Submitted by Adam Hopps, Modern Foreign Languages French teacher and aspiring leader.
At the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, teachers ensure sure that children make mistakes as often as possible. Why? Because we strongly believe that it is these mistakes which help our students best to become independent learners with a deep understanding of problem solving.
There are a number of reasons why we want students to make mistakes. Firstly, it is the reality of the world that there is no text book, no single way of completing a task or problem; in the working world our students will need to be able to be wrong and then move forward to find a new solution. The resilience that we teach now in class will be instrumental in helping them become adaptable citizens. Furthermore, mistakes highlight that students have made the brilliant decision to try something new and challenging in their work. Rather than doing just what they know they have mastered, they attempt a new skill. Thirdly, mistakes allow for experimentation; mistakes push students to try different methods of application of their knowledge. As a result, their final understanding of that knowledge is stronger and deeper. This knowledge and the skills they have practiced will stick with them for longer and will be more applicable to real situations
When a student gives me a piece of French writing or an extended spoken answer, a lack of mistakes will always raise immediate alarm bells. My students know that I am eager to find mistakes. Year 5s have been creating wanted posters for dastardly thieves in French to practice and cement their skills in descriptions. Adjectives for describing people prove one of the most difficult parts of learning French as they can often be in very strange places in the sentence structure. Year 5 impressed me immensely because they all challenged themselves to use both color and size adjectives to describe their thief’s nose, scar and moustache. Consequently, their work was full of amazing mistakes. The mistakes helped them learn that size adjectives go before the nouns but the color adjectives actually go after. So a big pink scar on his cheek should be a big scar pink on his cheek.