Of course, we don’t want our students to give up when assignments get hard, but what is persistence and how do I teach it to our students? I have a few easy tricks to teach your students what is persistence and why we need it!
What is Persistence to a young child?
To a young child, persistence means we keep trying, even if something is hard! Students need to learn that when something is challenging, it actually helps our brains to grow! Our brains need challenges to learn – if something is too easy, then the brain doesn’t grow! Some things might be hard at first, but we must keep trying and practicing and eventually, we will be able to do it on our own! Our brains are like a muscle! Young children are not too young to learn about the biology of our brains and the science of learning. In fact, when they understand why challenges are important, they are more receptive to trying them! I like to use this emergent reader to revisit this lesson and then students can take it home and share it with their families!
Growth Mindset and Persistence
In addition to persistence and not giving up, we need students to develop a growth mindset. Students are often afraid of challenges because they are afraid to make mistakes. In fact, I’ve seen more and more students every year struggle with making mistakes and taking on challenges. They shut down at the slightest challenge. Learning how mistakes are actually an important part of the learning process is vital to these students and all students. Students need to learn that mistakes are great! We can learn from our mistakes, and they make our brain grow! After a few lessons about the science of learning and how mistakes make our brains grow, I make sure to have a culture of loving mistakes in my classroom. I always point out to students when I make mistakes and I make a point to share how that mistake helps me learn. When a student admits to making a mistake, I always say, “Yay! You made a mistake!”. At first, they are very surprised by this reaction, but after a while they start saying it too!
Power of Yet
One of the most important lessons in persistence is learning the Power of Yet. There is a fantastic Sesame Street song all about this, and yes, it will get stuck in your head for days! Students need help to reframe their thinking. They will often say, “I can’t read” or “I can’t do it, it’s too hard” and shut down. Help them to shift their thinking and grow their learning to start saying, “I can’t read YET” or “I can’t do it YET”. Students will learn that with hard work and persistence, they will be able to read or solve the challenges. Just adding this simple word to their sentences can help boost their persistence and learning. I like to have students complete these worksheets to make goals and what they can’t do yet!
Resources for teaching students how our brains learn
A wonderful read aloud to students to help them understand how our brains learn is the Your Fantastic Elastic Brain! This book really demystifies the whole learning process and encourages students to develop more of a growth mindset. For more read aloud suggestions, check out my Amazon store for a list of these persistence read alouds and more!
Another great, and free, resource is the Growth Mindset videos by Class Dojo. This short series has such engaging videos all on the power of a growth mindset and how our brains grow when they make mistakes and when they work through challenges.
Additionally, my school always does a Week of Inspirational Math with students to encourage deep and critical thinking in math, flexible thinking, and a growth mindset. These free activities and videos really help inspire students to take on challenges and learn from them.
Finally, biographies are another great way to teach students about persistence. Students will learn about important people in history and how they didn’t give up on their dreams. They will learn how persistence helped these famous people to succeed, and how it can happen to them too! You can also have these discussions with fiction stories too, but I do think it is even more powerful to learn these lessons from real people in history.
Now you know what is persistence and how to teach it! You can use these great resources like the emergent readers, worksheets, and other lessons to teach students about how their brains learn and how persistence helps them to grow and learn. You can get all these activities in my social emotional learning unit: Persistence! What is your favorite persistence activity you want to try with your students?
This post contains amazon affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small (very small) commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links.