How do you teach grit?
Sometimes, when people talk about grit, it’s as if they’re saying we just need to tell kids to toughen up. Instead, EduGuide focuses on proactively teaching students a set of specific skills that lead to higher grit levels and thus higher achievement.
As we prepare to expand our grit-building program to more schools, our nonprofit is sharing more of what we’re learning so that we can achieve our goal of equipping every student with the skills they need to reach their potential.
Here’s an activity to get the conversation started, based on a poem by late rapper Tupac Shakur (bet your students didn’t know he wrote poetry!), that you can use with your students right away:
This activity introduces one element of Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII), developed by the psychologist Dr. Gabriele Oettingen. Her research indicates that it’s an effective skill for helping students learn to overcome obstacles. And MCII has been shown to contribute to higher achievement.
It’s important to note, though, that successfully teaching grit and other core learning skills involves a range of factors. For instance, this activity does not teach the full MCII process, but rather is an introductory exercise to meet students where they are at and help them start to think concretely about defining obstacles in their life and specific steps they can take to overcome them. In our work, we’ve found that getting students habituated to this part of the process is a critical step.
Secondly, the value of the exercise will depend on how deep the teacher goes with the students on pushing them to be specific in their answers. Our online tools automate that process for schools in our program, but in the classroom teachers will find that their students get more from the exercise if they’re pushed with follow up questions, such as “what about that is an obstacle.”
Finally, it’s helpful to focus on goals that students have some confidence about overcoming. Some studies have shown that using MCCI in areas where the student lacks confidence can undermine its effectiveness.
We would value hearing more from you: what do you think of this activity? What skills do you think are important to teaching grit?
And if you do use this activity in your classroom, please let us know how it goes!