Reader Brandon R. Menikheim sent in this fantastic intervention idea to teach children about perseverance. Mr. Menikheim earned a gift certificate to childtherapytoys.com for his submission. Learn how you can do the same!
I use this technique to teach perseverance, patience, and delaying gratification. You will need a copy of Horton Hatches The Egg, a nest of plastic eggs, and something to put inside a few of the eggs (e.g., candy, stickers, small toy).
Sometimes it is the simplest books that provide the most powerful messages. Bibliotherapy is a technique I utilize time and time again, especially in large classrooms when I go in to teach a whole group lesson. Books are a resource whose applicability children never seem to outgrow. The simplicity of the content may encourage us to opt for more challenging opportunities for older children, but the universal messages remind us that you can never outgrow a good book.
One such book that I like to reintroduce to my older students is Horton Hatches The Egg, by Dr. Seuss. The book is classified as an easy read for most of the 5th graders I read it to, but its engagement capabilities are still high. One way I tend to heighten interest is by allowing for interpretive role playing as I read the story. Courageous student volunteers participate by demonstrating their active listening skills as they listen, interpret, and act out the story as they imagine it happening. Horton can illustrate many different character traits depending on what your specific teaching intention is, but the one I like to pull out of this story is the concept of perseverance.
As I read the story, I take frequent comprehension breaks to engage students in didactic conversation. I pose open ended questions to determine what aspects of the story students are focusing on, and I help guide them to the intended purpose of the days lesson: perseverance.
Perseverance is depicted so perfectly by Horton in the story. A huge elephant, trying to protect a fragile egg. Most children understand the absurdity of such a feat, but at the same time it opens up discussions centered around the fact that there will always be people who don’t understand your specific goal, or who will laugh at the efforts you put into something which, to them, may appear to be impossible. Perseverance is the ability to deflect all those negative intentions. Perseverance exists when you focus more on the goal you create, and less on the opinions of others. Most importantly, to persevere you never give up. You stick with the goal you created and let that goal weather any storm it needs to.
But what does it take to promote the focus and confidence perseverance requires? To illustrate this concept I introduce a fun activity to students with a hidden meaning. I present the class with a “nest” full of plastic Easter eggs. I explain that inside the eggs there could be a piece of candy. Out of the 40 eggs, however, only 5 will have a piece. If you open the egg with candy, its yours, if you open an empty egg, you receive nothing. Students jump at just the potential for being rewarded, easily understanding their odds of actual reward are limited. As each of the sought after eggs are picked, I reiterate the dwindling chances for reward, but draw attention to the sense of urgency I see with the participation by students. They will seem more enthusiastic by waving their hands faster, or appear to jump out of their skin to illustrate their desire to participate. But why, I ask? Why is it that we want to do something when our odds of success are so limited? What keeps us wanting to try opening the eggs? The students will typically agree on the fact that as long as there is a chance they could be opening a candy egg, they are still motivated to participate. I tie that realization back into perseverance and explain that the concept they just described is hope. As long as there is hope, we believe we have the ability to achieve something. Therefore, the driving force behind persevering at anything we set our minds to is maintaining the hope that we actually can achieve it, regardless of the lack of confidence others exhibit towards our endeavors. Hope only requires one person, you.