Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mistakes Are Okay, Really!

In the How to Learn Math course, one of the big objectives so far is learning how important it is to let kids know that mistakes are good, they are how we learn and make our brain grow.   One of the things I know is that my students are going to have to be shown this.  I can't just tell them and hope that they magically change the way they have thought about math class for most of their life.  So I've been trying to think of how I'm going to do that and of course it will be my daily actions over time that will make this sink in, however, I wanted some way to really put it out there the first week and I think I might have found it!

Somehow the game Guess Who? popped into my head. Its perfect, because you can use all of your WRONG guesses to eliminate characters in order to guess your opponents character.  I don't have the cash to buy 9 sets of the game but I found character sheets that you can print out here.  The way I am going to have them play is each student will have a plastic communicator with a character sheet in it.  They will draw a card, made with the smaller images taped onto an index card (don't know if I have the patience to glue/tape all 9 sets-might just do a few and pass the cards around!) in order to get their character. If you never heard of the game, you ask your opponent questions in order to figure out the character they have, like "is your character a girl?" if they say no, you cross out all of the girls (if yes, you cross out all of the boys.)  You keep going until you've eliminated enough to guess their character.   Here is a rough set I made up already:
 the game board

 The cards to select the characters
My plan is to start using the workshop model right away.  Usually my first week is dedicated to setting up routines and procedures, so this will fit right in.  Here is what I have so far:
Opening:  Students will do a maze.  This will set up the discussion about using mistakes to find the right path.
Minilesson: This is when I will explain the game and the rules for playing. I'm not sure if I will talk more about mistakes here, but I know that I want to keep this short: no more than 10 minutes.
Work Time: I plan on giving them about 20-25 minutes to play the game.
Conferring:  This is when I will try to meet with as many as I can and get them to start feeling comfortable with this process.  Maybe ask things about the strategies they are using, if they would take a chance on guessing without asking for clues, etc.
Sharing/Reflection: The most important thing I want them to think about is this- Can you win the game if every question you asked was answered with "No."? Hopefully they will see that yes, the "wrong" questions can lead you to the right answer!  I still have to work on the questions, I know I have to give them a LOT of structure, especially in the beginning of the year!  After discussing, I am also going to have them write about the activity in their notebooks.

I know I need to think more about structuring the sharing/reflection time, this is where my kids are going to need a lot of practice.
I'm still not sure of my schedule yet, we have 50 and 75 minute classes, and ABCD days, so each class gets a different amount of time each day.  I'm still not sure how to plan for this.  Last year was a mess, with one of my 7th grade classes getting almost a whole hour more of class than the other one.  Admin was trying to fix this, but I don't know yet what they did.  I've been thinking of making my daily plans for the 50 minutes and then doing something different for the 25 minutes that a class might get that day.  Any suggestions for this????