The title for this blog post was going to be 3 Secrets Every Teacher Should Know, but there should be no such thing as secrets when it comes to instruction. For teachers and students to excel, there are no secrets, just shared knowledge of what works.
It is not only what we teach that is important, but how we teach it, how we deliver the instruction. Here are three field-proven techniques that will make your instruction more effective and increase student performance.
Verifying is echoing a student’s correct exact response so the whole class hears another repetition of the correct answer. For example:
Student Response: “All sentences start with a capital letter.”
Teacher Verification: Yes, all sentences start with a capital letter.
The teacher then adds another perfect repetition by turning the verification into a group response question:
Teacher: “What do all sentences start with?”
Group response: “A capital letter”
Teacher: Yes, all sentences begin with a capital letter.
This is instructional feedback that verifies the students and takes the place of “good job’” or “very well done.” While that is very positive feedback, it is not instructionally useful.
Pause & Punch
Another powerful technique is in the way you deliver your instruction. In the following sentence, the words that should be emphasized are in underlined italics.
By simply emphasizing key words in your questions or directions, you can increase the probability of first-time correct responses and reduce the chance of student confusion.
Here are two examples, one for Math and one for Reading:
Math: Students are shown a pie graph.
Teacher directions: “You’re going to write a fraction for the picture. First you’ll write the number that tells how many parts are in the unit. Is that the top number or the bottom number?
Students read, “There was never anything for Edna to do on the ship after it left the harbor. Sometimes she would sweep up or help with the meals, but most of the time she just sat around and looked over the side of the shop at the swirling water,”
Teacher asks: What did Edna do sometimes on the ship? What did she do most of the time?
Not everything we say as teachers has the same importance. If we can pause before the key instructional words and then punch those words out by saying them louder, that prompt can guide students to the correct response. In this reading example, our naive students could definitely confuse what Edna did sometimes as opposed to what she did most of the time. By pausing and punching on sometimes and most that prompt can prevent that confusion from happening.
Call and Response Reverse:
As students read, you sometimes need to jump in with a quick definition of a word to help them completely understand the text. You then question the students, reversing the definition and word—causing students to attend to it and remember it better with just an investment of a few seconds. In his book, Teach Like a Champion, Doug Lemov calls this technique a “call and response reverse.”
Students read the sentence: “The sweet perfume of the roses immediately attracted the bees.”
The teacher interjects- and uses lots of effective pause and punch AND verification of responses- to clarify two words:
“The sweet perfume of the roses attracted bees immediately. Perfume is a scent or smell. What word means scent or smell?”
Students respond, “Perfume”
Teacher verifies: “Yes, perfume. What is perfume?”
Students respond: “A scent or smell.”
Teacher verifies: “Yes, perfume is a scent or smell.”
Teacher continues: “The sentence says the sweet perfume of the roses attracted bees immediately. If the perfume attracted the bees, the smell really interested the bees and pulled them toward the roses. Everybody, what word means really interested the bees?”
Students respond: Attracted.
Teacher verifies: “Yes, attracted. What does attracted mean?”
Students respond: “Really interested.”
Teacher verifies: “Yes, attracted means really interested. So, this sentence would mean the same thing if it said, ‘The sweet scent of the roses really interested bees.’”
Remember Practice Make Permanent. If students practice something the wrong way, they learn it and remember it the wrong way. If they practice the right way, students achieve mastery. ONLY perfect practice makes perfect permanence and leads to mastery. The three techniques shared here help ensure perfect practice.