Your New Year’s Resolution!: Reward students for demonstrating the Haydon Value of Perseverance


Rebecca Skertchly, Lead Practitioner


My son is four years old and started school in September. He had been learning phonics in nursery and continued in Reception. Eventually they sent him home with a reading book. He had to spell out the letters and then read each word.

 “Bur ii ferr ferr… ‘Biff’”

“aaah ner der….‘and’ 

“Ker ii per per eh ruh  ‘Kipper’”. 


There was a lot of huffing and puffing between each letter and when he turned the page and saw more words (the same words) he lay down on the floor crying and kicking his legs. Sometimes I feel like doing this myself when I have to learn something new.

Of course, I talk to my son about persevering and it’s something that they are talking about at his school already. This January, our students will be having assemblies on Growth Mindset, Perseverance and ReACT. We can help them learn to persevere and develop a Growth Mindset by using ‘descriptive praise’, i.e. praising the effort and the process, rather than just the outcome. If we just praise the outcome, students will not necessarily be able to repeat their success or may attribute it to luck, and other students will not see the hard work that went into it. It is quite easy to fall back into the habit of just praising outcomes without unpicking the process. But, if we do not let other students in on the secret, they may think that the student who produced it is just naturally talented, whereas in reality, they spent 5 hours on it.

Growth Mindset descriptive praise phrases:

“What an excellent piece of homework, it must have taken ages. Can you explain what you did to get that outcome?”

“Well done.That was successful because you did this, this and this.”

“What can we learn from this mistake?”

“Well done for persevering, even though I can tell you were really frustrated. Frustration is actually a sign that you’re learning.”

Fixed Mindset phrases to avoid: 

“You’re a natural!”

“Brilliant, right first time!”

Well done, and you didn’t make any mistakes.”

“Wow, you learned that so quickly! You’re so clever.”

Sharing your own learning journey  in the classroom

You could also bring in or talk about examples of your own learning. Today I brought in a sketchbook to show year 12 how I get ideas for my own work. It’s not perfect and it’s not finished.  I explained where I got all my ideas in order to take away some of the mystery behind a finished piece of artwork. Prior to learning about Growth Mindset, I might not have picked apart the process as much when showing my own work.


So, make it your New Year’s Resolution to descriptively praise in every lesson and reward perseverance with Good News Notes and postcards.

Rebecca Skertchly.

Further reading: