Top 3 Posts from This Year

Do you know about these three posts?  Hundreds of teachers are using the content and links in these posts so I thought you might want to know about them if you don’t already.

The Number One TOP POST: WIDA 2018 Breakout Session on Video Plus Resources

This post with all the resources from my WIDA 2o18 session is likely popular because it has an embedded video of my Hacking Literacy breakout session and most of the tips I shared.

That post makes it super simple to turn around a PD just like the one I did at WIDA.  You have visuals and explanations for Reviewing Objectives, QSSSA, The IDK Poster, Differentiation and a lot more.  I presented the session from that exact blog post and you can too.  Or you can just review the post & or watch the video to get what the participants got who attended.

The 2nd Most Popular Post is My Interview with Tan Huyhn on How Lessons Fail ELs

In this post, Tan Huynh helps me review a great infographic he created to remind us of what things we might be doing that would fail our English learners.  I find the 6 reminders so powerful and Tan explaining the thinking behind each of them is a great listen to help us all reflect. This post offers the uncut video I did with Tan and also the podcast version of that conversation.

I’m grateful that Tan puts out so much great content and I strongly suggest you follow him on Twitter and on subscribe to his blog if you don’t already.

Top Post #3 is The Interview with Sarah Williams about Starting out Strong in the ESL Classroom.

Be sure to bookmark this one for the beginning of the school year! Sarah Williams reached out about how to set up her classroom and had a great conversation to go along with my top tips for this. I’ve had SO MANY teachers reach out about this post and episode.  The post has a 30 min video embedded that had over a thousand views in just a few weeks.  I believe this is because the advice on setting up your classroom for the first day of school is practical and so many teachers want to get off on the right foot but are not sure where to start with language learners. Others tell me that there are some great reminders there on what is fundamental to a safe, productive space. Thanks to Sarah for helping me recap it all.

The Videos Page and the Podcast Page were viewed more than anything so you may want to check those out as well.

Thanks for dropping by this blog.  I hope you are able to find content that is useful to you.

Please reach out. I’d love to hear from you!

Big Hugs!


PS: Thank you to everyone contacting me about doing professional development in your district!  If anyone wants more information about that, you can email me at or reach out to me on Twitter.  I’m at @MsSalvaC

PSS: Did you know I have a facebook page?

Can you join us at one of these upcoming Rapid Literacy conferences?

Waxahachie / North Texas – Rapid Literacy Saturday, December 1, 2o18

Des Moines, Iowa Rapid Literacy Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Detroit, Michigan Rapid Literacy Tuesday, January 29, 2019

BAP038 VoxCast with Derek Rhodenizer. What Else Can We Build Outside the Blocks of Time?

Not enough time? Maybe you have more than you think.

Listen to the show right here and the links are below:
Listen to “BAP038 VoxCast with Derek Rhodenizer. What Else Can We Build Outside the Blocks of Time” on Spreaker.

Because we couldn’t find common podcasting time, Derek Rhodenizer and I decided to use Voxer to communicate and document a conversation that was spread over several days.  In this show, we realize that we may not have a common 1-hour block together but we could certainly find 3 minutes here and there to communicate back and forth.

This leads us to think about what else we might be able to do where we thought we could not.

This concept reminds me of Noa Daniel and her Building Outside the Blocks approach to instruction.  Her projects changed EVERYTHING for me and my students.  It was so liberating to allow them to build their projects outside the blocks of time we had in school. Noa’s projects were so engaging that they WANTED to do them.  They were not forced to do any of them.  Check her out here.

We talk about the medium we are using and how this technology might support the learning of our students.  We talk about wait time and why it helps us reflect.  So then, of course this would be good for our students.

I mention the QSSSA strategy.

Universal Design for Learning was mentioned and I admited that I needed to look that up. It took us into some reflection about what “good teaching” is.  We also reflected about our “WHY.”  I feel that mine is to empower people.  Derek feels that his why is to help kids get better.

Here is the 1 min of audio of me and Emily Francis at #WIDA2018.  It was in an awesome session by Michelle Shory.  Emily’s WHY sounds way better than mine.   :-/

I look forward to more conversations like this with Derek and with others in my PLN.  It showed me that where there is a will, there is a way!  And it inspired me to think about what else we might need to rethink!  Derek and I thought we did not… but we obviously DO have time to podcast.

Let me know what YOU think!



Most Requested Videos for your PD Efforts

Here are some of my most requested videos that people use to offer PD or for their own reflection. Hope they are useful!

Newcomers and SLIFE tell you what helps them most in their classes (1 hour video):

Effective Questioning in Social Studies (QSSSA Deep Dive) 30 min:

Language Experience Approach and QSSSA modeled. Non-Example and Example (30 min):

High School Newcomer explains how he gained so much English in 7 months. (4 min):

After watching that video, Uri is inspired and puts incredible effort. In the following video, he explains how he went from Beginner to Advanced High in reading  in less than one school year (6 min):

In this video, he explains his 2 top tips for teachers of newcomers (3 min):

Uri talks about the importance of Voice and Choice for students (3.5 min):

A middle school student changes his mindset so we can get literacy off the ground (3 min)

Using Kahoot with Newcomers (30 min)

For your PTA to blast to the community if you need volunteers (6 min)

There are many more videos you can use on this page of my blog.

Thank you for your interest in these videos and for all you do to help our ELs! Contact me with any questions.





Do you need any support in your district?  We are currently booking engagements for training, coaching and speaking so just reach out at  I’d love to hear from you.


BAP031 Part 2 of Keep Moving Forward

“It’s easy to say ‘Don’t give up.’ But you don’t know how the person feels when the failure happens to them.” – Emily Francis

This week is Part II in a series about what we do when our English Learners don’t pass their assessments or graduation requirements.  How do we support them to the finish line?  You can listen to the show in iTunes, Soundcloud or right here:

Image result for emily francis esl twitter

You may be interested in listening to Episode 30 which is Part I of this series.

I’m so grateful to Emily for joining me again on this topic.  She is highlighted in my Boosting Achievement book for her excellent ESL teaching methods but at that time, I didn’t even know her own story. You can watch a 3 min video about how we met here:

I later read a blog post by Emily where she told her story and I’ve been using that with my classes ever since.  It’s like gold!  I wrote a blog post about Emily and what is possible for our students who may have missed formal education. I mention just a few of Emily’s many accolades and achievements as that post begins a book study on the topic of students in this demographic. You can read that post here.

Reflections from Episode 31 podcast: One of my biggest take-aways from this recent talk with Emily Francis is that THIS is the moment I decided that explicitly showing students failure stories is key to success of SIFE students and those learners trying to overcome similar language and literacy challenges.  I decided here that it may be more important than hearing about people who overcome challenges where we don’t actually hear about their failed attempts.  I have come to realize that so many of our newcomers and SIFE will experience failure academically (like I did and like Emily did) in their initial attempts at grade level assessments.  We know this to be a fact because they are only just learning the language while learning new content.

Of course, we have some amazing strategies for providing comprehensible input and fantastic teachers everywhere are offering students ways to show mastery.  Also, we absolutely have students who gain enough language and proficiency with accommodations to pass state assessments in their first year.  That is always the goal.

But the reality is some of our students come to us struggling with literacy and other issues and they often experience failure in the beginning.

So Emily and I recap our conversation with the students from the last episode.  But if you pay attention, you’ll hear that we are really reflecting more on how we model getting up from failure.

We all fail.

None of us seems to want to.  And yet, that is where most of the growth in our life might occur.

I mention this video by Derek Rhodenizer and friends. I love what he did for the students at his school  in Ottawa, Canada. I was honored to be a part of it.

I think modeling failure for students is probably one of the most important things we can do.  For ALL students.

Next episode we will go into more of the actual programs and even literacy techniques we are seeing that are effective.  I’ll be talking with Talisa Harris who reached out over email about this issue.  We will be talking about what we are doing at each of our schools.

