Instructions, questioning, and corrections

This morning, I was walking to get a haircut, and I came upon a mother and her son. As I got close enough to hear their conversation, the mother asked, “Do you know what that is an example of?”

This is a great teaching strategy. Rather than telling her son the answer, she asked if he knew the answer first.

He did not.

“It’s alliteration,” she said, and explained alliteration, using an example of “Blue bunnies.”

She continued and added, “Bradley’s blue bunnies.”

The boy, probably 7 or 8 years old, tried next. He started “Bradley’s blue bunnies,” and he hesitated. He had to think of a verb.

As soon as he hesitated, the mother blurted out “Broke.”

Rather than allow the child to figure out the answer, the mother immediately interjected. She could not resist. She could not allow the boy to struggle.

Unfortunately, the struggle enhances the learning.

When coaches, parents, and teachers immediately give answers and eliminate the struggle and the trial and error, children learn less effectively, and they are more fragile. They lack problem solving skills and cannot handle ambiguity or adversity because an adult was always there to provide the answers or fix the problem.

Without allowing children to handle small amounts of adversity and struggle, such as trying to figure out a verb that starts with a “B” during a Saturday morning walk with one’s mother, how can we expect children to develop the ability to handle greater adversity and challenges as they mature?

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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