Handling Right & Wrong Answers

Try Asking: "What do you Understand?"

One of the most difficult questions a student has to answer after hearing a lesson is: "What don't you understand?" Students dread this question and many learn to never admit that they're confused.

If students knew what they didn't comprehend, they wouldn't be lost. They can form coherent questions only if they understand the whole lesson.

The solution is to ask instead, "What did you understand?" The student gets a positive start on the problem by telling you what he or she knows. The tutor can sort out the areas that have caused the student not to understand.

How to Handle Right Answers:

  • Give praise and rewards.
  • Remember, a right answer must be both complete and correct.
  • When the student gives a right answer on the first try, give special recognition.
  • Let the student know it is OK to try to answer the question, even if they are unsure of the answer.
  • If your student does not attempt to answer the question, ask another question that might elicit the same answer.  Be encouraging.
  • Have the student think out loud rather than say nothing.

How to Handle Wrong Answers:

  • Correct the work without being discouraging.
  • Don’t say "no" or "that’s wrong," and never make fun of answers.
  • Try to get the right answer before going on to the next question.
  • Give clues to help the student get the right answer.
  • Be sure the student understands what the error was, and give another opportunity to repeat the question and answer to reinforce the correct answer.

Use Encouragement to Motivate:

You have the opportunity to praise the work of your students, and this will give them recognition for a job well done. This is a comment that focuses on the student. You can say, "You are so organized." The tutor can also motivate the student through encouragement by saying, "Your essay showed great organization. Each idea was clearly developed."

Other examples of the difference between praise and encouragement:

Praise: "You're a great writer."
Encouragement: "This story is great. Your characters are so real."

Praise: "You are super. You always get these problems right."
Encouragement: "Your hard work on solving word problems really shows."