(NOTE: You can see videos of my student’s final projects for this unit here)

As regular readers, I’m a fan of Carol Dweck’s work, notwithstanding my critique of her recent New York Times op ed on willpower.

I was recently watching a video of a group discussing Professor Dweck’s book, with her participating via Skype. I was struck by one comment she made, saying “we should celebrate mistakes.”

So, today I began to experiment with a lesson on doing just that. I’m going to refine it a lot more, and I think my colleagues might try it out in a number of different classes and make it even better. Here’s what I’m doing — I’m all ears if you have some ideas. My final version will be adaptable to all levels of students — mainstream and ESL:

Today, I began to very briefly talk about how we learn from our mistakes and, if we aren’t making any, then we’re not taking enough risks. I asked my ESL Beginners to write down what they felt were two common mistakes they made in learning English. They were all pretty broad — pronunciation, remembering new words, etc. They then shared what they wrote in groups of three.

Tomorrow, I’ll ask them to review what they wrote, and then try to remember specific times when they made mistakes in those more general categories. Then, I’ll ask them to write what they learned from each of those experiences. I’ll give the example of “I said ‘bottle’ the wrong way and people couldn’t understand me. My friend helped me learn the correct way to say it.” Students will then share what they wrote in small groups.

Later tomorrow, I’ll create an inductive data set (read more about inductive data sets here) listing each specific example and what they learned from it separately.

On Wednesday, students will need to cut each item out and paste them on a sheet in categories (I’ll probably just use the common general problems they wrote today for the categories they’ll use). I’ll use the typical “moves” of an inductive data set (see the earlier link for information about those, or see my books).

Thursday, they will review the content of each category, think about them, and add new examples they can think of — including mistakes they made and what they learned from each one. Students will share them in groups, and I hope students will see what a vast amount of knowledge they have learned from making mistakes.

Friday, each student will get a Post-It. I’ll ask them to pick one mistake they listed and what they wrote they learned, have them share in the Friday groups where we review weekly homework, and paste them on a “Mistake Wall.” We’ll make this a regular weekly event.

What do you think?