Maggie Vaults Over the Moon

Grit Resources


6a00d8341c721253ef017d3d5bc316970c-800wiWhen psychologist Angela Duckworth studied people in various challenging situations, including National Spelling Bee participants, rookie teachers in tough neighborhoods, and West Point cadets, she found: One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.

Angela Duckworth was recently awarded the MacArthur genius award to continue her thinking on grit and the factors contributing to success. Here is Duckworth’s TED Talk about Grit that provides an overview about the topic.

Angela Duckworth developed a scale to measure Grit found at

Some of characteristics or dispositions of Grit include:

  • Perseverance and Tenacity
  • Deliberate Practice
  • Ability to Delay Gratification
  • Passion-Driven Focus
  • Self Control and Self Discipline
  • Long Term Goal-Oriented
  • Stick-to-it-ness Under Difficult Conditions
  • Consistency of Effort


How can we best prepare children and adolescents to thrive in the 21st century? Apart from imparting knowledge and facts, it’s becoming clear that the “noncognitive competencies” known as grit, perseverance, and tenacity are just as important, if not more so, in preparing kids to be self-sufficient and successful.

To that end, the Department of Education released a report called Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance —Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, which addresses how educators can integrate these ideas into their teaching practice: The entire report [PDF] is well worth the read.

Lessons Learned: Studies investigating grit have found that “gritty” students:

  • Earn higher GPAs in college, even after controlling for SAT scores,
  • Obtain more education over their lifetimes, even after controlling for SES and IQ,
  • Outperform other Scripps National Spelling Bee contests, and
  • Withstand the first grueling year as cadets at West Point.

In rural New Hampshire, fifth-grade teacher Amy Lyon has created a curriculum based on researcher Angela Duckworth’s ideas about grit. Students set and work toward their own long-term goals, learning valuable lessons about dealing with frustration and distractions along the way.

This school year, as part of supporting the ‘Whole Child’ in Denver Public Schools (DPS), a top priority in Denver Plan 2020, 10 DPS schools are piloting ‘Personal Success Factors’ — an effort focused on developing a student’s grit and self-control for challenges they face both in school, and in life.

“We graduate kids in the Denver Public Schools who are ready to lead in an environment that we have no idea what it’s going to look like, what the marketplace is going to look like, what information technology is going to look like. We can’t predict that,” Hearty said. “We can sure that we have kids who have the flexibility and commitment to grow, to persevere, to have the control to keep going, and then feel really confident that they can tackle the things that we don’t yet know.”

Here are ten ways that teachers are tackling grit in their classrooms.

1. Read Books About Grit

Read books, hold book studies and discuss trends. Measuring noncognitive factors like grit will be controversial, but just because we struggle to measure it doesn’t mean that we can stop trying.

2. Talk About Grit

First, I give my students the grit scale test and let them score it. Then we watch Angela Duckworth’s TED video together and talk about the decisions we make that impact grit. Empower students to educate themselves — they can’t wait for educators to figure this out.

3. Share Examples

In my ninth grade classroom, January starts with a video about John Foppe, born with no arms, who excelled as an honor student, drove his own car, and became a successful psychologist and speaker while creatively using his feet. We also talk to Westwood alum Scott Rigsby, the first double amputee to complete an Ironman competition. These are gritty people. Life is hard, and luck is an illusion.

Amy Lyon takes her fifth-grade class through the requirements of her Perseverance Walk assignment, by illustrating an example of a life lived with grit.

4. Help Students Develop a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck from Stanford University teaches us that students who have a growth mindset are more successful than those who think that intelligence is fixed.

5. Reframe Problems

Using stories and examples from Malcom Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, we talk about “desirable difficulties.” Students need perspective about problems to prevent them from giving up, quitting or losing hope.

6. Find a Framework

I use Angela Maiers’ Classroom Habitudes as my framework. The KIPP framework specifically includes grit as one of its seven traits. Find one that works for your school and includes clear performance values.

7. Live Grittily

Even among educators, research suggests that teachers who demonstrate grit are more effective at producing higher academic gains in students. – See more at:

You teach with your life. Perhaps that is why Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture and David Menasche’s Priority List resonate. These teachers used their own battle with death itself as a way to teach. But you don’t have to die to be an effective teacher. Our own work ethic yells so loudly that kids know exactly what we think about grit.

8. Foster Safe Circumstances That Encourage Grit

Never mistake engaging, fun or even interesting for easy. We don’t jump up and down when we tear off a piece of tape because “I did it.” No one celebrates easy, but everyone celebrates championships and winners because those take grit (and more). We need more circumstances to help kids to develop grit before they can “have it.”

Tough academic requirements, sports and outdoor opportunities are all ways to provide opportunities for developing grit. Verena Roberts, Chief Innovation Officer of CANeLearn says:

One of the best ways to learn about grit is to focus on outdoor education and go out into the wild. Grit is about not freaking out, taking a deep breath, and moving on.

9. Help Students Develop Intentional Habits

Read about best practices for creating habits, because habits and self-control require grit.

10. Acknowledge the Sacrifice Grit Requires

In their 2010 paper “The Falling Time Cost of College“, Babcock and Marks demonstrate that, in 1961, U.S. undergraduates studied 24 hours a week outside of class. In 1981, that fell to 20 hours, and in 2003, it was 14 hours per week. This is not to create a blame or generation gap discussion, but rather to point out the cost of being well educated. We are what we do, and if we study less and work less, then we will learn less.

Edutopia article True Grit: The Best Measure of Success and How to Teach It has these additional suggestions for “teaching” grit in the classroom:

How can we teach grit when all students want to do is quit? Here are a few battle-tested suggestions to help kids reach deeper and aim higher.

Powerful Words (The power of “YET”)

By shifting the focus of our feedback to effort as opposed to outcome, we leave students with the feeling that their best is yet to come. Instead of praising Johnny’s top mark, applaud his diligent study habits. Or the way Sarah worked through a particularly difficult passage in the text. This kind of process-driven feedback works for setbacks, too. Consider the sweet potential behind that tiny disclaimer “yet.” There’s something stunningly honest and uplifting about telling a child that a goal hasn’t been mastered . . . yet. Keep at it. You’re almost there — not yet — but soon.

Make it fun!

Decorate Your Classroom!

This is a 250+ page Grit Resource Unit. In the zipped file there are 7 books with ideas on how to teach grit in your classroom, for only $10! Awesome!


Kids grow tired, weary from effort. So do their teachers. Educators, administrators, and parents who understand the importance of these issues and are passionate about shifting educational priorities need to become proactive advocates for change in the educational community to gain buy-in, tangible support for students as they pursue big goals, financial resources, and political support.


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