Do you teach “I don’t know” to your students? It’s something I teach ALL THE TIME. Well, I’m usually teaching it in Spanish so I’m teaching, “No sé.”
Here’s why learning “I don’t know” is important for students with communication difficulties:
- Eliminates Awkward Pauses — How many times have you shown a student a stimulus and they just sit there? You don’t know if they know the word or not because they aren’t saying anything. If they learn to say “I don’t know,” then they can tell you they don’t know and you can give them the model they need to be successful.
- Gives Permission to Admit Lack of Knowledge — Many students feel embarrassed saying they really don’t know something. If you teach and model it, they will learn that it’s okay to admit you don’t know something. I tell students it’s okay not to know everything — that’s why they are in school!
- Eliminates Shyness Concerns — When I ask a student a question and I don’t get an answer, I think they know the material, but they just don’t want to talk or say anything. That is dangerous because I could move on without teaching the student the skill. When the student says “I don’t know,” it’s clear they don’t know it and they are not simply “shy” about answering a question.
- Increases Trials — If students can say, “I don’t know” more easily, you are able to move more quickly through material without losing time and therefore you will get more opportunities to practice skills and model.
I teach “I don’t know” through modeling. I say it during the pauses that come up and I keep repeating it as those pauses occur. If the student does know, they will correct me. If that happens a lot with my students (that they correct me and know the answer), then I know they are taking their time to process a response. I teach those students to say, “Hmm, I’m thinking” or “I need more time.”
If you haven’t been teaching “I don’t know,” I hope that after reading this post you feel free to go for it!