THINK Primary #1 | Challenge

CHALLENGE – What do we mean when we use this word? What do children think we mean? What does challenge feel like and look like?

Part of our job as teachers is encouraging children to challenge themselves. We need children to realise that getting things right is not the point of learning. If we do something first time, without mistakes, without needing to adapt it, re-draft it or come at it from a totally different place, we are not actually learning at all; we are doing something well within our comfort zone and so not moving forward.

We want children to like the challenge of the stretch zone; to recognise that learning is tricky, that sometimes there will be moments of frustration, that they will undoubtedly make mistakes, but that if they persist and try again, they will get there. True learning is a messy business, but it is intrinsically rewarding when we achieve a goal or a target that we have set ourselves.

There will be a certain amount of adjustment required. At first, we often see children try to challenge themselves too much, asking for the trickiest problem on offer in a maths lesson or picking the thickest book off the shelf to read, because a friend has a better grasp of a maths concept or is a more advanced reader than they are. The result is the child ends up in the Panic Zone, where they are likely to give up or get overly frustrated. So, this is something we need to manage, and we do it as openly as possible. Introducing the word ‘YET’ is very powerful. We talk about not being able to do something yet. The implication is that we all get there eventually, just at different times.

Talking about what it feels like in each zone and opening-up that dialogue in the classroom where everyone feels it’s okay to talk about what they find difficult is hugely important. We want classrooms where it is okay to make mistakes, so children can be challenged just the right amount.

So, how can you help your child at home?

  • Be explicit about what you find challenging
  • Share what you relish and enjoy about challenge
  • Talk about the right level of challenge
  • Don’t compare your child to anyone else. Help them realise that they are only in competition with themselves – trying to improve.
  • Transmit the idea that we learn from our mistakes – Mistakes are okay!
  • Use YET to talk about things you or your child can’t do. “I can’t do that yet