Some of the greatest learning tools in life are the mistakes we make, and some of the best lessons we will ever learn will come as a result of mistakes we make. Our failures are often frowned upon as a negative thing and that triggers a sense of fear for making mistakes. Such an environment in a classroom can cripple a child’s ability to learn to his or her full capabilities. This post will discuss how to encourage making mistakes to reach the right answer in the classroom. 

Treat the Classroom Like a Community 

A classroom environment should mirror that of a community where each child feels accepted and confident enough to voice their opinion. The class teacher should do his or her best help each student feel like an important member of the class/community. A comfortable classroom builds a confident child and confidence is a desired quality if mistakes are to be used for effective learning. This community-like value should be established at the start of the school year where students may be meeting each other for the first time. Sometimes the lessons will prove challenging for a few students and they will be best helped if they know they are in a safe and supportive classroom where their mistakes and failure to grasp the lessons will not be mocked or frowned upon. 

Give More Attention to Students Who Did Not Get All Their Work Right 

Teachers quite often single out and sing the praises of students who did well while shunning those who did not do so well. This mainly reflects what the teacher him/herself was brought up to think was correct thing to do. Students do not deliberately set out to fail and therefore should not be made to feel as if they are a failure.

Take the child who did not do so well and go through his or her mistakes with them and the class. Use the answer the child gave, and with the help of the class point out why it was incorrect. Always check with the child to see if he or she realizes their mistake. Show the correct answer and work along with the child and the class to ensure everyone really understood why that is the correct answer.

Encourage Peer Learning

Sometimes the best individual to really get a message across to someone who made a mistake is one of their own peers. Children just seem to learn better from their peers at times. Peer learning reinforces community living and brotherhood, but it also develops a sense of leadership. One child may be strong in Math while the other’s strength lies in English Language. Helping children to foster a spirit of using their strengths and weaknesses to assist each other allows them to acknowledge that no one is perfect and that it is ok to make mistakes and ask for help when needed.

Contrary to what we have been brought to believe, mistakes are great tools for effective learning. Children should be encouraged from early to acknowledge their limitations and seek help as well as to offer help when they see the need.

Andrew Roth tutors professionally and is former classroom teacher. He especially enjoys blogging about using technology to facilitate the educational process. Click here for information about careers in teaching.

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