Teaching New Concepts: “I Do It, We Do It, You Do It” Method

by Antoine McCoy on March 4, 2011


Teaching our students and children specific concepts can often be difficult and frustrating, especially when the ideas or information is new and unfamiliar to them.  One way to help make the teaching of new academic material easier is through this teaching strategy called the “I Do It, We Do it, You Do It” method. 

How does this teaching strategy work?  It simply means that when a new concept is being introduced to a classroom of students or a child, the initial process of learning is broken down into three steps rather than one.  Often we teach a concept and then have students immediately try to work independently on their own.  This can be a mistake if you have students that don’t learn new material easily. The “I do it, we do it, you do it “ method helps students achieve greater success up front rather than having to continue to reteach the correct way in the days and weeks ahead.

The first step in the process is “I Do It.”  In this initial step, the teacher models the proper way to understand and perform the steps in the new concept being taught.  In this stage, students are told to put their pencils and pens down and give full attention to how the new concept is being modeled by the teacher. 

This sets the tone for the lesson in many ways.  First, it helps eliminate students moving ahead of you because they believe they already know the correct way of doing what you are about to teach them.  In reality there may be some students who do know what to do already, but how many times have you had students or a child who was too eager to get started and “thought” they knew how to do something, but they really didn’t.  They missed a step in the process because they were not listening?  The “I-do-it” stage helps reduce this from occurring. 

Secondly, it also helps the student(s) who needs more time to understand a concept, processes information slowly, or is prone to be overly anxious to relax.  It levels the playing field.  No one is moving ahead.  All students are just listening and watching the process being modeled to them.

The second step of the learning process is “We Do It”.  After you, as a teacher, home educator, or parent models the correct way to understand or perform the new concept being taught, you partner with the students or child and work through some examples together.  This allows for a deeper level of learning to develop. 

First, students are able to engage in the learning process beyond listening. In our society today kids are given information overload.  Without a chance to apply what they are learning they check out immediately.  Next, the “We Do It” step allows a teacher to guide and encourage students through the process being taught without leaving them to conquer the “beast” of the new material they are learning alone.  This helps build confidence for the timid students or children with learning disabilities, autism, etc…   

Armed with the “I Do It, We Do It” stages, students are able to move into the “You Do It” phase with a greater level of direction and confidence.  This is where they demonstrate their initial level of understanding of the new concept being taught through independent practice. 

 One subject area this strategy works very well in is mathematics.  Often math concepts involve a lot of steps and skills that need to be integrated all at the same time.  If you miss a crucial step or are weak in a specific skill, it can make learning the new concept extremely difficult. 

Here’s an example of how I might use the “I Do It, We Do It, You Do It” method on a 3th grade lesson on long division.  First, I would show the students the steps and process involved in working a long division problem: DivideàMultiplyàSubtractàBring DownàRepeat or Remainder.  I would also give them a way to remember the steps that is easy to remember.  I would describe the process of long division as similar to being in a family: Divide (dad), Multiply (mom), Subtract (sister), Bring Down (brother), Repeat or Remainder (Rover, the dog).  Then, I would model this long division process with a few examples. 

Next, I would use guided practice to support my students through the process, feeding off of their knowledge of the long division process, until I felt like the majority had an understanding of the new concept.  Finally, I would have students work on problems independently and walk around the room monitoring and assessing different levels of understanding.  My small groups that day or the next day would be determined by this independent practice in the “You Do It” stage.

The “I Do It, We Do It, You Do It” method is a simple, yet effective way to teach new concepts to students and kids.  When practiced consistently it will allow for a greater depth of understanding and confidence with students as they apply the concepts independently in the tasks and activities assigned to them.



Antoine McCoy is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher as an Exceptional Needs Specialist working with children with mild to moderate disabilities.  He has taught children in all grade levels (K-12) in Public and Private Schools (general education, inclusion, and self-contained classes) and worked with homeschoolers. 


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Scarlett Von GuntenNo Gravatar March 4, 2011 at 3:42 am

I love how you broke it down step by step!  Great example with the long division!


MicheleNo Gravatar March 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Simple and clear. Thanks for the lesson. I will pass this on to my friends with little ones!


Jeannette WebbNo Gravatar March 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Great information for all teachers!  Thanks for sharing.


Mandy B. AndersonNo Gravatar March 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Antoine, I applaud you for your teaching syle. America needs to embrace this as a whole!!


Donovan GrantNo Gravatar March 4, 2011 at 5:22 pm

That's pretty cool Antoine, I've never come across that before. We do a lot of work at home with our kids so, I'll see if I can incorporate it!


Victoria GazeleyNo Gravatar March 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I'm learning so much from your posts!  I need to start working with my son at home on some basic math and your article will help tremendously (because I'm not a teacher and have a tendency to rush through teaching…).  Thank you!


Sue GraberNo Gravatar March 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Wow, never thought about it that way before  — great concept!   Gives the student a way to feel so much more confident in the process!  Thanks for sharing!


alisaNo Gravatar March 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Great Post! Can be used in parenting skills as well!


Carol GiambriNo Gravatar March 6, 2011 at 1:31 am

Loved the process.  Subtraction example was very creatively shared.  Thanks for sharing this great information.


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