Thanks for listening and join us for this Saturday!  Even if you read this after Saturday… it’s all still there!  Go check out all the great free PD for teachers of ELs!  #VirtuEL18 will be amazing!

Please connect with me on Twitter at @MsSalvaC or at www.Facebook/SalvaBlog.

Hope to see you at #ISTE18, at the Region 10 ESL/BIL conference or for CarolinaTESOL in Greensboro, NC next month.

Stay awesome!



Martin Luther King Jr. Lesson for ESL

As always, my newcomers are responding positively to lessons that explain Martin Luther King, Jr. and his role in American history.  I’ll be doing more of them throughout the coming weeks.

These lessons come at a time when our recent immigrants need them most. We have an opportunity to discuss civil liberties and why Dr. King was so passionate about equality and justice.

I initially use the following objectives:

Content Objective: I will identify Martin Luther King, Jr. and be able to explain his role in American History.

Language Objective: I will explain my learning to my partner by completing the following sentence frame:  “Martin Luther King, Jr. was important to American history because _____________________________”

I use these materials over several days so my content objectives change to cover verb tenses, social studies vocabulary, idioms as well as author’s purpose and details.

My goal is to give my language learners enough of the basic facts to elicit rich conversations about social justice and equality.  A larger goal I have is to make sure each of my immigrant students understands the sacrifices made by Dr. King and other civil rights leaders.  I want them to know that they are vitally important to the fabric of our nation.  I want them to know that there are so many people then and now that are willing to fight for their inclusion. And that this great man showed us how to fight with love.  These are messages that should not be lost on our English language learners.

Our students need to understand the basic facts about Dr. King’s life.  To help them understand his biography, I have adapted a piece of text that they use in groups to answer the knowledge level questions in a Kahoot.  The questions are at the basic, comprehension level which can still be a struggle for my first year students.  I scaffold by pre-teaching vocabulary and offering shared reading for my beginners/emergent readers.  More advanced students work in pairs. 

My students understand that if they are not the “reader” they should be tracking print to advance their decoding skills.  The listener also has the task of listening for the answers to the questions that will be on the Kahoot.  I give those to the students in this printed document.

Here is the link to play the Kahoot:

I have to give credit to Kahoot Hero NekyaHB.  She created a great Kahoot 2 years ago which I duplicated and adapted for my language learners.

I love the engagement I have with the students because they know there will be a Kahoot over the material.  But I don’t want to waste this engagement at the knowledge level of these facts.  I make sure to use visuals in the Kahoot so I can ask students what they notice.  We stop between many of the questions to discuss their thinking and their questions.  I facilitate structured conversations with the #QSSSA questioning strategy to hold students accountable for their conversations.  If you’re unfamiliar with this great technique, it will change your life!  John Seidlitz developed a great acronym for using several sheltered strategies together called Question/Signal/Stem/Share/Assess.  Valentina Gonzalez wrote a great post about it here.

With my second year students, the reading was less scaffolded.  I used Nancy Motely’s Talk, Read, Talk, Write approach so that the students were doing more of the reading.  If you are not familiar with this great approach, you can watch her VirtuEL keynote video that explains it here. This is how I used it:

Talk #1:  “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”  This is what is known as the “Golden Rule.” What does this mean to you?  (Use QSSSA for Talk #1)

We do some extra talking here as I ask students to popcorn out what they know about Dr. Martin Luther King and what they want to know.  (KWL Chart)

Read: Shared reading or partner reading of this text.  Students work to answer questions that will also be in a Kahoot at the end of class.

Talk #2: This happens during the Kahoot.  I use QSSSA after several questions to have students discussing their connections and thoughts about the work of Dr. King.  We also generate more questions during this time.  Native language is allowed but we use frames for English speaking in unison.

