Tagged Speaking and Listening

How “Gritty” are You? Student Growth and Possible Correlation to Grit

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Angela Lee Duckworth’s TedTalk, The Key to Success?  Grit

After reading the extremely informative article “True Grit: The Best Indicator of Student Success” on the Edutopia website, I became interested in the study of grit and its correlation to student growth.  There are many helpful resources in the post including diagnostic tools for measuring grit (using the grit scale) and growth versus fixed mindset (using an online quiz).

Growth versus fixed mindset, or one’s belief that growth of talent and intelligence is either fixed or capable of growing, can be a contributing factor to students’ desire to persevere despite obstacles.   According to the research of Carol Dweck, this intrinsic factor (and the external forces, such as feedback, that may affect it) could contribute to the achievement and growth of students.

Here are additional articles and resources related to grit, growth mindset, and types of feedback that encourage achievement:

  • “What if the Key to Success is Failure?”–  From The New York Times, this article summarizes the role that grit plays in students’ success.  In the article, Angela Duckworth, a psychologist, summarizes, “The problem, I think, is not only the schools but also the students themselves…  Here’s why: learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying — but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging. . . . To help chronically low-performing but intelligent students, educators and parents must first recognize that character is at least as important as intellect.”
  • “The Talent Myth”– From The New Yorker, the article summarizes the “myths” that incapacitate businesses when it comes to recruiting the “right” people for jobs based upon talent alone.  
  • “How Not to Talk to your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise”– From New York, this article explains that feedback which emphasizes “intelligence” and “talent” (for example, “you are such a good writer” or “you are so smart”) can actually hinder students desire and ability to accomplish difficult tasks.  
  • “Why do Some People Learn Faster”– From Wired, this article summarizes the research on growth mindset conducted by Carol Dweck and others.  It states that learning from mistakes is a prime component of one’s ability to grow, stating, “Education is the wisdom wrung from failure.”  Note: This source is written by Jonah Lehrer, who is a journalist of disrepute.  However, the research in the article can be cross-referenced in other sources and is useful.
  • Mindset Works– Based on the research of Carol Dweck, this website provides resources for teachers interested in implementing growth mindset education and practices in the classroom.  You have to register for an account, but from the website, articles, resources and a TedTalk about growth mindset can be accessed.

My goals in working with teachers are the following:

  • Explore the correlation between grit, growth mindset and SGP as measured by STAR
  • Educate students on grit and growth mindset and provide opportunities for personal reflection
  • Provide resources for teachers interested in implementing best practices regarding grit and growth mindset, ultimately improving student growth and achievement

To meet these goals, I would like to implement the following process:

  1. Use diagnostic tools (the grit scale and online growth mindset quiz mentioned above) to measure students’ current level of mindset and grit
  2. Educate students on these measures using both close reading of non-fiction texts (Reading Informational Texts CCS) and evaluating of speeches (Speaking and Listening CCS)
  3. Provide opportunities for students to reflect on the new information through writing and discussion
  4. Continue to work with teachers on implementing best practices for increasing student grit and growth

I have begun working with Tim Starkey using this process, and I will be posting the resources and follow-up information from our work together soon.  My hope is to expand the scope of my collaboration and work with all willing teachers in the two high schools.

Writer’s Workshop: Using and Reflecting on Peer Feedback

As stated in a previous Writer’s Workshop post, Leslie Harris and I planned a unit together focusing on the revision process and giving effective feedback.

Based upon previous experience, I had realized the need for a more formalized product to come out of the workshopping sessions.  To this end, I created a resource where students were asked to do the following:

  • During workshop: Record feedback received
  • Immediately after workshop: Provide a summary of feedback and plan for improvement
  • After the final paper is completed: Provide a summary on specific changes made and a reflection on what was learned from the workshop process

Harris’ plan is to mandate the revision of papers after the workshop session is completed and have them turn in the draft and “Writer’s Workshop Reflection” with the final paper.

