6 Simple Growth Mindset Activities to Boost K-2 Students’ Grit


Inside: Discover six powerful growth mindset activities and engaging picture books to help your K-2 students develop grit and resilience in (and out of) the classroom.

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I made my way around the classroom during Writing Workshop time, conferencing with each of my first graders about their drafts. As I reached Jayden’s desk, I couldn’t help but notice his bare pages—not an illustration in sight. Again, as I leaned in for our conference, he looked up sadly.

“I just can’t draw good pictures,” he mumbled, pushing his book away. My heart sank. We’d worked hard on adding details through illustrations, but Jayden needed more grit to persevere when frustrated. He gave up too quickly.

Taking a breath, I said, “Drawing’s a skill that takes practice, like writing. I will model some tips for you. Watch me, and then try it. I know your pictures will improve!” One step at a time, I demonstrated forming the simple shapes needed. Jayden’s brow furrowed as he copied me, some attempts messy. But he kept erasing and retrying alongside my guidance.

Fast-forward a few weeks to the end of the unit, and Jayden’s final book beamed with colorful drawings on every page. As he admired his work, his eyes shining with pride, he smiled, “You’re the best teacher ever.”

It wasn’t just about the drawing. It was about the fact that, as a teacher, I believed in Jayden and supported him in trying over and over when things got hard- especially as they got hard. It was grit. And it was a testament to our vital role in fostering resilience in our students.

6 Simple Growth Mindset Activities to Boost K-2 Students' Grit - 4 kids tugging a rope in a game of tug of war

How to Build Perseverance in Primary Students

In today’s fast-paced world, where instant gratification is often just a click away, teaching students the value of perseverance and resilience—collectively known as “grit”—has never been more important. The truth is, the road to success is never easy. It’s filled with roadblocks, detours, and challenges that can shake anyone.

But grit helps students face both academic and personal challenges with determination.

Integrating growth mindset practices can be a game-changer. It fosters grit early on and sets students up for long-term success. 

This post offers six targeted growth mindset activities that are practical and effective in weaving these concepts into everyday classroom interactions, giving you the power to shape resilient learners.

three kids flexing their arm muscles to show strength and grit

Daily Grit Affirmations for Growth Mindset Activities

Starting each day with positive affirmations can set a powerful tone for persistence and overcoming obstacles. Examples include, “I try new ways to solve tough problems” or “I learn from feedback and try again.”

These growth mindset activities are simple yet effective in reinforcing a positive mindset:

  • Morning Meeting: Display affirmations on the board when students arrive and discuss them briefly during the morning meeting. Explain what they mean and have students repeat them with you.
  • Affirmation Station: Copy affirmations onto index cards and tape them around a mirror in an accessible place in the classroom. Students can visit the mirror when they need a boost. Add new affirmations to the mirror as you introduce them, and save older ones on a ring for future reference.
a wall with yellow and blue post its - each post it has a positive affirmation on it

Weekly Challenge Accepted! Perseverance-Building Tasks

Introducing a weekly challenge encourages students to tackle complex tasks bit by bit throughout the week, fostering stamina and persistence. Here are some ideas to help you get started…

Academic Challenges:

  • Mighty Manuscript: Students write a short story over five days (brainstorming, writing, revising, etc.)
  • Math Marathon: Solve increasingly complex math problem sets, earning points for a class competition.
  • Vocabulary Voyage: Learn five new vocabulary words daily through flashcards, sentences, and stories.

Puzzle Challenges:

  • Piece by Piece: Work together on a giant jigsaw puzzle throughout the week.
  • Logic Labyrinth: Tackle a series of logic puzzles with growing complexity.
a teacher working on a puzzle with a group of students

Creative Challenges:

  • Mini Masterpiece: Create an artwork from scratch, focusing on a new aspect, such as sketching or colors, each day.
  • Build It Up! Follow a plan to construct a designated structure using gathered materials.
  • Storytelling Spotlight: Collaboratively build a story by taking turns contributing new sentences or scenes.

As they tackle the challenge bit-by-bit, celebrate their small wins and discuss strategies for overcoming obstacles. They’ll learn grit is a marathon, not a sprint!

Recognizing Effort with Grit Awards

Establishing a weekly ‘Grit Award’ for a student who demonstrates exceptional effort and perseverance is more than just a confidence booster. It’s a powerful tool to reinforce the value of tenacity in your classroom. By highlighting the importance of continuing to try despite difficulties, this award can significantly impact students’ mindsets and approaches to challenges.

a man giving a students a "grit" award ribbon

Try This:

  • Equal Opportunity: Look for opportunities to recognize each student. Grit might look different for everyone, but with careful observation, you can find an example of grit in each student.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Emphasize that small steps and improvements are worth celebrating, not just big accomplishments.

Exploring Historical Figures of Unwavering Grit

Dedicate part of your social studies or writing curriculum to exploring the lives of historical or contemporary figures who demonstrated exceptional grit. From research projects to presentations, students can choose their role models and dig into the challenges they powered through.

Try This:

  • Research Projects: Have students choose a figure, research their challenges, and present how they overcame them.
  • Diverse Examples: Select figures from various backgrounds to discuss diversity and inclusion. This can tie into broader curriculum goals and enhance students’ understanding of perseverance across different contexts.
a close up of a report on Rosa Parks

Historical Figures:

  • Harriet Tubman
  • Helen Keller
  • Marie Curie
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Leonardo da Vinci

Modern-Day Figures:

  • Malala Yousafzai
  • Nick Vujicic
  • Greta Thunberg
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Elon Musk

Not only is this a fantastic writing and social studies tie-in, but it also opens the door to important discussions around diversity, inclusion, and the realization that grit comes in all shapes and sizes.

Reflective Discussions on Growth Mindset Moments

Set aside time each week for students to discuss personal challenges they overcame, focusing on the effort and strategies they employed. These open convos build a supportive classroom community and provide fresh perspectives on perseverance.

a teacher sitting on the rug in a library with a group of students

Try This:

  • Weekly Reflection Time: During a designated period each week, encourage students to share their experiences.
  • Guiding Questions: Use questions like “What challenge did you face this week?” and “How did you overcome it?” to guide the discussion.

Establish a “Grit Gallery” bulletin board where students can display work they are proud of, emphasizing effort and improvement over perfection. It’s a powerful visual reminder to keep that momentum going, even when the going gets tough.

Try This:

  • Showcase Improvement: Display student work that shows progress, not just the final product.
  • Encourage Participation: Regularly update the board with new examples and encourage all students to contribute.
a grit gallery bulletin board for displaying student work

Grit-Boosting Growth Mindset Picture Books

One powerful way to reinforce the concept of grit? Read all about it! Incorporating growth mindset picture books into your daily read-aloud routine is an excellent way to reinforce these concepts. Additionally, introducing grit-themed books into your classroom library provides a relatable way for young students to witness perseverance in action. As you read these inspiring tales together, you can:

  • Discuss how the main character showed determination despite setbacks.
  • Analyze the problem-solving strategies they used.
  • Talk about why it’s important never to give up.
  • Relate the character’s journey to students’ own experiences.

You’re hitting key comprehension skills while driving home those essential grit mindsets.

a teacher reading a book to a group of students

Here are some great titles to get you started:

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss: This classic tale illustrates grit through a young boy’s unwavering belief and persistence in growing a carrot despite others’ doubts. His determination and patience highlight the power of steadfast effort.

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall: Jabari demonstrates grit as he faces multiple setbacks while trying to build a flying machine. His perseverance and problem-solving skills teach children the importance of trying again and learning from mistakes.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires: The protagonist shows grit by tackling frustration and failure while attempting to create something magnificent. Her journey emphasizes the value of resilience and continuous effort in facing challenges.

a teacher reading a book to a group of students sitting at desks

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima: Kelp’s exploration of his identity and his journey of self-acceptance reveal his grit as he navigates the uncertainties of belonging to two different worlds. His courage to embrace who he truly is exemplifies inner strength.

Swimmy by Leo Lionni: Swimmy’s story showcases grit as he overcomes the loss of his family and helps his new friends learn to swim together to face a bigger fish. His resilience and leadership inspire teamwork and creative problem-solving.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch: Princess Elizabeth demonstrates grit through her resourcefulness and determination to rescue Prince Ronald from a dragon. Her cleverness and resolve challenge traditional notions of heroism and highlight inner strength.

a teacher reading a book to a group of students on the floor

Feel free to let students recommend titles, too! Empowering them as gritty role models for their peers reinforces those positive mindsets.

By incorporating read-aloud books that feature perseverant characters, you’re surrounding your students with shining examples of why grit matters. Have them retell the stories in their own words, create illustrations of the pivotal moments, or even write sequels showcasing further perseverance.

Grit Building Starts Here

Fostering a classroom culture that values and develops grit can significantly impact students’ academic and personal growth. By implementing these growth mindset activities and incorporating growth mindset picture books into your classroom, you can help your students develop the grit and resilience they need to succeed.

Encourage them to embrace struggles as opportunities to grow. Cheer them on as they learn from failures. Most importantly, nurture that perseverance muscle!

a group of students smiling with their arms in the air

Select one or more of these activities to implement regularly and observe the positive shifts in student mindset and resilience. 

What strategies have you found effective in fostering grit in your students? Share your experiences and additional ideas in the comments below!

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Melissa Glenn

I’m a teacher, a certified Reading Specialist, and the author behind "Real Life in the Classroom". I love to create classroom resources and share ideas to help real teachers in real classrooms easily plan and implement instruction that they can feel great about.

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Hi, I'm Melissa!

I’m Melissa Glenn of Real Life in the Classroom. I live in New Jersey with my husband, Tom, our two children, and our dog, Klaus. I taught first grade for 12 years and I also have a certificate in Reading Specialization. I love spending time with my family, all things tech, [online] shopping, and new books!