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3 Delivery Techniques Every Teacher Should Know

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.        

 pie chart

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.

Friday Reflection: Be the Change

Time for our Friday Reflection. If you are a leader, you are involved in change. The question is, are you involved in change as an outside facilitator or are you part of the change? Are you willing to change as well?

“…the system in place is ideally suited to producing the results the school is currently getting…any change in the desired results, from the current system in place is going to require a change in mission, core beliefs, and core values that underpin the system, especially if the goal is to permanently sustain the desired change.” Lezotte

Be the Change

• Remember, you, too, are part of the system you are trying to change.

• Have you reflected and identified the changes you need to embrace? Are you modeling them for your staff-leading by example?

• OR, do your actions despite your desire for creating change support the system in place?

• If so this should help you understand how others are feeling about change. Walk a mile in their shoes.

• How often do you leave the safety of your office and routine to go out and see what is going on?

• Do you engage with people without bias? Accept the fact that insights can come from the person you value the most AND from the person you disagree with the most. Don’t limit your information gathering.

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!

We Can Do It!

Imagine we found a cure for cancer and didn’t use it! Or a cure for the common cold and didn’t use it. People would be incensed.  That is how Ron Edmonds felt about creating effective schools:

“We can whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact we haven’t so far. “

The question is why and at least part of the answer can be found in people’s resistance to change. One of the better ways to overcome resistance is to explain the change and let people know how they will benefit from the change.

Ron Edmonds, Wilbur Brookover, and Larry Lezotte developed a body of research that support these basic beliefs

  • All children can learn & come to school motivated to do so
  • Schools control enough of the variables to assure that virtually all students do learn
  • School should be held accountable for measured student achievement
  • Schools should disaggregate measured student achievement to be certain that students, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, are successfully learning the intended school curriculum
  • The internal & external stakeholders are the most qualified & capable people to plan & implement the changes necessary to fulfill the “learning for all” mission.

What are the Seven Correlates?

In their search for what makes schools effective, the researchers first identified effective schools (“schools that were successful in educating all students regardless of their socio-economic status or family background”).  Then they identified common traits of these schools. These were culled down and are known as the Seven Correlates of Effective Schools:

  1. Instructional Leadership
  2. Clear and Focused Mission
  3. Safe and Orderly Environment
  4. Climate of High Expectations
  5. Frequent Monitoring of Student Progress
  6. Positive Home-School Relations
  7. Opportunity to Learn and Student Time on Task

Instructional Leadership

In this post, we are going to look at Instructional Leadership. 

Instructional Leaders:

  • Place a priority on promoting growth in student learning
  • Make instructional quality the top priority of the school and take the necessary steps to make that vision a reality
  • Foster and lead learning teams/communities that meet regularly
  • Work with their staff to discuss work and data
  • Collaborate with staff on problem solving
  • Develop leader among their teachers
  • Take responsibility for what students learn

Instructional leaders exhibit the following behaviors (Blase and Blase-2000):

  • Make  suggestions
  • Give feedback
  • Model effective instruction
  • Solicit opinions
  • Support collaboration
  • Provide professional development opportunities
  • Give praise for effective teaching


Ron Edmonds: There may be schools out there that have strong instructional leaders, but are not yet effective; however, we have never yet found an effective school that did not have a strong instructional leader as the principal.

How to make your students beg for more practice!

In a prior post we looked at repetitions as practice and the importance of practice in achieving mastery.  See the May 17th post Tell Me What You Did Wrong (http://jponline.com/jp-blog ). In this post we are going to revisit the idea of 10,000 hours of practice and learn how practice can be both effective and fun by making practice a game. 

Good, Better, Best:

After students read a list of words correctly teacher can introduce this game.  Remember it is important to make sure students have the reading of the words correct before practicing-we don’t want them practicing incorrect decoding because then we would need to re-teach.  In addition to losing instructional time for the re-teaching, it will take three times as many repetitions for the student to internalize the correct answer.

  • After the first reading of the list, say, “That was good, but I bet you can read them even better” Have students repeat the list.
  • Then say, “That was better. Let’s do it again. This time give me your best”. The added practice will help to develop the automaticity necessary for fluent reading.

Top Down, Bottom Up:

Another way to add repetitions to word calling is to have students read every list from top to bottom and then from the bottom to the top. The teacher can make this fun by calling it “Top down, bottom up” and presenting it enthusiastically.

Beat the Computer:

PowerPoint can also be effective ways to give added practice. The teacher challenges students to “Beat the Computer”- a game they love. The PowerPoint displays a word; the children say the word before a picture appears. The PowerPoint then moves to the next word. This type of practice can be used for Math Facts, names of letters, sight words, and vocabulary. Actually, it is only limited by the teacher’s creativity.

Here are examples for practice of basic math facts and for decoding.


With the math facts, the problem appears, students say the answer and then, the correct answer flies in. For example:

  • Students see the problem 3+4; they say the answer, and then, the number seven flies in.
  • The next problem appears, 3+5; students say the answer, and then, the numeral 8 flies in.
  • Continuing, the problem 3+6 appears, students say the answer, and then, the 9 flies in.


