How I Start the School Year


For the last 2 years in a row, I have begun my school year teaching “Growth Mindset” as an integral part of my introductory writing unit. It was a good way to go since usually the summer reading essays are pretty bad (no matter what they learned freshmen year) and many students tend to feel discouraged when they first get those papers back, covered in red pen.

This year, I’m actually going to just devote my first two weeks to 1) classroom culture and procedures and 2) growth mindset.

We’ll tackle essay writing in Unit 2.

One thing I’m really excited about is the Retake Policy I and another former ACE teacher at my school introduced last year.

I feel like my grading policies now really do reflect what I “preach” about growth mindset.

Basic grading policy:

  1. ONLY assessments are included in the gradebook. That means no homework or completion or “participation” grades. Only quizzes, tests, essays, presentations. In other words, their grades now reflect only standards-aligned learning objectives – what they actually mastered.
  2. Students may choose to retake an assessment (within a given timeframe) to show stronger mastery of the learning objective. The highest grade (almost always the second one) will go into the gradebook.  *I’m still deciding whether or not to provide that opportunity only if they did not show basic proficiency the first time – i.e. earn a 75% or lower.
  3. Students must meet with me twice to discuss the mistakes on the first assessment, learn how they can improve, and create a study plan.
  4. Before they actually retake the assessment, they must submit a typed letter that shows their reflection on their mistakes, goals for improvement, and learning process.

I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful this policy was to so many of my kids last year. Poor initial assessment grades, instead of a death sentence to their GPA, became opportunities for growth and deeper learning.

Of course, I cannot force them to engage in the retake process. They must make that choice for themselves. But the ones who did experienced a wonderful transformation in their approach towards school and their own abilities.

Carol Dweck on mindset:

2 thoughts on “How I Start the School Year

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s