Arts & Humanities
A powerful activity "buries" students' thoughts of "I'm not good at" and "I can't" and builds perseverance.
perseverance, persistence, self-esteem, bury, negative thoughts, shred
This is a good lesson for anytime in the first half of the school year -- the earlier the better. You might use the lesson during the first days of school to set a positive tone for the year.
Write these sentence starters (or others you might add to them) on a board or a sheet of chart paper.
I'm no good at...
If there is one thing I can't do, it is...
I feel stupid when I...
Talk with students about how they are all unique. They have a wide variety of talents and skills. They have strengths and weaknesses. For some, new skills will come easily; others will find those skills more challenging to develop.
Ask students to share some things they are good at in school; take time to discuss those things and how it makes them feel to be good at them.
Then draw students' attention to the sentence starters on the board or chart. Ask them to think about how they might complete one or more of those sentences. Pass out paper and let each student complete one or more of the sentences by writing their thoughts on the paper. Let them know before they write that no one will read these papers.
Invite a few students who are willing to share a statement they have written to do so. Invite others to comment on what the students have written. You might ask some leading questions, such as
By the end of the discussion, you want students to comprehend your point, which might be summarized using some of the following words:
"Persisting and persevering -- concentrating more and working harder -- can help you achieve things you might not believe you can achieve. Make the point that statements such as "I'm no good at..." have no place in your classroom. Those are just excuses for not trying hard, for not persevering and putting in some extra effort. Persevering and putting in extra effort are just part of learning. While a new skill might come easy to some, it will not be easy for everyone. But, guaranteed, everyone will find some things we do this year to be difficult or challenging. Everyone will encounter times when they must persevere in order to succeed."
Driving Home the Point
Once all students are in agreement/on-board with the idea that persevering is necessary and good, it's time to "shred" or bury" those negative thoughts they wrote on their papers.
Another teacher I read about some years ago held an "I can't" funeral in her classroom. As a "coffin" was carried among the students, they dropped in their "I can't" slips. At the end of the funeral, the teacher announced that "I can't" was officially dead.
"Can't closes doors, allows you to walk away and give up," the teacher said. She taught her students alternative phrases that were acceptable, such as
- I'm struggling.
- I'm having a hard time.
- The solution is eluding me.
- I don't understand.
- I need help with...
Another teacher did similar activities and shared how she and her students treated "I can't" as a swear word in their classroom. Whenever students heard the phrase, they would gasp as if someone really had said a swear word.
More Perseverance Lesson Ideas
Instilling Perseverance in Children
Education World columnist Leah Davies says, "Perseverance means having the self-discipline to continue a task in spite of being confronted with difficulties. As Albert Einstein once said, 'It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.'" In this column, Davies offers a handful of activities that you might use to develop students' perseverance.
Assess students based on their comments and contributions to the discussion. You might have students write a summary statement about what they learned from doing this activity.
Lesson Plan Source
LANGUAGE ARTS: English
GRADES K - 12
NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills
PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND HEALTH: Health
GRADES K - 4
NPH-H.K-4.4 Health Influences
NPH-H.K-4.5 Using Communication Skills to Promote Health
NPH-H.K-4.6 Setting Goals for Good Health
GRADES 5 - 8
NPH-H.5-8.4 Health Influences
NPH-H.5-8.5 Using Communication Skills to Promote Health
NPH-H.5-8.6 Setting Goals for Good Health
GRADES 9 - 12
NPH-H.9-12.4 Health Influences
NPH-H.9-12.5 Using Communication Skills to Promote Health
NPH-H.9-12.6 Setting Goals for Good Health
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