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Mistakes Are Good

WRITTEN BYPatrick Bickford     ADDED: Nov 08, 2010

Maybe you have already discovered the strange phenomenon that many Japanese students are shy. How many times have you asked a question only to be confronted with an awkward silence as the entire class sits there with every eye burning a hole in the desk in front of them? Many of these Superman-laser eyes are due to the structure of the Japanese culture. The culture strictly adheres to the practice makes perfect mindset. While perfection is an admirable goal, it is not accomplished without trial and error. I think along the path of perfection that somebody forgot to say making mistakes are okay. Mistakes are good because it helps students fully understand and better learn the thing that which they are studying. So, if you find yourself in a class where you can hear a pin drop, what do you do?


It took me almost three years working as an ALT to stumble upon the ridiculously simple solution. You need to convince the students that making mistakes is acceptable; you are in a learning environment, after all. You need to create a classroom environment where mistakes are encouraged. So, how do you go about creating this type of mistake-encouraged environment? Easy…award points for mistakes. Say what?


ALTs often find themselves in the role of ‘English Activity Technician’. Whenever the students do an activity or game, insert a mistake column underneath the point area. When the group accrues three mistakes, one point is added to their point column.


The results are remarkable! Students who I thought didn’t have tongues started squawking like parrots. When I introduced this concept into my classes, the students seemed a little confused. However, after the first team turned their mistakes into a positive mark, the class immediately became charged with a newfound English energy. Additionally, an unexpected benefit was also discovered. I noticed slower students had a slight boost in their English confident skills, knowing their mistakes were still benefiting their team.


However, this idea might create the incentive to make mistakes, so to solve for this problem simply award more points for correct answers.



This page was last modified on Saturday, March 17, 2012 12:52:05 PM