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"I don't get it"


c green

This is a favorite phrase for some of my students. I don't mind it, except that I have this one kid who says it before I have a chance to teach ANYTHING.


"We're going to learn about a new kind of sentence today, called a compound sentence."

"I don't get it." (Called out, without raising hand.)

(Well, heck, kid, if I were allowed to get to the next sentence, it might become clearer!)

Or, today, I'm in the middle of writing their homework on the board. I have written "Write definitions of..." when this boy says "I don't get it." I actually turned around and asked if he really thought I was not going to write the rest of the sentence. I try never to be sarcastic in the classroom, but it is getting harder and harder.

Really. I have never refused to explain a grammar concept in my life!


Senior Member
One idea

I would have a private chat with this student when I was feeling really calm. I would tell him that we were going to consider those words - I don't get it - BAD words. He should not say them. I would promise that when the lesson was completely taught, I would say, "Is there anyone who does not understand this?" That would be his cue to raise his hand and get more help.

You could promise him some reward for a week without the BAD words.:rolleyes:


Junior Member

I never allowed my students to say that phrase bc it drove me up the wall. They had to think of a way to rephrase their questions (with a more specific one about what they didn't understand), and then I would call on them again.



I, too, get frustrated with the "I don't get it" kid. Sometimes I think it's a learned helplessness and others, just a bad habit. Upon hearing that sentence, I usually say something like "Oh" or "That's interesting." I then remind them that unless they ask a question, I have no obligation to give an answer. If they need help (I also frown on "I need help"), they must figure out a question to ask me related to that. I'll even accept "Will you help me?" just to get the question vs. statement thing resolved.

I also get really irritated with "What are we going to do now?" I have often said, "Have I ever stood in front of the class and said 'Good morning, boys and girls. Please begin.' WITHOUT telling you what to do?"

Having said all that, I have to say that this year's group is a lot more independent than I've had in the last two years and I haven't had to deal with this too much. Knock wood!!!



Somewhere along the line these students have learned that if someone says "I don't get it" the work will be changed to something easier or done line by line with them.

Easiest solution is to declare those words off limits in your classroom. No one is allowed to say them again. They may use "I don't understand x" with the "x" being specific.

If you do this or something similar be sure to mention it to your principal so that when Johnny's mom calls to say that the teacher is ignoring her child's lack of understanding that your principal can help you cure this ill by informing mom of child's lack of specificity in his comments.


Senior Member

I have a darling who tries his best to talk or be distracting throughout my lesson and instructions. THEN when the assignment come, "I need help. I don't get it!" Well, shucks, you should have been paying attention, NOT DRAWING ATTENTION!!!!


I hear ya

C -

I know what you mean. I put my schedule on the board every day and list the topic in math or science and what have you. Every morning there is one or two kids that says to me "I don't know what that is..." or "I haven't learned that". My response is always they same... "I know... that's what we are doing TODAY." GRRR

You'd think by the end of october they'd have this down...

What really burns me up is how when I give kids notes - which we discuss and go over/highlight in class - they figure they should NEVER EVER look at them again. When I put the information in the notes on a quiz, its like its a foreign language. I'm thinking "DUH... Didn't you look at your notes again before the quiz like I SAID you needed to???" UGGGH!! WHEN will they get this! These are gifted 5th graders. Have they never studied before??? The good news is, if the parents, complain, all I do is pull out a copy of the notes they were given.

c green

It can be challenging

I teach 6-8, and I'm sometimes amazed at how little of what I say they are hearing. I always write the homework on the board, in the homework section of the board. It says "Homework" in large letters over the homework section of the board. I walk over to the homework section of the board, below the letters that say "Homework", and demand the class be quiet and paying attention and get out their homework logs.

Each morning I write "Take out your homework" at the top of the list of bellringer work, and the same kids (about a quarter of the class, others may not have done it but are quiet), scream "What homework?"


I like the replies here

These are all good replies to a problem a lot of us face. I try to squash negativity in the beginning. When they have said: "Gee, I don't get it," I have often patiently explained that learning does take time, and that you are not likely to "get it" right away. I give examples: Did you learn your telephone number by heart the first time you heard it? Perhaps if your students are young, you may give a quick lesson at the beginning of the day on how we learn things, including how we have to be very focused when we are learning something new, how we have to practice what we have learned so we don't forget it, and what it takes to remember something and be able to do it automatically.

I don't know what grade you teach, but I know that this can happen at any grade level. I used to hear it with some of my fifth graders when I used to present a new math concept. I'd do only a problem or two with them, then one of them would say, "I don't get it!" I would remind that person that I had only done a couple of problems, and that he (or she) was to watch carefully, and perhaps it would be a little clearer.

Kids want learning to be easy. For some, concentration on a task is not at the top of their list. Remembering things isn't, either. I also hate the attitude and when I hear, "I'm not got at..." I quickly tell them that they are good at EVERYTHING they set their minds out to do. Think big!


Senior Member
I don't get it

My cooperating teacher used to tell the students that "I don't get it" doesn't get you off the hook. You have to say exactly what part of the assignment you don't understand. Then it will be explained again once the others have started working. If it seems like a ploy to get out of work she would tell the student that it would be explained again at snack time or recess time. That usually straightened things out.

don't get it


Here's a great example of "I don't get it".

I was teaching dividing decimals to my gifted 5th graders. We spent two days on it before a quiz. A kid comes up to me the day after the quiz and says his MOM showed him that he'd been doing it wrong after the quiz and now he wants to "retake it".

