The Importance of First Time Learning

Copyright Darren Michalczuk. Used with permission from All rights reserved.

The first time a student learns a skill is the most important. This is the time when the path for learning is established. There are many examples of this. When we accidentally call someone by the wrong name, our mind will always go back to the time we thought a person’s name was “Dale” when it is actually “Dave.”

We often spell the same words wrong over and over and have to make an effort to spell them correctly. We even find ourselves repeatedly trying to fix the same mistakes when doing routine things like simple math or playing a sport.

Although there will be many opportunities to develop a skill, the first time it is learned is the one that is most easily remembered.

Knowing this, it is important to make sure a skill is learned correctly. If it is not learned properly, it should be corrected quickly. We will often see young basketball players shoot with two hands when they first learn. If a one-handed shot is not taught instead, this will quickly develop into a habit that is tough to break. If they ask why they should shoot with one hand instead of two, you can tell them it is the proper way to shoot and point out the fact that no one in the NBA (or the WNBA) shoots with two hands.

To ensure that the right skill is learned the first time, you can show them what it should look like. Model the right skill for them as best you can. If you can’t demonstrate a proper set in volleyball, ask one of your stronger athletes to do it. Showing a video of a high caliber team will achieve this same goal. You could even point out the proper points on a poster or website. The students should be able to visualize the skill before they perform it.

Being a teacher of math, I often see students come in with bad habits like counting fingers or drawing lines to solve simple math facts like six plus seven or nine times eight. Although these habits can be broken, it does take a great deal of time and effort. Sometimes we start over and relearn everything from square one. On the other hand, if these addition and multiplication skills are taught properly the first time, math is much easier for the student. It is easy to keep them on the right path when they are already on it.

How do you know if you are teaching the right skills? Look at where you want them to be down the road. If you want them to throw the ball well, watch an experienced player throw and pick out a few simple points to teach a young player like squeezing the ball and stepping toward the target. With any skill, it doesn’t have to be complicated. More than five things to remember is too much. Two or three important points will give a student focus.

Some teachers will even give the students and easy to remember a skill. Chomping like an alligator will help a student remember to close the hands together when catching a baseball.

Great teachers don’t have to have elaborate drills or complicated teaching strategies. They have the passion and patience to teach the simple things well.

–Darren Michalczuk is the founder of the Brick School. He is an experienced classroom teacher who has developed many programs and resources for math, language and music. The Brick School offers quality educational posters, programs and worksheets online for elementary language arts, math and music. Materials are designed to promote effective learning strategies in an easy to understand, straight-forward format. They offer both practical solutions to learning problems and leading edge technology and techniques. It reaches both struggling students and those who need extra challenges in class.With the latest software and leading edge learning strategies, our materials are paving the way for learning. User-friendly porgrams give students instant feedback while they practice important basic skills. Lessons and study guides also include proven learning strategies and memories techniques.

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