Teaching kids to overcome hard times and keep a positive mindset should be on every counselors curriculum plan. Here are some of my favorite titles for supporting perseverance, problem solving, and growth mindset.
What Do You Do Series by K. Yomada
These picture books are exquisite, eloquent, heartfelt, and transcend age. Reading them is like watching a powerful short film.
Follow up: “What do you need to make your idea a reality?” Have students create a visual representation of their idea by making a picture collage from old magazines, write about it, or use iPads to interview each other.
Discussion: What does it take to make their dream a reality? Watch this Ted Ed video.
The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires
The characters in this story have wild and adventurous imaginations, but will they have the same mindset when it comes to trying something new? At first Lou comes up with lots of excuses to not climb the tree (her new adventure), which I think is so relatable for so many of our students. This is a perfect book for taking on new challenges and not giving up.
Activity: This is perfect to partner with any “power of yet” activities and bulletin boards. This is the perfect book to start so many discussions: “When have they felt scared?” “What is something new they want to try?” “What keeps them from trying new things?” Carol Miller has some creative ideas to get these conversations started. There is also this awesome activity pack on TPT.
The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
I use this book every year and it’s still one of my favorite lessons. A hilarious play on the classic Three Little Pigs, this story is about three ninjas that need to stop a bully. One pig gets bored and won’t train, one let’s his ego get in the way, but the sister pig continues to work hard, study and train.
Activity: Get students excited by watching Ormie the Pig.
Next, challenge them to this arm strengthening challenge (bonus you get to sneak in a workout!).
Students hold out their arms at shoulder height. They do each of these exercises three times in a row. The first set should be slow, the second a medium speed, and the last set as fast as you can without losing form.
- Circle wrists clockwise leading with the pinky finger.
- Circle wrists counterclockwise.
- Palms down, flick flingers as if you have water on them and you are trying to get someone wet.
- Repeat finger flicks with palms up.
- Make the smallest elbow bend you can and straighten arms.
Activity Set: Have students draw their own perseverance pig who represents a personal goal! You can grab activities for test taking, perseverance and goal setting in my book companion activity set.
Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again by D. Horowitz
This is another twist on a classic! Told in a nursery rhyme, this book is fun to read. After his fall Humpty doesn’t want to get out of the house and finds himself parked in front of the tv, but when the King’s Men need help Humpty gets to show his resiliency.
Leonardo, The Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Poor Leonardo is terrible at being a monster! He tries and tries, but just can’t seem to scare anyone. Finally he finds the most scaredy cat kid in this world and is determined to scary the “tuna fish salad” out of him. While he is unsuccessful Leonardo learns that he might not be scary, but he is the best at being a friend. Don’t forget to check out the follow up book, Sam, the Most Scaredy-cat Kid in the Whole World.
Activity: Ask the students to brainstorm personal things they want to get better at or that requires them to show perseverance. I asked them not only for academic examples, but also for social, emotional, and extra curricular examples. They drew their perseverance monsters on construction paper and created name tags from this free printable on TPT by Erin from Creating and Teaching. If time allows have students share their monster and ask classmates to guess what they represented.
After The Fall by D. Santat
More than just a play on the adorable classic, Humpty Dumpty, this book thoughtfully speaks to getting up after a “fall” or trauma and facing your fears. I love the “hatch” ending, which inspires students to embrace what’s next.
Activity: Pair with your favorite team activity like the marshmallow tower challenge or marshmallow sculpture game.
It partners well with my book companion activity set.
The Impatient Caterpillar by R. Burach
Our caterpillar wants to be a butterfly right now! Like right now. It’s a great book to talk about slowing down to reach your goals. I also love comparing growth mindset thoughts to caterpillar thoughts- they grow and change.
Activity: I have this book companion set you can partner with the book.
Elbow Grease by J. Cena
His a little monster truck with a big problem. Watch this truck overcome his problem with determination and grit.
Activities: Check out this Ted Ed read aloud.
Even Superheros Make Mistakes by S. Becker
Activity: Use old material or find cheap caps to have students decorate their superhero cap in coping and resiliency skills.
There are also so many great ones on TPT.
Thank You, Mr. Falker by P. Polacco
Having a learning disability is tough, especially when you are made fun of and scared to ask for help. This story is precious and so many students will relate. Watch it at StoryLine Online.
Activity: I have a book companion set with variety of activities and handouts.
It’s Tough To Lose Your Balloon by J. Krosoczka
Another book I use every year! This book helps students find the silver lining- it’s tough to get wet shoes, but it sure is fun go barefoot. There are so many patterns in the book (including that the background colors make a rainbow)- ask your students to find them all.
Activity: Make a positive mindset balloon. On one side right down something that is tough and on the other the silver lining. You can get this activity and many more in my activity set.
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See my personal list of books I own with categories and links to activities here. To Edit Click File and “Make a copy”!
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