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Making mistakes (1)

To learn to look at our mistakes and failings in a positive way.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To learn to look at our mistakes and failings in a positive way.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need an adult’s bicycle and safety helmet.

  • A volunteer from one of the younger classes present.
  • A piano, a Superman doll, a school crossing lollipop sign; or pictures of a piano, Superman and a STOP traffic sign.
  • Quotes for the whiteboard:
    ‘We don’t make mistakes, we only have happy accidents!’ (source unknown)
    ‘A mistake is the first step in learning. Success comes from mistakes.’ (Igor Stravinsky)
    ‘To err is human, to admit it, superhuman.’ (Doug Larson)
    ‘It’s easy to stop making mistakes. Just stop having ideas.’ (source unknown)
  • Some music by Stravinsky for the reflection.

Assembly

  1. Tell the children that you love going for a walk on Boxing Day and seeing children out with their new Christmas toys. Prams and scooters and bikes, and even puppies! Usually there are a lot of mums and dads getting a lot of exercise as they help new bike-learners with lots of pushes!

    Ask how many children in the assembly today can ride a bike. Ask for a volunteer to come and demonstrate. Make sure he or she wears the helmet.

    With the children’s help identify the things you need to learn and remember in order to ride a bike, for example: If I lean too far to the right or left I’ll fall off. I need to be able to go straight. I need to practise balancing.

    Recognize that the only way in which we all learned was by making mistakes, by falling off!
  2. Look at the quote, ‘We don’t make mistakes, we only have happy accidents!’ on the whiteboard.

    Explain that you are not sure we would all agree with that statement as regards falling off a bike and scraping our knees, but it does raise an important point. How do we look at our mistakes and failings?

    Explain that if we have younger brothers and sisters in our family who are just learning to talk, we are often likely to hear them say things that aren’t quite right, like: ‘I seed a policeman.’ ‘I runned all the way home.’ We don’t tend to correct them. In fact we often think that their mistakes are quite sweet and cute!

    But ask how many children here like making mistakes in class? That’s a different matter, isn’t it? Our pride gets hurt when we make mistakes and we feel embarrassed. Sometimes making a mistake feels so bad that it shuts us up from even trying the next time.
  3. Explain that today we are going to learn how to turn our mistakes into happy accidents! To help us we are going to need these three items (or pictures): a piano, Superman and a STOP sign.

    How can a piano help us to see our mistakes in the right way? Ask the children if they have heard of a well-known composer called Stravinsky. He wrote beautiful music which is played by orchestras all over the world. Show the second quote. This is what he said: ‘A mistake is the first step in learning. Success comes from mistakes.’

    Ask how many children are learning to play an instrument? How many picked up the instrument for the first time and played something tuneful? How many made a real screech on the violin, a real brmph on a brass instrument!

    When Stravinsky was trying to put all these instrument sounds together he didn’t get it right first time either … or second time … or third time even! He was actually quoted as saying that he learned more from his mistakes than from all the great teaching he had received. So whenever you see a piano, or pick up a musical instrument, remember that.
  4. How can Superman help us to see our mistakes in the right way? Well, we all know that Superman is the greatest, but instead of remembering that, think about this quote whenever you see him. Show the third quote: ‘To err is human, to admit it superhuman.’

    What this means is that if you are human, and I don’t think we have any aliens visiting today so I guess that means all of us here, then we will all make mistakes. It just comes with being human! But, admitting that we have made a mistake takes a superman (or superwoman)!

    Ask the children if they think that is true. Do they find it difficult if they make a mistake, to say that they have made a mistake, to get something wrong? Let them into a secret – so do adults! But if they can admit that they make mistakes then they are ‘superhuman’ and can take a bow. It is something to be proud of.
  5. And how can the STOP sign help us to see our mistakes in the right way? Look at the final quote: ‘It’s easy to stop making mistakes. Just stop having ideas.’ That’s hardly something your teacher is likely to say, is it? Imagine a classroom where nobody ever has any ideas. How boring a place would that be!

Time for reflection

Reflection

Listen to this music composed by Stravinsky. Remember that he made many mistakes before he got this music right.

Prayer

Dear God,
You know that we are human and you know that we make many mistakes.
Help us not to be defeated by our mistakes but to see them as a learning process.
Forgive us when our mistakes hurt other people.

Amen.

Publication date: January 2009   (Vol.11 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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