The Formative Five: Fostering Grit, Empathy, and Other Success Skills Every Student Needs

For success in school and life, students need more than proficiency in academic subjects and good scores on tests; those goals should form the floor, not the ceiling, of their education. To truly thrive, students need to develop attributes that aren’t typically measured on standardized tests. In this lively, engaging book by veteran school leader Thomas R. Hoerr, educators will learn how to foster the “Formative Five” success skills that today’s students need, including

  • Empathy: learning to see the world through others’ perspectives.
  • Self-control: cultivating the abilities to focus and delay self-gratification.
  • Integrity: recognizing right from wrong and practicing ethical behavior.
  • Embracing diversity: recognizing and appreciating human differences.
  • Grit: persevering in the face of challenge.

When educators engage students in understanding and developing these five skills, they change mindsets and raise expectations for student learning. As an added benefit, they see significant improvements in school and classroom culture. With specific suggestions and strategies, The Formative Five will help teachers, principals, and anyone else who has a stake in education prepare their students—and themselves—for a future in which the only constant will be change.


How can we help students understand the importance of being empathetic, having integrity, and developing grit? Questions like these have plagued educators who worry that unless the important “soft skills” are developed, the realization of academic success may not be fully attainable. The Formative Five offers ideas for practical application including an extensive book list to inspire learners. Using the Formative Five with your staff will transfer conversations into action and ideas into plans. It is a “must read” for those engaged in the work of developing students into responsible and productive global citizens.

Patrice L. Liff, Assistant Principal
Atkinson Academy, Atkinson, NH


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