When learning a new language mistakes are needed

Regina Lerdo de Tejada West
First Grade Spanish Teacher, Mansfield Spanish Immersion School

In the traditional educational setting, mistakes are often seen as failures or negative outcomes that should be avoided at all costs. However, in Señora Lerdo’s classroom in the Spanish immersion program, mistakes are not only accepted, but they are also celebrated and rewarded. This article will explore the benefits of rewarding mistakes in the classroom and how it can positively impact student learning and development.

In Señora Lerdo’s classroom in the Spanish immersion program, students are rewarded for speaking, writing, and reading in Spanish. The students earn “pets” (animal shaped small erasers) for their achievement.  These pets are used as a tool to motivate and positively encourage them to practice their Spanish skills. However, the most intriguing aspect of the program is that students are also rewarded for making mistakes. The program acknowledges that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process and encourages students to take risks and make errors in a safe and supportive environment.

The pets serve as a creative outlet for the students. After completing their academic tasks, they are given time to play with their pets and use their creativity to build houses, playgrounds, schools, and everything their “pet”needs. They are provided with paper, glue, and scissors to create their imaginative projects. This playtime with their pets provides a break from the rigorous academic tasks they have been working on, which helps them recharge and refocus their attention for the next task. It is a way to balance the academic and the creative sides of learning, which is essential for their overall development.

When students are rewarded for making mistakes, it changes their perspective of mistakes. Instead of seeing mistakes as a failure, they begin to see them as opportunities for learning and growth. Students are more willing to take risks, try new things, and step out of their comfort zones because they know that even if they make a mistake, they will be rewarded for their effort. This mentality not only applies to the classroom but also carries over to other areas of their lives where they may have previously been hesitant to take risks or try new things.

The program also helps to build a growth mindset in students. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “A growth mindset is a belief that intelligence can be developed through hard work, dedication, and persistence” (Dweck, 2006, p. 24). When students are rewarded for making mistakes, they are encouraged to adopt a growth mindset and believe that their mistakes are an opportunity to learn and improve. This mindset can lead to increased motivation, engagement, and academic achievement.

Another benefit of rewarding mistakes is that it creates a positive classroom culture. When mistakes are celebrated, students are more likely to support each other and work collaboratively. The program emphasizes that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process, and students are encouraged to help each other learn from their mistakes. This culture of support and collaboration can lead to improved relationships between students and teachers and a more positive learning environment.

The program also encourages students to become more resilient. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and overcome obstacles. When students are rewarded for their mistakes, they are more likely to keep trying even when they encounter difficulties. They develop a sense of resilience that can help them overcome challenges in other areas of their lives.

In conclusion, Señora Lerdo’s classroom in the Spanish immersion program provides a unique approach to education by rewarding mistakes. By creating a safe and supportive environment where mistakes are celebrated, students are encouraged to take risks, develop a growth mindset, and become more resilient. This approach can lead to improved academic achievement, positive classroom culture, and increased motivation and engagement. The program’s success demonstrates that by rewarding mistakes, we can create a more positive and effective learning environment.

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