With the reading example, the word appears, students decode it and then the picture flies in. For example:

  • The letters d-o-g appear, the students decode and say “dog” and then the picture of the dog appears.
  • Next, the letters d-u-c-k appear, the students decode and say “duck” and then the picture of the duck appears.
  • Finally the letters m-a-n appear, the students decode and say “man” and then the picture of the man appears.

10,000 Hours

We have all heard the adage, “Practice makes perfect.” This is inaccurate. It is more accurate to say that Practice Makes Permanent. If we practice something the wrong way, we learn it and remember it the wrong way. That is why we, as teachers, should not assign items for homework that are either new or have been confusing for certain students to internalize. We have no idea how our students are practicing those items. ONLY perfect practice makes perfect permanence and leads to mastery.

Another way to think of MEANINGFUL repetitions is Practice. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. How does Gladwell arrive at this conclusion? And, if the conclusion is true, how can we leverage this idea to achieve greatness in our students?

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. Please listen to the results of this study: (Fly in picture of violinist)

In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin, Germany studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice. The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.

Natural Talent was Not Important

One fascinating point of the study: No “naturally gifted” performers emerged. If natural talent had played a role, we would expect some of the “naturals” to float to the top of the elite level with fewer practice hours than everyone else. But the data showed otherwise. The psychologists found a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals.

How Many of Us are Insane?

How do you define insanity?  We probably have all heard this definition: Doing the same thing but expecting something different.  Using this as a rubric, many of us probably qualify!  Think back to someone you have had to provide the same feedback time after time, and their behavior doesn’t change.  Our first reaction is, “What is wrong with them?”  However, there is another question we should ask ourselves: “How can I relay this feedback differently?”

Let’s look at two points before we move on:

  • First, relationships-if you have been following this blog, you know how important relationship building is.  Relationships are a two way street, so the burden of its success is on both people.  Should we examine how we deliver feedback to make it more effective for the individual, in a sense customize it? Yes. This does not negate the responsibility the individual has to be receptive and actively implement that feedback.
  • Second, feedback and change can’t happen in a vacuum.  One of my favorite quotes from Lezotte states:

“…the system in place is ideally suited to producing the results the school is currently getting…any change in the desired results, from the current system in place is going to require a change in mission, core beliefs, and core values that underpin the system, especially if the goal is to permanently sustain the desired change.”

The system and culture of the building needs to be worked on at the same time as the specific change we are trying to achieve. If there is a culture of fear or apathy, then the best feedback delivered in the most effective manner will most likely fall on deaf ears.  Leaders must establish a culture of safety and learning.  Safety meaning people (leaders and their staff both) don’t have to fear mistakes, but use them as learning opportunities.  Learning meaning people have a growth mindset. They look for opportunities to learn and are eager to learn.


So what goes through the mind of someone you are asking to change?

In talking to leaders and teachers alike, often the first thought is defensive.  They feel their beliefs, expertise and experience are being challenged and attacked.  In other words, all of their hard work is being questioned.  They don’t feel valued. It becomes a “you against them” situation.

They also have the opinion that “this too will pass.”  Staffs often survive different leaders; different initiatives and just feel if they wait it out, it will go away.  They come to believe that change doesn’t work.  Change leaders need to move people beyond these feeling and the resulting resistance. They need to guide people through the process of accepting the need for change and then need to help them manage that change. 

Three Effective Practices for Change Leaders

We know the challenges. What can leaders do? Here are three practices:

  • Engage: Relationships-there is that word again. If you want to engage people you need to build relationships with them-be sincere and trustworthy in all your interactions. After that is in place, people want a clear plan that they can buy into.  Create a plan that provides a final goal, objective or milestones along the way and a rubric by which progress can be measured. Remember to keep in mind maintaining a safe culture that allows for hiccups and a culture of learning that allows new information, and the flexibility to incorporate that new information.
  • Practice:  What holds true for teaching students holds true for teaching in general—and even more for learning new concepts that call for a change in behavior.  Learners learn by doing, by practicing.  The change we want needs to be embedded in the daily work we are trying to change.  It can’t be something separate and theoretical.  It must be practical and deliver benefits to the people involved in the change effort.

Leaders support staff in this process by being a coach. If we practice something the wrong way, we learn it and remember it the wrong way. Leaders should monitor frequently, document what they see, and provide feedback. Feedback that refers back to the plan in the bullet above provides consistency and clarity.

  • Reflect: Reflection is often neglected, which is unfortunate since it is so essential to the change process (any process really).  In the first bullet point, we talked about a rubric.  In the second bullet point we talked about monitoring and collecting information.  Reflection is the review/analysis of the information collected, how it aligns or doesn’t align with the rubric, and what appropriate next steps should be.  It allows leaders to identify patterns of success or failure and to communicate those patterns in a meaningful and supportive way to staff. It also allows for mini-celebrations along the way that recognize the hard work and achievement of people.


If we keep doing the same thing, we get the same results.  Expecting anything else is insanity.  Change is both about the people and the system, not either/or.  Relationship building is essential to the change process. So, is providing a clear plan with concrete objectives. The plan and how it is implemented needs to be monitored regularly with staff receiving supportive feedback that guides them along the plan to the final goal.  

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