What Do You Mean You Don’t Understand?

Sometimes TMI is a good thing especially when it comes to directions. Often important pieces of information are missing for the audience reading or listening to the directions.  I don’t think it’s on purpose.  It’s more a causality of doing something so many times that what was once necessary information, in the beginning of learning something, becomes so routine it goes to your subconscience the more you do it.

Why the interest in thinking I need TMI?  Knitting!  I recently decided to knit a baby sweater for one of my daughter’s friends. I searched Ravelry (if you knit or crochet and aren’t on Ravelry, you should be!) and found a free pattern for a Seamless Yoked Baby Sweater by Carole Barenys.  Seamless….quite appealing to me since my finishing details aren’t very refined….yet.  As I’m reading the directions I had the feeling that something was important was missing.  I got back online to read the comments on Ravelry and found that I wasn’t the only one confused.  The directions told you to cast on 4 stitches under the arm without telling you to place the arm stitches on a holder first….a very important detail, especially for a beginning knitter.  There were some other assumptions in the pattern so as I knitted I wrote down some notes.  As a result of the comments I read on Revelry and my own trial and error I made corrections to the increase rows.  Then followed another knitter’s suggestions to row 43 and finally trusted my own instincts. I’ve actually made this sweater a couple of times and each time I’ve added more corrections to the pattern.  It’s definitely taught me that written directions need to be tested several times!  My version is a work in progress so please let me know if there is something you don’t understand so I can make it better.

Seamless Yoked Baby Sweater

This experience took me back to the classroom. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have taught a lesson where after the introduction, instruction, practice and wrap up, I asked if there are any questions and not one hand goes up.  Then, as they were doing the follow up, only about 25% of them “got it”.  There weren’t questions but there should have been.  So then I would dig deeper and reteach hoping that I remembered to add a step that would help them grasp the concept.

For some reason we haven’t taught our children to ask questions.  Could it be because we get tired of hearing “why”, “why” and more “why”?  Or when we are at the height of frustration we say, “don’t ask questions, just do it!”.  And then we turn around and tell them that if they don’t understand what the teacher is teaching to ask questions.

We teach children the question words but I think, as teachers, we sometimes forget to teach them how to use them.

How do you go about this?  My suggestion is to start with modeling questions for them to answer.  You probably do it all the time.

        “Do you want milk or juice with your lunch?”

        “Which story do you want to listen to before you go to bed?”

        “Can you find your shoes?”

You can also set up specific situations:

“What do I need to do first to get your bath ready?  Do I need to plug or unplug the tub?   How full should I fill the tub?  Should I use hot or cold water or both?”

“Can you show me how to make chocolate milk?  How much chocolate should I put in it?  Should I stir it?”   Then add, “I don’t understand why I should stir it if the chocolate is already down at the bottom”.  This is a important statement.  It lets your child know that it is OK, when they don’t understand, to tell the person teaching them.

You can also let your child be the teacher:

After reading your child a story let them be the teacher.  They can spin the Question Spinner or choose a Question Word Card and then ask you a question about the story that begins with that word.  In the beginning you will probably have to help them form the questions until they get the hang of it.

Question Words and Spinner

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Other ideas you can try:

Play 20 Questions – perfect for older children needing more practice

Go to a museum and pick out objects for your child to ask you a questions about using two or three different question words.

Look at I Spy books – they are full of objects that could generate questions

Something to keep in mind, while you and your child are having these question and answer sessions, is to be sure you are answering the questions they ask in complete sentences.  Past the age of 4 your child should be answering you in complete sentences.  In the beginning you might have to remind them to answer in a complete sentence, then state your question again and help them find the right words to answer you correctly.  You want them to restate the question in their answer.  If your question was, “Who ate the cookies in the story?”, then their answer should be, ” The mouse ate the cookies in the story”.  If your child can verbally answer your questions in a complete sentences then it will be a breeze for them to answer in complete sentences in their school work……teachers like that and as they go on to higher grades, they expect it.

After all this practice your child will go to school knowing what words are used to ask questions, will feel comfortable asking them and not be this child……..

The visiting fireman asks if there are any questions.  The unexperienced child says, “One time we had a fire and we roasted marshmallows and mine burned”.  Nope, yours will be the child asking……..”What should I do if I see someone playing with matches”?

Do you have any questions about this post?  I do.  Do you have any more suggestions for teaching child how to ask questions?

This entry was posted in Everything I need to know to go to kindergarten, Notes from the teacher's desk and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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