One of the very first lessons I teach in Friendship Workshop is: We ALL make mistakes…it’s what we do afterwards that matters. In those first days of school it’s inevitable…she will bump into someone, he will knock down a tower, she will shout out an answer when it wasn’t her turn. We’re all going to make mistakes – even teachers! What’s important to us as a community is how we fix things afterwards.
In the past I’ve used Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton and It’s Okay To Make Mistakes by Todd Parr as anchor texts. The simplicity of those texts and illustrations allow students to feel safe and admit they have made some silly mistakes too. We always enjoy sharing our silliness while emphasizing how we can be kind when others make a mistake. One year I took photographs of the kids with clothes in silly places and interactively wrote the words with them. Fun way to strengthen letter and sound connections.
This year I came across a new book by Corrina Luyken
This is not a straightforward book about making and fixing mistakes. It does not have simple illustrations. It does not directly tell readers mistakes are okay.
This book requires thought. A LOT of thought. How could I use it so early in the year? We’re 5! We shout whatever random connection we have as soon as it pops in our heads! We haven’t learned how to actively listen or how to follow someone else idea before sharing our own. Maybe I should wait.
My gut told me the quality of this book could drive the conversation but I should have a specific lesson for it….I’m the teacher, right? I need to feel a sense of urgency and have rigorous expectations and keep up with the pacing guide. I can’t do a Read Aloud unless I know it addresses three or more standards can I? (Read with a jesting tone.)
I reread the book several more times and each read stirred excitement in me. I began to realize I trusted the quality of the book AND I had to trust in the ability of my students to think deeply, question openly, and discuss respectfully. The lessons of “how to” do those things would be generated from our authentic need.
We have read it nine times already and the response has been amazing. Fluid back and forth dialogues, comments that received two or three connected responses, questions that are allowed to “float out there.” Five and six years old deeply questioning the word “becoming” and how it applies to the title, the “main character”, to their lives – wow.
One student suggested we make our own book of mistakes, “because we all make them.” So we started retelling some of the mistakes we’ve made in the first days of school. There were stories of simple bumps, of not sharing, of cheating in a game. We all openly and honestly admitted our mistakes (including me — when I raised my voice…) The real power came when we started to discuss the words we wanted to write.
Did we want to include “Becoming” too? What other words could we use? (vocabulary work) What do we want to reader to feel when reading our book? Curious? Nervous? Relieved? (writing for an audience) How will our illustrations make the reader want to turn the page? Should we use photographs? Water colors? Cut paper? (collaborating with peers) So many literacy standards being addressed through vibrant and authentic discussions — on Day 16!
My mistake? Almost forgetting one of my favorite notions: “it’s the process not the product.” Young students can grapple with ideas, offer genuine support and passionately engage in their own learning.
They are “Becoming.”