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Leah Davies
The Teacher Counselor

Instilling Perseverance in Children

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."

The following classroom activities can be used to promote perseverance in students:

Thinking about perseverance.
Lead a discussion about what perseverance means and does not mean. For example, it means to keep working until the assignment is complete, instead of trying only a few times and quitting. With students' help, list the steps needed to learn a new skill such as riding a bicycle, learning to swim, or memorizing the multiplication table.

Abraham Lincoln and Perseverance
Abraham Lincoln once said, "People are about as happy as they make their minds up to be." Share that quote with students. Also share that Mr. Lincoln experienced many successes in his life, but he also failed in business in 1831, was defeated in his bid for a seat in the legislature in 1832, lost his bid for congress in 1843, lost his run for the Senate in 1855, and was defeated for Vice President in 1856. Yet, in 1860, Mr. Lincoln was elected President of the United States. List and discuss the qualities he must have had. For example: positive attitude, tenacity, diligence, courage, boldness, self-discipline, and determination.

Others Who Showed Perseverance
Have each student write a report on a person of their choosing who demonstrated perseverance. Some examples include: Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Harriet Tubman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Madame (Marie) Curie, Ray Charles, Rosa Parks, Lance Armstrong, or Christopher Reeve. Have them answer the following questions in their reports:

  • How did he or she show perseverance?
  • In what ways are you like the person in your report?
  • In what ways are you different from that person?
  • What did you learn about yourself from writing the report?

Stories of Perseverance
Read aloud (and perhaps invite students to act out) stories of perseverance. For example, you might share The Little Engine That Could, or any other story that has perseverance as a theme. Arrange children into groups and challenge them to write a simple poem, a song, or a short story that exemplifies perseverance. Have them perform their works for each other or for children in lower grades.

Perseverance in the News
Have students locate newspaper or magazine articles concerning a person who demonstrated perseverance after experiencing failure. Ask them to report what they learned.

Feelings of Perseverance
Have students write or draw a picture illustrating a time when they persevered and succeeded even though they felt like giving up. Then discuss the feelings associated with their achievement, for example: pride, happiness, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Perseverance Role Plays
Invite students to role play -- or to use puppets to role play -- situations where individuals demonstrate perseverance. Examples: a child who stutters and keeps trying to speak fluently, a child who has learning problems yet puts forth much effort to learn, a student in a wheelchair who tries to do new things.

Persevering In Spite of Obstacles
Lead a discussion on how negative comments from others can influence a student's attitude toward learning. Discuss what children can do to prevent these remarks from hindering their efforts. Talk about ways one can be successful in spite of them. (For more ideas, see Encouraging Thoughts.)

Perseverance Role Models
Invite a respected community member who overcame obstacles to speak to your students about his or her life. Ask the individual to discuss the principles that led to his accomplishments. After the visit, have children compose and send a thank you card or letter.

Easy vs. Difficult
Ask students to create lists of things that are difficult for them to do and easy for them to do. Then discuss the fact that every child has strengths and weaknesses; if children keep trying to do things on their difficult lists, they will most likely be successful.

Planning to Persevere
Brainstorm and list obstacles, habits, and attitudes that prevent people from accomplishing their goals. Then have the children write down or draw a picture of what they want to be or do when they grow up. Arrange students into pairs and have them share their ideas. As a group list, generate a list of "general steps" needed to fulfill their dreams.

Life Stories
Have students create a list of questions that they would like to ask an older relative or family friend. For example:

  • What was the most important thing that you learned from your mother or father?
  • What values are most important in your life today?
  • What are you most proud of doing?
  • Tell about a mistake you made. What did you learn from that mistake?
  • Describe a time when you kept trying even though you felt like giving up.

After completing the interview, have the children write a report on what they learned. Since perseverance is a necessary ingredient for student achievement, it needs to be encouraged. [See below.] Helping children learn to be patient and to persist in spite of failure are attributes that will contribute to their future success.



Believe in each child's ability to achieve.

Expect students to finish what they start.

Avoid accepting excuses for unfinished work.

Give positive feedback when a child puts forth extra effort.

Help students realize that everyone makes mistakes; what is most important is that they keep trying. (See the Kelly Bear Behavior book.)

Teach children how to regroup and start over.

Motivate students to try new things.

Encourage children to take responsibility for themselves and make constructive choices.


Article by Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Reprinted with permission from the
Kelly Bear website,


Originally published 09/15/2008
Last updated 09/27/2017