We All Teach SEL: Perseverance Activities and Tools for Students

Resources to inspire perseverance in every classroom, every day.

December 05, 2016
Danny Wagner Senior Editor, Education Ratings & Reviews
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Technology Integration, Tools

Building SEL (social and emotional learning) skills such as perseverance requires face-to-face interactions, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character in the classroom and at home. Perseverance is persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; it's also

steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

While some tools focus specifically on perseverance, the websites and apps that you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote tenacity, too. You don't have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL. Below we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating perseverance and life skills-building into your content classroom.  

Why Perseverance?

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 convenient and damaging distraction from more significant systemic issues such as poverty and is ignorant of how many kids (especially kids of color and 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 through to completion is a tough challenge for many youngsters. As educators, we can provide opportunities for students 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.

Take Action

  • Teach a lesson around time management and goal setting. Help students identify the steps needed to reach their goals.
  • Use language that connects high performance and success with hard work, determination, and persistence.
  • Resist blaming students for a lack of perseverance; instead, work on improving relevancy and engagement in class.   
  • Make sure the technology you use doesn't take the place of, but instead supplements, face-to-face interaction.
  • Using our Digital Citizenship Curriculum? Both our student interactives and lessons already foster key SEL skills.
  • Visit some other excellent SEL resources, including CASEL, Character Lab, Edutopia, and Ashoka.

Think about the digital tools you're already using in the classroom. Can you find a creative way to use them to model perseverance? Check out our suggestions below.

Directly Target Perseverance

See our Best Games for Perseverance list for more tools focused on persistence.

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

breathe think do with sesame app In this app, a character narrates obstacles and frustrations that young students may face daily. After tapping to have the character breathe deeply, students can pick a strategy and see the outcome of staying calm through adversity.

Roadtrip Nation

roadtrip nation website Lessons and short videos encourage students to speak with local "leaders," discovering the steps they took to get where they are today. Explore the Perseverance section for inspiring videos and have kids use them to set goals.








Build Perseverance in All Subjects     


Activities and Tools for ELA Classrooms


lightsail app Students read books from digital libraries, take assessments, and get Lexile scores. Texts then adjust based on level. As kids learn their reading ability in real time, use the scores to have them set goals; discuss how to overcome any potential obstacles. 


nanowrimo website Have students use this young writer's program to write a novel in a month. The site uses tools like an online word count to break the process into manageable steps, and students can use the forum to ask questions when they get stuck. 







Activities and Tools for Math Classrooms


mangahigh website Students play engaging math games that adjust the questions based on the user's skill level. Participate in one of the school competitions, where students can learn how to work as a team to build tenacity as they push through the challenge. 


mathspace website Like a personal coach, Mathspace breaks problems down step by step and gives feedback on those steps to show mistakes. After kids see how it works, have them deconstruct other students' tough problems to help them keep at it.







Activities and Tools for Science Classrooms


thinkrolls app In this physics platformer, kids conquer various obstacles as they roll a ball along a path. Since each level can be replayed without penalty, show kids how they are free to experiment and learn from their failures, building confidence to keep going.

Kerbal Space Program

kerbal space program game The hurdles faced in launching rockets into orbit are well-simulated in this game, as are all the frustrations. Play in "career" mode, which gives guidance and paths to success; teach kids how to use the forum (and each other) when they get stuck.







Activities and Tools for Social Studies Classrooms

News-O-Matic for School

news-o-matic for school app When things go wrong in the world, use this app's five daily articles to help students cope. Have kids ask the editor questions to gain understanding about how others are reacting, and discuss ways the class can take action to move forward.

Zinn Education Project

zinn education project website Zinn attempts to foster a more critical view of U.S. history through downloadable lessons. Assign time periods to student groups, and create records of mankind's struggles. Analyze the similar ways people have overcome obstacles since 1492.







Activities and Tools for All Classrooms

Goalbook Toolkit

goalbook toolkit website Help students manage challenges by scaffolding their learning. Use the repository to find clear, editable learning targets. Tweak them to set goals for each student, and then create some manageable class goals together as a group. 


rezzly website With Rezzly's LMS, teachers can gamify classes and have students gain experience points by completing quests. Help students persist through tough assignments by letting them select their assignments and awarding them badges for jobs well done.









Bridge the School-to-Home Connection


Explore More SEL Tips, Tools, and Teaching Strategies

We All Teach SEL