Building Persistence in the Classroom

In the book Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind: 16 Characteristics for Success, author, researcher, and educator A. L. Costa, identified and addressed a rather substantial list of habits beneficial for students, teachers, and schools.  The first in his list of characteristics is persisting.  Students must learn to persist through difficulties if they are going to accomplish their academic and lifetime goals.    

How can teachers help develop persistence in their classrooms?  New Zealand Educator of the Year Karen Tui Boyes shares the following suggestions for teachers in her blog (

  1. Give students a repertoire of problem-solving skills.  Find and directly teach multiple techniques for addressing problems.   
  2. Have students find three ways to solve a problem.  Let students brainstorm and require that they solve the same problem using multiple methods. 
  3. Use language that promotes multiple ways of solving problems.  Directly ask class members, “Are there other ways we can solve this problem?” 
  4. Have students display draft work along the way to completion in order to show progress.  Students love to show their work, and such displays encourage students to continue working on their projects. 
  5. Teach students to juggle.  Seriously.  Juggling is not easy, but it can be taught.  It’s just simple hand-eye coordination, right?  The more you try it, the better you can get, and your students will have a great time.  When you decide to do this in your classroom, let me know.  I want to be there to see it!
  6. Reward effort in the classroom with persistence themed stickers.  Classrooms have historically awarded achievement (which they should), but effort in the right direction should be acknowledged. 
  7. Reward effort in school-wide assemblies, so that persistence becomes part of the overall culture. 
  8. Place persistence-based messaging throughout the classroom.  Create a special display where students can highlight their own persistence.
  9. Incorporate daily reflective journaling specific to goal pursuit and progress.  The more students can think about and articulate their progress, the more likely they are to persist. 
  10. Incorporate literature the shows characters persisting and achieving their goals. 
  11. Incorporate biographical study of real-life persisters and their achievements.  

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can incorporate these ideas into your practice.  You and your students will be glad you did!

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