Write: After the Kahoot we have a quick write to summarize our thoughts about Dr. King.  I do this as a shared writing with my newcomers (their ideas, I scribe the brainstorm and the quick write in English).  My intermediate/2nd year students do this more independently.  They still offer ideas for the brainstorm and I scribe them, but they compose their paragraphs independently.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo, I will also be using these videos and other great resources from his blog: New videos for teaching about Martin Luther King

Also adding a Flipgrid opportunity for my students.  Thanks to Jess Bell, who sent me this flipgrid example.  She has her students recording what their dream is.  The intro video should get the students off to a great start.  

 There is quite a bit we can teach when we couple Kahoot, videos, adapted text and Flipgrids with our language and learning targets.  Especially when we are using great sheltered strategies techniques.

I hope you found this helpful.  I can’t think of a better time to be using the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in our classrooms.

Thanks for reading!


PS:  Please reach out if you are interested in consulting or training. I continue to be inspired by the educators in every district where I work.  We all want the same thing.  We want to help students be successful.  It’s my honor to share strategies that support those goals!  You can reach Kathy Belanger of Seidlitz Education to book me at  Or contact me directly at


What SIFE are Teaching Us and Book Study Week One

Look at what these scholars can do!  They helped about 600 educators understand the journey of a newcomer and helped us all raise our expectations for students with interrupted or limited education.

(BTW: This week we kick off another round of the book study so the questions for week one are at the bottom of this post. I know some of you are not here for the book study so I appreciate your grace for the next 5 weeks.  We might reference the book study a lot but I will make sure the beginning of each post has new content for you.)

So for this post, I want to highlight something my students taught us this week:

We need to give them more voice.

Several of my 2nd year newcomers offered a panel discussion at TxTESOL2017.   A few of my 3rd year students came as well because they were from the original class of students in our middle school group and wanted to share about being in high school when you have not had formal education for several years.  These are some photos from the event and if you’re reading Boosting Achievement or if you’ve seen any of my videos, you may recognize these scholars. 

The audience was riveted by their comments.  I am processing video from the event and it will be shared here as soon as possible.  My reflection on this was how profound the event was for the participants AND the students.  It convinced me that we need to do this more.  Because several of the students had interruptions in education or were limited in formal education, their testimony was a big win for English learners and the teachers who teach them. They show that every child can achieve success with support and the right mindset.

One interesting thing is that one of the students told me that maybe he should not participate because he is failing some classes.  This is a young person who only became literate 2 years ago.  I asked him if he was trying his very best.  He said yes.  I asked him if he could read better than last year.  He said yes.  Then I asked him if he was learning in those classes.  Yes. We had a talk about how some people don’t think a person can learn to read in the 2nd language if he can’t read in his native language.  He laughed at that.  That is when I told him that he had a chance to tell teachers that anything is possible… if you believe and don’t give up.  He was energized to go and you should have seen him get all his courage to talk in front of a few hundred people.  The bravery of these scholars brought me to tears. They brought many of the participants to tears and they received a standing ovation.

You see… we don’t expect him to pass all of his classes.  Not yet. But he CAN and he WILL if he doesn’t give up.  Our system is designed to help all students who want to achieve.  It doesn’t feel that way but we can show him how to take advantage of the support.  He just needs to want it.

The voices of these young people were more powerful than anything that any of us could have said at a conference.  They are clear about what helps them.  They are clear about being able to learn quickly.  They are clear about wanting to be challenged but supported.

So, Yes! #TxTESOL2017 was rather amazing.  I’m producing a podcast with some reflections and you’ll see the link for that coming out in just a day or two.  Hat’s off to Karen Lewis and the TexTESOL4 board.

Stay tuned for other events where you can meet these students and others that might want to participate.  Kids CAN teach us!

***************WEEK ONE of the Boosting Achievement Book Study*****************************


Yes, we are starting the book study!  If you are just cracking the book open this week – you’re still in great shape! The first week of the book study is the Forward by Tan Huynh and the Introduction.  This is a quick read but they are very important parts of the book.  Please take time to read these pages so you can comment with the hashtag #BoostingAchievement on Twitter.

For the next 5 weeks, I will do my best to share a weekly post by Sunday evening.   You may choose to answer some of the questions below or just comment on your reading. Please use the #BoostingAchievement hashtag.  You can use the 1A2 format (Week 1/Answer #2) or just use the hashtag and write in complete sentences so people understand your comment.

