How Do You Teach Kids Concepts?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

My girlfriend has a younger brother who's 8. He starting to understand some concepts about life, but he's still misunderstanding a lot of them. Not having a younger sibling in my life to teach and guide I was kind of wondering how someone would actually teach kids some life concepts? Is it better to explain verbally, or is it better to show by example?

Like with me, honesty is key, even if I'm dealing with a kid. I don't want to delay their learning by making up fairytales. So if a kid asks questions about stars or the moon how could I teach them about it, but at the same time simplifying it enough so that they can understand?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
turbo
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My girlfriend has a younger brother who's 8. He starting to understand some concepts about life, but he's still misunderstanding a lot of them. Not having a younger sibling in my life to teach and guide I was kind of wondering how someone would actually teach kids some life concepts? Is it better to explain verbally, or is it better to show by example?

Like with me, honesty is key, even if I'm dealing with a kid. I don't want to delay their learning by making up fairytales. So if a kid asks questions about stars or the moon how could I teach them about it, but at the same time simplifying it enough so that they can understand?
Honesty works, and you have to be big enough to tell a kid if the "proof" backing your views are merely consensus or are more solid. If a kid thinks that you are straight with them, they will trust you, and they will rely on you and they will plague you with questions. This is a sign that you are on the right track.
 
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  • #3
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Just explain it to them. Just like I learn things when I watch the science channel. Obviously they present it to a layman (me), and there are no equations. You can do just the same.
 
  • #4
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Don't underestimate fairytales. I am reminded of:

In reading, attention must be intensely focused to the exclusion of all else. Gratification must be deferred and reading become second nature for thoughts, meanings, to light up. Such labored concentration on the initially opaque medium hampers release of the words’ content and can be sustained by children only for short periods without their becoming exhausted. This effort creates defensive avoidance in a great many children for whom sustained attention is difficult. Could it be that the highly complex level of abstraction in reading is completely alien to early childhood, analogous to how non-mathematician adults feel when asked to read a page of mathematical symbols. There is a vast gulf in experience for a child between the written word m-o-t-h-e-r and the matrix of feeling-meaning that the sound “mother” connotes. While the imagination takes flight in hearing a story, it often flaps in useless frustration when it attempts to learn the four major sounds of the letter “A” too soon. This effort to enter a world of abstraction before the way has been properly prepared literally can suck the vitality right out of a child. How different is the holistic, picture consciousness of a young child from this step-wise, linear, analytical, abstract construct of written language that is barely 5,000 years old against the backdrop of eons of pre-literate human evolution.
So you seriously have to try to figure out the child and learn how much preparation you have to give the kid versus pure information of the type that you'd find on arXiv or scholarly journals.

- Bryan
 
  • #5
Moonbear
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It is most important to be patient and accept they will not understand everything at such a young age.
 
  • #6
Astronuc
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I was 8 when my grandmother gave me a book on evolution. It was one of my favorite books.

From the time I was 6, I used to get the "How and Why Wonderbooks" on various aspects of Science. I particularly liked the books on Rockets and Missiles, Stars, Airplanes and the Story of Flight, as well as Dinosaurs, Rocks and Minerals, . . . .

http://www.rocketroberts.com/how_and_why/how_and_why.htm
 
  • #7
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At 6 my dad explained Einstein's theory of relativity, I instantly began to plan how to accelerate a capsule containing a grasshopper(I love(d) bugs, and grasshoppers were my favorite) to the speed of light using a vacuum tube and electromagnets. It was to prove that two grasshoppers hatched at the same time, with one put in the lightspeed capsule (complete with life support) and one was to live the regular life of a grasshopper.( It was analogous to the two twins description). This, when I was 6.
 
  • #8
Moonbear
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From the time I was 6, I used to get the "How and Why Wonderbooks" on various aspects of Science.
Oh, I remember those books! Yes, they were very good for that age.
 
  • #9
dst
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I think it's a lot easier to understand certain things at that age. So I don't think there would be an issue there as long as you explain it fully and explain it well.

The imagination runs wild at that age.
 
  • #10
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My girlfriend has a younger brother who's 8. He starting to understand some concepts about life, but he's still misunderstanding a lot of them. Not having a younger sibling in my life to teach and guide I was kind of wondering how someone would actually teach kids some life concepts? Is it better to explain verbally, or is it better to show by example?

Like with me, honesty is key, even if I'm dealing with a kid. I don't want to delay their learning by making up fairytales. So if a kid asks questions about stars or the moon how could I teach them about it, but at the same time simplifying it enough so that they can understand?
If he has his own computer already, make the Physics Forum the 'home' page
 
  • #11
Moonbear
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I think it's a lot easier to understand certain things at that age. So I don't think there would be an issue there as long as you explain it fully and explain it well.

The imagination runs wild at that age.
Not necessarily. That's a good age for memorizing things...tell a kid something once at that age, and they'll be great at parroting it back to you for a long time to come...but that doesn't necessarily come with much depth of understanding. It's a good time for teaching them things like the names of stars and planets, or the order of the planets, or the types of stars, or THAT the planets orbit around the sun, but don't expect them to understand WHY they do that (though at that age, that's what they will ask you endlessly...why? why? why?) I mean, you could give them an explanation, and they'll amaze your friends by repeating it back to them, but it doesn't mean they have the conceptual understanding in their mind, they just know the words that go with it. Conceptual understanding develops more slowly.
 
  • #12
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"...why? why? why?"

yeah... that's more 'philosophy' (from what some here like to say!)
 
  • #13
dst
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Not necessarily. That's a good age for memorizing things...tell a kid something once at that age, and they'll be great at parroting it back to you for a long time to come...but that doesn't necessarily come with much depth of understanding. It's a good time for teaching them things like the names of stars and planets, or the order of the planets, or the types of stars, or THAT the planets orbit around the sun, but don't expect them to understand WHY they do that (though at that age, that's what they will ask you endlessly...why? why? why?) I mean, you could give them an explanation, and they'll amaze your friends by repeating it back to them, but it doesn't mean they have the conceptual understanding in their mind, they just know the words that go with it. Conceptual understanding develops more slowly.

Well speaking from my own experience at that age, and all the others here seem to share similar mindsets (maybe that's what made them physicists in the first place :biggrin:), it's easier to understand concepts as long as they aren't too abstract (like mathematical concepts). Average kids don't go out and read books on anything scientific. I guess it matters a lot on their development because I remember telling a bunch of kids that clouds are made of tiny drops of water that look white when massed up from a distance, their reply was "If you're right then why doesn't it rain then?". So yeah, it's an endless trail of "why"s. I had no problem though.

Anyway, I have never been able to memorize things straight off, so I can't really relate to that.
 
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  • #14
Not necessarily. That's a good age for memorizing things...tell a kid something once at that age, and they'll be great at parroting it back to you for a long time to come...but that doesn't necessarily come with much depth of understanding. It's a good time for teaching them things like the names of stars and planets, or the order of the planets, or the types of stars, or THAT the planets orbit around the sun, but don't expect them to understand WHY they do that (though at that age, that's what they will ask you endlessly...why? why? why?) I mean, you could give them an explanation, and they'll amaze your friends by repeating it back to them, but it doesn't mean they have the conceptual understanding in their mind, they just know the words that go with it. Conceptual understanding develops more slowly.
I'm not really expecting him to grasp the conceptual understanding behind those things. At least not at his age. Just simply explaining to him the way things are.

Like when we (me, my girlfriend and him) were looking up at the stars over the summer and me and my girlfriend got onto the topic of when our sun will die out he asked when that would happen and I told him "it won't happen for a really really long time and we'll all be long gone by then" and that seemed to really upset him, especially the part about the animals dieing cause he loves animals. Especially deer. So my girlfriend had to comfort him with an image of heaven. It irked me because I figured if you tell him the truth early on in life about his fate he'd appreciate life a little more and learn to cope with the reality of death.
 
  • #15
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Yikes, I would have told the kid there is no such thing as heaven. I think its good that it upsets him. It will keep him busy thinking.

I find it very disturbing to lie to a child about some wild fantasy called heaven just to make him 'feel happy'. As far as Im aware, animal dont even go to heaven if your a Christian, right?
 
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  • #16
Yikes, I would have told the kid there is no such thing as heaven. I think its good that it upsets him. It will keep him busy thinking.

I find it very disturbing to lie to a child about some wild fantasy called heaven just to make him 'feel happy'. As far as Im aware, animal dont even go to heaven if your a Christian, right?
I don't think they do. But regardless, why would you make up something like that to make him feel better about an event that's going to happen billions of years from now? Do young kids think they're going to be around when it happens? Humans may not even be around by then for all we know.
 
  • #17
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I think you should tell him what his sister said was nonsense and explain why.
 
  • #18
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I don't think they do. But regardless, why would you make up something like that to make him feel better about an event that's going to happen billions of years from now? Do young kids think they're going to be around when it happens? Humans may not even be around by then for all we know.
ahhhh, then you would have to teach him about the concept of death correct? Something which you mentioned you would have preferred to have done rather than let your gf introduce heaven to him.
 
