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Technology can be a powerful tool for taking a complex idea and explaining it clearly with the use of visuals. Using a computer program such as PowerPoint can help you to illustrate teaching points and increase or decrease the amount of information you present at one time.

“What” is the most frequently used question word, yet “what” is considered to be the most challenging. It is clear what other question words are asking for: “who” asks for a person, “where” asks for a place. “What” should ask for a thing, but that is true only 5 to 10% of the time. The other 90% of the time, “what” questions ask for something other than a thing.

When you develop worksheets or tests for your apprentices, keep in mind these few tips for asking “what” questions to help learners who have difficulty with reading.

Photographs and drawings show, explain, or teach an item or concept in a more concrete way than words. Instructors can use them to illustrate concepts, transfer a concept from one application to another, or reduce the number of words needed in an explanation. They are one way to bring real world objects into a classroom, and make abstract concepts more tangible.

Using an example to teach an application has many advantages:

Apprentices need to use calculators during technical training and in final exams, but calculator user manuals are usually overwhelmingly long and complex. It is unlikely that apprentices with weak Essential Skills can learn to use the calculator from the manual.

Apprentices need to learn and memorize a lot of vocabulary, terminology and jargon that is specific to the trade. Often this vocabulary cannot be located in a regular dictionary. That is why it is important for technical trainers to consistently use and reinforce terminology that apprentices need to know. When technical trainers incorporate vocabulary building strategies into their handouts and worksheets, it helps to strengthen vocabulary.

Below are some suggested strategies to enhance vocabulary learning:

Drawing diagrams organizes numerical and spatial information such as dimensions, and makes relationships between numbers and dimensions more apparent. The process of drawing and labelling the diagram helps apprentices visualize the problem and understand which numerical information is relevant. When apprentices can synthesize the information into a visual aid, they focus more on translating the word problem into a plan for finding the requested information.

Instructors ask about 100 questions per hour in a typical classroom setting. As instructors, we use questions when we teach and assess apprentices. If you think about it, apprentices can pass or fail courses depending on their ability to answer a set of questions. It’s surprising how much depends on an aspect of teaching that is often taken for granted.

Apprentices deal with different types of tables such as load charts for determining load weights. In technical training, tables often contain information unique to the trade and apprentices may have difficulty both understanding the information in the table and the way it is organized.  It is important to teach how the table is organized as well as the information contained in the table.

It may seem like a waste of time to ask easy questions when your lesson for the day is calculating lifting capacities or reading foundation plan specifications. But taking the time to ask your apprentices easy questions is no different than taking advantage of another teaching opportunity.

Examples of easy questions include:

“What type of drawing is this?” or “What does TLL mean in the drawing?”