Building GRIT with Students’ Self-Talk

Welcome back from a long weekend!  As we enter the month of September with three short-weeks in a row, it is all important to help students stay organized and well-planned for upcoming assignments and projects.  Gaps in students’ attendance (caused by absences or long weekends) can cause student and teacher frustration with feelings such as, “I understood this last week…” and “I know I taught this and you got it last week…”

Research shows that students who engage in positive self-talk will persist through such frustrations and regain confidence and control of his or her learning.  Good news – positive self-talk can be learned.  Just as students need strategies to attack problem-solving and analyzing text, they need strategies for self-talk so the little “voice” in his/her head is on their side.  Check out this article from the Marshall Memo for a quick summary:

Encouraging a Metacognitive “Voice” Inside Students’ Heads

(Originally titled “Help Students Train Their Inner Voice”)

In this Educational Leadership article, Bryan Goodwin and Heather Hein of McREL say that a key objective in schools is helping make the “little voice” in students’ heads a helpful, constructive factor in their learning. This matters because students’ inner voice often undermines self-confidence (I stink at math; I can’t draw) and prevents them from exerting effective effort. Goodwin and Hein report that numerous studies have shown that when students check in with themselves (for example, in the middle of a science video saying, Wait a minute, I don’t get this!) or jot down questions during a classroom lecture (Which king was best for England? What do I still not understand about this?), they learn and remember better. The very best results come when students use self-questioning and then discuss the questions with peers.

The good news is that students can learn to enhance their metacognitive voice quite quickly; in one study, the intervention lasted only 90 minutes. “Even more striking, perhaps,” say Goodwin and Hein, “the technique itself seems to stick with students… In short, once students learned how to actively engage in self-questioning, they appeared to internalize the strategy – which might begin a virtuous circle. As students become better learners, they begin to see themselves as better learners, which, in turn, inspires greater confidence and engagement. As they begin to focus the voice in their heads, they replace self-doubt, distraction, and anxiety with a calm, reassuring voice that says, I can do this.

“Help Students Train Their Inner Voice” by Bryan Goodwin with Heather Hein in Educational Leadership, September 2015 (Vol. 73, #1, p. 76-77),; the authors can be reached at and

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