The why and how of teaching perseverance in classrooms is an ongoing debate. Some have usefully argued that focusing on building an individual’s “grit” (a combination of perseverance and passion) is a distraction from more significant systemic issues such as poverty and ignores how many kids — especially those living in poverty — must develop persistence simply as a means of survival. Others bristle at the idea altogether, claiming grit is unteachable or suggesting too much perseverance can come at a cost. Proponents of grit, like Angela Duckworth, have acknowledged these criticisms while also arguing that sustained effort and interest are established and essential skills for learners.
While this important debate should continue, there’s one thing that’s hard to argue: Seeing a complex task — like writing — through to completion is a tough challenge for many youngsters. As educators, we can provide opportunities for our budding authors to pursue their passions, see persistence pay off, and be mindful about their goals and limits, leading to extraordinary, memorable learning — like for the sixth-graders who wrote and produced a play based on the books of Roald Dahl.
Check out these picks to help inspire perseverance in developing and experienced writers alike.
Students will learn writing techniques and also get a true taste of the writing life as they work toward meeting their goal: a completed novel. NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program is structured like a contest, but everyone who finishes wins. With a 30-day time limit, students will have to do some time management, but the site uses tools like a word count to break the process into manageable steps, and students can use the forum to ask questions when they get stuck. NaNoWriMo takes the intimidating task of writing a novel and makes it achievable.
Grammarly helps student authors craft their very best work. Features like a vocabulary enhancement tool, grammar score, word count, and hints on style get students reflecting about their writing. The feedback provided builds confidence in students as they go through the editing and revision process, and the weekly writing performance report will keep them going. While a computer cannot account for every single person’s style, Grammarly can still be a useful tool to help students assess and improve.
Not specifically developed for writing, Classcraft is a platform where teachers can gamify classes and students can gain experience points by completing quests. Help students push through tough writing projects by giving them a choice of assignments and awarding them badges for jobs well done; those who are working toward goals will find the constant feedback helpful. Since students work together within the game’s premise, issues feel like challenges or obstacles to be tackled together.
Lessons and short videos on Roadtrip Nation encourage students to speak with people they look up to, discovering the steps they took to get where they are today. As students explore opportunities for their future, they will develop online research skills and practice blogging about their experience. Discovering adults who share their same passions will also help motivate students to share their stories with others. Explore the Perseverance section for inspiring videos and have students use them to set reasonable goals.
This article’s content is an extension of the We All Teach SEL blog series from Common Sense Education. Check it out for a complete look at social and emotional learning in the classroom.