11 Ways to Promote Persistence

Persistence is the ability to stick to a task, especially when the going gets tough. It is being able to hang in there and keep going when a task becomes challenging, never giving up and keeping on going.

Do your students say often say, “It’s too hard,” so they don’t have to think any further? Do they crumple up their paper and say, “I can’t do this,” meaning so I don’t have to do this? These show lack of persistence. Dr Art Costa, the co-founder of the Habits of Mind, says “teaching persistence is a matter of teaching strategy. Persistence does not just mean working to get it right. Persistence means knowing that getting stuck is a cue to ‘try something else.’”

Here are some ideas you might model or adapt to develop persistence in your classroom:

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 2.52.46 pm1. Give your students a repertoire of problem-solving strategies. Invite students to make a plan before solving a problem and if plan A does not work, use plan B, C, D or E.

2.Teach your students to find at least three ways to solve a problem so they have a backup if one strategy doesn’t work. The more ways you have to solve a problem, the more likely you are to keep going.

3. As a teacher you may hear yourself saying, “who has another way to solve this?” or “What’s another way?” Develop a bank of different strategies and ways to approach a task.

4. Allow children to be proud of and display their draft work along side the finished piece of work to show the development and persistence that took place. A fantastic book that shows the persistence of an author is Dr Seuss’ Hooray For Diffendoofer Day. It shows Dr Seuss’ workings and changes, as well as his developing thought processes in writing the book.

5. A great activity to introduce persistence is to teach your students to juggle, and it’s even better if you don’t know how. Find a book on juggling and all start together. You will be learning at the same. Great role modeling.

6. Use a simple sticker reward chart to reward every time you catch someone persisting. It can simply say “We are persistent,” with names ticked underneath.

7. Persistence awards or ribbons may be given out at assembly.

8. When displaying students’ work that they have persisted at, create a sign that says, “We have been persistent” to show case the development for this Habit of Mind.

9. Assign reflection writing or journaling after a task, activity or day with the question: How did I show I’m persistent today?

10. Parallels may be drawn between a character in a book and a student. For instance, after reading The Tortoise and The Hare, discuss how the tortoise was persistent and how the student shows persistence in other settings, such as home.

11. It is often said, “Persistent people begin their success where others end in failure.” Study people such as Sir Edmund Hillary, first to climb to the top to Mt Everest, sporting heroes, para Olympians or entrepreneurs. Meet with successful people in your community and have students ask questions about the tough times and how they kept going. Gold medalists will often talk about 10 years of training to get to the top.

As url says, “Be like the postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there.”

However, there are also times students need to know when to stop, when to say enough is enough. Some students want to rework their ideas over and over again, in a search for perfection. Teach these students to strive for excellence rather than perfection, which is unattainable.

Most important: If your students are not developing persistence in your classroom, possibly the work they are being given is not stretching them. You will see the need for persistence when students, and adult for that matter, are stuck, when they don’t know what to do.

In order to persist, students must feel safe in their classroom environment to take risks, make mistakes, think flexibly and even undertake something they have not done before. Create a culture in your classroom and school where it is OK to be different, to give new ideas a whirl and where persistence is celebrated.

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Published on Thursday, May 8th, 2014, under Habits of Mind

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

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