WEEK ONE: Where we Are, Forward and Introduction

Feel free to use the Flipgrid for responding as well. Here is the Week 1 grid:

1Q1) Roll call: introduce yourself, name, role, grade levels, country/state etc. Anything you want to say about why you’re participating.  (Welcome!)

1Q2) What makes you interested in this book/topic?

1Q3) How is your school addressing the needs of SIFE (students with interrupted formal education)?

What are your desires for systemic solutions. What are your concerns? What are some things that you are proud of in terms of supporting SIFE?

1Q4) Please reflect on the forward by Tan Huynh (@TanELLclassroom). Tan is a leader in ESL education. What are your reactions to his story? His thoughts on the book? How does his story inform what we do as teachers?

1Q5) Carol writes a reflection about her first experience with a large group of refugees. She has several years of experience as a specialist with a background in ELA, Bilingual Education, ESL and Special Education. She was still worried that she would fail these learners. How can teachers overcome self-doubt?

1Q6) Without romanticizing the situations of SIFE, every circumstance has something that can be used in a productive way. One example is brain research showing that there are possible cognitive advantages when a person is not immersed in technology for years. What are your take-aways from the work of Nicholas Carr & Jane Healy (found on p. 11)?

1Q7) As you flip through the Table of Contents, what section are you most looking forward to discussing? Why?

You may also be interested in supplemental materials for WEEK ONE.    At that link you will find the first post I did on part of the book. That post includes videos and the story of a very impressive English learner, Emily Francis.  She was once a SIFE learner herself and has risen above so much challenge to help us see what is possible.  Follow Emily here!

Hope to see you on the Flipgrid, the Twitterverse or both!

Carol Salva


TexTESOL2017 Plenary Session on SIFE

If you came to the state TxTESOL conference, I hope I got a hug from you.  If you ware unable to attend, you will find so many resources by following the hashtag #TxTESOL2017.

How-To Videos for making Booksnaps.  Tara Martin has some great ideas if you don’t have Snapchat.  And look at all these #BoostingAchievement booksnaps on the padlet created by Emily Francis!

These are the resources on my session about SIFE thriving at a secondary campus.  The following videos are paired with reflective questions about our beliefs.   We hope you can use them in your own PD! Please help change the mindset about what is possible:

How much does growth mindset matter when we are teaching older students to read?

Do you believe that every child can succeed?

Personal connections and a draft.

And remember to find Emily’s blog on her website:


I hope to see you at the Region IV Bil/ESL conference on Dec 15th!

Save the date for our tech conference on March 1st in Houston!  I’ll be presenting with John Seidltiz on the 5 Keys to Using Tech with ELLs.  See for more coming soon!

And please follow me on twitter so we can be connected and learn more from each other.

Thanks to all who came and all who are sharing virtually!  You’re helping us change what’s possible for ELLS!


Not at WIDA2017? Here is What I Shared


If you missed #WIDA2017, I have you covered.  I gave a session on what is possible for our newcomers and SIFE students.  I shared the video of Nabil, a student who had a fixed mindset about learning to read.  Once we shifted him to a growth mindset, he was much more engaged!  We can do A LOT with an engaged learner!

I also shared this document and we went over what features participants noticed.  I used the #QSSSA questioning strategy from the Boosting Achievement book.

I sang the praises of as a way to help emergent readers up their reading level as quickly as they’d like.  Because we know that the more you read, the more you CAN read!

The message of my session was… what CAN’T they do???  Our EL’s CAN do everything the other students can do.  They may take more time to do it, but there is nothing wrong with our students.  If we accommodate for them, the sky is the limit.  And the immigrant SIFE students can catch up!  They can catch up and pass native born students.  It’s all about what you want.  We need to help them see that it is possible.

Here is the handout I used to break down what all I was modeling and what we saw in the video.


