Be the Teacher

This article is part of the teaching tip "Five Keys to Helping Students Read Difficult Texts"

  1. Find listeners (real or imagined). Ideal is having someone to ask probing questions, to wonder, and to contribute: a roommate, classmate, spouse, friend, study group companion, or all study group members.  A teddy bear or the bathroom mirror will do, if not.
  2. In your own words, explain what you have learned.   Have the listeners ask you questions for clarification and probe your understanding.
  3. Since explaining is much more than retelling, do some of the following:  
  • Make clear your knowledge of what the concepts are.
  • Explicate the why’s and how’s of the concepts.
  • Verify with your own examples, predictions, and supporting ideas.
  • Give your opinions about the concepts, tell how you arrived at your answers, and give valid arguments for your views.  
  • Help your listener see the guiding principles behind the concept, problem, phenomenon, or facts.  
  • Use your critical thinking abilities to discuss the concepts.
  1. If you cannot explain something, seek answers through study and reasoning or outside sources. Then try to explain again.
  2. Look over the questions you developed  before and during reading and explain your answers to these questions.  

This is a useful strategy to use at the beginning of a group study session.  It increases in power when you are doing this to help your partners really understand the text as well as doing this for yourself.1

Foot Note

1. See Walter Gong’s ideas about the importance of teaching as a way to learn thoroughly and deeply and about the value of sharing your skills, strategies, and knowledge to benefit the lives of others.  See Gong, S. P. (2002).  Learning and teaching for exponential growth: A three person problem.  Provo, UT: Brigham Young University.



Tip conributed by:
Marné B. Isakson, Ph.D. (
Developer of courses: Advanced Reading Strategies for College Success and Surviving College Reading
Author of Learn More & Read Faster: A Handbook of Advanced Reading Strategies for College Success and Surviving College Reading: A Handbook of Essential Strategies for College Success. 
For more information please contact Taylor Halverson, Teaching and Learning Consultant