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See One, Do One, Teach One

By Chick Moorman Co-Author: Thomas Haller

If you want your children to learn and retain a new skill or concept, what way of teaching that skill or concept do you think works best? Look over the teaching strategies listed below and pick the one you think would have the greatest impact on retention of material.

Explaining it to them verbally.

Having them read the material to themselves.

Demonstrating the skill so they can see it being done correctly.

Having them do it themselves.

Testing them on it.

None of the items listed creates the greatest incidence of retention of material. The teaching strategy that has the best impact on remembering skills or concepts is not listed here.

There are two ways to measure retention of material. One is to measure the percent of the material that is remembered. The second is to measure the length of time the material is retained before it is forgotten. Explaining a skill verbally is not the most effective way to promote either the percent of material retained or the length of time for which it is retained. Nor is having children read the material to themselves, demonstrating the skill, having them do it themselves, or testing them on it. The greatest amount of retention of material occurs when children teach a concept or skill to someone else.

Teaching a skill to someone else moves that concept from short-term to long-term memory. If you explain how to do long division to another person two or three times, they may never understand the process, but you (the explainer) will experience greater clarity and learning. When you teach a skill or concept, you have to think about it, formulate it in your mind, rehearse how you want to explain it, say it aloud, and adjust your responses to the learner's questions and level of understanding. You may have to come up with new examples, new words for explaining, and new ways of thinking about the skill or concept involved. Engaging this process serves you (the teacher) as much as it does the learner. It increases your level of retention.

So what does all this mean for parents? It means that if you want your child to learn something well, have him or her teach it to someone else.

To help your ten-year-old remember the steps involved in feeding the dog, have her explain how to feed the dog to her younger sister.

Have your teen teach the safety rules of running the lawn mower to your spouse or a friend.

Encourage your toddler to tell the baby the four important things to do to get your teeth clean when you brush them. The baby won't learn the skill, but your toddler will.

See One, Do One, Teach One is a useful strategy that combines the benefits of different learning styles. This process comes from the medical model. Medical students typically first see someone put on a splint, then put on a splint, then teach someone else to put on a splint. The process involves them in seeing the skill modeled, doing it themselves, and then teaching the skill to another student. Maximum learning results when the learner goes through all three of these activities.

Each Saturday morning, the Warner family cleaned their home for two hours before they attended to their individual agendas. All the children and the parents had different cleaning responsibilities during this Saturday morning ritual. Mr. Warner did the bathrooms.

When it came time to teach the children how to clean the bathrooms, Mr. Warner decided to begin with the toilet. He involved the oldest child first and demonstrated the correct toilet-cleaning procedure (See One) as he talked about each of the important steps involved. The child then went downstairs and cleaned the toilet in that bathroom (Do One) as Mr. Warner watched and gave descriptive and corrective feedback.

The following Saturday, the oldest child explained how to clean a toilet (Teach One) to the second-oldest child.

The See One, Do One, Teach One process was repeated until all three children knew how to clean the toilet. Mr. Warner was one of a growing number of parents who realize that if you want a behavior, you have to teach a behavior. He also knew that if you want a behavior remembered, you have to allow the learner to teach the behavior.

Do you want to remember the See One, Do One, Teach One philosophy for helping children learn important skills and concepts? If so, teach it to someone else.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today:

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