Here is the resource we used for this lesson:

Lesson on the “Unknown”: Visual to Text Literacy

Susan Turley wanted to do an extended looking lesson for her AP classes focusing on the theme of the “unknown.”  To this end, we used the Extended Looking Learning Targets and Reflection and paired them with this image:

The Unknown

After we went through the extended looking process, we immediately transferred the skills to text the next day using the following poem:

From Space to Time

By Carolyn M. Rodgers


on a day when

we were dark

and not so full of


we met

    what did we find?


everything, when we closed

our eyes

which anyway

had never been open.


once, we thought we

loved each other

       who can reverse


we tried.

we stepped out

of space

into some new

step of distance

and fell—

and not in love.

Taken from Poetry Foundation:

Carolyn M. Rodgers, “From Space to Time” from The Heart As Ever Green (Garden City: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1978).

Copyright © 1978 by Carolyn M. Rodgers.

Here is the worksheet we used to guide through the extended looking process after students had read the poem.

The students began with seven minutes to fill out the “observation” part of the chart.  In the seven minutes, they wrote down observations from the poem about the following independently:

  • Context (are there stated characters, setting, dialogue, action, audience?)
  • Surface features (sentence structure, punctuation, word usage)
  • Literary devices (simile, metaphor and imagery)

Afterward, they worked in small groups to come up with their “meaningful connections,” “questions,” “theme statements” and “supporting evidence of theme.”

Susan and I will be reflecting on the learning targets and extended looking process for text later this week.

Visual to Text Literacy: Using Engaging Images for Metacognitive Gains

Created by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison and available at this link:  http://parkeharrison.com/architect-s-brother

This is the image used in Tim Starkey’s lesson.  Created by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison and available at this link:

For a moment, ponder and name the thinking skills involved in comprehension of material.

Regardless of the content, you might have come up with ideas like: gathering observations, making connections, and asking meaningful questions among other things.

These are all strategies teachers use for reading comprehension, and although students might be exposed to these types of thinking regularly, do they really understand what they are doing or why?

The “Extended Looking” lesson I have been using in teachers’ classrooms addresses the metacognitive skills needed to build comprehension through two methods:

1.  Exposing them to the explicit language of comprehension so they may use these skills consciously in the future for other purposes.

2.  Providing practice with these strategies to build confidence for future endeavors.

Here are the learning targets for the Extended Looking lesson I used in Tim Starkey’s class last week.

  1. I can observe closely and critically.
  2. I can actively listen and contribute meaningful ideas to a conversation that results in deeper learning for others and myself.
  3. I can ask meaningful questions to help to drive dialogue.
  4. I can write a statement supported by evidence that reflects a deep understanding of a theme.

I have posted about this activity previously, but I have expanded on the resources and applications for teachers.  Here are the materials I provided to Tim Starkey when we used the Extended Looking method in his AP 12 classroom (These are also provided as a downloadable copy in the attachments at the end of this post):


Extended Looking Lesson Instructions

*Note: timing on this is tentative and depends upon the class and the conversation.

  1. Review and discuss the learning targets
  2. Put the image on the overhead.  Ask students to look closely at the art – you can move around, get closer etc. Write down observations and try to list at least ten (5 min.)
    • Prompt students to “keep looking” even when they think they are done
    • Ask them to begin with the obvious and then look closer for the details
    • Consider textures, colors, posturing of figures etc.
  3. Discuss the visual image.  What is happening in the photo/image?  Here you are noting details and making observations, no talk of meaning yet (5 min)
    • Recognize and label “meaning statements” and then redirect back to gathering evidence
    • Explain that gathering evidence ultimately leads to better conclusions
  4. Make connections to and ask questions about the art in writing. What are your thoughts about the piece, what does it remind you of, can you connect it to anything etc.  (5 min.)
    • Prompt students to consider text, image, film, music and personal connections
    • Prompt students to ask meaningful questions that help their peers to think deeper into the image
  5. Discuss the connections/questions students found in the piece and continue to have students use the evidence they have gathered to support their perspective (5 min.)
    • At this point begin asking, “What makes you say that?”  Seek to help students explain their perspective; ask them to point back to the evidence in the image when possible
    • Possibly write these on the board (or have a student do this) so that everyone has a visual.
  6. Introduce and model a theme statement for students.  Have students write a “theme statement” for what they think the piece of art means and support it with evidence from the art itself (10 min.)
    • In this context, the theme formula is: Topic + Opinion; another way to say this is what is the piece about (in a single word) what is the author/artist trying to say in regard to this topic

    i.     EX: Topic (creativity) + Opinion (it leads to alienation when ideas are “before their time”)
    ii.     Theme Statement: Creativity can lead one to be alienated when his or her ideas are not                                           yet accepted or recognized by those around them because they are too forward thinking.

