Fearless Learning

You're still cool!

We want our students to understand an enormous, life changing truth: It’s okay to make mistakes! Kids don’t mind missing a basketball shot, but many are crushed by answering a teacher’s question incorrectly.

The instant a student makes an error, prompt the class to say, “You’re still cool!” Occasionally follow up with, “Tell your neighbors, if you make a mistake it’s okay … explain that everyone makes mistakes.” Before long, you’ll have the happy experience of your class correcting your misstatements with “You’re still cool!”

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Help me!

When called on, students often draw a blank. They begin an answer, are lost, can’t speak a word. You ask Maria to explain perimeter. She starts to talk about a square and doesn’t know how to continue. Maria extends her hands dramatically to her classmates and exclaims “Help me!” Kids jump up, quickly surround Maria, advising her. When she has had enough, she says, “Class!” Students scurry back to their position and Maria starts over, primed with new knowledge.

Rehearse the “Help me!” routine often. Stress that students move quickly to the speaker and, just as quickly, return to their seats. More practice, more perfection, more wonderful help!


You call on Tasha to talk about an article on polar bears. She begins an answer, makes a mistake, and you prompt the class with “You’re still cool!” Tasha starts over, does better, but, hallway through, draws a blank. She uses “Help me!” and receives useful advice from her classmate. The determined girl moves forward with her polar bear discourse but makes another mistake. At this point, you say, “Tell Tasha, you’ve got grit … you don’t quit!” Kids happily follow your lead, repeating your encouraging words. Prompt the class again, “We’ve got grit … we never, ever quit.” Far more important than a lesson on polar bears, the class learns how to support each other and nourish determination.

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Fearless Learning Online

Heidi Martin's 1st grade class

Combining “You’re still cool,” “Help me,” and “We’ve got grit, we don’t quit” creates a wonderfully supportive, learning atmosphere. For a demonstration of Fearless learning, see Heidi Martin’s video.

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