We also played part of a Mitosis Kahoot.  It is a great way to practice speaking academic language and a great preview the ESL teacher can do for content classes.  Here is the full BLIND Kahoot & more on how to teach with Kahoot.  Your biology students will thank you!

Thank you for helping us change the mindset! And thanks to WIDA for allowing me to share & learn in Tampa this week.  Fantastic conference!

Reach out if I can help with any of this.



ALL students can learn??  Of course they can!….  How ’bout “ALL students can teach us!!”

BA Podcast 001 – Challenging Our Beliefs

Hello ESL Family!

I’m incredibly honored to join the amazing folks at VoicEdRadio!  I will be hosting a new podcast for ESL professionals.  Introducing  “Boosting Achievement. The ESL Podcast”

Listen Here!

Here is what you will hear in Episode #1

Welcome to the Boosting Achievement ESL Podcast. I’m your host, Carol Salva from Houston, Texas.  In this podcast, I’ll be chronicling my journey of learning as I attempt to discover the best ways to support language learners… and the teachers who teach them.  

My credentials

What’s my philosophy on ESL?  First, I realize that “English as a Second Language” is outdated so I will use EAL (English as an Added Language) but this term is still what will help us reach more teachers in searches, especially new teachers who are looking for support.

My philosophy for helping students acquire English is to figure out and focus on the strategies that give you the biggest bang for your buck.  I like to imagine the Pareto Principal applies to teaching. We probably get 80% of our gains by 20% of our effort.  We will be looking for those most impactful strategies!

Philosophy on Podcasting- get out there & investigate + reflect.

Alan November & BLC Conference

What a typical show will be like.  Modeling my frequency after podcaster: Derek Rhodenizer


BOOSTING ACHIEVEMENT, THE ESL PODCAST will be a mix of my solo ramblings, guests (consultants, teachers & students).

Big Idea for This Week: Challenging Our Beliefs

Especially during Back to School Season.  Don’t lower your expectations just because so many students are struggling to understand you right now.  Collaborate with like-minded professionals.

Misstep this week:  I should have allowed even more student talk. I shouldn’t talk so much just because most of the class is not fluent in English.  Beginning of the year requires even more turn & talk so students have a chance to process.

One big win! Turning the Social Contract into a Kahoot for language practice. Then getting up and switching partners several times to practice the speaking like this.


Also Great this Week:

Special THANKS to Rola Tibishini at All Saints Catholic High School students for the amazing padlet you created for us!  See it here:


Highlight Tweet!  Big thanks to Kirsten Foti, M.Ed from Dallas/Ft. Worth for this great post:

I think that is quite enough for Episode 1.

Thank you for listening/reading!

Stay awesome,


Join me on Twitter:

Join me on Facebook:

In Defense of Grit for SIFE. (Plus Week 3 Book Study Resources)

Sigh.  Grit is getting a bad wrap. I was so excited about it and now haters are tweeting ugly tweets at me. Some colleagues are, however, being constructive and are making good arguments.  If you teach newcomers,  you might be dismayed because many of our kiddos are the grittiest kids in the building.

Grit has been a hot topic in education since the release of the book Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. In it, she explains that it is not a person’s IQ that predicts success in life. This thing called grit is what really pushes people to continue working toward success.

Her TED talk has been viewed over 8 million times and her research is being leveraged by educators around the world.  In her talk she even goes so far as to say that we all REALLY want our own children to have this grit but no one is quite sure how to cultivate it.  WOW! And as teachers of newcomers, we often see students that already possess it!

I tweet and write about grit in hopes that teachers realize what is possible for SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education).  Just two weeks ago I highlighted Emily Francis in this post on what is possible for our students with an interrupted formal education. Emily is FULL of grit. She needed it to rise from under-schooled & non-English speaker to become one of the Teaching Channel’s Fab5 ELL teachers.

Well, now I am getting tweets with people telling me that I am putting the blame and responsibility on the learner.  (yikes!)  I can see where this criticism of grit narratives has merit.  I understand this argument as “If grit is the answer, then the people who are not succeeding must not have enough grit. Or they aren’t using it correctly. And/or teachers are off the hook, let’s just get everyone very gritty.”   Great points here.

