Is your brain grass or a glass?


Larry Ferlazzo did a post on an interesting lesson he did with his students to get them to think about their own brains. He wrote about it here, noting that many of his lowest students felt they were just “stupid”. I had done a similar lesson with one fourth grade class today, and shared this comment:

I wonder if this sense of inevitability and intelligence sinks in as kids get older. I did a bit today with fourth graders on whether their brains were grass (could grow) or a glass (that you could only fill so far). All of them agreed with grass, and I did some scenarios with them about kids reacting to test scores as an example.

So, because Larry thinks I have NOTHING better to do on a Monday night that includes a parent conference for my son (which was not all that I could have hoped, and we’ll leave it at that), preparing for a training I’m doing tomorrow on our new district SIS which I have not entirely mastered, and oh, I’m exhausted after a day of running from class to class because I couldn’t go in my lab because a kid in the first class of the day had diarrhea all over his chair….he asked that I blog about my lesson!

Anyway, although the class that I did this lesson with (and the other fourth grade class) were pretty pissy about not getting to the lab, it was interesting, so I’m going to STOP being so cross, and share one of the more pleasant moments out of my day…

We watched part two of President Obama’s speech, and the class wrote in their journals about risks and education (their language arts unit is on risk). I then started to show this slide show to continue the discussion:

Slide1I asked them what grass did and a student answered, grow. I then pointed to the glass, and asked if you could add more water to a glass when it’s full, and the class said no. I asked if they thought their brains, and their intelligence (how smart they are) was like the grass, and could grow, or was like the glass, and could get full and not be able to hold any more.

I then went through the following scenarios, and discussed what each student thought about intelligence. The kids largely picked out the errors of thought shown, and generally came to the conclusion that studying was a good idea, and would make you do better on a test or in school. I also reminded them that when they are frustrated or having difficulty, this doesn’t mean their not smart (echoing the President), but they may need to work more.



In general, they seemed amenable to these ideas. This suggests either children’s views change over time, especially as they experience failure in school, or they were sucking up to me. Given how truculent they were in the first part of the period, I’m not betting on option two, but they may be parroting alot of the positive talk they’ve heard on campus about working hard. What do we do over time, and in the middle years, to bash this sense of possibility out of students?

Below are slides that I was not able to get to:



by posted under practice/pedagogy | 1 Comment »    
One Comment to

“Is your brain grass or a glass?”

  1. April 10th, 2014 at 1:38 am      Reply steve mccrea Says:

    I’m delighted to see these images. Grass or a Glass will become part of the choices that i give to my students. You can be sure that 140 students in a charter school in Florida City, Florida will see that poster when they come for lunch.

    We have a wall where we put new posters each day.

    Thank you. Steve


  1. Grow your brain | mathsrc's Blog

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