“Put the uncommon effort into the common task. Make it large by doing it in a great way,“ Orison Sweet Marden (1850-1924). As winter hits us full force, we stand in our classrooms at the top of a mountain looking down. Half way through the year we feel settled in with routine and expectation. We look down toward state assessment, end of the year assessments, and moving our children along in the educational system. It can be hard to see the true end and find the motivation to do the work we do.
This year our school has been reading about Habits of Mind. At first I thought, “Great. Now there will be another thing to squeeze into an already tight schedule. I will have to find more new resources and ultimately make. I better laminate everything on the slight chance we continue to talk about this again next year.” But as I have made myself read and learn more about this philosophy I am finding it rewarding to implement, model, and teach habits of mind to my fourth graders.
I thought persistence would be a great habit to start with in these dreary winter months. I use this motto during these drab times. Do what you love and do it well, stay the course, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some activities you can use to teach persistence to your students. I have my fourth graders do these individually. You can do this during reading group centers, as a writing assignment, for whole group lessons, or however works into your classroom schedule and curriculum.
-Define the word persistence. Draw a picture and write a definition in your own words. Describe how you can be persistent.
-Define the word excellence. Draw a picture and write a definition in your own words. Describe how you can do things with excellence.
-Define the word indifference. Draw a picture and write a definition in your own words. Describe things you feel indifference towards.
-Create a chart and give examples, write phrases, or draw pictures to show what persistence: looks like, feels like, sounds like.
-Create a chart and give examples, write phrases, or draw pictures to show what excellence: looks like, feels like, sounds like.
-Create a chart and give examples, write phrases, or draw pictures to show what indifference: looks like, feels like, sounds like.
-Use a Venn diagram to compare persistence and indifference.
Give examples of characters in books being persistent. Explain how they are persisting.
-Give examples of characters in books being indifferent. Explain how they are indifferent.
-Read about Thomas Edison. Answer these questions: What was Thomas Edison’s experience like in school? Did he complete school? How do you know? How did he develop his inventions? Why is he an example of persistence?
-List at least 10 of Thomas Edison’s inventions or patents. Rank them in order of importance. Explain how you ranked them.
-Create a list of animals that you think are persistent. Draw one of these animals. Label the characteristics it has that make it persistent.
-Create a list of animals that you think are indifferent. Draw one of these animals. Label the characteristics it has that make it indifferent.
-Write about an experience in gym class where you had to use persistence.
-Design a poster to explain and illustrate this habit of mind—Persistence. This should include a definition, picture or graphic, and quote.
-Create a list of books that have characters that are persistent.
-Create a list of books that have characters that are indifferent.
-Draw a picture of a mountain. Inside the mountain, write about something that was hard for you but you persisted and completed it. Draw yourself climbing the mountain.
Persistence is to continue with purpose on a course of action especially in opposition. Education feels like it takes a great amount of persistence these days. We have to decide to continue on this path we know is true. Check out the habits of mind web site at www.habitsofmind.org. They have useful things for teachers, a weekly email, printable pdf items and more. Do what you love and do it well, stay the course, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
To read more about my series on Habits of Mind, click here.