5 Steps to Foster Grit in the Classroom
The word "grit" suggests toughness and determination. The question is how do we get students to value struggle, failure and perseverance in our classrooms? ASCD recently published Thomas Hoerr's short but great book on this subject, Fostering Grit. The subtitle "How do I prepare my students for the real world?" reflects the fact that our students will encounter challenging work and problems to solve. If this is the case, our classrooms should mirror that process and prepare our students to be successful in meeting these challenges. You might consider this a critical 21st century skill, which means that we need to scaffold the related skills we're teaching our students.
Modeling is a crucial component in teaching skills to students. Many teachers use modeling to teach reading skills, which will be crucial as students encounter more and more complex text. Try modeling grit by leading students through a think-aloud explicitly about grit. Reading and navigating a complex text is challenging, so make sure your that think-aloud talks not only about how to navigate, but also about mistakes made and the thought process of perseverance. This can build trust in the classroom that grit is valuable and natural.
Don't Grade Formative Assessments
In a previous blog, I wrote:
Why don't I grade formative assessment? For one, a grade is supposed to answer the question: "Did the student learn and achieve the learning targets or standards?" If this is the case, then the summative assessment primarily represents achievement. Formative assessment is practice. It is part of the journey.
If you punish students in the learning process, then they are less likely to engage with it. Grit requires that there are multiple stages in the learning process and that the journey of learning is valued. You can read the above-mentioned blog for strategies on how to use formative assessments more effectively if this is challenging for you. If you want grit, then you can't punish students for making mistakes.
In another blog, I wrote about the importance of bringing authenticity to the classroom. One piece of this is having students create authentic products. When they create real work that has value, they are more likely to create high quality work. And students are more likely to improve their work when they know there is an authentic audience for the authentic work.
Ongoing Revision and Reflection
Build in sacred time to revise work and reflect upon the learning. If we want students to value grit, they need to see learning as a journey, and we need to give them time to reflect about the challenges they've faced, and the mistakes and revisions they've made. To start, watch the "Austin's Butterfly" video for advice on how good critique and feedback can scaffold and support grit in the classroom:
Austin's Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work - Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback from Expeditionary Learning on Vimeo.
When we persevere, we need to celebrate the success. We often don't take time to celebrate the challenging work we've completed. Sometimes we feel that our schedule forces us to immediately move on with the next unit of instruction. If you want students to value grit, then you must celebrate in your classroom. This is part of the reflection process, but again is explicitly about celebration. Have students celebrate their own grit as well as the grit of others with a strategy like Your Shining Moment.
These are some practical steps to foster grit in your classroom. If we want our students to find joy in grit, then they need to find that joy in our classrooms. Seek a balance of challenge, reflection and authenticity to create a culture of grit.