    • Collect these to formatively assess students learning of the objectives
  1. Optional: On a different day, tell them the name and a little about the artist. Does this change your perspective on the piece?  Are you glad you know?  (They usually are not.)
  2. Reflect: What surprised you about this activity?  What did you learn? How does it relate to ELA and to reading specifically?  What skills did you practice?  How will you use them in the future?
    • This is a very important aspect of the activity.  Students have to have time to recognize the learning that has taken place and ponder how it will apply to the tasks they are being asked to do in the future.
    • This would be an excellent place to discuss and compare where students gained and where they did not to guide future instruction as well.



  • Before step five, have students write short form poetry about the art or a piece of narrative
  • Talk about the process of how the art was created and use it to model students own work in writing after the activity


Connections to help students make during the activity

(and especially during the reflection)

  • Literature and visual art are very similar and we can talk about them the same way and go through the same process of analysis with them
  • An artist or writer has an intent, but viewer/reader also bring their own experience to the table to create “meaning;” however, whoever’s meaning it is, it must be supportable with evidence, and it must be logical for anyone else to trust or understand it.  (This is relevant to literary analysis and argumentative writing.)
  • Students can help one another learn by building on thoughts and ideas.  This can help to clarify thinking as well.
  • These processes: observation, making connections and asking questions and building meaning (individually and collaboratively) are processes that are used outside of the classroom.  They are problem solving and thinking processes used in every field from science to art.


Probing questions/statements for the teacher

  • What makes you say that?
  • Can you show me where you see that evidence (ask them to come to the image)?
  • Do you all agree with this idea?
  • Does anyone disagree with this idea?
  • What else do you see?
  • That is an interesting idea.  Can you tell me more about…


Teacher Resources:

Students Coach Students in Speaking and Listening: Socratic Seminar

In an ideal situation, the teacher would be able to provide consistent, individualized formative feedback to each student multiple times per class period, but this would be nearly impossible for a teacher to do during one fifty minute period.  After all, there is one teacher for up to thirty students.

I had the pleasure, however, of seeing how Ali Sberna and Kristina Claytor were able to have students provide this kind of consistent formative feedback to one another during a Socratic Seminar.  In the method they used, Socratic Seminar was modeled after the resources provided here, but additionally, they used the supplemental resources (specifically, they showed classes this video) to further differentiate the seminar.

They used the concentric circle arrangement, but instead of having all students keep track of everything that was said in a discussion, each pupil was given a rubric and note taking sheet to track one individual sitting directly in front of them from the inner circle.  In addition, the seminar had “quarters,” and at the end of each quarter, the student met with his or her coach to see what skills they mastered on the rubric, where they still needed to grow, and what they could do to improve for the next quarter of the seminar.

In addition, Sberna and Claytor also had students who were not partnered fulfill the following roles:

  • Quote Tracker (writing down text-based quotes used in the conversation)
  • Transition Tracker (writing down transitional phrases from the conversation; EX: “I agree with…”)
  • Tally Manager (keeping track of who speaks on the white board for everyone to see)
  • “Big Idea” Manager (keeping track of “concepts” in the conversation on the white board for everyone to see)

During quarterly breaks, each of these roles shared out the findings and gave suggestions for how to improve in the quarters that followed.

Although all of this sounds like a lot of preparation, after speaking with the teachers, I found out that they took only one day to introduce the entire seminar concept.  I was there on the first of the two-day seminar, and students seemed to “get it.” Although there were elements they were still learning to integrate (like using text evidence), they were able to provide insightful feedback to one another during the quarterly breaks.

In accordance with some of the other posts this week, this is one example where teachers are finding new ways to bring students into to the “center of the classroom.”

