Rose Ferrero School
February 6-17, 2023
LCAP GOAL 2: PROFICIENCY FOR ALL – The Importance Use of Teacher Modeling Strategies in the Classroom
Classroom instruction has changed drastically over the last 20 years, but one of the most tried and true instructional approaches still maintains its impact, and that is teacher modeling – teachers “opening up their brains” and modeling their thinking in front of their students. Also known as “Think-Alouds”, teacher modeling for students can be an interactive, engaging demonstration of the skills and techniques that we want students to practice. Modeling not only taps into how our brain learns, but it strengthens mirror neurons to help students become better learners over time.
Students deserve, at some point in any lesson, to experience the curriculum from the experts’ (the teacher’s) perspective. This provides them with the opportunity to imitate the expert thinking, almost like an apprentice would learning a new skill. Imitating is one of the ways humans learn, and modeling taps into this.
Teachers should regularly use modeling and demonstration to show how a skill, strategy, or concept is used. Modeling is effective for cognitive and metacognitive tasks and has two major components: the first is the use of “I” statements (not “you” statements or “we” statements), but “I” statements, as in “When I was reading this passage, it made me think …” The second component is metacognition (thinking about our thinking), and at minimum, it involves using a “because, why, or how”. Continuing the example above, “When I was reading this passage, it made me think that the author is saying ‘XYZ’ because … and now I am wondering how I can state my thoughts in my response.”
This is a profound shift from what most teachers are accustomed to doing, and it is understandable that many teachers struggle with making this a part of their instruction. Much of classroom instruction is in the second person and is interrogative in nature (“When you look at this problem what do you see?”) Teaching and quizzing become the order of the day, and students walk away from class under the false assumption that the teacher just “knows” the answer. They are not made privy to the speculative, at times hesitant, thinking of the content expert. What is lost are the natural stutter-steps made by someone who is deeply knowledgeable of the complexities of the topic.
Therefore, it is useful to introduce teachers to some indicators related to modeling and thinking aloud. Some of the indicators of teacher modeling include:
*naming a strategy, skill, or task
*stating the purpose of a strategy, skill, or task
*using “I” statements
*demonstrating how the strategy. Skill, or task is used
*alerting learners about errors to avoid
*assessing the usefulness of the strategy or skill
Over time, teachers develop their own approach and style to modeling, but there are several different teacher modeling examples that educators can start to incorporate into their classrooms. For example, narration is a great way to model your thinking for students. Whether you’re modeling a writing skill or an emotional management strategy, thinking out loud and narrating your actions give students insight into the kinds of thinking and steps they’ll need to take when working independently. This kind of modeling doesn’t have to happen face-to-face, either! Teachers can also use sentence starters or language frames to help model or guide the kinds of questions students can ask themselves or each other as they work.
Interactive modeling more deeply engages students in the experience of witnessing a demonstration of a skill and is especially impactful when practicing social emotional skills. Unlike traditional modeling, interactive modeling engages students in the experience of observation. The teacher may still narrate some of their internal thinking, but instead of pointing out what students should be looking for or doing at each step, they may ask students questions like “What did you notice?” Allowing students to actively make
observations, notice cause-and-effect, and ask questions creates an interactive experience.
Traditional modeling continues to be a powerful way that students learn. Verbal narration is one of the easiest ways to start modeling for students, but it’s important to remember to not just narrate the steps you’re taking but your thinking as well. Do you encounter a challenge or an obstacle? Narrate what that feels like and how to move past it in order to stay focused.
For example, when modeling a math strategy, the teacher may choose to model a common error that students make, narrating the thinking that prompted the error and then realizing the error. Modeling emotional management could mean narrating that internal experience, “I get so frustrated when I make that kind of mistake, and when I get frustrated, I want to move faster and I know that can lead to more mistakes. Let me take a breath and then try this again.” Students need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes as we learn – that’s often when the learning happens – and modeling thought patterns that reflect a growth mindset can inspire and deeply impact students.
There are slight differences between traditional modeling and interactive modeling. Most importantly, students are active participants in interactive modeling instead of passive observers. Traditional modeling features the teacher dictating the steps and internal thinking of a skill – what to do, what to notice, how to respond to certain circumstances – with the expectation that students absorb the teacher’s thinking and practice it themselves when they have an opportunity to practice the skill. Interactive modeling, however, involves students as active observers. Students are invited to ask questions, make observations, and practice modeling for each other. Interactive modeling doesn’t just focus on the skill itself, either, but helps students understand why the skill is important as well as when and how to use it. We can model all we want, and do it well, but some students will still miss the point if they don’t clearly understand the purpose of the lesson.
1) Teachers: Whenever the opportunity arises, model your thinking in front of your students using “I” statements, and try to include some metacognition (thinking about our thinking) …. at minimum, it would involve using a “because, why, or how”. In this way, your students will soon learn how an expert thinker (you) begins to tackle questions/problems that they encounter. (See the article above!)
2) Teachers: Please remember to use the What, Why, & How regarding your Learning Targets at some point in every lesson … explaining to students What we are going to learn, Why we are going to learn this, and How they (the students) will know when they have learned it.
3) Please make sure we close and lock all entrances to the school after we enter (especially the blue gate where staff enter the campus through the staff lounge) to ensure the safety of everyone on campus.