From Oops to Aha pulls back the curtain on learning from mistakes in four public school Kindergarten classrooms: urban, charter, Montessori, and suburban. With each chapter, the reader is transported directly into the daily lives of teachers and their students. The portraits offer poignantly-detailed, moment-by-moment illustrations of how teachers respond to mistakes and interact with students. At the micro-level, this perspective reveals how teachers’ beliefs, intentions, and instructional practices play out in context during daily life in the classroom. By juxtaposing the true stories of the lives of Kindergarten teachers and children, Donaldson makes plain that even in this very early grade, there is a wide and striking range of children’s interpersonal and learning experiences in school. All Kindergarten classrooms are not the same; the nuanced way teachers respond to mistakes in the moment is impacted by access to resources and by policies enacted at a broader level. This book will inform and inspire readers to reexamine preconceived notions of mistakes, feedback, and early childhood learning and teaching, and to reconsider their impact on educational equity.
Maleka Donaldson EdD, is an assistant professor, educational researcher, teacher-educator, and former Kindergarten teacher. She studies the role of mistakes in learning and teaching and has previously published articles in the Harvard Educational Review, the Journal of Educational Research, Schools: Studies in Education, and more.
Chapter 1: Mr. Allen: Transforming Mistakes Into Melodies
Chapter 2: Ms. Rivers: Coaching the Team Toward “Perfect Perfect” Performance
Chapter 3: Miss Carrie: Guiding Children Down the Highway to Self-Correction
Chapter 4: Mrs. Tucker: Orchestrating Learning From “Oopses”
This book is a beautifully-crafted portrait of four Kindergarten teachers whose classrooms differ in both subtle and dramatic ways. Focusing on the teachers’ responses to student mistakes, the book highlights the difference between some classrooms where mistakes are used to nurture children’s thinking and to carefully steer children to new learning, and others, where mistake-making is embedded in a reward system that sternly demands right answers. By richly describing very different classrooms serving very different populations, Dr. Donaldson forces the reader to consider key equity issues in American schools. From Oops to Aha is a must-read for teacher educators, novice and veteran teachers of small children, and parents of kindergarteners, all of whom will learn an enormous amount about children’s learning and instructional diversity from reading this book.
In this exceptional book, Maleka Donaldson makes the classroom come alive through her portraits of teachers and their kindergarten students. She offers creative new analyses of teachers’ work with children, in the context of their school, community, and the larger policy landscape. From Oops to Aha is a rigorously researched page-turner—an unmistakable must-read for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners alike!
For teachers, who rarely set foot in another teacher’s classroom, this book offers a chance to slip into other classes and absorb the ethos of each one through honest, detailed, empathic descriptions of the realities of kindergarten teaching. Readers will come away from this book more reflective about their own responses to mistakes and with an expanded repertoire of approaches to giving feedback and, indeed, to creating a learning community.
In a richly nuanced and engaging book, Maleka Donaldson paints detailed portraits of how kindergarten teachers respond to their students’ mistakes. Situated in public, charter, Montessori, and suburban schools, Donaldson shows how inequitable resources and external pressures shape micro-level classroom dynamics, including how teachers frame and respond to students' mistakes. She also reminds us that teaching is a fundamentally human endeavor and that teacher moment-to-moment decisions have immense power to energize young minds. Everyone who cares about what happens in U.S. classrooms should read this book.