As a child growing up with dyslexia in the 1980s, I am very aware of the frustration that arises when you struggle to learn something. The shame that I felt when the teacher announced the results of the weekly spelling test to the class and how much I disliked being in a classroom having my mistakes highlighted to the other children.

Yet, mistakes are a powerful tool in the classroom. Revealing misconceptions, which are often shared by other members of the class, who may have better coping strategies. Mistakes provide feedback on our teaching, enabling us to have an opportunity to unpick what has caused the misconception and how we can improve both as teacher and learner.

By developing a culture in the classroom where children become more open and honest about their learning, fantastic opportunities arise to use mistakes as part of the learning journey. At first, it is useful to model making mistakes yourself and ask the children to identify them. Providing children with opportunities to compare and contrast learning and identify mistakes is extremely powerful. Asking children to look at two answers to a question in mathematics and to discuss, which one is successful and how they know this can facilitate this. Initially the differences will need to be explicit but, as the children become familiar with this, the differences can become more subtle (for example, where a correct strategy is being used but there is an error in the working.)

By effectively embracing and utilising mistakes in the classroom we enable out learners to continue to grow and develop. To see mistakes as part of their individual learning journey which should be embraced.

The role of mistakes in our learning journey

 

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