Day 5: Fun With Failure in the Clubhouse

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When students entered the Clubhouse today, the sexy lamp was on–an indication of our first celebration of learning. Today was my highly-anticipated fun Friday activity in which students played their way through a circuit of failure. As my curious juniors and freshmen entered, they were asked to respond to the following mindset statements and journal prompts.

1. Complete the mindset quiz –Read each sentence and circle one number that shows how much you agree with it. 

A. You  have a certain amount of intelligence, and you really can’t do much to change it.

1 Strongly agree 2 Agree 3 Mostly agree 4 Mostly disagree 5 Disagree 6 Strongly disagree

B. Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much.

1 Strongly agree 2 Agree 3 Mostly agree 4 Mostly disagree 5 Disagree 6 Strongly disagree

You can learn new things, but you can’t really change your basic intelligence.

1 Strongly agree 2 Agree 3 Mostly agree 4 Mostly disagree 5 Disagree 6 Strongly disagree


2. Journal–Please respond to following prompts:

*What is your definition of failure?

*How do you typically respond to failure?

After everyone was done, I took students on a tour of the room. At each station, students would have five minutes to compete in a different type of challenge. There would be winners and losers. There would be laughter and frustration…and some cheating at times.

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The carpeted couch area was for handheld video games, such as Super Mario Brothers on the DS, in which students tested their skill against a cyber-enemy. One table had a Rubik’s cube for a timed challenge in which each player had one minute to complete a side. They had to record the number complete out of the nine possible squares.

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The side tables hosted intense games of war and various dice competitions.

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At the large table in the center of the room, card sharks tested their poker skills. To accommodate the poker noobs, the game turned into Go Fish for some groups.

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The front round table challenge was iPad solitaire, so groups could work as a team to finish with as many points as possible. If they won by completing all four suits’ piles in the five minutes, they earned 48/48. I made them calculate a percentage for this one–even if they only had 3/48.

Everyone had failed miserably at some point (or repeatedly) but they persevered. They reshuffled the cards. They reset the video games and tried again. There was serious energy in the classroom and no one questioned our intentions. So, we came back together as a class for a brief discussion to process the highs and lows of the circuit. 

Discussion Questions:


  1. How did you deal with failure today?
  2. How did you react to the success of others?
  3. What factored into your success or failure today?
  4. Are there ways to improve upon today’s performance?

The final event was a whole class coin flip. With everyone standing, I flipped a coin. Those who guessed wrong, sat and recorded an F on their scorecard. For the next round, those eliminated earned a D. In a couple more rounds, the finalist was the only one with an A. In two classes, the runners up got an A-. In another class the runners up only earned a C. Well, that doesn’t seem fair…

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But no one seemed to mind. So I upped the ante. I had students think about their performance, look at their scorecard, and give themselves an individual grade for the day. This was met with some apprehension, especially when I had them write an explanation justifying the grade. Anticipating our extension of today’s lesson, I wanted students to process this ridiculous expectation. Everyone complied, as expected. Wait until I tell them we are removing behavior from this grade on Monday.


As I prepare for that lesson, I envision addressing several necessary points. This is subject to change, but I will be sure to follow through by documenting how it goes. I will return scorecards with growth or fixed mindset results, share characteristics of Dweck’s growth mindset chart, and set the foundation for standards based learning and assessment in this class. 

Discussion Questions

1. Is it fair to grade you on the day’s performance?

2. How accurate was your grade? How does it communicate what you know, understand and can do?

Teams will then create a simple rubric with descriptors, criteria, and levels of proficiency. They will have to eliminate behavior as criteria for evaluation and stick to academic performance. Afterward, they will share rubrics with the class and establish potential strategies for improvement.

I’m still contemplating how to determine teams. They will likely be differentiated by the grades they originally felt they earned or by their mindset scores. I welcome any suggestions to maximize the potential impact of this lesson. 



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