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Teacher Tips: Responses that Deepen Understanding

06 Feb 2015 by Kathryn Surchek

We need to let the child do the work of figuring out how to zip up their coat and how letters signify sounds. We need them to keep trying, even when it’s hard. That doesn’t mean we abandon them; it actually takes more support from us, more intentionality and focus. And it’s really important to children’s learning!

Tips for Teachers

  • You want help with your coat? Here, let me zip that for you.
  • Can’t figure out what sound a P makes? It’s p-p-p.
  • Running out of steam on that painting? Try another center.

These responses get the child on to the next thing and help you keep the classroom running. But do they deepen understanding? Get the child thinking? Probably not, but that’s exactly what we need to be doing.

Take the letter/sound example. What happens if I try another approach? What if I ask questions, give hints, but don’t give the answer?

Let’s think of some P words. Like popcorn or puppy. Those words start with P. Can you say “puppy”? Listen. What sound do you hear at the start? P-p-puppy?

The child will probably get the |p| sound, which I can then explain is what the letter P says. By scaffolding the learning process, I’ve helped the child connect the dots between the letter she’s looking at and the sound it stands for. And since she’s done the cognitive work, she’s far more likely to hold on to that connection next time we talk about letters.

Want to see a real-life example? Watch this teacher respond to children to help them understand what letter makes the k-k-k sound.

 

Tips for Coaches

As coaches, we need to respond to teachers in ways that support them to do the work that builds their understanding. It’s not easy—it takes practice, focus, and intentionality. Our Feedback Strategies online program can help. Join us in exploring more about how to respond to teachers in ways that deepen their understanding.

Want to see a real-life example? Watch this coach respond to a teacher to deepen her understanding of advanced language versus extension.

 


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