Want Your Child to Remember What They Learn? Have Them Teach It.

By Elisabeth Stock

There are many ways for families to practice transformative family engagement in their child’s education. Have you ever heard the old adage, “you don’t really understand something unless you can teach it to someone else?” Well, learning science shows that’s true.

“Learning by teaching” (also known as the protégé effect) is a simple yet underused learning strategy that has proven results. Research shows that when children teach a concept, they develop a deeper and more persistent understanding of the material. This is a wonderful way for parents to integrate what their child is learning in the classroom into their daily after-school routine.

It turns out that the process of thinking through how to teach something helps us understand it better and recall it better. And we become more confident about that concept to boot. The same is true for our kids.

Why it’s so effective

The steps required to teach a concept–diving into the material, mentally re-organizing it, and integrating it with what you already know–lead to making sense of that concept. When children teach something to someone else, like their classmate,, they also need to answer questions their classmate might have, elaborate on the material, address misunderstandings, and monitor their own understanding. All these steps build knowledge and construct long-term understanding.

Now, let’s talk about why this is relevant. Schools, teachers and families are concerned about “unfinished learning” for students heading into next year. Further, the pandemic has exacerbated inequities for students experiencing the greatest degree of marginalization. “Learning by teaching” is an evidence-based strategy that gives students an opportunity to master grade-level content —and anyone can do it! Here are three ways you can start using the “learning by teaching” strategy today.

1. Test out the “learning by teaching” strategy at home

You don’t need to be an expert in the content area to support your children with their learning. Instead, try flipping the traditional roles and have your child teach you something they are learning in class. Empower them to take the lead. Start by simply listening and asking questions. If they get stuck, encourage them to use resources like their notes or videos from their teacher. Along the way, here are some helpful prompts you can use to nurture students’ curiosity and agency.

2. Have your child create a video tutorial

If you want to help your child practice explaining ideas, have them create a video tutorial. They won’t get the full benefits of interactive teaching with another person, but they can practice many of the other skills, like introducing the big idea, providing examples, and explaining steps. To get started, have your child use a concept map to visually organize information and show connections. Once the video is recorded, you can review it together and provide feedback.

3. Ask your child’s teacher to share learning objectives

For a school to be truly effective, parents must be equal partners with teachers in their child’s education. For more impactful learning by teaching at home, make sure to connect with your child’s teacher and ask them to provide information and tools to best support your child’s progress. This could take many forms, such your child’s teacher sharing the learning objectives for the week with you, providing you with questions to ask your child about what they’ve learned, and/or sending home ideas of activities you could do together to encourage your student to play the role of “teacher.”   

Extra Credit

If you are looking for a platform that can help facilitate this type of family engagement, PowerMyLearning’s Family Playlists are fun home learning assignments that leverage the “learning by teaching” strategy by having students teach their families a concept they are learning in class. They are aligned to standards and available in math, science and ELA for Kindergarten through eighth grade. 

How do they work? First, students complete a practice activity on their own to reinforce academic concepts and key vocabulary. Then, they teach their family members by leading them through a collaborative, offline activity. After completing the activity together, families send feedback to their child’s teacher on how confident their child was teaching the concept. You’re also able to send photos and/or videos of their work, opening a two-way dialogue with your child’s teachers around student learning. The mobile-friendly assignments are available in 100+ languages, ensuring access and equity.

Elisabeth Stock is the CEO and Co-Founder of PowerMyLearning.

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