Downloadable activity ideas

Activity 1: My Favorite No

In this activity from Teaching Channel, students solve a challenging problem on notecards. The teacher finds her "favorite no" and leads students through what the student does right, and what mistakes they made. This activity shows students the importance and value of learning from mistakes. To download supporting materials for this activity, please visit

Activity 2: Crumpled Reminder

This 10-20 minute classroom activity can be used to highlight and reinforce the idea that mistakes are important for learning and for growing our intelligence.

  1. (2 min) Ask students to write about a mistake they made this week and how it made them feel.
  2. (2 min) Give each student a fresh piece of paper, ask them to crumple it up and throw it at the board with the feelings they have when they make a mistake.
  3. (3 min) Ask them to retrieve the paper, un-crumple it, and color each line with different colors.
  4. (3 min) Ask students what they think those lines represent. Explain that the lines represent all the synaptic activity that happens when a mistake is made.
  5. (1 min) Ask students to keep the paper and stick it into a notebook or folder to look at when they make a mistake. This physical reminder prompts students to use mistakes to strengthen their brain every time they open their notebook.
  6. (5-10 min) OPTIONAL - Lead a discussion on mistakes using questions from Activity 3: Classroom Discussion (below) to further students' understanding about the value of mistakes.


Activity: Crumpled Reminder (PDF)

Activity 3: Classroom Discussion

Sometimes it’s important to simply tell students that you love mistakes because that’s how we learn. Start the class with a lesson on why you like mistakes and what students can learn from them. Lead a discussion on how students feel about making a mistake and why.

Here are a few discussion points to get you started:

  • How do you feel when you make a mistake? Why?
  • How do you think other people see you when you make a mistake?
  • Have you ever discovered something new from making a mistake?
  • Have you ever felt proud of making a mistake?
  • Has a mistake ever made you think more deeply about a problem? (You can start by talking about a non-academic setting, and then talk about how the lessons apply to academics.)


Activity: Classroom Discussion (PDF)
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