Persistence Tip 4. Tell Persistence Stories

brain-based teaching grit growth mindset learner centered curriculum motivation persistence social and emotional learning
Teach Persistence

Dr. Jeanne L. Paynter

I’m excited to share an instructional strategy you can use to help students to question the validity of their negative persistence stories or strengthen their positive mindsets. And remember, you can do this right now in the current context of your curriculum or at home!

We’ve seen in Persistence Tip 2  and Tip 3 how our minds tell us “Persistence Stories.”  We tell ourselves, “I’m persistent. I can focus my energy on a task and keep working when it’s difficult.”  Or, perhaps our minds tell us, “I’m not persistent. I’m scattered, hesitant, uncommitted.” Where do these stories come from? Our creative brain! Our meaning-making mind forms cause and effect scenarios based on our experiences and memories.  A wrong connection (cause and effect) can result in a false story that we continue to tell ourselves—until we question it.

Let’s help learners question their persistence mindsets with this tried-and-true instructional strategy! You may have even used it before: bibliotherapy. Don’t be put off by the “therapy” part. Bibliotherapy is simply the process of using books (including nonfiction narratives about individuals in the arts, history, and sciences) to help an individual solve a problem or handle a situation. 

The reader goes through a process of identification with a person/situation as they connect with their story. The reader can identify with the feelings and thoughts of the person and see their own issues through another lens. This process of identification provides the reader with insight into their own situation which they can then apply to future situations. In other words, bibliotherapy helps them to “change their story.” 

I’m suggesting that you use biographies for this strategy. The advantage is the wide range of subjects – you can use biographies in any content area.  And for me, the impact come from the authenticity of the experiences. I’m not suggesting you hand students a big thick book (as some biographies are). You can use one-pagers or even videos. And what about bringing back the Friday afternoon read aloud! I loved it, and kids still love it today. Read-alouds are a shared experience that allows learners to connect with you, each other, and with the bio-character.  Win-win! By the way, you can use biographies to illustrate any of the other aptitudes of innovators: curiosity, creativity, logical reasoning, insight, metacognition, leadership.

Let’s face it, you really don’t have time to cover all the required curriculum and to adequately teach important personal aptitudes like persistence. Using the bibliotherapy strategy enables you to create “teachable moments” in the context of your current day. Take advantage of the lives of real-world achievers in your content area who model for learners how to solve problems with persistence, focusing energy and effort on a task, continuing to working even when it is difficult, trying different methods to improve and refine. And remember to use the same strategy to analyze how failures could have been transformed to successes using these same persistence strategies.

The following Discussion Questions for Teaching Persistence Using Stories can be used with anything from picture books to current events. How will you use these questions to help learners to both question the validity of their negative persistence stories or strengthen their positive mindsets?

Let me know about how you used this bibliotherapy strategy!  Send an email to [email protected].  I’d love to share your story!

To find out more about how you can teach persistence and the other seven aptitudes of innovators (curiosity, logical reasoning, creativity, insight, metacognition, and leadership) right in the context of your current curriculum, keep following my Educating Innovators Teaching Tips blog and sign up for the Challenge Every Child weekly email series (see below). These teaching tips are part of the talent-targeted teaching and learning model presented my book Teach to Develop Talent: How to Motivate and Engage Tomorrow’s Learners Today.



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