(written by Karen Lea)
Do you remember learning to tie your shoes? Or learning to bake a cake? Or learning to read? I am guessing you did not learn by watching a video or listening to a lecture. You learned by being shown, and by practice. The same principle applies to our teaching! We must model for our students. Ok, so that is easy is mathematics, science, and some other hands-on subjects. Yes, but do we really model? Do we
- use visuals or examples that are relevant
- model while thinking out loud so students hear the process
- concisely communicate what we are doing and what is needed
- do we present/model logically
- do we model/present only what is needed and leave the extra “stuff” out
We must become deliberate in our modeling so students learn. Math VIDS (fcit.usf.edu/mathvids/strategies/em.html) has some great information on modeling in the classroom. How do we do that? Let’s look at the Common Core standards and focus on Reading Informational Text.
Grade 4 Standard – Describe the overall structure (chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
Lesson – The standard says “describe,” but that does not mean “tell.” If we just say the words, very few students will understand. Telling isn’t modeling. So, how do we model this? Think about how we can “show” students the text. You can use timelines to show chronology. Do we do this on paper? We can, but why not use technology? Check out www.softschools.com/teacher_resources/timeline_maker/ or www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/timeline/. There are several sites that allow you to use technology to create timelines. Model how to use the software, and model how to decide what goes first on the timeline. Let the students hear you think about your decisions of what to put in the timeline. Then you have them create timelines.
What about comparisons and cause/effect? Again, use technology and let the students hear your thinking. Start with some examples in the classroom where students compare objects. Start with life examples where you talk about cause and effect such as not setting an alarm clock might mean being late for school.
So, modeling is not all about the teacher doing and the students watching. It is the teacher doing while involving the students in the thinking, in the doing, and in all aspects of the process. Modeling also means starting with the teacher doing most of the work for one example, then for a second example the teacher does less, until for the 4th or 5th example the students are doing most of the work. Modeling is a progression of teacher doing less and students doing more. Don’t have time to do 5 examples? If you do not take the time to ensure all students understand, then you will be spending time reteaching. Why not take the time in the beginning instead of later?
Grade 6, 9 – 10 Standard – Determine the meanings of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
Lesson – This can be a fun lesson or a very boring lesson. The boring lesson? Look up the words in a dictionary. Not fun for a 6th grade student. So, how can we make this lesson motivating? Modeling finding the meanings of words and phrases within a text. Try this: take a list of prefixes, suffixes, and root words and have students make up new words. They must define the and use them in a sentence. This is a fun way to introduce parts of words. Have students present their words, definitions, and sentences. Then have students write a story with their new words. Whenever I use this lesson we all have a great time laughing and it challenges me. Students get to see me stop them in a story and say “wait, I need to figure out that word.” Then I get the parts of words and model how I am figuring out what the word means. They love stumping me! Then move into a piece of text and again stop and say “wait, let’s figure out what that word means.” Have the students help you discover word meanings using parts of words. The next day start saying “wait, in context, I think the word means this” and show the students how you use clues in the writing to discover word meanings. Model the thinking. Give your students the gift of learning how to discover word meanings.
Again, modeling means the teacher does most of the work the first time, then gradually the students do most of the work.
Takes time? Yes! However, you are giving students a valuable gift of learning to learn instead of relying on the teacher for learning. So, give it a try! Take a lesson where you would “tell” the students and recreate it as a modeling lesson. Tell us about it!