I also have a new friend, Andrea Honigsfeld (author of ELL Frontiers – please read it, it is such a great book on tech for ELLs) who turned me on to a thought-provoking article written by Valerie Strauss for the Washington Post. I loved that Andrea sent this to me because it was sent in a constructive way. She asked my thoughts on it and she opened my eyes to some important things I had not considered.
Strauss makes a great case for rethinking our love of grit narratives and I need articles like this to inform my thinking.  Strauss challenges us to realize that kids of poverty already have grit. She explains that their home lives are full of grit and they don’t need more lessons about it in school.  She also argues that lessons on grit serve middle to upper class students more than our lower socioeconomic students.  Hmmmm. Also very good points! 

There is actually A LOT of criticism of teaching grit.  Here is one more. Andrea sent me this article Paul Thomas wrote for Alternet where he explains that  grit will never be the answer to overcoming poverty and racism.  He writes that instead, “the key to increasing the success of those students now languishing on the wrong end of the achievement gap is to address the inequity of opportunity they face in their lives and in their schools.”  Their plight is more of a systemic issue, according to Paul. 

Do a search on it, and youll find even more great arguments against teaching grit. And I can see their points, many of which can’t be disputed.

If you are like me, you might be thinking, ‘Ugh! Just when we thought our SIFE had a silver lining to their stories of hardship!’  

But here’s the thing.  

As a teacher of newcomers (many of which are SIFE), I’m not teaching grit as the answer to all of their problems.  I’m not.  I’m pointing out that they may already have it and I’m exposing them to the research that shows that it is a predictor for success in life.  I want them to have this knowledge as part of a repertoire of tools and metacognitive strategies that will hopefully spark intrinsic motivation about what is possible for them.  It is a character trait we can all use,  they should know all there is to know about it. Heck, they can go off and find some more research to help us all learn more about it.

Strauss is right. Our kids don’t need long lessons on how to be gritty.  But my newcomers definitely need to be aware that those middle and upper-class families desperately want this character trait for their children. Just letting them in on that little fact is powerful for their mindset. And while we are sharing research with our students, lets go ahead and use the Paul Thomas article as well. Our recent immigrants are well served when we give them the real facts about inequities.  I teach high school students who need to know what they are facing.  We can balance all of this with some great social justice lessons where we highlight heroes like Martin Luther King Jr & Nelson Mandella.

We want our youth to know that there are many of us working to change the inequities.  We want them to know that their teacher is working to optimize their learning experience across the building. But we also want them to know their own abilities to improve.  And that they can be agents of change themselves!

Nope. I’m not ready to give up on grit.

And I’m not the only one that thinks we can use grit to our advantage if we are thoughtful about how we use it.  The following is an excerpt from October 2015 Classroom Q & A article in Education Week Teacher written by Larry Ferlazzo:(follow him BTW. If you only follow ONE person on twitter, it should be Larry.)

So, when I talk about helping our students develop grit, it’s with the idea of encouraging them to apply qualities that many already have – the difference is that I want to help them develop intrinsic motivation to apply these attributes to academic pursuits.

Encouraging the use of metacognition, learning strategies (sometimes greater effort will lead to de-motivation if we don’t know how to adjust what we’re doing – and that could include asking for help), and the positive attitude of a growth mindset (particularly teacher feedback focused on effort instead of intelligence or ability) are important ways teachers can support students using grit and resilience in the classroom. Applying these concepts in our classes will reinforce what researchers  David Yeager, Gregory Walton and Geoffrey L. Cohen have defined as “the fuller formula for success: effort + strategies + help from others.”

At the same time, however, I am wary of pushing the “grit narrative” too far, as some have done already by proclaiming what I call The Let Them Eat Character strategy.   It is in the self-interest of many in our society to use the “all it takes is hard work” mantra as a public excuse for perpetuating political and economic policies that thwart the dreams of many because of their race or economic class (see The Washington Post article, Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong).

