You have probably heard it a hundred times over--MODEL, MODEL, MODEL. Those little babies are not going to know what to expect if you don't show them how to answer the question or solve the problem. It all starts with the modeling. When I introduce a new concept or standard, I will do it and model it for them, then we will do it together, then I will send them on their own to try their hand at tackling it on their own. This also gives me time to pull small groups for those students I see just aren't getting it when we are doing the 'we do' part.
Ok, so keep in mind, this answer is one of the top 1st graders in my school. As you can see the directions didn't say explain your thinking. He went above and beyond and made those connections and put it into words. I was so proud when I checked this!
If my students aren't successful at something, I reflect on my teaching--what didn't I do?! Could I have modeled the concept more efficiently. The answer more than likely is YES! Next time your students aren't getting it, whatever the concept may be, reflect on your teaching. Did you model it thoroughly enough for them? No one ever said you can't go back and do it again--SO DO IT!!