Here are some resources Sberna and Claytor used:

Writer’s Workshop: Effective Peer Feedback

A few years ago, it would have been hard for me to imagine students saying things to one another in peer review like:

  • I wonder of you could dig back into your research to further develop your metaphor.
  • Is there a way that you could incorporate your theme into your narrative instead of coming out and stating it directly?
  • Do you think you could develop your imagery in the beginning to establish the setting?  I was not sure where your story was taking place.
  • Could you could use another word for “sad.”  I thought I heard it twice in a couple of sentences.  Is there another word that might paint a better picture for the reader?
  • Could you reread the line that starts…
  • What was your theme?  I thought it might be about finding a home, but I wasn’t sure I got the whole thing.
  • Your descriptive language made me feel as though I was there.  I loved your use of “…”

For whatever reason, peer review was just not effective in my classroom.  This lays a heavy burden on the teacher to be the only one who can give guidance and direction in students’ writing.  What if you miss something?  What if the student doesn’t understand the way a teacher has phrased the feedback?

However, I have been working with Carrie Eneix on a long-term project to use creative writing (poetry and narrative) to engage students in the writing, revision and research process, and these are the exact statements I heard from her freshmen over the three days of the workshop.  You can read more about our work together here.

In order to address the use of revision to improve students writing, we used a strategy called “Writer’s Workshop.”  This is a technique I have modified from my work in the PAGES program.  As a general summation, “Writer’s Workshop” is a peer feedback model where students share their work with the whole group via reading it aloud.  Other students take notes over what they hear and then and follow a set verbal feedback procedure.  (See below for explicit instructions and a handout that can be used with teachers and students new to the practice of “workshopping”).  Here are the targets of the lesson:

  1. I can actively listen and participate in a respectful group discussion that includes sharing, reflection and instruction.
  2. I can give productive and insightful feedback for revision to my fellow writers.
  3. I can use instructive feedback to revise my writing, creating a more concise and engaging, and well-written piece.

As Eneix so aptly pointed out to students, they not only benefited from receiving feedback on their own writing, they also benefited from having many other student models; they were explicitly encouraged to also use these.  In addition, they were able to practice speaking and listening skills via the procedures and norms established for the group.  They earned credit for the workshop by giving productive feedback at least three and up to eight times per day of the workshop.

A couple of things to note about the use of Writer’s Workshop:

  • It will take at least three days for a class of twenty or more
  • The writing piece needs to be fairly short or students should choose only a part to read (for example the introduction and thesis with more informational types of writing)
  • Students need to be explicitly taught what to look for in a piece beforehand through previous lessons
  • Students must feel safe with one another- norms are important
  • The “rephrasing” of the constructive feedback needs to be practiced.  It might be helpful to give some examples and model beforehand; in addition, continue to model and help students rephrase throughout the activity

When all of these things are in place, I believe that this form of workshopping is the most effective revision method I have found as a teacher.  Having used this in numerous classrooms, I have yet to see a group of students who did not seem to benefit from the strategy.  If you would like to try it in your classroom, please let me know.

Below are the resources for the lesson:

“Zoom In” with Leslie Harris

Leslie and I worked together on the “Zoom In” strategy using the same content and goals as I had used with Laura Laborde.  However, I have streamlined the process, and I think it works a little better as listed here.  In addition, I tried using the same image and “zooming in” on another part.  The strategy seemed to flow better with the image this way.

Here is the updated version:

1. Introduce 3-2-1 Strategy and complete for “injustice”

2.  Have students get out a piece of paper and put up the first Power Point slide for the image.

Zoom 2 Crop 1

3. Write down notes for what you see in the image

4.  Discuss

5.  Write down any questions you have about the image

6.  Discuss

7.  Write down what you think the image means

8.  Discuss

9.  Reveal the next part of the image

Zoom 2 Crop 2

10.  Write down new things you see in the image

11.  Discuss

12.  Write down any new questions you have about the image

13.  Discuss

14.  Look back at what you think the image “meant” the first time and revise where your thinking has changed

15.  Discuss

16.  Complete the process until the entire image is revealed

Zoom 2 Crop 3

Zoom 2 Crop 4

17.  Discuss how students thinking about the image changed throughout the process.  Consider how these skills will translate to texts:

  • Looking closely and carefully at texts- individual words, phrases, sentences.
  • Looking at chunks of the text and forming a flexible hypothesis as one is reading.
  • Stopping to ask meaningful questions and seeking to answer them as one is reading.

