“I can’t do this. This is dumb.”
If your students keep getting stuck and needing the teacher’s help, they are at risk of negative attitudes about themselves or their learning. But Spencer encourages teachers not to simply provide the answers to students’ questions. Instead, teacher and students can journey together, learning to identify the specific gaps in their understanding and working towards solutions.
One of the things I typically will do is I, basically, will never give my student an answer to a problem if they’re stuck. Instead, I will ask them questions to help them see where they might be misunderstanding the subject, or I will guide them through a problem-solving process until they come to the answer themselves. And so, as a general rule, a student knows if they ask a question of me, I will sit down with them or stand by them and we will struggle together until we arrive at the answer.
I find that over time, students can see the process of problem-solving modeled. Over time, I’ve noticed that my students are able to learn to problem-solve on their own without me coaching them through it. Because I have found a lot of times when a student gets stuck, they soon begin to have thoughts going through their mind like, “I can’t do this. This is stupid. This is too hard.” Instead of having those thoughts go through their mind, if they slow down, try to identify where they aren’t understanding the problem, and then think about where they could look it up or how they misunderstand it, that they can then learn on their own. It’s a more healthy soundtrack to be putting through your mind than those negative things.
When a student provides the right answer, I always like to follow that correct answer up with a higher-level comprehension question. I like to go as far as I can, especially because in language arts we’re singing songs on grammar terms way beyond what the student needs to know. Especially in that class, I like to just see how far I can take a student before they start getting to the place where they can’t follow the content anymore.
Over time, I think they get better and better at problem-solving. Then that enables me as a teacher to be efficient with how I help them with their problem. We get better and better at solving problems.
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CONTRIBUTOR: Spencer Weaver