The concept of the Learning Pit is something that many elementary children find difficult to comprehend without simple visuals. The concept of the learning pit was developed by Carol Dweck, a world renowned researcher on motivation, and it supports growth mindset learning. (To learn a bit more about her research click here).
This visual need inspired us to use an interactive learning pit which students feel safe using in our class. It is small. We use it on a magnetic cookie sheet because it is can be easily reused by many students. It also allows students to manipulative the characters, who have quotes and emotions describing their feelings and thought process, so that we can have discussions about the learning process. We have even used real photos of the students so that they can place themselves onto the pit to help them understand where they are in the learning journey. They really get a kick out of it!
Introduction of the “pit”
In order to introduce the pit, we acted out a puppet play with Cookie Monster and his friend Betty. Cookie Monster had 12 cookies and Betty had none. But she was extremely hungry. Cookie Monster had to “go through the pit” in order to learn how to share. The children picked the emotions that Cookie Monster had (frustrated, sad and happy) and also identified that Betty helped learn. He was not alone. This is the learning journey that the class agreed upon that Cookie Monster took in this situation: This pretend scenario allowed the children to understand the learning pit in an age appropriate way. It helped them make connections to play situations when their own learning occurs. Because it is not personal, it allows them to process the journey in a fun and interactive way.
We then put the puppets and cookies out as a learning activity.
It was busy all day as the children acted out new ways which Cookie Monster could learn to share his cookies with Betty. We have used two great Sesame Street video’s to help them learn about Growth Mindset.
They are really great for engaging young children!
Every learning journey is different. We each experience different emotions throughout the pit process. Adults and children do not experience all of the emotions shown in the picture shown but I included them all just to show you the variety of emotions we talk about. With our Kindergarten aged students usually we find the students have two to four different emotions that they can easily identify. The children love showing off their learning journey so others can see.
Many children need to be explicitly taught how they can help others in their learning. For some, this comes naturally. We focus on four simple strategies In order to help them understand this, we use the visuals below to help students learn that we learn from each other. Once we have come out of the learning pit, we can help pull others through and out of the pit.
“We can work together.” “Thank you for helping me.” “I can help you.” “Let me help you.”
Other visuals with quotes we use to support learning:
“Good Learners go into the pit.” & “I cannot do this… yet!”
I love how these simple and clear visuals help the non-readers and English Language Learners in our class. It helps them see that the strategies we use to learn do allow for us to learn from others! the simple wording helps them realize that they can help others in their own way. Even when “we” are not experts yet.If you are interested in using the resource I use with my class, check this out:
In order to make this product small, I printed four of the .pdf pages (from the Extra Small file included) onto one page so that it would be easily used on our small cookie sheet. I then glued it onto shirt board for stability, added mac tac so that it would last and put a magnet on the back. What other resources do you use to help teach your students about the Learning Pit? I’d love to gather more ideas from you!The following is a similar activity but for junior students. Click on the image to check it out!