Category Archives: Persistence

Student Perspective: Creating a Safe Environment for Students with Learning Differences

Creating a safe classroom environment for students with learning differences can have a lasting positive impact on their educational experiences. This post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

One critical aspect of every student’s learning experience is the classroom environment created by the teacher. Every teacher has a different classroom environment, and some may be a better fit for certain students. In my post, I will highlight the factors that I find critical in creating a positive and inclusive classroom environment for students with learning differences. 

Encourage Positive Self-Talk

Within a classroom, it is vital to encourage positivity. In many classrooms, teachers either encourage or don’t discourage people with executive function disorders to be demeaning to themselves. This can lead to other students in the class feeling that it is acceptable to be demeaning to these students as well.

There were many students in my English class with dyslexia and ADHD. My teacher created an environment where these students constantly called themselves ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid.’ Then students without learning differences in the class called someone ‘dumb’ because they could not perform a ‘normal’ English task like spelling words. Other students called a boy with ADHD highly disruptive because he forgot to take his medication. When I expressed to my teacher that I felt uncomfortable with my classmates calling each other ‘dumb’ because of their neurodiverse identities, she dismissed my claim and said it is just normal teenage behavior.

Discourage Negative Talk about Intelligence

As a teacher, if you want to foster a healthy classroom environment, you must try to discourage negative talk about students’ intelligence. It harms the students in the class who have learning differences for two reasons. First, it can make them think they are stupid for having a learning difference. Second, a negative classroom cannot foster learning.

Teachers need to help neurotypical students realize it’s not ok to make fun of the kids with learning differences. When you want to discourage this type of negative behavior, it isn’t effective to tell students to stop within the classroom. If you do, students with learning differences may have more negative thoughts about themselves. Instead, you should talk to the student one-on-one outside of class time to try to find out why they feel they are dumb and help them realize that they are just as intelligent as everyone else in their classes. 

To read more student perspectives, check out the Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning series. If you are interested in building your executive function toolkit, join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 27th, July 29th, August 3rd, and August 5th).

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Modeling Persistence to Students

When it comes to students’ learning and growth, we know that persistence matters. When we think about persistence, we typically think about students’ internal motivational states. But what about external factors that impact students’ persistence? 

Research has shown that beginning in infancy, children make more attempts to achieve a goal (such as unlocking a keychain or making a toy sound) when they observe adults around them persisting. Infants who watched adults fail at a task and attempt the task multiple times were more likely to attempt a challenging task for a longer period of time. The infants were more likely to persist when the adults around them made eye contact and spoke directly to the infants. 

When it comes to the classroom, teacher influence and modeling really matter! Here are a few ways to encourage persistence among your students. 

Model Your Own Challenges to Students

When students see their teachers at the start of class, they do not see the time and detail that went into preparing for the day’s lesson. Many students may think that their teachers do not face any challenges simply because students are not witnessing them. When teachers model how they work to overcome a personal area of challenge, students may feel understood and encouraged. Depending on the context, teachers can model how they thought about a problem in a different way, or how they used a tool like a sticky note to help remember an idea. The next time students face an area of challenge, they may think back to the way you modeled your moment of persistence. 

Intervene Less

When adults intervene and take over tasks for students very quickly, students often feel less motivated to try again or try a different approach. At times, it may make sense for parents and teachers to step in and help. If time allows, it could help students in the long run to spend more time on a challenging task, to make more attempts to solve a problem, and to try a new approach. Teachers can also encourage their students to try a number of different strategies before asking for help. A strategy anchor chart for the classroom can be helpful as students learn to look to these resources as they persist. 

Praise Effort 

When it comes to praise, it is important to help students develop a growth mindsetand help them see that their effort and persistence matter. Having a growth mindset enables students to think more deeply about their areas of strength and challenge and go back into their toolbox to try another strategy when they need one.

Greater persistence has been linked to numerous positive outcomes for students, including higher graduation rates. When students see their teachers modeling persistence and they realize that their effort impacts their outcomes, they are more likely to persist.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Program Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development: