Saturday, February 2, 2013

"You Did That on Purpose"

I'm making mistakes as a new first grade teacher. That's just the nature of doing something new. But I'm learning through all those mistakes, too.

I also just make mistakes because I'm human. In read alouds, I'll change or add words. When writing, I'll leave out words or make spelling mistakes. When those things happen, I try to turn them into learning opportunities.

I'll ask, "What did Mr. Wiley just do? I skipped a word when I was writing. I forgot to put the word the before dog in this sentence. Does that make it harder to read? Yes. So when you're writing, make sure you include all the words so your sentences will make sense."

I'll say, "Mr. Wiley put in some extra words while reading. Great readers will read carefully and make sure to say just the words that are there. That way, we can understand what the author meant when she wrote this book."

One boy in my class now says, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" whenever I make a mistake. It would easy to say, "Yes!" and move on. But I don't want kids to think that I never make mistakes. It's important to know that everyone makes mistakes and that making mistakes is okay. We can recognize them and correct them. Making mistakes helps us learn.

I also don't want them to think I know everything. It's important to say "I don't know." I once had to look up a word that we were writing on a chart. "You don't know how to spell that?" the kids asked, incredulous. "I don't know how to spell all the words," I said. "But we can find the answer."

I make mistakes. And that's okay. I'm learning.


  1. I taught early elementary for seven years...many, many funny mistakes I wish I'd written down...two I remember: finding out that the insect "beetle" isn't spelled like the band (um, duh, right?) and using the word "knock" to teach about silent can imagine which letter the kid thought was silent (not the K). The genuine mistakes are the best! Thanks for teaching our children!

  2. Last week, during a classroom evaluation by my vice principal:
    We were doing an interactive writing lesson about penguin facts. Our fact was, "Penguins slide on their bellies", but I had told the children to spell it THERE. When I realized my mistake, we went to fix it and I couldn't remember how to spell THEIR (where does the I go?). My VP had to tell me...
    It was all good and it does add to the lesson. Kids need to see that we make mistakes, so it's ok for them to make mistakes.
    Thanks for this post! Love it when we can empower our children.

  3. Great post! What a strong message to send and model to children - it's OK to make a mistake. We can learn from our mistakes. It's authentic and powerful learning at it's finest. We make plenty of mistakes naturally - there is no need to fake it or write something wrong on purpose. Kids catch on to that. What they learn from is when they see their teacher being real and human. Thank you so much for sharing. Lucky kids to have you as their teacher!!

  4. I love your honesty! We are all human, and we do make mistakes!! I think it's important for kids to realize that. My first graders all refer to Google as my buddy because I have to ask him questions often. That's reality for ya! :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Scott, I also make mistakes all the time. It is in making mistakes that real learning occurs. While doing a read aloud I often go back and re read sections of a story because it didn't make sense in my head. Isn't this exactly what we are teaching our students to do? How awesome for them to catch us doing exactly that. As teachers we need to be genuine, mistakes and all. While you may be new to grade one, and feel you are making "mistakes" along the way, those kidlets of yours are lucky to be able to have you as their teacher. If anyone is telling you that they never make mistakes, I'd most certainly think they are lying. Thanks for writing this blog. I enjoy reading your posts.