The 95% Rule… Developing Grit, Tenacity and Resilience –

Man, I wish one of my teachers would have been able to help teach me in my school years how to work hard… Grit… Tenacity… Resilience… Perseverance…

I was one of those kids that learning came very easy to. I was a good reader and could easily memorize and remember what I needed for a test. I could easily copy and parrot what the teacher was doing on the board and learning was easily successful compared to many of my peers who had to struggle. Now, I wish I had to struggle a little bit more…

I never had to work hard because it came easy for me. Because it came easy for me, my teachers never pushed me to work hard.

This is where I believe Task Design and Formative Assessment come into the mix and are two of the biggest impacts on students learning. The idea behind formative assessment is not reaching that final product and getting 100%, but improving and making your work better. I sometimes wish there was a magic light that went on when I got “100%” on the school budget. Unfortunately, No such luck!

I wish we had a better understanding of how to help kids do better work. I just always expected myself to get good marks no matter how much or little effort I put into the work. Boy, did that ever come back to bite me when I was about 17 or 18 years old…

Task design is critical as well. My team partner and I had set up some awesome learning opportunities around a book called Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. There were huge mouth connections as well as art and literacy integration. One of the main characters loved Pentagrams. The first time we utilized chasing Vermeer, we had asked the kids to “find the 12 pentomino shapes” using 5 blocks and record the results. Some students took a while to figure out and play with the problem. Others literally had it done within about three minutes and were ready to move on.

Fast-forward a couple of years when my teaching team partner and I decided to revisit Chasing Vermeer. This time though, we changed the question. “How many pentomino shapes can you find?” This changed the task completely. Students no longer had a final answer that they were trying to get correct. They had an open-ended question that they were able to struggle and get into the mud with. This small change to the question and the task made all the difference. They worked for hours trying to find that elusive “13th pentomino!”

Back to the 95% rule… We, as educators, have the opportunity to create “good” learning experiences and we have the opportunity to create “GREAT” learning experiences. Just by changing how we asked our question changed how the students worked on the task. It was in the 95% realm that we could control…

The task allowed students to demonstrate grit, tenacity and resilience. I hope we were teaching kids to become learners, not assuming that they only need the content. Steve Messler, CEO of Classroom Champions, where athlete mentors adopt 3-10 classrooms per year. They focus on their own personal journey, athletes teach about the hard work of training, goal setting, competition and perseverance. They share their stories of success, failure, and perseverance.

Check out for more information on Steve and Classroom Champions. And help our students develop their own grit, tenacity, resilience and perseverance.

Work hard, learn tons!


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