Growth mindset is one of the most important values we can instill in our students. Growth mindset teaches that no matter what, we are capable of succeeding with the right amount of perseverance, dedication, and hard work. What teacher wouldn’t want to base lessons on this concept? Inspirational mentor texts are one of the best methods to teach growth mindset, in my experience.
For a full set of writing prompts based on these mentor texts, check out my ready-made growth mindset writing prompts.
My favorite mentor texts to use for teaching this unit include inspiring stories, both fiction and non-fiction. Let’s dive in to the titles!
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Capture the attention of all the aspiring athletes and young sports fans in your class with this inspiring story written by Michael Jordan’s own mother and aunt. They tell the story of how the future basketball star nearly gave up on his dream because he believed he would never be tall enough. Patience, determination, and hard work clearly won out in the young man’s mind, however, and the rest is history!
Just a girl and her dog – and a lot of frustration! The unnamed girl who stars in this book aspires to make the most magnificent thing ever! She’s sure she can do it, but as she dives into the project, nothing goes quite right. Just as she is ready to give up, her dog BFF convinces her to take a walk and try again with renewed determination. The illustrations and descriptive language in this book is perfect for inspiring young minds to creatively tackle new problems and to persevere through frustration.
This book, written by former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, celebrates the stories of 13 American women who displayed bravery, persistence, and conviction in order to shape our country for the better. Many of these women faced incredible obstacles, yet they persevered and achieved their dreams anyway. The stories of women like Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Ruby Bridges, Sonia Sotomayor, Sally Ride, and more, will inspire your students to strive for greatness.
Rosie is a girl who loves to invent things, but she’s so worried they won’t work or people won’t like them, she hides her amazing creations away! One day, her great-great aunt, Rosie the Riveter, comes to visit and inspires her to embrace her first failure. The overall message is that growth comes when we take risks and strive to learn new things. The only time we truly fail is when we quit! I love asking students dream about what they may invent one day and the path it may take for them to get there.
I like to have students compare and contrast the next two books. Each story is about a young boy who had to overcome some big challenges in order to achieve his dreams.
In Emmanuel’s Dream, we meet Emmanuel, a boy from Ghana who was born with a deformed leg. Despite his physical disability, he went on to attend school, even though he had to hop there, two miles each way. He learned to play soccer and ride a bike, and eventually rode across his home country to spread his powerful message that Disability is not Inability.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is also based on a true story. This time, we experience life in Malawi during a harsh drought. Fourteen-year-old William Kamkwanmba sees crops failing and his village suffering. Without money for food or any way to get to school, he spends his time in the library, learning how to build a functioning windmill for his village. He succeeds in harnessing the wind, becoming a hero for his village.
All of these mentor texts show how, even when faced with seemingly impossible circumstances, every person has the power to change reality for the better.
Have you used any of these books in your classroom? I’d love to know how students respond to them, and if you’ve found any other great titles to teach growth mindset. Let me know in the comments!