Habits of Mind and How to Apply them in the classroom

15 min read
Habits of Mind and How to Apply them in the classroom

Habits of Mind and How to Apply them in the classroom

You must have heard that building (or breaking) a habit takes about 21 days. While it is true in many cases, some habits are much easier to form and break. For example, you will only need a few days to train your mind and body into grabbing coffee on your way to the office or school. Habits of mind are a powerful and complex concept, yet they are not as hard to build. They help you explore your mindset and turn you into a better, more effective learner.

The 16 Habits of Mind in Classroom

There are 16 habits of mind in total, which contribute to creating a healthier learning environment. The habits are cross-curricular to apply them in all grades and levels. Whether you’re teaching apostrophe rules or an important medical research paper, you can use the habits of mind.

1. Persisting

Persisting is the first among habits of mind that teach students to stick to it. It encourages and emphasizes that students should remain focused during the entire process of learning or completing a task.

Instructors need to imply persisting when practicing the 16 habits of mind. While it is bound to benefit all students, it will especially play a significant role in the growth and success of students who tend to lose interest mid-way.

Teachers can make use of examples from individuals in popular situations and events. You can also ask your students to come forth with possibilities of what would be different if there was a lack of persistence in the given situation or case.

2. Managing Impulsivity

Habits of mind also focus on managing impulsivity by encouraging students to take their time and consider their options. Not only does it teach better research, but this habit also focuses on encouraging students to think before acting and speaking.

What else? This one, out of all the habits of mind, also promotes more calm and relaxed behavior in times of stress. Additionally, students also learn to be more thoughtful and deliberative, which is a much-needed quality in the classroom.

Teachers can deliver this idea by modeling patience in the classroom. They can do so through their speech and include wait times during important discussions.

Managing Impulsivity

3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy

It is hard to miss positive mental energy when talking about habits of mind. The third habit focuses on listening to others with an empathic and willingness to understand. It is all about encouraging students to devote part of their mental energy to others. This habit allows them to pay attention to another person’s ideas and thoughts rather than dismissing them.

While promoting habits of mind in your classroom, make sure you encourage your students to consider the opposite perspective. This way, they are more likely to perceive the views and opinions of others in a more welcoming and respectful manner.

Teachers can promote this by identifying listening set-asides to help students recognize conversational errors.

4. Thinking Flexibly

Moving on with the habits of mind and applying them in the classroom, thinking flexibly is an important one. Students must have an open mindset that does not restrict the possibilities.

Although there may come many challenging situations, none is without any solutions. When going about a task seems difficult, look for another. Allow your students to look at things in another way to clear their heads of anxieties and stresses.

When students practice habits of mind in the classroom, it increases their ability to look at situations from different perspectives. As a result, they can better generate alternatives and grow as students.

You can encourage this habit by using
(Role, Audience, Format, and Topic) assignments.

5. Metacognition (Thinking about Your Thinking)

Metacognitions or thinking about your thinking comes fifth in the list of habits of mind. The purpose of this habit is to let students identify their knowledge. A student needs to understand their mind to grow academically.

Students must be aware of their thoughts and ideas and perceive certain things. It not only helps them in their academics but also allows students to look at how their thoughts and actions have affected others.

Thoughts inevitably lead to choices. When students learn metacognition, they can make choices for the good of everyone. Teachers can promote this by asking their students to map out their thinking processes.

While applying habits of mind like these, you can start simple with relationships between wants and needs, etc., before making it complex.

Metacognition (Thinking about Your Thinking)

6. Striving for Precision and Accuracy

Perfectionism, to a certain degree, can be beneficial, especially in the atmospheres of a classroom. As a teacher, you must always encourage your students to strive for precision and accuracy in their tasks.

Habits of mind like these can easily and quickly help them grow as individuals and a group. When students aren’t trying to do their best, they leave behind and ignore important details.

This habit emphasizes and encourages students to always check for any missed errors after completing a task. As they measure everything twice, they are more likely to find ways to improve.

You can nurture the desire for fidelity and accuracy in many ways. But, a good way to start is to use the ‘three before me’ method. This strategy insists on getting a working paper checked by three people before finally submitting it.

7. Questioning and Problem Posing

As a teacher, you must know how important learning is through questioning and problem posing. One of the habits of mind also focuses on asking lots of questions and challenging the origin and finding of material.

Encourage your student to build a questioning attitude as they work on habits of mind among your students. Create such an environment that students become habitual of asking themselves questions like ‘how do I know this?’

This way, students will remember what type of data they need and how they can use their questioning strategies to obtain the information. Doing so also allows students to resolve any issues that may come along.

One way of encouraging this is to create an area in the classroom where students can leave their questions. Then, answer them in different ways later.

8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

This is easier to build than most of the other habits of mind as it comes much quicker. However, some students might still find it hard and take longer than others. This habit emphasizes using information that you already know.

