Do you have students in your classroom who are not easily discouraged and pick themselves up and try again even when something is hard? It’s great working with these students. But what about the other kind of students, the ones that can’t seem to stick with anything and are easily discouraged? I recently finished reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. It made me think that it’s possible to help these easily discouraged students gain what Angela terms grit. How do we teach kids that their own efforts can improve their future?
I found many takeaways in Angela’s book, but one is how guided reading is a perfect opportunity to provide what the author calls deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is something that successful people use to improve performance in all aspects of life.
Here are the basic requirements:
1. A clearly defined stretch goal
In guided reading, each part of the lesson should be planned to provide a stretch goal. The book choice needs to be not too easy or too hard. That means that students will need some help from you to read it but not a ton of assistance. Yes, this is tricky, something that’s easier done in a Reading Recovery lesson when you are matching a book to one reader instead of a group. But you can do this! Start by carefully assessing the book you plan to use. Look for all the places it might be too hard and consider your book introduction as a way to reduce confusion and prepare students for these challenges.
2. Full concentration and effort
Students need to be fully engaged in and concentrate on their reading. Note that this does not happen during round-robin reading when a student may only pay attention to the page they are going to read. In guided reading, everyone reads the book. All of it!
3. Immediate and informative feedback
You play a critical role. As students read, you will provide that immediate and informative feedback to individuals. Prompt students to notice things they overlook and praise them for good processing. This is crucial—the guided part of guided reading! Take a look at this video from a guided reading lesson with The Gingerbread Boy, a Level C book. Notice the level of scaffolding I provided to this group of emergent readers, especially the first boy. I gave more and more support as he needed it.
4. Repetition with reflection and refinement
As you listen to and support each student while they read, take notes on what further instruction is necessary. Provide opportunities for students to read the book, gain fluency, and practice what they learned now that it is easier. Use the information you gathered to so some teaching after the reading and plan future guided reading lessons.
You can help your students gain grit and tenacity that is so important for success in life. Angela’s research found that we can help students understand that if you try, you can learn to embrace challenges rather than fear them. We can increase our students’ grit!