PK Activity 4 – We Think We Can, We Know We Can!


The growth mindset work of Dr. Carol Dweck tells us that our brains are flexible and that we can change how we think about our abilities. We can choose to believe that we can always learn and grow through mistakes (growth mindset) or we can believe that we can’t ever learn to do it right (fixed mindset). That’s big information for preschool children but helpful for you to know as a teacher. Dweck’s work has shown that children develop resilience, perseverance, and self-esteem when they receive praise for their process instead of their results. In this activity, you can celebrate your preschool children’s process as they develop a growth mindset by working through challenges while building their own creation.


Children listen to a story, discuss how the story’s characters keep trying, and then create a challenging art piece by supporting one another.

Principle Overview

Look around and you will notice friends and family who are really good at some things and not so good at others. While adults might grasp this as something normal, students often don’t and can perceive their own strengths and weaknesses in distorted ways. When we demonstrate our own strengths and weaknesses, we help students come to terms with their own, and help dispel the illusion that any of us are better, worse, more, or less worthy than others.


  • Ooops And Yays song
  • Collage materials such as buttons, fabric, ribbons, small boxes, cardboard tubes, etc.
  • Glue sticks or glue
  • Markers
  • “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper and/or “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires (if available)

Goals and Objectives:

  • Explain the value of process over results.
  • Understand that how they think can affect what they can do.
  • Share a problem-solving experience with a partner.
  • Explain feelings about themselves in a learning experience.
  • Have the “The Little Engine That Could” and “The Most Magnificent Thing” books on hand.
  • Play the Ooops And Yays song while children work on their collage creation.
  • Create a class book illustrating activities children worked hard to accomplish. You might title it, “I Thought I Could!”
Knowing about strengths and weaknesses in ourselves and others helps us grow, learn, and work together. The Me Too! Oh, Wait! Not Me! skill builder helps children gain an understanding of their individual strengths and weaknesses and the diversity of those in their class. They also think about how to encourage their peers to use their strengths and keep trying when they struggle with a weakness. This discussion provides another opportunity for children to discover their individual “ooops” and “yays!”

  • Use Me Too! Oh, Wait! Not Me! game signs as you discuss facing a tough challenge and the feeling of giving up. It’s not easy to talk about feeling like giving up. This gives children a safe way to participate in what can be a difficult discussion for them.
  • This activity extends children’s thinking about their strengths and weaknesses to help them to think about how to encourage others and help them stick with a challenge.
  • Notice when children are using their strengths to help another.
Skill Builder
Use these visual resources to enhance the student experience in this unit.

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Activity Steps

  • Connector.

    Begin by reminding children of the story of “The Little Engine That Could.” Most children know the story of the tiny little train that tries to help get the toys get to the children but must first travel up great hills to get there. He almost gives up because it is so hard but keeps on trying and eventually makes it, telling himself “I think I can! I think I can!”

  • Connector.

    Ask children if they ever feel like giving up when something is hard. Ask:

    What were you doing when that happened?
    How did you feel?
    Did you keep on trying?
    What happened?

  • Connector.

    Explain that when we tell ourselves that “we can’t do it,” we tell our minds a story that isn’t true. But if we believe that we can learn even when something is difficult or even when we make a mistake, we show what it means to have a growth mindset.

  • Connector.

    One way we can explore this is by working to create an original design with art materials. Invite children to use your collected collage materials to create something “magnificent” of their own design. If the design has challenges, invite them to adapt, innovate, and explore new and different ways to solve design challenges. (If you have the book, “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires, you can use it to inspire the creations.)

  • Connector.

    You might ask, “What might your magnificent thing look like?” Place art materials on the table and stand back and let children create their own “thing.”

  • Connector.

    Children may like to work together with a friend to use their strengths to help one another when something is not sticking together or working. They can support each other with the phrase “We think we can. We think we can!”

  • Connector.

    After the creation phase, invite children to share their “most magnificent thing” with the class at a circle time. Ask children to talk about the challenges and how they solved the problem. Did they adapt, innovate and keep trying? (resilience) Did they believe they could create something wonderful (growth mindset)?

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