How Children Succeed “Book Club” Part 3 – Zest

In case you missed our earlier installments in our “book club” series, you can read Part 1 – Grit here, and Part 2 – Self-Control here. This week we’re talking about zest.

ZEST Defined

We’ll defer yet again to Character Lab, a nonprofit cofounded by grit guru Angela Duckworth, for the official definition of zest. According to Character Lab, someone who possesses this character strength is full of life and approaches situations with enthusiasm. Those who demonstrate zest often invigorate those around them and bring new energy to a situation. However, unlike grit and self-control, there isn’t much research clarifying how zest manifests in an individual or how one can develop zest. Character Lab suggests that one might grow zest through exercise, healthy eating and sleeping habits, enjoying nature, building autonomy, and cultivating passions.

Application to College Success

Considering that much of college life exists beyond the lecture hall, the level of zest a student possesses is likely to influence his/her experience beyond academics from physical and mental health to participation in extracurricular activities.

Opportunities and Strategies for Developing Zest

How can educators cultivate zest on a daily basis within the constraints of their classrooms and required curricular objectives?

  • Get students up and moving! One of the most straightforward ways to invigorate your students and build their content knowledge is to incorporate movement into your classroom. For specific strategies read our post Incorporating Physical Movement into Lessons by Lexy Arroyo, director of teacher development.


  • Give students opportunities to demonstrate autonomy. Students demonstrate autonomy by making choices. When students are given choices, they feel a sense of ownership over their learning, which leads to greater engagement and energy. For specific strategies on giving students choice read The Power of Choice.


  • Model zest. If an instructor shows enthusiasm about the content, students are much more likely to be equally enthusiastic and energized. The mood and temperament of the teacher often dictate the mood and temperament of the class. This doesn’t mean instructors need to stand at the front of the room waving pom-poms, though. Showing enthusiasm can be conveyed by the sense of urgency in your classroom. Do you set a purpose for the lesson? Do students have a clear understanding of why the content is important? For more ideas on developing a strong sense of urgency read our post 6 Ways to Step-Up Sense of Urgency in the Classroom.


  • Provide students with pathways to explore their own interests. Help students discover their passions by introducing them to new information and experiences. Many English and social studies colleagues I know utilize nonfiction texts to introduce students to new, interesting information. Additionally, at many YES Prep campuses, teachers host “bid trips” to expose students to new experiences. Students bid reward points to attend a bid trip and the top bidders are invited. Bid trips range from staying on campus after school for cookie decorating to off-campus events or performances.

What strategies do you have for developing zest in your students? Share your ideas in the comments section below. 

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