“I don’t know…” vs. “I don’t know!”
When was the last time you had to admit that you did not know something? How did it feel to make that admission?
Last week a teacher asked me a question about a new Knowre Math feature and I simply did not know the answer. In that moment I felt frustrated and disappointed. I hate not knowing something that I “should” know. While I am not shy to admit “I don’t know”, the phrase itself will often come out in a deflated and disappointed manner.
Though there can be unpleasant feelings associated with not knowing something, there is also a tremendous amount of learning potential in that unknowing state. Below are three ways to help move students from a deflated “I don’t know…” to a declarative and forward-looking “I don’t know!”
As a teacher, don’t shy away from saying “I don’t know!” in front of your students. Modeling this statement, and narrating what you do after to find the answer, helps foster a safer space for students to do the same.
Use Question Starters
After a student says “I don’t know!”, empower them to follow up with another question that allows them to not only seek out the answer, but continue to drive their own learning process.
- May I ask a classmate for help?
- Where can I go to find that information?
- Can you further explain ________?
Celebrate the Process
Give students the chance to share with their classmates how they overcame situations where they did not know how to solve or tackle a problem. Acknowledge the effort and process they describe.
A simple change in how we relate to not knowing in our classrooms can make a world of difference this school year.
Let’s help our students (and ourselves) move from “I don’t know…” to “I don’t know!”