ok to be different”. Don’t forget to check it out here!

Growth mindset comments for kids

growth mindset comments for kids

Growth mindset comments for kids

*Posters are listed at the end of the post.

“You are smart!” a teacher tells a student.

image of a girl with books

You would think that what the teacher is doing is great and will probably raise the self-esteem of the child.

Well, not exactly. Contrary, telling a child that he is talented by nature, could have negative effects on the performance of the child. How is that possible?

#1. The growth mindset experiment

Carol Dweck and her colleagues studied how the children respond to various comments offered by adults with good intentions. Instead of comments lets use the word: praise. Here is what they found out.

They took 400 5th grade students from all over the USA and they gave them an easy non-verbal IQ test. At the end of the test, they praised all children. This is how they praised the first group of children:

Great job, you must be really smart at this!
Notice the emphasis the researcher gives on the child’s intelligence.

The second group of children received this praise: Great job, you must have worked really hard at this. This group was praised based on their effort.

After, they gave both groups two options for their next test.

1. First option: They informed the children that “the next test is going to be harder but it is going to be a great opportunity to learn and grow”.
2. The second option: was a test similar to the first on which “you will surely do well”.

Here is where results get interesting.

67% of the children that were praised for their intelligence choose the easier test, while 92% of the children that were praised for their effort, chose the hardest test.

The harder test was chosen by 33% of the children that were praised for their intelligence

The harder test was chosen by 33% of the children that were praised for their intelligence compared to a whopping 92% of children that were praised for their effort.

This study confirms the impact of the kind of praise we give our children.
But why did praising the intelligence of children made them prefer the easier test?

Well according to Carol Dweck, when we hear that we are brilliant and smart, we interpret it as the main reason that the other person admires us, so we better not do anything clumsy to disprove their opinion, or better their evaluation.

stop sign
That is why we avoid doing anything harder in fear that we will fail. And this is the fixed mindset. The notion that we were born having a natural talent for playing tennis, or chess etc.

On the other hand, if we hear how important are the strategies we use, the effort we put on a task, the amount of work we do, then we focus more on getting better and upgrading ourselves. We realize that if we don’t consistently take up harder tasks we are not going to get better.

Continuing the study, Carol Dweck and her team gave all children an impossible test. They focused on how the kids in each group handled the challenge. The group that was praised for their effort, worked harder and longer and they enjoyed the process while the group that was praised for their intelligence spend the shorter time on the test and became frustrated.


After all children experienced the “failure” test, a final test was given to them, as easy as the 1st test.

The group that was praised for their intelligence did worse than the first test. Their average score dropped by a 20% in comparison to the first test.

The group that was praised for their effort, raised their average score by 30%! This is a 50% difference between the two groups and the only difference was the way they were praised.

Think about it. A few words can impact our development.

Think about it. A few words can impact our development.

#2 Praise should focus on the process.

We should avoid praising the person e.g. “You are extremely talented”.
We should also avoid praising the outcome, for example: “You got an A in Maths, that’s great!”

Keep in mind the process.

Observe the child while she works. Comments should not be focused only on the effort. Many times, it’s not the effort that counts, but the choice of the right strategy. Praise her for using strategies to solve a problem. For finished assignments, observe the effort on behalf of the child.

The comments should be descriptive.

When you are checking how the child works, you first make a diagnosis and start with the positive. For example, when writing: “Well done, I see you are forming paragraphs and your spelling is correct”.
“Your description of the place made me feel like I was there Kacy!”

“I see you are working really hard on completing your tasks!”

For handwriting,  a descriptive comment would be: “He puts a lot of effort into his handwriting. The spacing between words is good, letters are on the line and clear”.

Praise behaviors like the curiosity, courage, asking for feedback, persistence, choosing difficult tasks…

praise persistence

“I see how hard this problem was for you and I am proud of you for sticking with it!”

“Your grades reflect your hard work.”

“You are working wonderfully as a group. You give each other time to speak, you take notes and ask questions when you don’t understand something!”

“Well done for fixing your mistakes!”

“Great job! You used the strategy we taught in the classroom!”

But, what about when there is nothing to praise?
Usually, most of us when we are tired, blurt disapproving comments without first noticing what the child did well. It is natural after all, especially when a teacher needs to focus on many children at the same time.

teacher and students
It may be that the child didn’t do many things, but we should always remember to find something good. Even if the child wrote a simple sentence in the 20 minutes of writing, we should take a deep breath, read the sentence and say something positive about it.

