So, I was feeling frustrated. My class, who I love dearly and know well (we were together for third grade and “looped” and I have them for fourth grade) we’re making the most careless errors in all areas. It seems as if this monster had taken over our classroom.
One of my strengths as a teacher is personal reflection. I monitor my teaching daily. Did that lesson work? Did I move to quickly? Did I activate their prior knowledge? Did I meet my goals? What could I have done that would have been more thorough? I’m my own worst critic, but I constantly strive to improve. However, this “careless thing” that was happening was growing and growing.
I nagged. I pleaded. I begged. Nothing was working. My students know that my philosophy is quality, not quantity. If a student can’t finish an assignment, I evaluate why and what happened. I’m the teacher at our school who will NEVER keep a student in from recess. It makes my skin crawl for adults to expect a child to go the entire day without a break. Imagine losing your prep periods and not having a break! (Sorry, but this is a hot button for me.) So, why were my students making so many careless errors? I know I wasn’t asking them to work too quickly.
Next, I did error analysis. The types of errors were copying the problem wrong in math. The errors in written work were careless spelling errors. Homework errors were from not reading the homework log. All of these were preventable. They were not related to learning concepts. Something needed to change. Without thinking, Mr. Careless was created.
Some of my best and most creative ideas come spontaneously. I could never have planned for this. During one of my rants about carelessness, (Yes, I am very dramatic in the classroom) I told the students that Mr. Careless had moved in and he wasn’t welcome. For a day or so, each time I returned work, I talked about how powerful Mr. Careless was and that we had to “kick him to the curb.” Well, imagine what happened next! I said he had to die. I didn’t plan on saying it; it just slipped out.
Death is a scary topic. To cover the moment, (and the potential flood of emails from parents) I said we needed a funeral for Mr. Careless. We needed to say good bye and make sure he never came back. An idea was born. We planned a funeral.
Our funeral would be on Monday in order to properly prepare and reflect on why Mr. Careless had to be buried. The students wrote good bye letters that listed the reasons he had to go and supported their thinking through examples. They described their feelings – some students were really angry about Mr. Careless. Next, we planned the food menu (every good funeral has a good selection of food) created his tombstone and practiced our fluency with friends to prepare for the eulogies. Of course, we were going to make a movie!
The good news is the parents loved the idea and I was flooded with supportive emails. Since the funeral, there has been an improvement in avoiding careless errors. If someone has a careless error, we laugh about Mr. Careless haunting us. Admittedly, careless errors have not disappeared, but we created a very special memory and had a blast. I also turned it into a multi-paragraph writing assignment. Most importantly, I modeled for the students that quality work is important in a very fun way.