Give Hints and Suggestions Not Answers

Continuing the theme of helping children become independent problem solvers, give hints and suggestions not outright answers.

A few examples:

  • When your first graders asks, “Mommy, how do you spell elephant?” Avoid spelling it for them.  Give hints and suggestions for how they can spell it.  You might offer to help them learn to look it up in the dictionary.  If your school encourages inventive spelling (and I hope they do through 2nd grade), you might say “Listen to the word and try to figure out what sounds you hear, those are the letters to write down,” and then slowly, stretch out and clearly enunciate, “el-e-phant.”  Here you are teaching them ways not just to spell elephant but also how to figure out future words.
  • When your fourth grader asks the answer to a long multiplication problem, you might offer to do the first step or you might offer to work through another similar problem to teach them the steps and then stay with them while they work through their own.  You might offer to read aloud the pages of their textbook that cover how to solve these problems.

The idea is to give them enough to get back on track.  You are supporting the problem solving process without doing the actual work for them.  You are also hoping to provide them strategies for the next go around.

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