Persevere! {a lesson about NEVER giving up}

Have you ever wanted to make that ONE impact on your students each year?  That ONE lesson, that ONE book, that ONE experiment?  Well, what about that ONE word…. one word that you could instill for them that they would be able to use for the rest of their lives… that word is PERSEVERE!

About four years ago I sat down for a professional development training and the presenter started talking about how teachers have lots  of cutesy signs, posters and decorations in their rooms… but were those things even meaningful to the kids?  I felt as though I was in the clear because I was certain that I had the bare minimal on my walls. (secret inward laughing here)  However, I did have this thought that a class “word” or “motto” would be fun and something that I knew my kiddos would really buy into!  As I sat there longer a word immediately came to mind… persevere!  The word persevere was a strong word… would my kindergarten students really get this word?  Would they understand it?  The further I thought about it the more I knew I had to tackle it because if I could get them to a level of understanding then this word could be like MAGIC. (insert professional development mind wandering here).

I pictured the student wanting to give up at reading group.
I thought about the student that insisted math was too “hard.”
I remembered back to “Johnny” and how it took every ounce of energy he had to get himself out of bed, ready and out the door
I wandered back in time to the first day of school when “Suzy” wouldn’t budge off the sidewalk to come into the classroom.

I knew there would be times we could CELEBRATE our classmates’ perseverance and there would be times that we would ENCOURAGE our classmates to PERSEVERE.

But HOW would I teach my students all about this big word… let alone … have you asked a youngster to SAY the word persevere?

Yep.  It was all wrapped in a box.  No ribbon on top but that is completely optional.  I let this box sit on my counter for a day. (THIS WAS SO HARD FOR THE KIDS.)

Kids:  Mrs. West, aren’t you going to open you present?
Me:  No, I don’t think so.
Kids:  (insert shocked stares here.)

………… an hour or so later

Kids:  Mrs. West, aren’t you going to open you present?
Me:  No,  I thought about it but then I decided not to because I might mess it up.
Kids:  We can open it.  We are GOOD at opening presents.  We will show you.

Once you get the volunteers then you know that you can’t hold them back much longer, ha!  So it’s time to turn up your acting skills!  Basically your job is to portray someone that is frustrated, defeated, sad and a little self-conscious about making mistakes.

You will have prepped the “present” by wrapping some “goodies” (suckers, rings pops, stickers, etc) inside a box.  You will then wrap the box SEVERAL TIMES.  I like to alternate colors to help myself remember!  You can also use additional boxes- that is extra flare for them!

After they finally convince me to open the box I usually try look real serious at them and say… “Well what if I mess up?”  They generally have the SWEETEST answers!

After those first couple layers you really have to work that “worried” look and seriously think about GIVING UP!

They really get into it and shout that it will be okay if you mess up.  So, I take off more layers and they are amazed that there is still MORE paper.  I just keep telling them that I can’t do it, I don’t know how, someone might laugh at me if I mess up, and anything else I know five year-olds will say.  They are all so encouraging and continue to cheer me on like I was running in a marathon.  You also have to distance yourself from the box… this pains them!  They just can’t believe you would abandon your present!

When you get to your last layer and then ultimately the “secret surprise then it is time to “lay it on thick”.  “Boys and girls, would I have ever found the treats if I gave up and didn’t try?  It was because you were so encouraging that I kept trying.  I knew you wouldn’t laugh at me and you made me feel really good!  I kept going and going… I never gave up did I?  I PERSEVERED!”

A look of the aftermath….

Kid approved?  You betcha!

Now that you have heard me ramble about the lesson… you can WATCH IT!

I mentioned above that I display the word in my classroom!  After sharing this lesson the last few years, so many of YOU have also displayed the word in your classroom!  What an inspirational word to share with our students!  You can download these FREEBIE letters for your classroom below!



*For the editable set you will need THIS font!


Thank you SO MUCH for stopping by!



  1. I love the perseverance lesson and am definitely using it this year! But, my question is this: how do you teach vocabulary? I see 5 vocabulary words in one of your pics. Is this part of kinder literacy? Or do you have a vocabulary curriculum? I want vocabulary to be a focus this year for my kids since I’m in a title 1 school and I haven’t know how to be intentional about it other than just discussing the words we encounter in read alouds.

  2. Anne I can speak to the vocabulary in Tara’s KinderLiteracy and I have to say it is life changing for the kids…intentional vocabulary building throughout the year made my kids mindful of the words they chose and such great writers !!! I absoultely LOVE the KinderLiteracy – just bought Kinder Social Studies – can’t wait to use it next year!!!!!

  3. I love this idea & will definitely be using it. As first grade teachers, my team has decided to include lessons like this into our community building this year. It’s scary how many of our kids don’t have coping skills these days. I have just started my own blog, astrawnteacherlife, & wonder if it’s ok if I refer to your lesson & of course give you credit when I blog this topic in August? If you check out my blog I would love any feedback too. Thank you!

  4. I am super excited to be using this for our growth mindset focus! I have a question, though, about where I can find your lower case letters with the pictures behind them., and if there is a rhyme or poem to go with them. Thanks, Tara!

  5. I can’t wait to do this lesson. In the picture, the letters have a black background with white letters and a colorful outline. When I click the link the letters are black with a white background and a colorful outline. I would prefer the letters with the black background. Is there a way I can get those? Thank you!

  6. I love this! I just finished up some perseverance videos with my students. Class Dojo has some great videos that go with this lesson. I will be using this to extend their thinking. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Do you have a certain book you use with this persevere lesson specifically? I use the kinderliteracy weekly but didn’t know if there was a particular story you do with this? My kids LOVED the perseverance lesson last year and even complimented their families when they persevered!

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