I fear this blogpost has officially become way too long. But part of the reason I blog is to synthesize my own thinking. So I have just a few more things to say on this.
One, I am ALL about growth-mindset.  Grit is one thing, if you have friends in education that don’t agree with growth mindset…find other friends.
My main goal as a teacher is to help my students develop intrinsic motivation so they can take off and learn without me.  For SIFE and newcomers, just knowing about all this grit stuff helps them develop their ideas about what they bring to the table.  PLEASE give your students credit that they come to you as critical thinkers and we can give them more critical thinking opportunities around this and other topics.
Here are a few resources I suggest for further study on motivation (which is where I see grit being important)
  • Drive by Daniel Pink – not exclusive to education but you’ll learn what really motivates people and that is like gold for any educator.
  • This “Best of Posts & Articles on ‘Motivating’ Students”  by Larry Ferlazzo.  He has interviews with Dan Pink and many other posts that are specific to working with ELLs. SO many! greatness.
  • I just picked up Larry’s book Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers to Classroom Challenges He has a lesson on grit in this book and I trust it is something appropriate for our demographic based on the excerpt above and other resources by Larry.
  • I also want to get Navigating Common Core with ELLs. This one is also by Larry Ferlazzo. I think I need it. I don’t even teach Common Core! But I know I can generalize here…We all have content standards so I can apply the learning to my reality.  My big reason is that I hear that he includes a lesson on resilience! Excited to see how he makes the idea powerful for students who are likely already resilient.
  • Last week bought Alan November’s Who Owns the Learning.  Got it signed by Alan himself! I have followed Alan for years and just attended & presented at his Building Learning Communities conference in Boston (#BLC17).  Alan was the one that turned me on to Dan Pink many years ago.  It is why I try to inspire students with lessons that offer autonomy, purpose and mastery.  With today’s tech, and a solid PLN, we can ensure that our ELLs own their learning!

Thanks for taking that Grit vs. No Grit journey with me. Writing this certainly helped me think through some things and I obviously still have a lot to learn on this subject.  I’m excited to do that learning with my PLN!  Join me on Twitter if we are not connected there already!

Thanks for reading!




You can find a lot of resources by visiting our Book Study Landing page.  Check out Emily’s notes on last week – Week 3! She is one to follow as she is giving the world the cliff notes on this book!

Boosting Achievement Week Three Questions (Part II in the book)

3Q1)  p. 33 Watch the video with the QR Code or at Hamsa taught his teacher a lot that day. Did he teach you or reinforce anything for you?

3Q2) p. 34 references Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk on “grit”. In her talk, Duckworth describes grit as passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Most SIFE have persevered through something. How can we help them realize the strength, the perspective and the advantages they already possess?

3Q3) p. 33-34 Passion. Persistence. Motivation: many of us have activities that put us in “flow” just like Hamsa from the video. We can all lose track of time working toward a goal when we have a passion for it. Maybe it is running, or crafting, or blogging about education.  If you can relate to this, reflect on it.  Share your “flow” activity and why you think you show so much grit when working toward the goals of it.

3Q4)  p. 38 & 39: We often say that every child brings gifts.  These pages outline a few specific advantages of having newcomers in your classroom. How can you share this message with your staff, with your parents, with the world?

3Q5) How are you planning to leverage growth mindset?  Do you have ideas for  your students with limited education?  How can we leverage all of this to build the growth mindset of the rest of the class, school or community?

3Q6)  p. 40 -44: Breaking down the walls of your classroom: Our SIFE need more than grit and skill building if we want to grow leaders. How do global learning experiences level the playing field for SIFE? How do they propel them beyond grade level expectations?

3Q7) p. 45-47 The idea of a Social Contract (vs. “Rules for my Classroom”) is included in this part of the book. How does your classroom culture impact the mindset of the students.

3Q8) If we are trying to encourage a growth mindset, real SIFE, migrant or newcomer success stories are perfect resources. We can use them as mentor text, read-alouds or for units of study. Examples are &  Please share other success stories you know about to our padlet here: