How many times while growing up did you ask an adult how to spell something and he or she responded, "Go look it up. You'll remember it better than if I tell you." Familiar?
Though I won't claim to be guiltless in this, my kids will tell you that my standard strategy is to ask, "How do YOU think it's spelled? Just try it." Some of my kids nearly always spell it right for me; some nearly always get it wrong. But I've always thought this was a better approach than just having them look it up. It helps me know where the flaws in their thinking are, and it helps them understand their own tendencies. For my naturally good spellers, it helps them learn to rely on their "gut" instinct. For the more challenged spellers, it teaches them where their weaknesses are--homophones? Vowel sounds? Changes in plurals? As I point out the errors and we talk about why they were wrong, I believe an imprint is made that is lacking when they just go "look it up."
So today, some scientific back-up for my theories!
For years, many educators have championed “errorless learning," advising teachers (and students) to create study conditions that do not permit errors. For example, a classroom teacher might drill students repeatedly on the same multiplication problem, with very little delay between the first and second presentations of the problem, ensuring that the student gets the answer correct each time.
The idea embedded in this approach is that if students make errors, they will learn the errors and be prevented (or slowed) in learning the correct information. But research by Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays and Robert Bjork at U.C.L.A. that recently appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition reveals that this worry is misplaced. In fact, they found, learning becomes better if conditions are arranged so that students make errors.
Please go read the whole article here. This has implications for all kinds of learning...but also for bigger life lessons. Allowing kids to fail, especially when there's no lasting physical or emotional damage, may be just as important as what we teach them.
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