A couple of notes about this.  I am learning that the 3-2-1 strategy is a difficult concept for students to grasp and needs to be explicitly taught, discussed and practiced to be effective as a measurement of students thinking.  I think this is ok, but time is needed the first time it is introduced in order for students to understand the concept and expectations.  I would be interested to see how it works once students have had this experience.

Here is the Power Point I used with Harris: Zoom for Leslie Harris

Lord of the Flies Part I: Diagnostic Projects

Following up on Susan Turley’s work with Lord of the Flies in her Honors Thematic Studies 12 class, students gave fifteen minute group “diagnostic” presentations relaying a theme from the book this week.  The products had to display the following components:

  • Analysis of Literary and Non-Fiction Texts: Students analyzed the text within their groups via their own ideas and a scholarly article provided by Turley
  • Writing: Students could choose to write in any form about their theme (This could be via Power Point, essay, song lyrics etc.)
  • Speaking and Listening: Student presentations had to have the following components: an attention grabber, an overview of their analysis, and a summary/conclusion
  • Product: Students created a physical representation of their theme and analysis; see the pictures below as examples:

IMG_1330IMG_1333  IMG_1328 Lord of the Flies Student Project

This initial project was built upon the students’ summer reading assignment, the content for which the class had already been tested.  Functioning as a diagnostic to assess current levels of performance in a range of areas, students were not given much guidance in regards to the final vision they should be presenting.  Instead, they were allowed the opportunity to address the standards and expectations in their own way.  The diagnostic created a “building point” for future areas of improvement and a summary of current strengths.

In addition to this functioning as a gauge for Turley to consider current levels, students were also given an opportunity to be reflective about their own learning using the CCS after they had presented.  I will be writing about these CCS conferences in a second post about this project.

“Testing” in this different format is interesting.  In the literature and educational conversations I have been a part of, diagnostics often take the form of “pencil and paper” tests which are often lacking in student engagement, but why does this have to be?  Are there ways to explore the potential of students where they might even surprise us in how they fulfill the standards?

This reminds me of a speech used in my classroom, Randy Pausch’s “Last lecture” given at Carnegie Mellon.  In it he describes his class Building Virtual Worlds.  The first project he gave had few parameters for what the “worlds” students would create needed to “look like.”  He stated in his speech, “The kids said, ‘Well what content do we make?’ I said, ‘hell, I don’t know. You make whatever you want. Two rules: no shooting violence and no pornography.'”  He was concerned with programming skills they were acquiring- not set outcomes.

He explained how the very first project defied all his expectations.  The bar had been set very high for the rest of the year; but he would not have known that without giving the students permission to try and freedom to engage.

Extended Looking: Using Images to Build Theme Statements

I worked with Kristina Claytor and Allie Sberna this week using a strategy learned/modified from the Pages program at the Wexner Center.  This learning activity is one I have utilized many times, and it was a pleasure to work with two patient, flexible and talented teachers trying it out with a new group of students who are learning to “look deeper” and explore thematic connections.

The “product” of the strategy is the creation of a single sentence theme statement that is supported by multiple pieces of evidence from an image students have studied.  Here is the image from which students gathered information.

Garden of Selves

This image is from Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison. Here is a link to the original image online.

Here are the learning targets provided to students:

  • I can look carefully and  critically.
  • I can contribute meaningful ideas to a collaborative conversation.
  • I can write a theme statement that reflects a deep understanding of a theme.

I usually introduce themes to students as topics (or “big ideas” if you prefer) plus an opinion about that topic.  Here are some of the “big ideas” or topics students were able to come up with using this strategy:


We explained a theme is one of these big ideas/topics above, plus what they think an author/artist is saying about this topic (his/her opinion).

Example: Topic (Creativity) + Opinion (can require seeing/doing what others may not yet understand).

So a theme statement might be: Creativity can require seeing and doing what others may not yet understand.

Students might support this theme statement with evidence from the text by saying that, “The man represents creativity because he is the only one ‘seeing’ what is in the distance, so he is the only one willing to escape the box.  The others remain curled in the containers because they don’t believe in or have knowledge of this new understanding.”

