Elementary Science

how to help your students?

I was wondering if anyone has any advice on how to help children when you are unsure how to explain the information to your students but you know the material yourself. Sometimes I know the information but its tough to think of how to explain so they can understand in the elementary level.

Ryan Connors
Ryan Connors
840 Activity Points

I had the same problem when I started student teaching in first grade. One thing that I did was to pay closer attention to the vocabulary my cooperating teacher uses when teaching her lessons and listen to student conversations when working independently on an assignment. Now before I teach them a lesson, I make sure I know the material well and think of a much simpler way to explain what ever I will teaching them.

Ana Pena
Ana Pena
1245 Activity Points

Ryan- You ask a great, honest question! The way I plan is backward. I first decide what concept is the most important for my students to learn. The Next Generation Science Standards help, because they are broken down by elementary grades. The NSTA Learning Center has helped me understand the concepts AND figure out a way to help my students understand the concepts. Some students will grasp the concept and then some. Some students will struggle with misconceptions along the way. Have them draw what they think to help you assess their level of understanding and work from that point. Robin

Robin Willig
Robin Willig
5625 Activity Points

I totally understand your struggle and have experienced it many times myself as a student teacher. I think that the first step to explaining something that you know to a young child is to slow down and think about the initial understandings required to understand what it is you are explaining. You really need to get back to the foundation and then build the child's understanding up from there. Another method would be to think about real life examples that you can use as metaphor for what you are trying to explain. This would help the child relate something that they don't know to something that they do and would help them to understand.

Diana Hallett
Diana Hallett
390 Activity Points

This is definitely something I had to deal with myself! It was always one of my weaknesses. I was afraid of explaining things in too much of a simple form or too difficult. I'm currently student teaching in a fourth grade classroom and honestly I've learned you can never go too simple in terms of your vocabulary. The material itself may be at a more challenging level but the way you decide to explain it makes all the difference. What has really helped me is typing out what I think I would say, and what my students would response like a script. This way once I have gone through my entire lesson I can go back and read exactly what I plan on saying. I read it allowed and a lot of times I catch myself saying things that don't make sense, should be in another part of my lesson, or a word my students may find challenging and I need to define as I go. It also helps me to look at a lesson plan from the previous grade just to get an idea of what they most likely know before they come to my class. I hope this is of some help!

Lucila Martinez
Lucila Martinez
1165 Activity Points

Ryan, This is a great question. I think it is important to help students make connections to what they are learning. If they can relate to the information then they can develop a better understanding of the content. The key is to use words and language that is at their level. I am a student teacher working on a unit in natural resources. The students are having a difficult time differentiating between renewable and non renewable resources. They understand the difference however they are struggling to determine how to categorize resources. Resources such as water are easy for me to categorize however they have to connect the content to an understanding of the water cycle and. I have found my students respond well to visual tools such as pictures, videos and experiments. Finding the right words to teach may be difficult however a picture speaks for itself. Good Luck!

Robin Cox
Robin Cox
3390 Activity Points

Hi Ryan, I think this is tricky for us all at least once in a while. I often will use other resources to help students understand something. Children's books on a particular topic, or even reference material. If you go through the motions of looking something up, it not only teaches the student the information they have a question about, but also gives them some tools on how to research something. I think reading content that is meant for children also will help you to explain it in terms that will work for the kids, sometimes I find I don't quite have a word that seems kid friendly and I'll find the words if I look through a kid's book or website. Good luck!

Sarah Benton Feitlinger
Sarah Benton
1740 Activity Points

Hi Ryan, I find that I don't want to explain things to kids as much as having the kids to learn on their own. They learn and retain so much more when they discover on their own. When a child is confused. I try to have a book or activity for them to try. Or I ask questions to help them to think about the answer. Jennifer

Morgan Kueter
Jennifer Kueter
415 Activity Points

I completely agree! When teachers give their students the opportunity to explore their own learning, it will be easier for the students to retain the information. Also, having the students participate in many hands-on activities encourages them to be active learners, exploring their own thoughts and ideas. By asking guiding questions, the students are also able to reflect on the concepts being learned.

Jalenni Cruz
Jalenni Cruz
2330 Activity Points

Lately I have been using terms like “this number is a mean number and can’t come to the party so what are we going to do with him?” when referring to a specific step that needs to be completed in order to successfully complete an algorithm. I find that this type of instruction makes the students smile and enjoy hearing instruction. I just try to relate to what they enjoy the most and use terminology and metaphors that they can relate with.

Christian Garcia
Christian Garcia
2935 Activity Points

I have several students that I have to figure out different ways to explain things. You have to really open your mind and think outside of the box to come up with different ways to teach to these students. Maybe also ask other students how they have learned the material and what helped them, then adjust.

Tristana Guyote
Tristana Guyote
850 Activity Points

that is a great idea to get the other students involved. If one student already learned it, it will be great for the student to learn how to explain and teach to another student. Students may also learn from their peers bc they have just learned this lesson and are more at their peer's level. They may also have learned the material in a different way than the teacher explained it.

