The Importance of Teaching Perseverance to Elementary Students: 7 Tips to Increase Effort

Did you known that Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before he was successful in creating the lightbulb? Can you imagine what would have happened if he just gave up?

Perseverance refers to continuing to try even when a task becomes challenging, just as Thomas Edison did. If you’re a teacher, you know how essential this is for your students.

Teaching Perseverance to Elementary Students

If students simply give up and quit trying the moment things get tough, they won’t be able to learn new skills and will develop the mindset that they aren’t smart enough to learn.

However, perseverance isn’t something that always comes naturally. It is our job as teachers to teach our students how to preserve when they are faced with a challenge.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “how am I supposed to teach children how to change their mindset and keep working when they’re faced with a difficult task?”

The truth is teaching perseverance isn’t an easy task either! However, we as teachers must, well, preserve to help each of our students reach their full potential.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Why it is important to elementary school students to develop perseverance.
  • How teachers can help their students develop perseverance.
  • Tips to teach perseverance to your students.
  • Games you can play with students to help them learn how to persevere.

Why It Is Necessary to Develop Perseverance in Elementary School

Helping our students develop perseverance from a young age is essential. Studies by Angela Lee Duckworth, a respected researcher and author in the field of perseverance and grit, shot that grit and perseverance can better predict graduation rates than a student’s IQ.

And, if you think about it, this should make sense. If students learn from an early age how to persevere and stick with learning, even with things get challenging, they’ll be much more likely to succeed as they move on to more and more difficult concepts.

Below are some of the many reasons why it is important to start teaching perseverance to elementary school students:

  • Helps students learn to set and achieve long-term goals.
  • Shows students that failure is OK, and you just need to get up and try again.
  • Helps remove the expectation for immediate results and gratification.
  • Children learn to manage their emotions as they struggle with different tasks.
  • Students begin to realize that when they put greater effort into a task, they experience better results.

A Teacher’s Influence on the Development of Perseverance

Teacher can play a huge role in helping their students develop perseverance. After all, a large portion of the child’s day is spent in school with their teacher, and school is where they are expected to complete challenging tasks. Students will look to their teachers for feedback about how to respond to a challenge or a problem.

Additionally, Teachers Are Role Models for Many of Their Students

Planning explicit lessons that highlight the importance of perseverance is one-way teachers can help their students learn this life-changing skill. It is important to keep in mind, however, that perseverance is not something that will be mastered after just one lesson.

Students will need multiple lessons, reminders, and examples to help them develop this skill.

I remember with my students, we would revisit the topic of perseverance on a daily basis. And, even some of my students that normally gave it their all still had some setbacks where they needed some gentle coaching to remind them the importance of not giving up just because something was challenging.

Always Let Students Know That You Think They Can Be Successful

As a teacher, one of the biggest ways you can help your students develop perseverance is to show that you are their biggest cheerleader. Even when students appear to be losing hope and feeling like they’re never solving a particular problem or accomplish a given task, show them that you believe in them and encourage them to keep trying.

Another way to help your students develop perseverance is to be mindful of the type of feedback you provide and the way in which you provide it. Place a greater emphasis on the students’ effort, rather than the end result.

When giving feedback, be specific and identify how the student could have improved on his or her work, rather than simply writing a grade at the top of their paper. Setting clear criteria for success, like you would find in a standards-based classroom, can help students know what is expected of them before they begin working on an assignment. If you’d like to read more about standards-based classrooms, you can do so here.

7 Tips on Teaching Perseverance to Elementary Students

Ready to find out my top tips for teaching perseverance to elementary students? Below you’ll find some tips that will help your students learn to use grit, persevere, and never give up ().

I’ve used many of these in my years in the classroom with great success, and I’d love to see you find the same success with your students!

1. Praise Effort Over Being ‘Smart’

One important thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to teach perseverance to students is the importance of praising their effort, rather than the end result. When you praise the effort that students put into a task, they’re more likely to continue persevering and trying hard. However, when you tell them that they’re ‘so smart,’ when they are faced with something challenging in the future, they may opt to not try, rather than trying and failing and being labeled as not smart.

