Reteaching for Understanding

Although we may have the best of intentions with our lesson plans and instruction, sometimes we are not effective teachers. I had this experience recently. I was teaching a mock trial class for our homeschool co-op and discussing the types of questions that are used during a direct examination of a witness. Once I had finished my instruction, I asked the kids to create questions for the witnesses of our case. My helper and I walked around and observed the class as they worked. Before long, it was apparent that the kids did not really understand the concept. We tried to clarify what they were supposed to do and then let them continue with the task.After class, I was a little discouraged as I read some of the questions that the kids had written. It was obvious that they didn’t understand what they were supposed to do. My instruction had not been effective. At this point, I had two options. I could just move on to another task during our next class. After all, we had a limited number of classes and not much time left in the semester. Or, I could try to teach the lesson again.

As my helper and I discussed the issue, we came up with an idea. If we modeled the questioning technique in front of the class, then perhaps they would better understand the concept. Additionally, instead of just modeling good questions, we would first model a poor questioning method. That way, the kids would hopefully recognize the difference between the two.

At our next class, I was the witness and my helper was the lawyer. We had prepared a story and questions ahead of time. Beginning with the poor method, I was asked just a few questions and my responses were limited. Then, we asked the class if they understood the situation. Could they retell the story based on my answers? As predicted, they could not because the questions were insufficient. We modeled the questioning again. This time, the questions allowed me to tell the whole story. After this, the kids confirmed that they now had enough information. They retold the story with ease. Although it seemed as if they all had an “aha” moment, now it was time for the real test. Could they go back to the previous assignment and rewrite good questions? They could!

So, what is the moral of my story? It is simple. Sometimes you need to reteach. Your homeschool has a distinct advantage here over traditional schooling because you are not limited by class periods. You are able to stop what you’re doing to make sure that your child understands a concept, if it is important. Not every skill is super important and your child will not master everything. However, some skills are important. In our class, I felt that effectively teaching the kids how to ask good questions was important. I was disappointed that my teaching methods were not effective the first time, but I did not beat myself up about it. I tried something new the second time that was effective. You may have to try several methods before your child really grasps something. If it is worth learning, then it is worth finding a way to teach it effectively. There is nothing wrong with reteaching.

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