Every Wednesday morning, I read to our Pre-School and Pre-Kindergarten children in the library. This week, fearing that my chosen book and follow up activity might not keep their attention, I decided to bring a game from home.
The game I picked up is called ‘Bop It!’ It is a small hand-held game not unlike ‘Simon Says.’ It commands the player to either bop it, twist it, or pull it. The player gets a point for every correct action. I intended it to be just a bit of fun that might be useful as a tool to develop listening skills. However, as the students started playing it, I realized ‘Bop It!’ is an excellent way to explain and develop growth mindset in young children. As the children play the game more and more, their scores will improve. The children now have ‘Bop It!’ in their class to prove that practice is what leads to growth and improvement.
In the afternoon, I decided to use a scheduled class with our fourth grade students to prove the same point using a more advanced version of ‘Bop It!.’ The idea was that the students would get 5 turns each and we would keep score to show how practice leads to improvement. I did not tell the students why we were playing the game but I asked the students to think about what it was that I wanted them to reflect upon as they played. They easily identified the link between practice and improvement and their improved scores after 5 turns proved their point. This link was further reinforced by the realization that the students with the highest scores had ‘Bop It!’ or a similar game at home.
Maybe not surprisingly but definitely not intentionally, the scores that we recorded allowed us to identify two other interesting and very important things to consider as part of a growth mindset:
- When we are growing, it might look and feel that we are going forward a little bit, then backward a little bit, then forward a lot, then backward a little bit, then we might stay the same for awhile, then forward again, etc, etc. The students’ scores showed that growth does not happen in a straight line. It is bumpy and that is normal.
- There can be a difference between learning and performance. Every student felt that they had improved over their 5 turns. Even though their scores had gone up and down and their last score might not have been their best score, all the students felt that they were better at ‘Bop It!’ at the end of the class. Despite our best efforts, we do not always perform at our best. A poor performance does not erase all that we have learned and it is important for young people to realize this if they are to bounce back from a poor performance. It is also an important point for teachers to bear in mind when summatively assessing students.
Each time I work with our students, I come away with something new to reflect upon. This time it was a new take on the common phrase, practice makes perfect. At the end of the afternoon class, a student used this phrase to describe what she thought was the learning point of the game. As she listened to others sharing their ideas, she revised it as, “practice makes better.” Perfect.
*As I reflected on this post, two books came to mind. Both examine learning and assessment as a non-linear process:
Didau, David. What If Everything You Knew about Education Was Wrong? Crown House Publishing, 2016.
Schimmer, Tom. Grading From the Inside Out. Solution Tree Press, 2016.