Preparing for a New School Year: Elementary School

Shelby Bartilotti
Exceptional Education Teacher
Bellwood Elementary School

Every family wants to ensure that their children are set up for success on the first day of school, and they often want to know what they need to do to prepare their child for September. While academics are important, I think that working on your child’s mindset is more important than reviewing math facts or reading a new book… and don’t get me wrong, definitely encourage your child to pick up a book! However, many parents already know to this.

My job here is to give you something new that will set your child up for academic success. A long-lasting thing you can do to prepare your child for the new school year is to help them develop a growth mindset.

Changing my students’ mindsets from fixed mindsets to growth mindsets is a simple thing that I do with my students during the school year, and it has really changed the game for them academically.

If a student has a fixed mindset, the child believes that their intelligence or talents are stagnant. No amount of work they can put in will change their ability level. For example, I’ve heard students in my class say, “I’m just bad at math – I’m just going to get this question wrong.”

Children who have a growth mindset believe that talent and intelligence are malleable and can be developed with hard work. A child with a growth mindset may say, “I know that I got this problem wrong, but I am really proud of how hard I worked on it. Ms. Bartilotti, can you work with me and help me understand how to get it correct?”

Students who develop a growth mindset are more likely to take on harder problems and persevere when academics get hard.

Because I don’t want to bore any of you with a litany of praises for growth mindset, I’ll just leave this amazing video here to explain how praise and growth mindset affect students – PLEASE check it out.

Developing a growth mindset in your child can be simple.
  1. When your child is participating in a summer program or sport, it’s crucial to praise your child’s effort as opposed to the results or outcomes.
  2. Look for ways to stretch your child. Find ways to challenge them academically over the summer, and make sure that the focus of your praise is on how much hard work they’re putting in – even if and when they fail. Give them authentic opportunities for problem solving, and allow your child to be creative with how they solve problems.
  3. Give feedback. Find the “glows and grows” – express to your child the things that they do very well and also give them things to work on to help them improve. And not only that, give them strategies that they can implement to help them improve.

I’ve had students who never had any academic success because they didn’t understand the material. Because they didn’t understand the material, they didn’t participate and try in class because they were embarrassed and didn’t want to feel stupid. Because they didn’t participate and try in class, they fell farther and farther behind.

In my class, and with all students I interact with, I praise the journey.

My classroom is a safe space to try and fail because mistakes are a part of the learning process, and hard work is rewarded. By fostering this mindset in your child, and making them believe that hard work is the most important piece of the academic process, you are enabling them to be successful as work gets harder.

Whether your child is in elementary, middle, high school or college, growth mindset gives kids the ability to believe that anything is possible with hard work and determination, and fostering this mindset over the summer is the best way to set your child up for success this upcoming school year.

More Information:

Read the rest of our series of guest features on preparing your child for a new school year:

  • Young Children (Shelia Pleasants, Director of Community Giving at United Way)
  • High School (Don Wilms, Award-winning Virginia educator)
Shelby Bartilotti teaches fourth- and fifth-grade exceptional education at Bellwood Elementary School in North Chesterfield. Follow her.

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