Um no. I taught this. We took notes. We did plenty of examples together and on our own. We went over those examples. We had homework and went over it. We completed more examples using a computer game the provided immediate feedback. I assigned more homework. We went over the homework the day of the quiz and spent 1/2 the period reviewing again. He had no questions. I asked over and over if there were any more questions and if anyone wanted to go over any particular problem... no response.

So then AFTER the quiz, suddenly mom sits down with him and explains it in perfect clarity somehow. Why didn't he say anything when he was getting ALL the items wrong when playing the computer game. Why didn't he say anything when we were going over either of the two homework assignments? Why didn't he say anything when we were practcing in class on the first day?



Senior Member
I love your response!!!

The math teachers I work with give requizzes on EVERY SINGLE QUIZ!!! It is a constant paper shuffle for all of us - every day they are running to studyhall teachers and homebase teachers with requizzes - could you give this to so and so? Thank you. Puleeeeese, it's ridiculous. I mean the kids love them to death, and why not - there are no real deadlines in their world. If you are supposed to study and be ready for a quiz on Friday, that actually means you get to try the quiz on Friday and if you don't like your grade THEN you study and take it over again on Wednesday. How's that for lessons about life??? Don't get me wrong. I love the teachers - they are wonderful friends. It just gets frustrating for the rest of us shuffling all those papers and seeing that math averages are always in the high 90's for EVERY kid, and our classes are the lower ones. If anybody looked at our averages, they would figure our kids are math geniuses. Funny we were on the SINI list for math last year - strange, isn't it ????? :)



I have kids that still say that and I always say, "What do you not get? I need you to be more specific." I would let the boy know that there will always be time for questions and to save them. I don't know what grade you teach but it sounds like he probably knows it's bothering you so he will continue to do it.

Jennifer in OK

Senior Member

I can SO sympathize this. I usually respond, "What don't you get?" Of course sometimes their response is, "All of it." Hello!? Where were you when I was teaching the concept!? I tell my students at this point that I have to know exactly what they don't get in order to help them understand better. I have found many times that as they have to explain it to me, they usually stop in the middle and say, "Wait, now I get it/understand it." I agree with the poster who said that somewhere along the line, someone made it easier when they used this phrase. And then we hear about how much we baby them. Where does this start though?!


Senior Member
I hear it too often

I have one kid in my class who always says this during a grammar lesson. I, too, say that he has to be more specific for me to explain it. If it's in the middle of a lesson, I tell him to let me know if he still doesn't understand when we finish; then I can work with him one on one. Usually after we do examples and practice he understands, and he's usually one to make a very high grade on the test.


Yup..the attention seeker

Last week.....I start teaching about matter, atoms, molecules.

The first sentence is I put on the board is "Matter is anything that..." and at that point my chronic "I don't get it " student starts with the phrase. I turn around and ask her what doesn't she "get" and she says she doesn't understand what I wrote. She then gets 4 more students to join in. I asked them if they honestly thought I wasn't going to finish the sentence and all five of them said "Uh....I dunno. Probably not." About then I just shake my head and continue on. This kid always needs to be the center of attention, constantly disrupts the class and has been removed on more than one occasion from not only my class but almost all of her other classes. Detentions and suspension don't phase her. Her not getting things is directly a result of her disruptive behavior, her non stop talking and just general inattentiveness. Parental conferences do absolutely nothing.


Senior Member
welcome to my world

I really think the student blaring out, "I don't get it!" is simply trying to take the focus off learning. Try not to get caught in the game and don't give this person a lot of your energy. It might not even be worth it to give him/her a complete sentence beyond, "Stay tuned." I often say things like "All will be revealed." Dismiss that person verbally and don't rise to the bait.

After I give insturctions and a kid hollers, "I don't understand." I insist that they must be more specific if they want my help. I also insist that they try before they ask for help so I can see what they don't understand.

I have this problem and lots of others this year.

apple annie

Senior Member
i dont get it either...lol

I have two of those this year. One has "I-don't-get-it-itis and the other is an "i-need-help-iac." I love the responses of "Stay tuned" and "All will be revealed." A sense of humor certainly seems to go a long with with my kids.

One day, "I-don't-get-it" blurted out his usual halfway through my first sentence, and being just totally fed up, I asked him, "What do you think I should do?" He just looked at me like a deer in headlights. I just waited as the whole class sat looking at him through a painfully long silence. He wanted attention, and he got attention! Finally he just said pretty sheepishly, " um...Teach it?" I just said, OK, and went on. He is not completely cured, but he has caught himself several times since then.

For "I-need-help," I just try to say EVERY time, "I give group help now and individual help at 10:00." (Recess). It hasn't really stopped her from yelling out, but it has stopped me from holding a conversation with her in the midst of my lesson.


Senior Member
mine waits

until I'm finished teaching it. While I'm teaching, he has to be told 2 or 3 times to stop talking, turn around in his seat, pay attention, etc. Then when I'm all done giving the instructions and set the kids to work, he turns around and says, "what? I don't get it." The kids in his class are so sick of him, they just start groaning and complaining, because they don't want to listen to the whole thing over again. The problem is, if I don't repeat it, he's a pain throughout the rest of the class because he doesn't know what to do so he is bothering others. Actually, he's a pain either way. Lately, I've just started saying, "Darn, guess you should have been listening instead of foolling around. That's ok, you'll figure it out. I have faith in you." and smile and keep moving. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't, but he seldom chooses to do much anyway.