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Are you working on growth mindset with your students? If so, you are probably also looking for ways to foster grit in the classroom. You want your students to take risks, power through challenging tasks, and understand how to navigate frustration without giving up.
What is GRIT?
Grit is a term used to describe a child’s resilience, determination, and perseverance when faced with difficult tasks. Grit is not determined by intelligence or talent, but is rather a commitment to persevere in the face of failure or struggle. Research shows that the impact of grit on student performance can be more important than a student’s intelligence. In a nutshell, grit involves the effort that students display and the process by which they successfully overcome challenges. If you’d like more information about grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, is an enlightening and informative read.
4 Ways to Foster Grit in the Classroom
1. Teachable Moments
If you’ve been teaching for more than 10 minutes, you’ve likely taught some tricky content that requires multiple explanations. As you scan the room, you see their frustration. Your students are desperately trying to hang on, but it looks as though a few students are ready to let go of the rope. The light in their eyes gets dim and may even turn off completely. Their frustration tolerance gets surpassed and its an uphill battle to regain their attention.
Use these moments to your advantage. Make an example of the present situation. Stop the lesson completely and forge a new path. For impact, I might even stop the lesson mid-sentence and write the word “GRIT” on the board. Their confusion will now be a result of the surprise halt in the lesson in lieu of the difficult content you were teaching. BAM! Now you have their attention! Follow up by asking students what they know about grit. How is grit related to growth mindset? What does it look like? How does it feel? What does it sound like? At the conclusion of this discussion, students will be more willing to give the lesson another shot. Remember that grit is not about completing the task successfully, but rather embracing the process without giving up.
2. Create a GRIT BOARD
Exhibitions of grit are all around us. Identifying and labeling examples of grit in literature, world events, and real life situations will serve to establish working models that students can use to compare themselves. Create a wall or bulletin board where students can jot down those examples and post them. Sticky notes or index cards should be readily accessible for students to pin on the board. Don’t forget to allow them to use examples from their own family, friends, or classmates. Identifying, discussing, and labeling examples of grit in the real world can surely serve as a powerful strategy for modeling this concept for students.
3. Induce Purposeful Frustration
This might sound like student torture, but it’s really not. This method provides an effective way for teachers to help students understand grit. If you locate an activity that matches the interests of your students, it is can also be really engaging and fun.
Frustration inducing activities might include brain teasers, riddles, mind benders, or logic puzzles. In most cases, these tasks provide complexity, critical analyses, and problem-solving. It is important to help students see that the end result is not as important as the process by which they tackle the challenge. Rewarding and encouraging students for their efforts in lieu of the end result is key.
During these types of activities, be aware of how you encourage students (this post provides more information). Some well-intentioned compliments designed to reinforce students may actually hinder their confidence. For example, “you are so smart” or “you have so much talent” can serve to promote a fixed mindset. These types of comments may inhibit the likelihood that students will take risks to solve problems in the future. On the other hand, “you are working so hard” or “even though this is really difficult for you, you are really sticking with it” promote the development of grit (and a growth mindset). Opting for feedback that promotes a growth mindset increases the likelihood that students will take risks in other challenging situations in the future.
4. Teach Strategies to Overcome Frustration:
Life is riddled with frustration. If teachers can arm students with the necessary skills and strategies to reduce the negative affects of frustration, they will be better equipped to face challenges in all areas of their lives. Presenting activities and lessons related to mindfulness, meditation, and refocusing will serve to assist students in these areas. When students learn how to recognize the thoughts and feelings associated with a desire to give up, they can implement strategies to combat them.
The following books are great references for teaching mindfulness:
- Peace Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean
- Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean
- Meditation is an Open Sky by Whitney Stewart
- Puppy Mind by Andrew Jordan Nance
- Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel
- A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Master of Mindfulness by Laurie Grossman, Angelina Alvarez, and Mr. Musumieci’s 5th Grade Class
- What Does It Mean To Be Present? by Rana DiOrio
What are your favorite ways to foster grit in the classroom?
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