Clever Mistakes

Delivery Method: 

How can we safeguard against the tendency to evaluate the product of a child’s actions and instead, seek to understand the child’s learning process? Working to understand how a “mistake” makes sense in terms of what the child may be thinking, gives us insight about the child’s reasoning and allows us to better support cognitive development.

In this Videative, Madison and her teacher, Leslie, are playing a game with containers and small, colored bears. The object of the game is to place the red, blue, and green bears in their matching colored containers. To begin the game, Leslie offers Madison a blue bear and says, “Here, can you put the bear in?” Madison places the bear in the blue container, which happens to be the container that is closest to her. Leslie applauds her choice. Madison enjoys her teacher’s affirmation and applauds as well. Next, Leslie hands Madison a red bear and says, “Put your red one in.” Madison places the red bear in the blue container. There are two likely reasons Madison may have chosen to place the red bear in the blue container: 1) the blue container is located closest to her, and 2) in the previous round, Madison received applause for placing a bear in the blue container. Also, the goal of the game has not yet been explained to Madison. Perhaps upon noticing the absence of Leslie’s applause, Madison moves the red bear from the blue to the red container. In the next round, Leslie hands Madison a green bear. Again, Madison places the bear in the blue container. But even before looking up, Madison begins taking it out. She moves the bear to the green container and Leslie applauds. What choice do you think Madison will make in the next round of the game? And what reasoning do you think may guide her thinking? By taking this perspective, we are likely to witness some "clever mistakes"—moves that Madison makes which, although “incorrect,” reveal sensible reasoning.

Keywords: Fours, Containers, Child-Teacher, Sorting, Memory, Special Education, videative

Length of videative: 5 text pages, 11 video subclips
Length of stand-alone master video clip: 5 minutes, 11 seconds