Why students don’t know until we teach them


This blog is a reflection on a specific part of what I do; using folders for GCSE. However it could be applied to other aspects of teaching.

I’ve had people respond with ‘they’re not organised enough so the folder is a mess’ when I propose that students use folders to organise their work.

The point that these people miss is, that there is no reason why a student would know how to organise their folder if they’ve never used one before. In my introduction of using folders I’ve had to ‘train’ students in many ways. Believe it or not I have a mini session on ‘How to use a hole punch’. Why would they know how to use one properly if they’ve never been shown or had the inclination to find out?

The same goes for using divider tabs. I have to show them that the filing goes behind the tab and the tab should be labelled. They don’t just do it naturally. They need to be shown how and shown an example.

Some of you are probably thinking I’m wasting crucial learning time. I don’t see it that way. I see it as essential learning. The reality is it takes 10 mins of a 3 years. We don’t have a sixth form but I know that all my students that go on to further study, will know how to organise their work. This in turn will save their future teachers the hassle. It’s an essential skill for study.

I also think we can expand this model. So many teachers tell students to ‘revise’ yet they never show students how to revise or what it means. Unless they have the inclination to ask or google it, they won’t know how to do and they probably won’t do it. We’re doing our students a disservice if we don’t teach them how to revise before we ask them to do it.

So many teachers just ‘expect’ students to be able to do things when the reality is they don’t know how. Teachers need to think carefully about how they can effectively and efficiently support students in the skills need for learning as well as teaching them what they need to know.


4 thoughts on “Why students don’t know until we teach them

  1. Good points and good teaching. I can recall doing this myself for KS3 in the past- including training on the use of an index, tabs, bibliography etc so that students developed organisation study habits. Good learning that leads to clear thinking and in my view a lesson for life.

  2. I feel exactly the same way about:
    Giving books out and taking them in
    Folding paper in half
    Cutting things out
    Sticking things in
    And any number of practical tasks that support fine motor control and independence, and yet I have seen many teachers giving these tasks to TAs in order to prioritise the ‘learning’. Much to the detriment of the child, imho.

  3. I’ve had a really interesting conversation with a 6th Former who said, “We’re told to organise ourselves at Sixth form, but then you make us write on paper! How is that organising ourselves?” He asked for an exercise book and my predecessor refused. He asked me 2/3 of the way through the year and I said ‘Of course’. He found a way where he now writes on paper in lesson, then copies it into his exercise book properly with extra notes etc. His grades have gone up by 2, just by having ‘his way’ of organising. At the start of this year, I specifically got him 2 exercise books (1 for his Biology and 1 for his Chemistry) for him to work in, knowing that it helped him. Nobody told him how to organise a folder and it just didn’t work for him. By finding the right organisation skills, it boosted his grades! As you say – 10 mins out of 3 years is nothing and yet it gives them a life skill as well as helping them in your lesson in those 3 years.

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