Monday, July 14, 2014

Failure is Totally an Option!

Please, for the sake of our kids, take down your inspirational posters that read, "Failure is not an option" and replace them with posters that say:

Fail Early and Fail Often
Failure is Totally an Option
From Failure you Learn; from Success, Not so Much

We may have had it wrong. The infamous Apollo 13 quote "Failure is Not an Option" is a mantra that I believe, gives students the wrong impression about how problems are solved. In context of the movie, the engineers had a challenge unlike any that most ever have to face. They had limited supplies, limited time, and people's lives were at stake. Being wrong had devastating results.  So the quote in that context is inspiring. However, the real engineering design process, requires failure. And the sooner you fail, the quicker you learn. The more you fail, the faster you learn.

I'm nervous that the pervasive message that "failing is bad" had raised up a generation of kids who now won't take risks.  Our focus on standardized testing has exacerbated the problem. Look around you. Do you know kids who are scared to do try new things unless given explicit directions and guidance? Do you know any kids who love to tinker, taking things apart? What happened to try it and see what happens? 

I was inspired by this article titled, Genius Hour; What kids learn from failure. Modeled after Google's 20% idea, middle school kids were given 80 minutes a week to work on any project of their choosing. Students meet with teachers to brainstorm, and students present and share their ideas. The standards of writing, listening, and communicating all come into play. But more powerfully, students learn to accept failure, and learn from it.

While leading a workshop recently, technology teacher Jarrod Rackauskas said he's learned that when facilitating project based learning, it is best if students fail early, rather than later. If teachers encourage students to tinker, think, develop prototypes, but wait too long to try them out, students are overly discouraged by their failure. But if they fail early, they are better able to see that failure helps them learn what's wrong, and how to fix it.  

Avoiding failure is a mindset that is so engrained in students, it will take time to undo this type of thinking. I suggest we take baby steps. Watch the words you use when students are working on projects. For example, replace, "Better luck next time" with "Great, now what can you learn from this to make your next one better?"

Encourage students when they make a wrong prediction or when their prototypes don't work. In fact celebrate it! Give them kudos, give them a crown of failure.  Let them know failure is how you begin to do something great!  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Calendar-Weather-Geography Morning Activity

 Traditional Morning Routine 


Often the school day for young kids starts with calendar time. There are lots of options for teachers and homeschooling parents. I've use a smattering of ideas from 1+1=1 and a mixture of some of my own materials. However, if you're on the road and trying to homeschool (whether full-time or just on vacation) I found my traditional morning calendar routine wasn't all it could be. 

I have a small 1/2" binder where I hole punch a cheap Dollar Store calendar so my son gets a sense of months and days and where he can practice writing his numbers. We also kept a graph of weather and temperature. However, when on the road, I felt like this needed to be modified. 

Roadschooling Activity to focus on geography, comparative weather, and activities  


Weather changes as we move around the country, and having my kids identify the current geography  increased in importance. I also found we often were comparing weather where we are, with what people back home are experiencing. So including comparative weather seemed like a good idea. And most importantly, I wanted my kids to have a record of things we were doing, from their own perspective. I didn't find anything that matched my needs, so I made this supplement handout to add to our morning routine. 

I designed the handout for a first grade student, but I'm sure it could be leveled up or down just fine. It includes:
  • What is today? A place for child to write the month, day of the week, and day and year. 
  • Today's number: This is where the child takes the number date and makes 4 number sentences. Two that add up to that number, and two that subtract to that number.  For example on March 12; the student might choose (10 + 2 = 12),  (6 + 6 = 12),  (15 - 3 = 12), and (20 - 8 = 12).
  • Where am I? Here the child writes the name of the city/town, state, and country. He also marks the location on the US map.
  • What's the Weather Like Today? Here the child writes a weather descriptor word, includes a current, and predicted high/low temperature for your current location, and one for "back home." 
  • Picture of what I did yesterday: The child can either draw a picture or make a collage that will help him keep a record of all the cool places your family goes.  My kids like cutting from tourist brochures and pasting ticket stubs in this space. Even photos of the latest fish catch have made it into this spot.   
  • Journal: Today.... prompt allows space for the child to write a sentence of something cool that is going on. 


Tips for Using the Calendar-Weather-Geography Activity 


 You might choose to print out multiple copies (back-to-back maybe) one page per day still adds up to be a lot. Maybe you might choose to print it on card stock, laminate it, or put it in Learning Resources Write And Wipe Pockets or the Crayola Dry Erase Boardso that you don't have all the paper to keep track of.  


 Handwriting Without Tears


In case you're wondering, I choose to use the 2 lines promoted by Handwriting Without Tears.  I have found that it is less confusing as my son knows that some letters are tall, some are small, some are descending, and others are capitals. His handwriting has much improved since using the two lines instead of three.

Free Download Printable

Here is a free download on the Roadschooling Calendar Journal. This link will take you to a Google Doc where you will be able to download the pdf. I would love your feedback. 

(Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links. Thanks for your support.)