The book I Won’t Give Up by Daniel Kenney is one of my go-to books at the beginning of the school year and many times throughout. It is about a girl named Cady who expresses her frustration with many difficult tasks. However, she doesn’t give up and eventually reaches her goals. It is a very easy and quick read and keeps the students engaged. We do a choral reading whenever we reach the lines “But I won’t give up until I’ve reached my goal.”
At the beginning of the school year I use this book to introduce the concept of setting goals. We begin the conversation talking about things that frustrate us. For my students it was anything from a back handspring in gymnastics to learning their multiplication facts in math. After describing our frustrations, we moved on to setting goals around these areas. I find that having the frustration conversation first helps students to identify the area they want to improve upon. In the past when I have asked students to brainstorm areas they want to improve, they have a difficult time coming up with one. The frustration conversation is a great way to reach that idea with significantly less effort.
Once our goals are written, we keep them with us until we reach our goal. Once we reach our goal, the entire class celebrates the accomplishment and the student produces a new goal. Eventually, they become goal experts!
I revisit this book whenever we are about to encounter a difficult task. A big time is before end of the year assessments or MCAS testing. I remind the students that they can do anything and not to give up. Even if it is hard and frustrating now, the more they work the better they will become.
Another good use of this book is talking about figurative language. During our figurative language unit, I always take this book out. The students are familiar with it so it makes it easier to have conversations about the author’s craft. Each time Cady faces a difficult task, her imagination exaggerates what people may be thinking of her. It leads to great discussions about why the author uses certain words to get his point across.
Give this book a try and start setting goals!