Robert Frost once said “There are three things, after all, that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or the mind. It is most important of all to reach the heart of the reader.” Anyone who has read a poem and felt the words deep within themselves knows this assertion to be true. Poetry is uniquely capable of touching the hearts of readers. That's why it lends itself perfectly to the underlying messages of growth mindset.
Poetry can be engaging when relatable, and it also makes for an easy way to reinforce skills that students have already learned while reading longer works such as interpreting figurative language, citing evidence within the text, finding the central idea, and close reading. But it also has the potential to begin a conversation with students about their own lives and experiences. Poetry can spark an investigation into growth mindset, too. Everyone can relate in some way!
The following poems are ones able to reach even the most reticent of poetry readers while shedding light on the themes of growth mindset. Each person, young and old, has had experience with trying to persevere through tough times when things seem to be working against them. These poems present an easy way to show students who may be struggling that they are not alone, while also building on reading and critical thinking skills.
POEM #1: "The Man Who Thinks He Can" by Walter D. Wintle
Surely such a short poem couldn’t be so powerful? Think again! This poem focuses on the idea that positive thinking is one of the most important factors in succeeding when faced with something difficult. This poem is packed with fun rhyming, but also offers some more difficult phrases to inspire thinking amongst students in order to feel the full meaning of the poem.
POEM #2: "It Couldn't Be Done" by Edgar Albert Guest
Much like The Little Engine That Could, this poem aligns perfectly to growth mindset. That's because it takes a look at positive thinking when completing tasks. This is such a fun poem because the rhyming makes it seem as though it is a fun nursery rhyme. Reading this aloud is sure to get students engaged and interested in this poem and its underlying meanings.
POEM #3 - "If-" by Rudyard Kipling
Critical thinking is shall I say…critical! In this poem, the author takes the reader through a journey of understanding the qualities in themselves that may set them apart...such a great growth mindset lesson! The best part about this poem is its use of metaphor to get some points across. This poem is sure to keep students thinking and coming to their own conclusions.
Poem #4 - "Hard Luck" by Edgar Albert Guest
The grass is always greener on the other side—right? In this poem, the writer confronts the concept that we sometimes think that someone else has it much easier than we do when maybe they don’t. Although this longer poem may take more critical thinking on the part of students, its casual wording, such as using the word “ain’t,” can make for a very fun read-aloud!
Poem #5 - "Listen to the Mustn'ts" by Shel Silverstein
We complete this list with a well-known and loved author—Shel Silverstein! Although a short poem, it still adheres to the idea of perseverance and positive thinking (hello, growth mindset)! This can be a fun treat to include in lessons to give students a mental break with a favorite!
Poetry can be so powerful, and when it's combined with important concepts like growth mindset, its impact is immeasurable! I hope you've found a few poems to share with your students!
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