The Value of NOT Correcting Student Mistakes

This last week, I was watching my kids as they completed some of their daily tasks.  And it got me thinking about teaching, of course.  I wondered, “Should we let students make mistakes or should we correct everything right away?”  My thinking has changed over the years, both in teaching & parenting.

Summer parenting is different than school year parenting.  It’s a chance to step back from the regular routine & try something different.  Not only am I spending more time with my kids since I take a break from teaching, but it’s also the time of year when I’m teaching my kids more of the life skills (like making delicious snacks & meals) they will need once they live on their own … many years from now.  And while I am intention how I introduce these new skills, this year the kidlets have had a huge jump from the level of supervision they need (or want) from previous summers.  And, I’m needing to change up how I handle things overall.  Or, risk anarchy.  And, I like my summers too much to let that happen.

Correcting everything as it comes up

This is how I first began … both with teaching & parenting.  Honestly, I didn’t really know any differently.  Plus, what if they did something wrong & it was really difficult to fix afterwards?

There are advantages to this method, with the largest being that potential bad habits hopefully do NOT become a habit.

However, it requires a lot of energy & time to be successful.  And, I’m discovering as my kids get older that it can get a lot of push back over the “hovering”.

Plus, I’ve wondered … will my students develop the skills necessary to become independent in their playing?  Experience tells me the answer is no.

Letting students make mistakes

This may not seem like the most pedagogically sound approach. At least on the surface.

Why would we have students make mistakes that then need to be fixed!?!

What if instead of calling it mistakes, we called it exploring?

What if we change one thing at a time so each repetition is different?

In lessons, I aim to be intentional in how I introduce concepts.  I have my favourite analogies or exercises that I use … though I have to remind myself they don’t work for every student.

Rather than explaining verbally right off the bat, what if we showed first?

What if we had students repeat after us with specific feedback or exploration for each repetition?

I’ll admit there are times I forget to do this.  However, it’s my goal each lesson to get students playing more than they hear explanations.  If they can come to their OWN discoveries through well-guided questions, I know from experience they will remember that learning much better.  And, all those repetitions with active listening don’t hurt.

Rhythm Off the Bench

What approach will you take this upcoming year?

I think teaching breaks give us a chance to check in & see if the way we are actually teaching fits with our teaching philosophy.  It gives us a chance to plan activities & units of study that encourage us to be the teachers we want to be … not just teach the way we were taught.

If there is a disconnect between these two things, there will probably be a disconnect between what our clients expect in lesson & what actually happens.

How will you match up your teaching philosophy & your teaching in the upcoming months?

Let us know in the comments below!

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