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Magazine Issue 55: Grit
January 2015

This month: Thoughts about Grit

Article: Grit
New Resources
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:


Grit An Article about 'learning grit' and how it can be developed in schools, teachers and pupils. (And meet Resilient Rhino from Adventurous Learning)

This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, All Ages

Tags: Grit Mindset Success Mistake Failure
January Needs Grit
January needs grit. (see below for what the Rhino's all about) For many of us a cold, bleak month like this might seem like the price paid for our quickly fading Christmas and New Year celebrations. We need to knuckle down, put our best foot forward, crack on and just do it. We need grit to get us through and keep us focussed on what we want to achieve; our big learning and teaching goals.

Grit Is...
Angela Lee Duckworth defines grit as, "the passionate commitment to a single mission and an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission". Here's her 6 minute TED Talk. It's about knowing what you want and being fully motivated to get it; it's about being prepared to confront obstacles and to deal with failure along the way; and it's about finding and developing the range of personal skills and attitudes needed for your ultimate success.

Grit is what you need to remain determined when things get difficult, uncomfortable or risky. Grit is what you need to keep your attention focussed on your goal in spite of distractions and temptations to do something else; Grit is what you need to confront your obstacles, failures and mistakes in a positive way and to learn from them quickly. Determination, Focus, Positivity, Single Goal. That's grit.

Duckworth asserts that grit is a better predictor of academic and life success than intellectual ability. Both are needed, however people with ability but not grit are less likely to succeed than those with less ability but more grit. Hard work trumps intelligence.

Traits can change over time therefore grit can be learned.

Making Grit Happen
I've been helping schools develop gritty learning over the last couple years. A gritty learning culture can come about if you follow these steps:

  1. Agree a grit contract
  2. Explore your own grit
  3. Define and develop grit measures
  4. Teach gritty language and behaviours
  5. Create a gritty learning environment
  6. Plan for struggle, failure and mistakes
  7. Reflect and connect

Grit is not a bolt on initiative or a PSHE programme. It's a significant behavioural and mindset change. To succeed you'll need to explore and understand your own grit and confront your own mistakes and challenges. If you are still reading this, excellent: you got through the phrase 'confront your own mistakes'. You are already using your grit.

Once you and your colleagues have looked at your own grit, you'll be well placed to define what you think it is. You'll need to share your own stories of grit and develop measures, language and behaviours of gritty learning.

Planning for struggle, failure and mistakes is the trickiest part. You'll need to build activities into lessons that draw gritty behaviours from your pupils. You'll need to take the risk of pitching the learning just too high so that they can be gritty in response

  • Agree a grit contract
    In a gritty culture we talk about challenge, about failure, about success and struggle, and about mistakes. This can only be genuine and useful in a safe and trusting professional community. Everyone needs to feel confident to share and use their challenges and errors to improve. Use a whole school contract to define and protect your Positive Error Culture (PEC). Also, agree success criteria: why are we growing grit and how will we know it's had impact?

  • Explore your own grit
    With a grit contract in place and an emerging PEC begin to share personal tales of grit. When did you need to be determined, focussed and positive - over a long period of time - to achieve a single meaningful goal?

  • Define and develop grit measures
    Draw out the common features of your shared grit stories and combine them with traits that your pupils will need to develop. 3-5 compelling measures, each defined on a scale starting at 1, can give you a shared language for talking about grit's features, "I was on a 4 for focus but jumped up to 8 when I saw that time was running out..."

  • Teach gritty language and behaviours
    Explore and define the language and behaviours of grit though further stories and tales of well-known people from different subject domains (eg - Alan Turing/Mo Farrah/Amelia Earhart etc.)

  • Create a gritty learning environment
    Use classroom displays and existing systems (e.g. reward processes) to inform and to inspire gritty behaviours

  • Plan for struggle, failure and mistakes
    Develop a class-based PEC and a working ethos where mistakes are valued as much as success. Build in activities that are pitched just too high - activities that draw out grit.

  • Reflect and connect
    Regularly review your grit culture against the success criteria established at contracting.
    Make alterations in light of mistakes and other feedback. Be gritty about making grit happen.

    Resilient Rhino
    But if you want to get grit off to a very quick and effective start (and to pave the way for the immensely powerful Adventurous Learning model in school) let this character do it for you. Resilient Rhino is the first of 9 animals that between them bring vital learning skills and attitudes to life in class.

