UKEdMag: TeachingGrit in the Classroom by @barbblackburn

First published in the May 2015 edition of UKEdMagazine

Grit is perseverance; the decision (and ability) to keep moving forward rather than giving up. Many students have grit, just not related to academics. When we are teaching grit, students may experience some frustration. That is normal; in fact, if they aren’t experiencing frustration, then they do not have the opportunity to use grit.

Students who demonstrate grit are more confident, and ultimately, learn at higher levels. Therefore, it is important for us to teach and reinforce this skill. How can we do that? There are two basic steps:

  1. Create a climate that encourages grit.
  2. Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate grit.

Create a Climate that Encourages Grit

Your first step is to make sure your overall classroom environment encourages grit. This starts with you! Share your own experiences where you struggled and persevered. Model it for students. I remember one year when I was teaching graduate students. They were all teachers coming to school at night to work on a master’s degree. Research writing was a challenge for them. One night, I brought in an article I had written for a journal; one that had been rejected.

I showed them the comments, and then explained what I was going to do to revise and resubmit the article. It was an eye-opener for them. As Kim said, “I never realised you didn’t write perfectly all the time!” Our students don’t see us struggle. They think we just magically do what we do. It’s important to show them otherwise.

We can also provide role models with stories of people who have persevered. This can be with posters of those people along with a quote exemplifying how they overcame success, or by reading about them. One strategy I used was to have my students research someone who struggled and create the posters with accompanying narrative. Today, I would probably have them create a fake Facebook page on a poster for display.

Another alternative is to use literature to learn about perseverance. Of course, you can read non-fiction books and articles, but there are also examples in literature that teach this lesson, such as Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind and Watty Piper’s The Little Engine that Could.

Third, talk about grit. Be explicit when discussing the role of grit in learning. Regularly use words such as frustration, tenacity, perseverance, resilience, and self-confidence. Also, be sure to praise students specifically using this vocabulary when their efforts warrant it.

Provide Opportunities for Students to Demonstrate Grit

The second step is to allow students to actually practice using grit. This one is a bit tricky. You must know your students well enough to know how much frustration they can handle, and then provide them with a learning opportunity in which they will struggle. Quick success is not your goal in crafting the activity; providing them with an opportunity to feel frustrated and respond is.

Thomas Hoerr (2013) describes an effective process to use when presenting students with a learning opportunity to develop grit.

1. Create Frustration

a. Before they start, ask students to anticipate how hard the assignment might be and to think about something else they have done at the same level.

b. Next, ask them to think about a task when they were successful and how grit played a role.

c. Then, have students work on the assignment with 5 minutes of full force effort. When they struggle, they should stop and breathe, reflect, and try something else.

d. Remind students that a good failure is one where you learn. What are you learning?

2. Monitor the experience

a. Gauge how frustrated they are using a simple scale (numbers or just up and down).

b. Ask how they respond to frustration. Place them in groups based on the strategies they used for a response. Ask the groups to discuss.

c. Create a checklist to monitor progress. You may want something like a two-column chart with headings of key points in the lesson on the left and a place for notes on the right. For younger students, you can keep this as the teacher (based on your observations); for older students, they can self-assess.

Reflect and learn. Discuss the…

Continue reading the complete article in the May 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine by clicking here.

This article was first published in the May 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine. You can purchase printed editions of the magazine by clicking here, or view freely online by clicking here. The online version of this article was updated in 2019 by UKEd Editorial in accordance with website and policy updates.

Barbara R. Blackburn is an educational consultant and the author of 15 books, including Motivating Struggling Students: 10 Ways to Build Student Success – View these on Amazon at She currently resides in the United States. View her site at and follow her on Twitter at @barbblackburn.

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