Hesperian Health Guides

Part 1: Teaching So Learning Can Take Place

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.

HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 3: Teaching Children at School > Part 1: Teaching So Learning Can Take Place

a teacher speaking to a girl who looks unhappy.
What is the matter, Li? You are not keeping up with the others.

More children than ever before are having problems with their teeth and their gums.

A tooth that hurts or gums that are sore can affect a student’s ability to pay attention in school and learn.

Treating the problem makes the child feel better, and that is important. It is equally important to prevent the same problem from returning later.

Working together, teachers and school children can do much to prevent both tooth decay and gum disease.

Keeping the mouth healthy involves learning about eating good food and keeping teeth clean. Just giving information is not enough, though. To truly learn, children need a chance to find out things for themselves.

a cartoon that shows a man pouring facts and rules into a boy's head.
Learn this and don't ask why! - bla, bla, bla...
Yes sir. Thank you sir. That's right sir.

Forcing a person simply to accept what you say does not work very well.

A student learns not to question. What you teach may have no relation to his own experiences and needs.

a woman speaking with a young boy.
What do you think about that?
Well, I would like to look at my brother's teeth first.

As a result, he may end up not doing what you teach — not eating good foods, and not cleaning his teeth.

Learning happens when a student with a question or an idea is able to discover more about it himself.

It also happens when he has a chance to do whatever is necessary to take better care of himself and his family.

He can learn by doing. Give him a chance to eat good food and clean his teeth at school.

Learning about teeth and gums can be fun. When the teaching is real and practical, students love to learn. Here are some ideas:

1. Teach and learn together with school children

a man lecturing a roomful of bored students sitting in rows.
A permanent successor lies apical to...Pay attention! You need to know this for your test... Each primary tooth...
Share ideas instead of always giving information. Children learn more when they are involved. A lecture transfers your own notes to the children’s notebooks without ever passing through their minds.
a man leading a discussion with students sitting in a circle.
Does anyone have a loose tooth? Why do you think
    that happens,
A loose tooth may be
I know a good way to take out a loose
Another tooth below is pushing against it!
And that makes the baby
Does it hurt?

A discussion draws out information and opinions.

It helps you to learn more about the school children, what they already know and believe to be true.

But it also allows you to introduce important information that is related to the discussion.

2. Start with what the students already know

To have meaning, learning should be a part of daily living. Talk with your students. Find out what they know about teeth and gums, and what questions they might have.

Add information by building upon what a person already knows.

Do not use big words. Scientific names and textbook explanations are confusing, and you usually do not need them. Talk about teeth and gums using words that a school child can understand and use later at home.

a man speaking to students who look confused.

Proper deglutition depends on the interaction of...

This way makes students feel stupid.

This way lets the students feel good, because it makes sense and they know something about it.

a man leading a discussion with students.

What mouth parts help you to chew and swallow?
The teeth!
The tongue!

When you can understand new information, you gain confidence and you look forward to learning more.

3. Let students see and do

Students learn best when they can take part and find out for themselves about something new.

3 ways to teach: speaking; showing a picture; and giving the student an activity.
If I hear it,
I forget it.
You can make a toothbrush usin a
If I see it,
I remember it.
Make it like this.
If I do it,
I know it.
Now, chew one end to make it soft and stringy.

A lecture about brushing teeth is usually not interesting at all.

Learning is more interesting when students can see how to make a brush and how to clean teeth properly.

If students can actually make their own brushes and clean their own teeth, it is not only interesting but fun.

A student who takes part will not forget. What he learns by doing becomes part of himself.

4. Let children help each other

DENT Ch3 Page 24-1.jpeg
Here a group of school children in Ajoya, Mexico is putting a high-fluoride paste on the teeth of the younger children.
In most families, older children have important work to do — taking care of their younger brothers and sisters. These older children can do much to teach the younger ones about care of teeth and gums. For example:
  • When they feed their younger brothers and sisters they can encourage them to eat good food, like fruit instead of candy.
  • They can do a play or puppet show about care of teeth and gums.
  • They can check the teeth and gums of the younger children and ‘score’ them on how healthy they are.
  • Best of all, they can actually clean the teeth of the younger ones, and show them how to clean their own teeth when they are able.

5. Teach about teeth and gums together with other subjects

Teeth and gums are part of a bigger health picture. Teach about them in class at the same time.

Eating good food can be part of a discussion on nutrition, teeth, farming methods, and the politics of who owns the lands.

a girl writing survey results on a blackboard.

Cleaning the teeth can be part of a discussion on hygiene, clean water, and traditions and customs.

A good way for school children to learn about using numbers is to do a survey in the community.

The results will tell the children something about health problems in their community. For an example of a survey of health problems, see page 3‑14 of Helping Health Workers Learn.

See more ideas on how school children can help each other at Child to Child, Institute of Education.

6. Be a good example

Children watch people around them. They pay attention to what you do, as well as to what you say.

DENT Ch3 Page 25-1.png

Be a good example. Take care to do yourself what you are teaching to your students.

Your family can be a good example for others.

  • Clean your teeth carefully every day. Also, help your children keep their teeth clean.
  • Make a garden near your house and plant a variety of vegetables and fruits in it.
  • Buy only good, healthy food from the store. Do not buy sweet foods and drinks for yourself or your children.

7. Make the community part of your classroom

A child’s home and his community are really more important to him than his school. Learning will be more interesting for a student if the day-to-day needs of his home and his community are part of school discussion.

DENT Ch3 Page 25-2.png

Let students find out more about problems at home and in their community.

For example:

  • How many small children have cavities or red, bleeding gums?
  • How many stores have mostly sweet snack foods on their shelves?
  • Why do the people not grow and eat more local food?

Back in the classroom, students can record what they find. Ask the children to think of ways to solve the problems they found. If they can think of a program to help solve a health problem, let them go back into their community and try it.

This page was updated:30 Aug 2018