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How Can Sentence Stems Help Children Develop A Growth Mindset?

by Terry Heick

I’m a passionate proponent of sentence stems.

The biggest benefit of using sentence stems is the way it models the language, tone, and cognitive patterns native to certain activities. If you ask a student to summarize the plot of a story, there are many tasks embedded in that request, from recalling, analyzing, and distilling the story, to articulating it in a way that satisfies both their understanding of the story as well as any specific requests from you.

By offering a sentence stem–in this case, something like, ‘The plot is mostly about ______.’ You can then follow up with, “The plot is mostly about _______ but the real lesson is ______,’ or ‘The most important scene is _______ because _______’, etc.

(That is also somewhat how strategies like ‘Somebody Wanted But So’ works–as a kind of template for students to ‘fill in,’ which itself functions similarly to multiple-choice questions compared to essay or open response, for example.)

In 26 Sentence Stems For Higher-Level Conversation In The Classroom, I offered ways to scaffold critical discussions. Below, I offer something similar but for growth mindset–and mindsets related to it.

See also 25 Ways To Promote A Growth Mindset In Students

Creative Thinking Sentence Stems

I can use________ in a new way so that________.

_____ is an opportunity to use ______.

One pattern I notice about problem-solving is________.

Complexity usually requires thinkers to _______.

Self-Knowledge Sentence Stems

When I see other people struggle and/or fail, I think________.

My________ has changed over time because________.

How I see myself is mostly determined by________.

I usually learn _______ by _______.

I most successful when I________.

I know this is my best because________.

This is worth doing or knowing to me personally because ________.

Working with others affects my learning by ______.

Group work can be great but when ______ I prefer _______.

Persistence Sentence Stems

‘Effort’ is its own kind of ‘smart’ because ________.

This confusing, but _______.

Since learning is a process rather than a single event, I know that________.

So far I’ve found ____ ways that don’t work.

The last time I faced a challenge like this, I _______.

When I’m confused, I usually________ but I also could consider _____.

I can’t let this stop me because _______.

I haven’t tried _______.

If I start over at the beginning, it might ______ but also could ______.

Here is a list of all of the people who haven’t failed (again and again): _______. [Obviously rhetorical. : )]

One lesson I can take from this for the future is ________.

I’ve tried _______ and _______, but I haven’t tried _______.

For this to work, I’m going to have to _______.

Reflection & Metacognition Sentence Stems

The difference between feedback and criticism is _______.

When I’m frustrated, my thinking _______.

If I changed my thinking about _______ then _______.

While I _______, I noticed that I _______.

When I approach situations like this, I tend to ______.

The personality trait of mine that tends to be most useful to me when I am challenged is ________.

Collaboration Sentence Stems

I can learn ________ by watching others which can help me because _______.

When I see other people struggle with something like this, they sometimes________.

Working with ______ has changed _______ by ________.

By working with ______, I night be able to _______.

Without collaborating with ______, I would not have been able to _______.

I need others when _______ because ________.

Positive Thinking Sentence Stems

While it’s true that _______, the upside is that _______.

In the past, I’ve struggled with _______ but _______.

This an opportunity for me to _______.

I might not be able to _______ but I can _______.

Challenging circumstances improve me by _______.

My strength comes from _______.

The last time something like this happened and I was hurt, worried, or confused, it turned out that ________.

I know things are going to turn out okay because _______.

Things didn’t turn out the way I hoped this time, but next time _______.

Feeling sorry for myself helps me by _______. (Ironic/sarcastic–obviously use in the right circumstance).

*previously published at


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