What Matters Is Not the Goal but the Process

2. Create a Safe Classroom Environment

If you want students to take risks and continue working through challenges, you need to create a classroom environment where students feel safe doing so. Malia, an early elementary education teacher, writes: “To teach perseverance, I try to build a classroom and home environment where my kids feel safe to try and safe to make mistakes. We celebrate mistakes as a chance to persevere and flex our struggle muscles.”

Children Should Not Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

3. Model Being Perseverant

Next, you want to be a good role model for your students and model being persistent when you are faced with a challenge. Be sure to point out the challenge you are facing and use self-talk to show how you are continuing to try even though it isn’t easy. Additionally, acknowledge your own mistakes and reflect on how you’ll address the same problem a different way next time.

Be The Person People Want To Be Like

4. Challenge Students

“If we want our kids to think hard about hard things, we need to give them hard things to think about every single day.” I love this quote from Chrissie, a gifted specialist who used to be a third-grade teacher.

It is so true. We need to find age-appropriate challenges to present to our students each day so they get used to facing difficulties and learning how to solve them.

As one example, challenge your students to participate in a reading fair and complete a reading fair board to show what they learned from a book they read. You can learn more about setting up a reading fair board here.

It Is Not Interesting to Study Without Challenges

5. Use Perseverance Activities to Teach Your Students

There are a lot of ways to encourage perseverance within your curriculum. However, you may also find it useful to choose activities that are specifically geared towards teaching perseverance. You can find some examples here and here.

Conducts Activities to Develop Perseverance and Engagement

6. Read Books and Show Videos Where a Character Perseveres to Conquer a Challenge

Another great way to teach your students how to be perseverant is to read books or show videos where the main character has to put forth their best effort to solve a problem.

Some books that work well for teaching perseverance include Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris Jordan, The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires and Luigi and the Barefoot Races by Dan Paley. If you’re looking for a video to use, consider Caminandes 3: Llamingos.

7. Celebrate Successes

Finally, don’t forget to celebrate your students’ successes. Point out how the effort they put into learning helped them to accomplish a task or achieve a goal.

Praise Is a Great Motivation

Video Games for Perseverance

Another way you can teach your students to be persistent is through the use of games. Below are a few you may want to consider using in your classroom:

  1. Magnus Kingdom of Chess.
  2. Minecraft: Education Edition.
  3. Engare.
  4. GooseChase EDU.
  5. LittleBigPlanet 2.
  6. Zoombinis.
  7. The Infinite Arcade by Tinybop.
  8. Papo & Yo.
  9. Please Knock on My Door.
  10. Kerbal Space Program.
  11. Portal 2 Puzzle Maker.
  12. Tyto Ecology.
  13. Human Resource Machine.
  14. Minecraft.
  15. Florence.
  16. This War of Mine.
  17. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI.
  18. FTL: Faster Than Light.
  19. Epistory – Typing Chronicles.
  20. The Pack – NYSCI.
  21. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

Last Word on Teaching Perseverance to Students

Teaching perseverance to elementary students is one of the most important jobs you have. When your students learn to persevere, it will help them far beyond solving the problems you present in your classroom. Rather, it will set them up for a lifetime of success.

Start integrating a few of the tips on helping students learn perseverance right away. Then, dedicate a chunk of time on your next teacher work day to develop a more comprehensive plan to really help your students improve on this essential skill. You can learn more about teacher work days in this article.

Simona Johnes
  1. Thank you for this article, I found it quite helpful. Do you have any other tips on helping students to be more willing to take risks? Some of mine just seem so hesitant!

    • That is a great question! Here are a few ideas you can try. Before calling on students to share with the whole class, give them a chance to share with a partner. This allows them to practice articulating their thoughts and receive some feedback from a classmate. Another idea is to be sure to praise students when they make a mistake, but were taking a risk. This can help build their confidence and increase their willingness to take a risk on something else.


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