Parents are good at intentional teaching

This short post builds on the previous one focused on Intentional Teaching.

When parents teach children to do something – they expect that the child will quickly start to build increasing control of the new process.

Think about the parent teaching a child to do up their buttons. They do not start the teaching process too soon – initially they do their buttons for them. But when they feel that the child has the necessary dexterity – they help them to do up their buttons – perhaps starting with their pyjamas, or a garment that is soft and has larger buttons.

Then, when they feel the child is ready, perhaps when they see the child trying to do their buttons up, they explicitly teach them how to. But let’s start from the beginning of the process.

Parents do not teach children to do their buttons up by simple modelling or demonstrating the process and expecting the child to learn by watching, although seeing others in the home do up their own buttons, provides incentive and an idea of the process. Older siblings may also provide extra incentive – wanting to be like an older brother or sister.

Parents may start by helping their child to manipulate the button and button hole – and gradually step back from the process, doing a little less each time.

They may provide ongoing help with smaller or difficult buttons or help by starting them off –  but then they will leave this as a task the child can now do.

They may allow for approximations early on – ignoring misalignment of buttons for a while but eventually they will require correct orientation.

The aim of teaching children how to do their buttons – is for the child to take responsibility for this process independently. The little one in the picture below is very proud of her ability to do up her own buttons.

This little one has mastered doing up her buttons

The real skill of teaching comes from knowing the processes you are teaching and knowing your students very well.

Parents know their children better than anyone else – which is why they know when they can expect shifts in learning – like doing up their own buttons. They also know how different children can be, and don’t expect all their children to learn in the same way, or at the same pace.

Parents instinctively know that children don’t go from ‘not knowing’ something to ‘knowing it in it’s entirety’ in one lesson. They know there will be problems with buttons for some time – particularly with new, stiff garments or small buttons. Parents also know that it doesn’t help to teach a child how to do their buttons up and then continue to do the buttons up for them. That can mean being patient for a while, allowing the child the time to build an efficient system for doing up their buttons.

Of course it is much harder in the classroom – to know 25 children. A teacher can never know a child in the way that a parent can. However, we can follow similar processes for teaching something new.

Published by nmackenz

My name is Noella Mackenzie and I am an Associate Professor (Adjunct) at Charles Sturt University, Albury-Wodonga Campus in NSW, Australia and a Senior Fellow of the Australian Literacy Educators' of Australia. I also work as an independent education consultant. I am also a daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother who loves to read, garden and travel. While my career has always been in education, there have been four distinct phases. The first phase was that of classroom teacher – teaching children from 5-12 years of age in a number of primary schools. The second phase of my career saw me working as a specialist professional development provider working with teachers in early intervention and special education. The third phase had me working as an academic at Charles Sturt University. That role involved me teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, researching and continuing my work with teachers and parents of young children. The fourth phase sees me working as an independent education consultant, supporting school systems and schools with professional learning input for teachers. I am passionate about teaching and in particular early literacy development. I am proudly the product of public education. I grew up on a farm and went to the local primary and high schools where I was fortunate to have some fabulous teachers. My Diploma of Education (Early Childhood) was earned at the Riverina College of Advanced Education in Wagga Wagga NSW. My Bachelor of Education, Master of Education and Doctor of Education qualifications were all earned at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Vic and were spread out over a number of years as I studied part time and worked full time. I completed my doctorate in 2004 and started work at CSU in the same year.

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