So, take a deep breath, push away the urge to start nudging the child on why he only wrote one sentence and instead say something encouraging: “I am noticing you’re putting a lot of thought on the intro. The first sentence it’s like the beginning of a movie trailer. I wonder what is going to happen next.”

Other comments could be: “Imagine if you put some effort, how much better your story is going to get”.

“You have really improved on ……..”

#3 Feedback on progress should be specific, like a call to action.

After we provide our descriptive comment it is now time to comment on what we want the child to focus on.

Prescriptive comments act like a guide for improvement. Telling a student to improve their handwriting is not of much help. The child needs to know exactly what he needs to do and how to improve. Start with the phrase, “the next step would be to improve your handwriting. You should slow down and take more time”.

Ask questions.

Let’s keep up with the student that got stuck on the first sentence. You could guide him to look back at the guidelines – bullet points you offered for this subject. A quick way would be to check ready made posters you have for ideas.

“What about talking more about the place? Can you describe it using your five senses? What do you see? What do you hear? What do you sense? “

#6 Break the task into smaller steps so the children can be able to identify their mistake or what they need to focus next.
Avoid overloading. One step at a time.
This process takes time but it would help the student handle overloading of info.

A great activity is listed in the Growth Mindset Coach book by Annie Brock. This activity is aimed to show students that there is a process of learning something new. Have your students create a four-section foldable to draw pictures of something they’ve learned to do.

Under each flap, the students need to draw what they needed to learn before achieving this activity. For example, on the one side they can draw a piano (to show that they know how to play piano) and on the backside, they could draw the notes on they keyboards they had to learn. Older students can simply do a T- Chart with the one side showing what they’ ve learned and the other side what they needed to learn first.

step by step

You could use the foldable to break down a difficult learning process with many steps. In Maths it is easier. You could use Maths’ long division as an example in the foldable, where you will break down the steps. After that, you can encourage students to improve in other aspects. For example, map out the steps on how to tackle a ball, draw a cat, draw a human, make a sandwich, write a book.

For example, to write a book you have to make a mind map of ideas before starting out, organize your ideas into sections/chapters, start writing and writing and writing, choose a title, write a book description, create a cover, edit the book, publish the book.

So whenever a student faces a difficulty, she can go back and revise the steps she took.


#4 add the why in the comments for Growth mindset (start with why)

When you are making a comment for improvement, it would also help if you add the why. Why should the child follow your advice?

Why should the child aim for a growth mindset? How would it help her him? “Why comments” act as an intrinsic incentive to the students. You could comment on how improving their handwriting would allow other classmates to read his work easier, or that by keep practicing on this activity, his brain will grow.

Remind students: “Each time you try and fail, your brain is creating new neurons and synapses to understand the problem”.

growth mindset comments for kids

“Your brain is growing!”

Of course, adding the why is something that can be done verbally, as adding it in the written comments is time-consuming. Plus listening to the why it is more empowering.

#5 Maximize your feedback by involving the parent.

involve the parents

When writing feedback to your students, keep the parent in mind and offer tips to maximize their participation. Peter is using the strategies we learned in the classroom to solve word problems and that is a wonderful improvement. Next step should be to write full sentence answers.

“She is a hard worker. She supports her writing with reasons, examples, and details. Keep practicing at home using the guidelines I ‘ve sent this week”

#7 Transform your space into a risk-friendly environment for children.

Have comments framed like: “Every mistake you make is progress”.

“You are not there, yet”.

You are not there, yet.

“I am not a math person, yet!”

“Challenges make me stronger”.

“When you believe in your self, the brain works.”

growth mindset comments for kids

“When we make a mistake, synapses fire.”

When we make a mistake synapse fire.

“There is always Plan B… and C… and D!”

Learn more about the Growth mindset here.



The Growth Mindset Coach


Margarita Marti is an elementary school teacher with 9 years of experience working at schools. She has an Med in “Creative arts in education”. She wrote and self published a children’s book called “It’s ok to be different”. Don’t forget to check it out here!


What is growth mindset for kids

Growth mindset poster

What is growth mindset for kids

This post is offered as a quick explanation of what is growth mindset having children in mind.

Let’s start by comparing the thoughts between these two boys.

Boy  number 1 usually thinks that:

I can’t do it!

Math is too hard for me.

I wasn’t born for this…

This is too hard…

angry child because of a fixed mindset


Boy number 2 usually has these thoughts:

What is growth mindset for children

I can do it.

