Lightning Exercises to Promote a Growth Mindset

As a relatively new addition to the course at NSS, I'm excited at its potential, and from the gains that we have already seen from it.


In cohort 22, I was talking with my junior instructor at the time, Meg Ducharme, about doing daily reviews in the morning of things that we had discussed the day before. Some forgetting would happen from one day to the next, and we felt reviewing it quickly again the next day with some simple exercises would allow the students to retrieve them from memory and strengthen their knowledge.

Meg also said that it would have the additional benefit of showing students that they actually know more than they think. This is especially important because we throw concepts at them quickly enough, that it is hard for students to gauge their true understanding of the basics.

The first one was done on a Friday, so we dubbed it Fundamental Friday. The students received it so well, that they asked if we could do it every Friday. I heartily agreed - even if it didn't actually end up happening every Friday. We made it happen as often as we could.

Because I wasn't able to make it happen every Friday, we then talked about making them daily. Short little exercises that focus on one very specific concept - iteration, conditional logic, functions, array methods, etc.

I then labeled these things as Lightning Exercises. I even made a repo on our organization account that all instructors could use to get a random Lightning Exercise every day to show their students.

It's still a work in progress.


It's quite simple to implement, and the benefits are powerful. First thing in the morning, devise a Lightning Exercise that has two parts.

  1. A very simple exercise that a student can complete in 1-3 minutes. For example, iterate over an array of strings and output each value to the browser console.
  2. A slightly more complex exercise that combines another concept. For example, iterate over another list of strings, but use document.createElement() to create a <div> element for each item. Students should be able to complete the second one in about 10 minutes.

Tell the students what the time limit is, and when that time period is over, do one of two things.

  1. Ask if any student would like to present their code for review.
  2. Show the students how you would solve the task.

Then provide a minute or two for questions, and you're done.