By Kirsten Asbury, TLC Teaching Assistant
Often times as teachers we find ourselves asking questions that we already know the answer to, or that a student already knows the answer to. When we ask questions like “What letter is this?” or “How many sides does a triangle have?” or “What day comes after Monday?” we are not actually teaching our students, we are testing them. It is appropriate to ask testing questions when we are actually trying to determine what the child knows. It is important to facilitate the child’s learning by actually teaching them strategies to be successful when they are being tested.
Constantly being tested can affect a child’s desire to participate in learning opportunities. For example, if you ask a child the name of a certain letter and they get it wrong and you correct them, they have failed. If this pattern continues they may develop coping skills so they will not have to participate in these “testing” activities. They could continue to give the wrong answer even when they know the answer to make peers laugh, they may shut down and stop responding, or they may act out in different ways to avoid these activities all together.
What can we do as teachers to avoid testing students and teaching them instead? The answer seems so simple, just stop asking “testing questions.” It takes a very conscious effort to make sure we are not just testing our students. In the book Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome by Patricia Logan Oelwein there are numerous different strategies and games to help teach children different reading skills. Playing games with your children or students is one of the most effective ways to help teach them. It is important to start at the simplest level of any game to make sure the child feels successful. If an activity or game is too hard for the student, stop, and choose something more appropriate to ensure that the child feels that they accomplished something on their own. Some games that Oelwein suggests to help children reach success in learning are “family bingo,” “letter basketball,” and “letter hunts” around your house or school.
It is okay for learning to be hard for a child; when it is hard for a child to learn, acknowledge that it is hard! When the child experience success when something is hard that will increase their self-esteem even more! I encourage parents and teachers to really think about what questions they are asking children and avoid just testing them. I know this is something I need to work on, and it takes a very conscious effort but is well worth the rewards experienced by the child who learns and learns to love the process of learning.