    Resilient Rhino helps children relate to and demonstrate life long learning skills with 4 gritty tips:
    1) Try new things
    2) Do not give up
    3) Try to finish your jobs
    4) Do not get distracted.
    These can be re-framed and adapted for differed ages and contexts.

    Each learning skill character is introduced through a story that demonstrates the tips in action. Children find out how each character achieves more by using the tips and then discover how this can be translated for classroom learning.

    Adventurous learning is the creation of Headteacher Jon LeFevre. Jon and I are currently using the model to embed Thinking Classroom principles into existing school/classroom systems and curricula.

    Character No.2 next month with more about Adventurous Learning (But if you can't wait, contact or for more details)

  • New Resources:

    Grit Thinking

    Grit Thinking A Thinking Skills Tool to help you and your pupils describe and quantify the different features of gritty learning.

    Categories: Thinking Tool, Meta Cognition, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, All Ages

    Tags: Grit Mindset Success Mistake Failure
    Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

    Grit Thinking Powerpoint

    Grit Thinking Powerpoint A Thinking Tool Template in Powerpoint. A collection of resources to help you understand and embed gritty learning.

    Categories: Thinking Tool, Meta Cognition, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, All Ages

    Tags: Grit Mindset Success Mistake Failure
    Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

    Learning Think Sheet - Grit

    Learning Think Sheet - Grit A Think Sheet to help pupils apply high order thinking to gritty learning.

    Categories: Think Sheet, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, All Ages

    Tags: Grit Mindset Success Mistake Failure
    Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

    Additional Resources:

    Thinking Classroom Archive:

    Previous articles related to Grit.

    Hard Work

    Hard Work An Article that tackles Hard Work head on and offers a way to develop a shared, effective understanding of it in class. Find out about deferred gratification & the 1972 Stanford Marshmallow experiment. Watch a video of its 2012 update.

    This is a Free Sample Resource

    Find out more
    Categories: Article, Learning Styles, Any Subject, Educators

    Tags: Hard Work Mindset Effort

    The Truth About Success

    The Truth About Success An Article that will inspire you to think about the real meaning of success: about its breadth, depth and height and how an enriched mindset about success can help your pupils achieve more.

    Success is dependent on effort. 

    I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
    Michael Jordan

    What is success? What does it have to do with standards? And how does it show itself in the classroom?

    This is a Free Sample Resource

    Find out more
    Categories: Article, Educators, Skills-Based Learning, Any Subject, All Ages

    Tags: Success Mindset Multiple Intelligences Dweck Gardner

    Winter theme resources to help you with your planning and enrich lessons.  

    Science Think Sheet - Winter

    Science Think Sheet - Winter A Think Sheet with a specific focus on Winter, Christmas and cold weather.

    Categories: Think Sheet, Thinking Skills, Science, Junior, Secondary

    Tags: Science
    Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

    The Sparrow Who Swallowed a Sunset

    The Sparrow Who Swallowed a Sunset A Story with activities about a little bird in Winter who is rejected by his peers, sets off on a difficult journey, and struggles with the ultimate test. Use as a metaphor for new life, rebirth, death. Taken from "Surprising Stories to Stimulate Creativity".

    Categories: Story, Skills-Based Learning, PSHE, Infant, Junior

    Tags: Transition Christmas Bullying Easter Story
    Free Standard Member Resource: Login or Join for Free to access this resource and others.

    The Sparrow Who Swallowed a Sunset - Audio

    The Sparrow Who Swallowed a Sunset - Audio A Thinking Story from Surprising Stories to Stimulate Creativity - Audio Version.

    Categories: Story, Audio, Leadership, RE & Philosophy, Junior, Secondary

    Tags: Story Thinking Stories Audio Leadership
    Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.


    How Children Succeed
    by Paul Tough

    How Children Succeed <br>by Paul Tough Find out about grit, hard work and how character influences success.

    Available from Amazon

    Opens in a New Window
    Categories: Suggested Books, Professional Development, Assessment

    Tags: Character Success Thought Leader Growth Mindset


    Productive Persistence in Class

    Productive Persistence in Class An inspiring call to action blog entry from Michael Keany outlining Stano's 7 highly promising educational interventions for creating productive persistence in pupils:

    Opens in a New Window
    Categories: Teaching & Learning, Blogs

    Tags: Grit Success Mistake Failure Growth Mindset

    Next month we think more about Grit