This is a very difficult concept for students; it takes practice.  They may have to look back at and revise the theme statements after the teacher collects them and gives feedback.  However, this is also an essential skill for literary response.

The following is a handout I have given to teachers to explain the activity step by step.  I have also attached the instructions as a downloadable document at the bottom of the post.

Extended Looking Activity: Learning Goals  

This lesson is a scaffolding tool to help students understand theme in literary works.  The learning goal is to have students be able to write a “thesis statement” for what they think the piece means; they must base it on evidence they have gathered from the piece itself.


Extended Looking Instructions

  1. Look and observe the art – you can move around, get closer etc. Write down observations and questions about it (5 min.)
  2. Discuss the visual image.  What is happening in the photo?  Here you are noting details and making observations, no talk of meaning yet (5 min)
  3. Make connections to and ask questions about the art in writing. What are your thoughts about the piece, what does it make you think of, does it remind you of anything etc.  (5 min.)
  4. Discuss the connections students found in the piece and continue to have students use the evidence they have gathered to support their perspective ( 5 min.)
  5. Introduce and model a theme statement for students.  Have students write a “theme statement” for what they think the piece of art means and support it with evidence from the art itself (10 min.)
  6. Tell them the name and a little about the artist. (I do this the next day and build suspense!)  Does this change your perspective on the piece?  Are you glad you know?  (They usually are not.)


  • Before step five, have students write short form poetry about the art or a piece of narrative
  • Talk about the process of how the art was created and use it to model students own work in writing after the activity

Connections to help students make:

  • Literature and art are very similar and we can talk about them the same way and go through the same process of analysis with them
  • An artist or writer has an intent, but viewer/reader also bring their own experience to the table to create “meaning”
  • This activity shows how argument is developed because students needed to use support for their ideas

This activity was modified from the 2011-2012 PAGES summer workshop for teacher-partners at the Wexner Center, and photography used to conduct the activity was created by Robert and Shana ParkHarrison from The Architect’s Brother collection.

Here is the printable resource Extended Viewing Activity 2

“Zoom In” Strategy Part I: Observations and Building a Hypothesis

I worked with Laura Laborde in her classroom using a strategy with the following learning targets:

  • I can observe closely and critically.
  • I can form a flexible hypothesis.
  • I can ask meaningful questions.

These targets are similar to, and could be used as scaffolding for, close reading.  In addition, the activity addresses speaking and listening skills.  Laura and I worked with images instead of text, but I think this same technique is transferable to text.  We also started with the 3-2-1 strategy, and students used the word “looking” to explore thinking about that concept.

There are still a few bugs to work out with this strategy (we only tried it twice), so if other teachers try it, I would love to hear variations!

We used a piece of art from The Great Depression because Laura is introducing Of Mice and Men right now to students, and the image reinforces how individuals were disempowered (like Lenny, Crooks, Curley’s wife and others) during The Great Depression.

The strategy is as follows:

1.  Show a piece of an image. 

Crop One jpeg
2.  Ask students to write down what they observe
3.  Discuss what students wrote down
4.  Have students write a hypothesis/interpretation for what the image might be and ask a question about the image, specifically, something they “wonder” about
5.  Share and discuss
6.  Show a second piece of the image 

Crop 2 jpeg
7.  Repeat step two and three (observation-share)
8.  Ask them to revisit the original hypothesis and revise it evaluating how thinking has changed and come up with another thing they are “wondering” now
9.  Share and discuss
10.  Show a third piece of the image and repeat the process, but this time, maybe ask students to deepen the thinking about the hypothesis focusing on not just what the image is, but also on what it means.  You can begin to talk about themes in this way

Crop 3 jpeg
11.  Cont. showing parts of the image and repeated the process until it is totally revealed to students
Have a final reflective conversation about how students thinking changed and why it was important to form a hypothesis but also be flexible throughout the process

Crop 4 jpeg

This is ALMOST the full image. Click on the link to the complete Power Point to see the whole thing.

12.  After this process, students were brought back to the 3-2-1 strategy as part of the reflection.  I am going to talk more about this in the second post about the “Zoom In” strategy which Laura implemented on her own.

Here is a Power Point with the images used for this activity:  Zoom In, Great Depression Activity

This activity was modified from Making Thinking Visible.