Sometimes you explain a new concept, and a student or two doesn't grasp it right away. That is to be expected, so you plan to explain it more than once, and in more than one way. You draw pictures. You have kids act out a concept. Together you connect the new learning to prior knowledge. You break a task into manageable pieces (I hate the word "chunk"-- reminds me of something waaay gross); you have students put the new learning into their own words. You have them practice.
But after all this, if a student still says she doesn't understand, it's time to size up the situation.
a) Was the student involved in the process?
b) Has the student a history of comprehension issues evidenced by reading scores or misfollowing directions?
c) Does the student generally "get it", and this is an unusual situation?
Each of these situations requires a different approach. Today, Homework Avoidance Queen M. said she didn't have her intro paragraph because she didn't understand. My teacher gut told me that she fell into secret option: d) Will do anything to avoid work, and has learned that an exasperated teacher will sometimes either excuse you or do the work for you.
Point blank, I said, "It would be refreshing if you would just say 'I forgot to do it.' "
I waited for a retort or an eyeroll that would show I hit the target, watched for a hurt eye squint and an involuntary head recoil that would prompt a swift and sincere apology from me, but what I got was a small one-sided smile: bull's eye.
At least she didn't claim I lost her assignment. Progress, perhaps? Just lying instead of lying and blaming others is, I suppose, a step in the right direction.