4 Tips to Better Teaching

in Tips and Tricks


So with the Learning Together Event currently ongoing, and our sale in full swing (visit the store for 30-60% off EVERYTHING), I thought it was a good time to talk about something that is at the core of the event. I’m going to teach you to teach better. Yep. It’s time to get meta.

Teaching is something I’ve always been interested in. In fact, for a long portion of my life, I actually wanted to work as a teacher (I still, in fact, wouldn’t mind it, but I think I’m a little to set in my ways to go back to school for it). I’ve always enjoyed seeing people grow in skill and knowledge and know that I was a part of that growth.

So, you want to teach. You want someone to learn. Well, here are a few tips on things I’ve found make you better, whether you want to teach one on one, or you are going to be writing tutorials. From this point forward, I am going to refer to however you are teaching as a “lesson” just so I don’t have to specify both writing and teaching one on one each time.

Identify WHAT You Want to Teach

It is important to have a clear idea of what it is you are trying to communicate with the lesson you are currently teaching. This may seem really obvious, and it IS, but you need to always keep it in mind. It is incredibly easy to get off topic onto things that aren’t relevant to what you are trying to get across.

Ok, yeah, I'm not upgrading to Paladin, I'm going to be a Dark Knight, that one is so much easier.

Ok, yeah, I’m not upgrading to Paladin, I’m going to be a Dark Knight, the teacher is so much better.

Every time you get off subject it muddles the lesson. Muddled lessons are hard to understand. Stay on topic.

Know What Your Student Knows

Another important thing to identify is what your student ALREADY knows. When teaching one on one, this is a little bit more simple. You can evaluate their level of proficiency just by looking at the things they’ve done.

With a tutorial, it is a bit tricky. You can’t know for sure what the 5, 10, or maybe 10,0000,000 people who will read your tutorial know. Instead. Look at what your tutorial teaches. Now, infer what someone who needs this knowledge SHOULD know. Yes, there are cases where you aren’t going to be accurate. Maybe someone is trying to punch above their weight class, but that is OK. Keeping it in mind is important, not always being 100% right.

*furiously pressing A button*

*furiously pressing A button*

The reason you want to do this is easy: You don’t have to repeat information the student already knows. You can reference it. You can keep your lesson streamlined. If you have to teach every concept, from the most basic to the most advanced, in what your lesson teaches, every single time, your lessons will be huge. Just like in the last section: Keep your lesson on point. Get in, teach what you want to teach, and get done.

Always Explain Why

There are two questions that are most important when teaching someone something new.

The first is How. Most people don’t mess this one up. To do this, do this. It is pretty simple. The second question, though? People forget that one all the time: Why?

Why do we do it that way and why does it work? These questions do more than walk people through the steps of accomplishing what you did, it expands on it, and gives them more insight into the tools used. Knowing WHY you do something and the mechanics of why it works, allows users to imagine more ways to use those functions.

It's really about loops in fishing game mechanics.

It’s really about loops in fishing game mechanics.

And the more ways they know to use something, the more they can teach THEMSELVES. Many times when I write a tutorial, there is an end goal of the tutorial, like teaching how to do a timed button press mechanic, but underneath, the tutorial was really about teaching how to use a specific tool. In the case of that tutorial, it was loops. Knowing how to make a timed button press mechanic is specific. Knowing how to use loops opens a lot more doors.

Keep It From Getting Dry

It’s really easy to let a lesson you are giving get super mechanical. You explain in exacting words, in an exacting tone, and get your exact meaning across. It will also be so boring your student(s) have checked out 10 minutes in and are just drawing hearts in their notes around the names of their crushes. Wait. Let me consult with my daughter and make sure that is still a thing the kids do these days.

"Uh huh, of course, let me see your notes. Oh, I see you have a crush, with a little heart drawn around... . . . 'Being the Hero'. Really?"

“Uh huh, of course, let me see your notes. Oh, I see you have a crush, with a little heart drawn around… . . . ‘Being the Hero’. Really?”

This one ISN’T easy. I know that I fall into a boring style sometimes myself. I usually try to keep things more lively by staying with a conversational tone. I type similar to the way I talk and try to sprinkle in jokes here and there, especially in picture caption asides (which I picked up from a certain comedy website). As long as you don’t distract from your main point: spice things up.

If you are boring, it just makes it harder for the student to engage.

So what do you think? Are these tips helpful? Do you have your own teachable teaching tips for us? Do you have questions about the tips above? Join us in the comments below!

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