Learning is a good guesser’s game

Playing guessing games is a great way to help children reduce their fear of failure and develop a love of learning at home. Nobody is right all the time, but everybody has to try to correct his/her own errors by observing carefully and creating logical theories about what is true.

Games like “I Spy” help small children learn to observe the world around them and learn concepts in context. “I spy something red,” might be the first hint. If the child does not guess the apple on the table, the parent might say, “This red thing is a fruit.” Next hint, “It’s on the table.” Now the parent is helping the child learn colors, food classification, place prepositions, and the habit of seeking more information – all in a guessing game.

The idea that the smart kids get all the right answers is not helpful to


Research shows that students who think they must always be right to maintain their smart-kid image, find it hard to accept their own mistakes and often will not take any risks for fear of being wrong. The healthiest learning situation is one where students are empowered to take risks and learn to correct their own errors.

In his book “Teach Like a Champion,” Doug Lemov lists “Normalizing Error” as the last of his 49 teaching techniques that help put students on the path to college. Lemov writes:

“Error followed by correction and instruction is the fundamental process of schooling. You get it wrong, and then you get it right. If getting it wrong and then getting it right is normal, teachers (and parents) should Normalize Error and respond to both parts of this sequence as if they were totally and completely normal. After all, they are.” (p. 221)

The famous trial-and-error method used by Thomas Edison when he was working on his 1,100 patented inventions was not just wild guessing.

Edison developed theories that guided his thinking when he was trying to solve problems, but he was always willing to take the risk of being wrong in the process of learning what would work best in a new invention.

He documented everything that did not work along the way, and he learned something from each error until he found the right answers. That is active learning.