Make sure you encourage your students to use what they have previously learned in newer situations. Often, topics are interrelated, and one may require knowledge from the other. When a student regularly practices this habit, the mind learns to use and reinforce the information that it already has.

Let them apply the information beyond the situation and purpose it was learned for. You can encourage this by asking questions like ‘what do you know about…?’

Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

9. Thinking and Communicating with Precision and Clarity

Whether you communicate by writing or talking, striving to be clear and precise in communication is an important ethic in the classroom. On top of that, it also happens to be one of the 16 habits of mind. Encourage your students to be clear whenever they speak in a discussion or write a research paper.

It is always better to know the importance of avoiding distortions, generalizations, exaggerations, deletions, and minimizations. Considering all these factors allows them to convey their thoughts and ideas with clarity and less vagueness.

It is hard to come forth with teaching strategies while applying habits of mind like this one. However, you can still take a few minutes out now and then to avoid abstraction and use precision instead.

Thinking and Communicating with Precision and Clarity

10. Using All Senses to Gather Data

Encouraging and letting your students use their natural pathways is all that applying habits of mind in the classroom is all about. The tenth habit emphasizes using all the senses one possesses to gather data.

Of course, resources such as scientific research, studies, and journals are important for gathering data. Even children in elementary grades make use of worksheets and other study material. However, external resources may be useless if you’re unable to take advantage of your senses.

During classes, encourage your students to take their time to slow down and observe. Students must feel what they can touch, listen to what they can hear, and smell if it’s possible. You can playfully allow students to cite their sensory sources for the data they bring while teaching habits of mind.

11. Creating, Imagining, and Innovating

Making use of one’s creativity is never a bad idea. Teachers must encourage creativity among their students to showcase their talents and imagination. A place where one can imagine and be creative and innovative always calls for a healthy environment.

Your class, as a whole, is more likely to experience academic success and growth at a faster rate when you encourage your students to try new things. Try and propose new ideas and create an environment that is open for suggestions of any kind from everyone.

Make sure you let your students know that they can ditch the ‘norm’ in your class if they have better suggestions. This may be the most interesting out of all habits of mind.

12. Responding with Awe and Wonderment

While you and your students are figuring out a new topic together, don’t hesitate to have fun. It is important to have that element of fun and wonder when you’re learning new information. This is especially crucial for complex topics.

Although habits of mind make you more thoughtful and responsible, they also encourage being in awe of the world. As you apply these habits in your classroom, make sure you’re not missing out on awe and wonderment.

Have regard for what intrigues you or touches your heart in any way. Don’t just allow it, but insist on discussing what your students find interesting or mysterious about the world.

Responding with Awe and Wonderment

13. Taking Responsible Risks

It is essential to take risks sometimes. But, make sure you are being responsible while you’re at it. Habits of mind in the classroom also focus on venturing out and exploring. Encourage your students to take adventures and try new things constantly.

This will help refresh and open their minds for better understanding and improved brain function. Taking a few risks also brings numerous new ideas to the table. While they can all go on their ventures to experience growth, you can also do so in a group.

Create opportunities and strive to find activities that are safe yet new. As students live at the edge of their competence, they can face their fears and tackle challenges better.

14. Finding Humor

Willingness to find humor and laugh a little is another fun habit of mind. There will be plenty of opportunities during discussions and presentations where you can be whimsical and have fun.

Students lose interest and get bored when classes lack fun and humor. However, funny situations can motivate and inspire in stressful and challenging times. So, don’t hesitate to make a situation more whimsical and have a good laugh about it.

Even if humor is not immediately apparent, point it out to establish a fun environment. This is especially preferable when talking about stories and examples from your personal life.

15. Thinking Interdependently

Teamwork is always beneficial, especially while dealing with complex projects and assignments. However, thinking interdependently beyond team projects can also have numerous benefits. Encourage your students to work together at all times to create a healthier classroom environment.

While applying habits of mind in a classroom, let your students know through your actions and words that you value their willingness to work as a team.

It is incredibly important to teach students to welcome and accept others’ perspectives and thoughts. It is always encouraging for others when a few students abide by decisions even if they somewhat disagree.

Thinking Interdependently

16. Being Open to Continuous Learning

There are 16 habits of mind, with continuous learning being the last one. Being open to continuous learning refers to new experiences that one can learn from. When students develop this habit, they are more likely to increase their knowledge.

Encourage your students to engage in activities that can help them pursue information and knowledge that they may not already know. This way, they will also be humble to admit and look for answers when they don’t know enough about a certain topic.

Encourage a welcoming behavior to new subjects by updating and sharing and making your content more fluid.

Bottom Line

Application of the habits of mind in the classroom can encourage students to achieve academic success and grow without obstacles. While the 16 habits teach responsibility and effective ways of learning, they also encourage adequate amounts of fun and humor.