Embracing Positive Learning Environments

Part of the learning process is making mistakes.  However, inadvertently teachers and parents often correct young learners with negative remarks.  Kids continually hear the words “no,” “incorrect” and “wrong.”  What’s more, in moments of
frustration, many children must withstand cutting, belittling names such as
careless, lazy and unmotivated.  I think
we have all been called these names at some time in our life, and I can promise
you, these negative labels never help the situation.  It only breeds frustration and
disempowerment.  In fact, if teachers or
parents get too critical, students can feel dejected and even develop a sense
of learned helplessness.
Stop the Negative
Have you seen Dan Siegal speak about the psychological impact
of the word, “no?”  Here is a
link to a YouTube Video where he shows an audience the difference between “no”
and “yes” responses (Click Here).  I hope
you have a moment to view it.  
Replace Negativity
with Words of Encouragement:
How can teachers communicate student errors without sending a punitive message? Always point out what is right before using
positive terms to guide any mishaps to the correct answer.  Here is a list of browbeating, contentious
words that can be replaced with suggested words of encouragement.

Evaluating Errors:
Getting students comfortable evaluating their mishaps can be useful for the teacher as well as the student.  I tell my students that there are two types of errors.
  1. An oops or oopsy doodle: This is when a student knew the content but overlooked a detail.  If my students get discouraged with these types of mistakes, I always give them a high five and remind them that we are human.  I then say, “If people didn’t make mishaps, there would be nothing to learn.” 
  2. What?:  I always say this as if I am asking a question.  A “What?” is when a student never learned the concept.  This lets me know that I have to reteach the concept in a different way. 

Many of us grew up with negative labels, and I know,
first hand, how difficult it can be to temper discouraging comments.  However, with practice, you will find that embracing
words of encouragement will change the atmosphere of the learning environment and
your students will embrace the learning process with confidence and enthusiasm.  In addition, providing a safe place where students feel comfortable evaluating their mishaps with cutesy terms such as oopsy doodle and What? will guide classroom strategies that nurture individual success. 

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com, www.learningtolearn.biz  
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