  • #19
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Sorry to revive a dead thread, but I'm almost in the same situation. How should I introduce my girlfriend's 8 year old brother to physics and math in general? He's quite bright from what I've heard and doesn't mind reading a book 300-400 pages long, but I don't want him to learn math/science from the way it's conventionally taught in 2nd grade, because I went through that stage myself and developed a loathing for something I only turned around and started to love much later in life, on self-discovery.

I thought of three ways:

1) Buy him a book with a reward of choosing another book from my picks, in a continuous cycle. I'm thinking of something less serious, maybe an encyclopedia or something that describes planets... I actually want him to read "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman!" but I feel it's too early for him to understand what's going on enough to appreciate the humor.
2) Devise some problems with a reward for solving.
3) Write him a book myself. I think I'm getting old. I've always been impatient to help others but recently people had been telling me that I'm a decent expositor, and that's getting in my head and I'm starting to feel empowered to inspire the young! On one hand, this seems like an awesome strategy... I've searched for hours and gave up because none of the conventional teaching methods seem to achieve what I want. But on another hand, I'm an impatient person and I don't think I have the time to make a concerted effort on my own.

What should I do?
 
  • #20
cobalt124
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I'm not a teacher or educator, but I am a parent. Science can be seen in most aspects of everyday (even mundane) life. I would start by pointing out where math and physics appears in his everyday experience and take it from there. So, for example, you could explain that a television works by displaying a succession of images so quickly that they appear to be one continuous moving image. You can then demonstrate this by pointing a mobile phone camera at the television screen which will then show up the flicker. This could lead on to how the eye works, how it slightly oscillates thirty times per second, how this allows you to see detail on the Moon the eye would otherwise not be able to see, then while you are on the subject of the eye, you could draw a couple of dots on a piece of paper and show him his eyes have a blind spot, and then ...... Seeing your enthusiasm will also help! But basically science is everywhere.
 
  • #21
Andy Resnick
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I agree with cobalt124- for an 8 year old, it's probably more useful to provide experiential knowledge than books. Heck, take him to an amusement park and talk about physics while you are on a roller coaster!
 
  • #22
mathwonk
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Kids are a lot smarter than we think. I taught a course in euclidean geometry this summer to extremely bright 8-10 year old kids, and they appreciated it better than my college classes did on average.

Chronological age is very different from intellectual age. As you explain things to them you will discover what is missing from their life experience that has to be filled in. But on the logical deduction and creative side they will be way ahead of us average older people.

The camp for very gifted 8-10 year olds is at:

http://www.epsiloncamp.org/index.php [Broken]

Harold Jacobs' algebra and geometry books are great for a kid, and the book Thinking Physics (Epstein?) is outstanding at any age.
 
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  • #23
turbo
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A couple of summers, my parents were able to scrape up the dough to send me to Boy Scout summer camp. The naturalist at that camp was an old fellow who lived simply, but pretty cushy by my estimation. (Professor at a nearby college, but he seemed to live for summer-camps.) He had a corn-cob pipe in his mouth frequently, and whenever he sat down and grabbed his pipe, his airdale Rocky would sit beside him and look up until he got his own well-chewed pipe. They were quite a pair! I'd love to time-travel back there with a digital camera.

Anyway, this old guy had a pretty sneaky way of imparting knowledge. As a kid, you might be impressed by his washbasin, which was the inverted shell of a very large snapping turtle, only to get gently drawn into speculation about how long such turtles can live, how large they might get, what they can feed on to maintain such muscle and mass... This guy could have taken Euell Gibbons to school.

I learned that the roots of the ostrich fern are not only edible, but delectable, for instance. AND learned that eating those water-chestnut-type treats is a survival technique,and not something to be pursued by any groups apart from wide-ranging foragers, because the health of those roots is essential to the next crop of ferns, and the young ferns (fiddleheads) will be essential for the health of your group next spring. I really liked that old guy.
 
  • #24
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Children generally communicate in any way they can, so it's important to hear what they have to say. Preschool training will engage a child directly and enhance communication with society. They will also learn the best way to express themselves and how to realize what they are being taught. This capability to communicate effectively enables them in their every day work and gives them a better comprehension of the world they live in. for more details www.littlemillennium.com
 
  • #25
turbo
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Children generally communicate in any way they can, so it's important to hear what they have to say.
It's important to get to the child's level and figure out exactly what they are asking. Then you have to teach to their level of their comprehension, and be ready to escalate when they have an "aha" moment and want to learn more. My little brother is expert at this stuff. He should be a teacher, instead of running a plastic-extrusion plant.
 

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