Krystal Clover
Krystal Clover
455 Activity Points

Ryan, What a wealth of good suggestions here: "I think it is important to help students make connections to what they are learning. If they can relate to the information then they can develop a better understanding of the content. The key is to use words and language that is at their level." Robin "I often will use other resources to help students understand something. Children's books on a particular topic, or even reference material. If you go through the motions of looking something up, it not only teaches the student the information they have a question about, but also gives them some tools on how to research something." Sarah "I find that I don't want to explain things to kids as much as having the kids to learn on their own. They learn and retain so much more when they discover on their own." Jennifer "I have been using terms like “this number is a mean number and can’t come to the party so what are we going to do with him?” when referring to a specific step that needs to be completed in order to successfully complete an algorithm. I just try to relate to what they enjoy the most and use terminology and metaphors that they can relate with."Christian "I have several students that I have to figure out different ways to explain things. You have to really open your mind and think outside of the box to come up with different ways to teach to these students. Maybe also ask other students how they have learned the material and what helped them, then adjust." Tristana As I read through these I thought of the changes we are seeing through the NGSS about having our classrooms be places of collective sense making. All these suggestions of finding ways to engage students, to finds resources and develop their research skills and to use the words they chose to describe and understand concepts is important. Ryan, what do you find useful for your classroom by these suggestions?

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
42070 Activity Points

Hello, I think if you can get another student to help explain to the student on their level can be a really beneficial way for students to understand material. I also think creating stem questions, have them explain to you what they do understand and go step by step. I think creating different visuals or models can also really help out students understanding.

Christina Manriquez
Christina Manriquez
1190 Activity Points

Try the best you can from previous observations what there learning style is.

Raniah Adams
Raniah Adams
1515 Activity Points

This is a struggle for me too. What has worked for me the best is to pretend that I am the student and that I know NOTHING about the topic being discussed. I also have to remind myself that the students will develop an understanding of the topics that is appropriate to their age and that I cannot expect them to understand in the same ways that I do. Of course, my goal for all students is that they will develop a rich and mature understanding of all the topics discussed in the classroom, but I often catch myself having unrealistic expectations for my students.

Jaimie Dobbins
Jaimie Dobbins
2380 Activity Points

It is difficult to use vocabulary that is understandable for the children sometimes when concepts use scientific vocabulary words for me as well. What I have tried and have seen teachers do is pretend to be the student. They pretend to know absolutely nothing about the subject and ask themselves, "What do I have to explain in order for students to understand this? Do they need prior knowledge?" I have further seen teachers use vocabulary word posters. They provide students with understandable definitions at their age appropriate levels. There are also many websites that have many of the definitions already translated into age appropriate language. You can try finding those on Google as well. I also like to provide visual representations and manipulatives so that students can see what I am talking about as well. Pictures, videos, simulations and, virtual field trips work well for this. Hope this helps! :-)

Abnerys Leon
Abnerys Leon
4810 Activity Points

Sometimes it can be hard to explain information to students. The best thing to do is to cater to a variety of learning types. Instead of you explaining everything maybe you should try to use videos. Videos can help pick up the slack of where your explanation lacks. If I was you, I would try to find interactive videos to keep students engaged. Also, try to do hands-on activities for kinesthetic learners and cooperative learning assignments for students to learn information from one another. Sometimes your explanation may be difficult to understand, but through the use of peer interaction a concept can be made easier. I hope that this helps.

Mecarra Easley
Mecarra Easley
765 Activity Points

this is a great idea, thank you! I find that teaching in the lower grades is pretty difficult for me because I am having trouble breaking down the material into first grade comprehension levels. the use of alternate materials and technology is awesome. Videos also can show the things more easily than me explaining them. I must remember when i am struggling to explain something, there might be a video or other resource online to help get my message across.

Krystal Clover
Krystal Clover
455 Activity Points

I would suggest this website to help you in teaching your students. I have used this strategy and it has helped. http://enhancinged.wgbh.org/research/eeeee.html

Rosemary Montero
Rosemary Montero
1670 Activity Points

Thanks for this link! this is a great checklist to refer to when creating lessons! all E's need to be represented. Thank you!

Krystal Clover
Krystal Clover
455 Activity Points

You can always try to find resources that explain the material in a more simple way. Brain Pop is a good resource for you to watch, sometimes the concepts are explained using elementary vocabulary. Sometimes they include information that is nice to know but not necessary for your lesson, so you can try watching first for your own reference and include if you think its a good focus activity.

Karen Nerio
Karen Nerio
1100 Activity Points

I understand what you are experiencing. My suggestion is to get with a mentor, if you are a new teacher the school should offer this resource to you. If not I would get with other teachers in your school. I would also check with support from administration, they may have suggestions as to where you can get more help. I think it's great that you are trying to improve your teaching skills

Christian Page
Christian Page
1190 Activity Points

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