Tinking & Frogging

Colorful frog in terrarium

Knitters will recognize those terms. To “tink” is to knit backwards, as in undoing the work, stitch by stitch when a mistake has been caught early. Tinking is analogous to erasing a misspelled word, or restarting a short math problem. No big deal.

In contrast, frogging is much larger in scope. The word comes from the “rip it, rip it” sound of yarn pulling out stitches across a long section of fabric. Sometimes only a section is frogged. In other cases, a knitter chooses to frog an entire project.

My non-knitting family can’t quite wrap their heads around the concept of frogging. They see hours of time invested in a project and then-poof!- it’s gone. But that’s where they’re mistaken. The knitter has learned something from the experience, be it how to execute a stitch properly, pair yarn and pattern better, structure color schemes, etc. Veteran knitters view frogging as a natural part of the creative process. Indeed, knowing that a project can be frogged frees the knitter to be bolder, take more chances, and explore possibilities.

I didn’t always feel this way about frogging. In fact, the first time my dear friend and mentor told me my “lovely” wrap could not be salvaged and should be frogged so the yarn could become something worthy of it, I was horrified. Begrudgingly, I frogged. I started a different project with the same yarn and made a different kind of mistake. That project was frogged too. The more I knit, the more I frog. What’s changed is how I feel about it.

I came to accept frogging by

  • Recognizing my teacher/mentor is a wonderful knitter. If she frogs, it must be OK.
  • Reading forum posts and project descriptions/commentaries on Ravelry (a website devoted to all fiber-related crafts). It’s filled with crafters sharing how many times they started a project over, changed course, repeated segments, etc.
  • Realizing that frogging helps me produced better quality, more aesthetically pleasing finished objects.

I can help my students feel better about mistakes by making it safe to muck it up. Teachers do that when we

  • ESTABLISH A SAFE CLIMATE. I’ve purchased a stuffed frog. He’s going to be the class mascot. We’re going to start the term talking about mistakes in learning and we’re going to look for opportunities to make them, learn from them, and feel safe doing so. One strategy that drives this point is when some assignments or classwork is not graded.
  • FOSTER REFLECTION. I’m going to ask students to think about other contexts for learning. How long did it take them to become proficient? What did success require? What can they take from those experiences and apply it to academic learning?
  • LEAD BY EXAMPLE. I’m going to frog a cowl in class. I learned a new stitch over the break (brioche, for the knitters out there). Mostly it’s terrific. But there are mistakes, and the more I look at them the worse I feel about the project. I’ve got to start over. I think it’s important for students to see us struggle a bit, to see that we are mistake-prone humans.

Of course students expect and need us to be experts. But the problem with experts is that we make the work look so easy! As you prepare for the new term, keep in mind how hard it is to learn and how much students compare themselves to the teacher’s and their peers’ skill level. Consider ways you could provide low stakes opportunities for practice, where mistakes are embraced in order to promote learners who are bolder and take more chances in learning.


About Lolita Paff

Educator. Wife. Mother. Amateur chef. Wine lover.

Posted on January 4, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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