Monday, January 21, 2013
Guest blogger: Making Mistakes
Dear Aunt Debbie,
I hope you're right this year! I've certainly agreed with your votes before, over the official committees'.
I'm still knee-deep in portfolios, so I've asked another family member to be our next guest blogger: my cousin, and your niece, Ona, who teaches kindergarten in Seattle. Here she is, in the first of what I hope will be many guest blogger appearances:
Much of my year as a kindergarten teacher is spent on life lessons. My hope is to impart these lessons in a fun way-- and at times these ideas outweigh the academic material. One such lesson is that the brain needs to explore, try new things and make mistakes. Every day I point out to my students mistakes that I have made, as well as complimenting them on catching them, "Wow, you have sharp eyes that you caught my mistake." (Adults: check out the awesome book Brain Rules, by John Medina-- highly recommended for teachers and parents alike!)
Making mistakes is a fresh topic in my mind this year as I have a perfectionist in my class. I will call her "Sally." I can relate to Sally as I have similar traits so I have even more of a vested interest while working with her. Sally becomes so frustrated if her work is not "perfect" that she will cry or just give up. I found out at our recent parent teacher conferences that Sally's mother regularly scans and photoshops her "mistakes" and prints off a new page so her daughter can have it "just the way she wanted." After her mom told me this, she asked me, "Is that too much?"
I offered the following books:
Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak Ph.D. and illustrated by Sarah Ackerley is a kid-friendly version of Brain Rules [Annie's note: it seems to be out of print, and the Alibris link above links only to pricey versions. Try the library?]. With cartoon-like images, it alternates from simple ideas and language, to a specific explanation of how the brain and its various parts function. The most important take away is that it is crucial for your brain to make mistakes so it can learn. Deak provides an example of jumping into a swimming pool. If this is the first jump, the signals from your brain might make you feel nervous or scared. Once you jump, the brain can remember the sensations it felt and the experience becomes less daunting the second time around. During ages 0-10 the brain grows and learns the most. The more things you try and the more mistakes you make, the better! Cool lesson for kids, right?
Another fantastic exploration into making mistakes is the artistic book, The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds. A little girl, Vashti, is asked to draw and is so worried about how to draw that she is frozen, as Reynolds says "glued to her seat." "I just CAN'T draw!" is a frequent line in the beginning of the book, a line I hear in my classroom too. Vashti's teacher says, "Just make your mark and see where it takes you." What a beautiful message-- this encourages Vashti to try by drawing a simple dot, and the more she does the more confident she becomes. At the end of the story Vashti teaches another student to “make your mark.”
Another way of helping kids become unglued from their seats is to provide a structure as a starting-off point.
I Can Draw People and I Can Draw Animals, by Ray Gibson, are from a series that I often use in my classroom. The books offer a step-by-step take on drawing and each page has numbered directions: Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3. Children follow the shapes that are drawn in each step, thereby adding another detail to their picture. This is a beauty of this series as reading is not necessary, just copying the steps. The scaffolding that this provides helps those kids who say, "I can't draw" start with the most basic shapes and at the end discover they have drawn an angel or a giant or a lion!
Sally is becoming like Vashti. Last week she came up to me during art class and was beaming. She proudly told me that she had made a mistake and figured out how to fix it-- all by herself! I asked Sally if she cried or got upset and quit, and with a big smile she said, "Nope!" What a teachable moment this was-- Sally felt the joy of overcoming a difficulty and she made her mark. I hope that these selections help you and yours do the same.
And love from me,