 I believe I can make it.

I just need to ask, or find someone who can help me.

Which child thinks like you?

Which child is your child or student? Which child reminds you more of your students?

The one child has a growth mindset
The other has a fixed mindset. What does it mean?

Stanford university

A researcher, Carol Dweck with her colleagues at the Stanford University, found out that, children that persisted through challenges, believed they could get better, while children who stepped back from challenges believed their intelligence was fixed.

Growth mindset is the above theory that was developed by Carol Dweck and it has ever since changed the education world for the better

. In a few words, people with a growth mindset believe they can get better and they relish challenges.

embrace challenges

People with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities are a gift and they cannot be improved.

scared dog


#1 Why Growth mindset for kids is so important?

students hidden behind books
Children with a fixed mindset are afraid of school as they face it as something that judges them. A test for a child is like a conviction, that states if they are good or bad, if they are smart or dumb.

girls writing

Children with a growth mindset see schools as a place to improve and experiment. They see school as a playground.

As the concept of Growth mindset spread, it was soon realised that the mindset of a child can change. Yes, if a child has a fixed mindset, following lessons explaining growth mindset, they start realising that they can get better at anything they focus on.


Yes, you can get better. Can it be done immediately? It depends on the child. Usually, there should be a consistent lesson for the whole year for children to embed the concept. The younger they are the deeper the impact.

#2 A good allegory to present growth mindset to kids is to say that the brain is like a muscle.

The brain is like a muscle

The more you practice it, the stronger it becomes. The brain like any muscle needs frequent practice and of course, it needs rest.

Like an athlete, you need to practice daily or frequently to achieve your goals.

Strategy is important. Choosing the right tactics could help you achieve your goals faster. For example, an athlete may spend days trying to get better at throwing a ball. However, if he asks a coach to show him how to throw a ball, he can learn the right way in only a couple of hours.

shooting a bal

What is more fascinating is that when you learn new stuff your brain changes! It creates new synapses between neurons. If you believe you are not good at maths, there is a whole network of neurons inside your brain that is functioning based on this belief. However, even the belief that you were born not being good at mathematics can change? It takes time and practice to achieve this and most importantly it needs a strategy.

brain working

For example, you may get stuck at a math problem even if you ‘ve read it many times and took notes. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask the teacher or another student for help.

#3 Showing a table or a poster of the difference between the fixed mindset and the growth mindset is a good reminder for kids

Any time they feel disappointed a glance at it will help them
What would a child with a fixed mindset say? What would a child with a growth mindset say?

Growth mindset poster

Fixed mindset

I am not good at this

When a child says this, it usually means that she does not believe she can improve, so she won’t try.

I am smart. I don’t need to study.

When a child says she is smart, this means she believes that it all depends on how much talent she has. No effort will change the result. This is a trap for the adults as well that think that telling their child that is smart, will make them feel better.

I wish I was born smart

Again this implies hopelessness on behalf of the child. Whatever, he does is a waste of time for him because he believes he is not smart.

Maths are not my strong point

This child believes that she is good in other subjects but not Math. Probably something she has confirmed from her family.

I am not talented enough

This child sees others children’s work and gets disappointed easily. Even if his work is not good enough, this is not a reason to give up. Small successes can gradually improve his mindset.

I am not good enough

This comment could also show a sign of growth Mindset as the child comments that she is not good enough. Praise them for the recognition and guide them to get better.

I made a mistake. This is so embarrassing. I will never try again.

Shy children have difficulty trying out new things. It is better to allow them their own space to experiment, as public “failures” can traumatize them.

I have a natural talent for Maths

All children have strong points. This child has the strong belief that he is a talent at maths and acts like this to confirm this. Ask him if he has weaknesses to see how he evaluates himself.

Growth mindset

Below are thoughts that a child with a growth mindset has when she faces a problem or a difficult situation.

How can I get better?
What do I need to do to solve this problem?
Do I need to ask someone?
Where should I look for an answer?
I am sure that if I put time aside to learn this I will be able to solve it.
I am not able to solve it yet.
I made a mistake. So what? Mistakes bring us closer to success

Carol Dweck published her book “Growth Mindset” in 2006. In the book, you can read about the research she did with her colleagues.

Improve children’s mindset with these suggestions!

Margarita Marti is an elementary school teacher with 9 years of experience working at schools. She has an Med in “Creative arts in education”. She wrote and self published a children’s book called “It’s ok to be different”. Don’t forget to check it out here!

