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Clarifying Confusion


Skilled learners are adept at identifying when they are confused, and using a variety of strategies to clarify their confusion. Less-skilled learners, however, often will not even notice that they are confused, and if they do notice, they often lack a repertoire of effective strategies to repair the breakdown in understanding. By providing students with instruction in clarifying confusion, educators are able to give them a powerful tool for self-regulation and self-directed learning, and are able to develop their metacognition.


In order for students to be successful at learning on their own or in class, they need to be able to access a range of strategies for clarifying confusing content. Without such strategies, students are likely to give up whenever a text or content area is challenging. They may waste time reading something they do not understand at all, instead of eliminating their confusion. When students are adept at clarifying confusion, however, they are able to tackle challenging texts and content confidently and competently: they have the strategies they need to learn most content independently, and they have strategies for learning difficult concepts.

Content Area Adaptations 

Students need to be able to clarify confusion effectively in all content areas, since it is an essential skill for reading any challenging text, and for studying any complex subject. Clarifying confusion is also critical for helping students to become more independent and metacognitive learners, which should be a goal in all content areas and at all levels.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance
  • Metacognition
  • Predicting
  • Questioning
  • Synthesizing

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

My Favorite No

In this activity, inspired by The Teaching Channel, students will answer a question provided by their teacher and then analyze a wrong answer given by a classmate. The purpose of this activity is for the teacher to quickly assess how many students are grasping the...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Reflection

Save the Last Word

In this activity, adapted from Short, Harste, & Burke’s Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers (1996), students will read a text and select five statements that they think are important to discuss. On index cards, the students will write the statement on one side and then a comment on the other. In groups, students share and discuss...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Reflection
  • Synthesis

Topic Equations

In this activity students will explore their own interests and connect those interests to a specific field of study. The purpose of this activity is to help students find the right research topic in an assigned field. It follows an equation: Area of Interest + Area of Study = Research Topic

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation