No, I love mistakes because I’m a second language acquisition nerd and mistakes give me a change to see what’s really going on in that black box between what I say and what they produce.
Mistakes, more often than not, show growth and internalization, and that’s the beauty of getting something wrong. Last week my daughter said “I catched it!” I didn’t correct her. Inside I was smiling at her acquisition and overgeneralization of the past tense morpheme -ed. She’ll correct it when she never hears other people say “catched.” One day, her brain will say, “Oh, that must not be right for that verb. Everyone always says caught.”
In my advanced classes, my students overanalyze and ask too many questions for me to see many really golden mistakes. But my elementary students – that’s where the best mistakes are to be found. I only see them for 20 minutes once a week, preschool 2-year-olds through first graders. In such a limited time it’s difficult to accomplish much but by targeted repetition you’d be surprised at what they can do.
In first grade, one of the things we work with a lot is a little bit of school vocabulary -just table, chair, book, pencil, etc.- and talking about animals. A few weeks ago, one of my first-graders, who has been with me since 4-year-old preschool, started producing el mesa and el vaca. I was thrilled. I couldn’t believe it. Do you know what that means?! He has never heard those phrases before. It means his brain has identified that el [and probably la] are morphemes that mean the, and he switched them. He switched them! Without ever being told that el and la are ways to say the in Spanish!
Beautiful, beautiful mistakes.
Foto Credit: Phil Dowsing