Growth mindset for children- 8 ways to empower a child that gets easily disappointed.

growth mindset for children

Growth mindset for children

*For a quick read on what is Growth mindset read this post.

There are a lot of children who are not the best students. There are many reasons for this. They might be experiencing family drama, or have learning disabilities. The question here is: How do you instill a growth mindset in them?

No matter how hard you try, their learning curve is bigger and slower. This can lead to hopelessness on behalf of the child. And it is not only this…

When a child faces difficulties, in order to hide these difficulties, he/she may turn to violence and bullying other children. They do this, to turn away the attention from their learning difficulties.

lack of growth mindset in children may lead to bullying

In the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, the author Roy F. Baumeister, mentions that when people feel bad because they ‘ve failed, they only get into a vicious cycle of trying to feel better by doing the opposite of what they wanted to achieve (weight, quit smoking, improve academically etc).

Instead, what he states clearly is that at some point our willpower will fail and when this happens we will need alternative strategies.

So… what can we do to instill growth mindset?

Here are some things to consider as a teacher or parent.

1. Talk to them about growth mindset.

Class Dojo has some awesome videos dedicated to growth mindset for children. Growth Mindset theory is about changing your own brain by learning new stuff! Its motto is: never give up. Talk to them about neurons and how they change once you learn something new. Show them photos of neuros.

brain nerve cells

For educators: Whichever digital platform you use for communicating with parents, don’t forget to share the videos with them! They can continue what you’ve started in the classroom and have good conversations with their children at home. Parents can be a wonderfull ally!

A book that is specifically adressed to educators with easy to apply teaching ideas is “Mindsets in the classroom” by Mary Cay Ricci.

2. Learn something new.

Once they kids learn about Growth mindset, it will be much more exciting to learn something new. The theory about Growth mindset is interesting, but the application is what matters!

If you are a teacher and don’t have time, ask them to learn or create something new with their parents at home. I had a student that made a solar clock with his father and then he brought at school and we tested it.

If you are a parent you can look up Pinterest for creative projects to do with your child. You can get more specific by adding if it’s for Spring, Summer etc.

You can grow crystals, plant flowers, read a new book etc!

3. Read them about famous people

that persisted in the face of difficulty, like Thomas Edison (the inventor of the lightbulb), Michael Jordan and Jack Ma. Emphasize that these people succeeded not because they were smart, but because they were trying consistently and they kept going despite facing rejection. They formed strong habits of working consistently that did not rely on willpower.

thomas Edison

4. Emphasize their strong points.

They might not be good students academically, but they might be good in football, building sandcastles, playing domino or painting etc. This will improve their self esteem. Don’t forget to celebrate their small successes at schools

children playing football

5. It’s ok to make mistakes.

This is for you, parents and teachers! I meet so many parents that want their children to be perfect and are panicking when their children make a mistake. Well… this is  one of the worst mistakes, that you can make as a parent.

worried man (freepik image)

Freaking out because they did badly, will only make them feel worse and develop a low self-image. Please don’t do this to your children. If they don’t make any mistakes how will they learn? Remember when they started walking? They had to fall sometimes but eventually, they did get up and walked.

To reinforce what I am writing I will add a famous quote:

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. MiCHAEL JORDAN

After all, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

6. Avoid telling them that they are smart

This is very important, especially for strong academically students. Telling them this will only make them be afraid of making mistakes, so they won’t try anything new. They are afraid that if they fail at something, they won’t be smart anymore.  WHEN YOU ARE AFRAID TO TRY, YOU STAY STAGNANT. Reccommended book: Who moved my cheese

boy hiding

7. Have them encourage or help other people in difficult situations

Ask them what they would tell a child younger than them that wants to give up in mathematics. It could be an imaginary friend. This is a good exercise in the classroom. Have them wite encouraging letters to younger children. Make the children messenger of good. Offer them the chance to do something good.

child writes

8. Last but not least

There are many of successful people that did awful in school, but they did succeed in life. Their weaknesses didn’t take them down. They only made them stronger. Look at Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuck, Daymond John, and others. (Suggestions accepted)

Read more. Check out this post! Growth mindset comments for kids.

.rowth mindset for children

Margarita Marti is an elementary school teacher with 9 years of experience working at schools. She has an Med in “Creative arts in education”. She wrote and self published a children’s book called “It’s ok to be different”. Don’t forget to check it out here!


Reccomended resources:

Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Growth Mindset Learning Community
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength