The course objectives for Survey of Instructional Strategies were…
- Candidates will understand the role of a variety of engagement and instructional strategies as related to impact on student learning.
- Candidates will understand the components of effective lesson design using a variety of effective instructional strategies.
- Candidates will understand, design, and implement four lesson plans using a variety of instructional and engagement strategies including cooperative learning, advance organizers and schema activation, nonlinguistic representations and graphic organizers, summarizing, note making, setting objectives, providing feedback, recognition, homework, and the use of metaphors and analogies. Develop and demonstrate the ability to participate in a peer case study using: Collaborative inquiry designed to frame a problem, collect, analyze and interpret evidence, and determine next steps that will be implemented with students or staff as part of your leadership role.
Candidates will examine and reflect on personal professional use of instructional strategies in order to value current practices and make changes to professional practices when needed.
Students will discuss and participate in peer leadership activities to assist other school professionals in the application or instruction strategy best practices using the collaborative inquiry process.
- Students will be able to communicate instructional strategy information to others.
- Students will be able to read and understand the instructional strategies presented in the professional literature.
At the beginning of this course, I was excited to learn about new teaching strategies that I could use with my students. I think we oftentimes get stuck in a rut using the same few teaching strategies and I wanted to learn how I could expand my repertoire. I was also interested in learning about which strategies had the highest effect size and when to use them most effectively. I have been a Safety Net teacher for over seven years now, and mostly teach small groups of struggling students. In addition to learning about strategies for small groups, I was interested in refreshing my knowledge on strategies for regular sized classrooms too.
During one of our first class sessions, we brainstormed a list of instructional strategies and also discussed how to become a visible learning teacher. The strategies that we brainstormed as a class include the following…
- Success criteria
- Students tracking progress
- Graphic organizers
- Process through writing/drawing
- Making personal connections
- Peer tutoring
- Socratic seminars
- Gallery walk
- Thumbs up/down/sideways
The three keys to becoming a visible learning teacher include (Hattie, 2012):
- Teachers evaluate their effects on students (know thy impact)
- Teachers see learning through the eyes of their students
- Students see teaching as the key to their ongoing learning (teaching is a tool for students)
Some of the strategies that we took a more in-depth look at included advance organizers, cooperative learning, nonlinguistic representation, and summarizing/note taking. One of my classmates and I chose to do our presentation on advance organizers. We learned that advance organizers help students to activate their prior knowledge and also help them tie that knowledge to the new learning. Advance organizers come at the start of a lesson and can be things such as stories, pictures, videos, audio, etc. The four types of advance organizers include expository, narrative, skimming, and graphic.
Cooperative learning is one of the most commonly used teaching strategies, but is also one of the most misused ones. In cooperative learning, all students need to be engaged, have a role to play, and be accountable for not only their own work, but the work of the whole group. Teachers can use formative and summative assessments to give feedback to their students on both their individual and group contributions. Giving students an opportunity to work with their peers, gives them a chance to build a deeper understanding of the material than if they just worked on it individually. Students also have better retention, motivation, and achievement when participating in a cooperative learning activity. The student tasks/roles need to be explicitly taught and practiced. Group size should be no more than 5 students. There are 3 types of cooperative learning (informal, formal, and base groups). Informal groups would be quick things like turn-and-talk, pair share, etc. Formal groups would last throughout an assignment, project or unit. Base groups are for the long term (whole year).
Nonlinguistic representations include graphic organizers, physical models or manipulatives, mental pictures, pictures, illustrations, pictographs, and kinesthetic activities. In my opinion, these are the things that really make learning come alive for students. Using nonlinguistic representations can help students to link their previous learning with new learning. They help students to “process, organize, and retrieve information from memory” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012). The six types of graphic organizers that are most commonly used in classrooms include: Descriptive, Time Sequence, Process/Cause-Effect, Episode, Generalization/Principle, and Concept. When helping students to create a mental picture, it is great if you can provide details related to all of their senses to help them to see, smell, taste, hear, and feel the imagery. I think it is very interesting that when students move around during a learning activity, their brains are building more neural connections and the learning is easier to remember (and kids love to move around).
In both summarizing and note taking, students need to condense the information down to the most essential parts. They also help students to organize information and put it into a form that helps them to retain the information more effectively and efficiently. There are both linear (outlining) and nonlinear (webs or maps) forms of note taking. There is no specific note-taking format that is the best, but it is important to explicitly teach students how to take notes. One way to start this process with students is to give them a template with some of the information already entered. Then as they progress through the lesson or reading, they can fill in the rest of the information. Teaching students the rule-based summarizing process should help them to understand how to summarize more effectively. The rules include: 1.) Take out material that is not important to understanding. 2.) Take out words that repeat information. 3.) Replace a list of things with one word that describes them. 4.) Find a topic sentence or create one if it is missing. There are six different summary frames that can help students when they are writing their summaries. They include: narrative, topic-restriction-illustration, definition, argumentation, problem-solution, and conversion. These frames have questions that help guide students in their summarizing. Reciprocal teaching is a common strategy for teaching students how to summarize. It includes the four comprehension strategies of summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. Students take on roles for each of the comprehension strategies. Important tips for note taking include: 1.) Give students teacher-prepared notes. 2.) Teach students a variety of note-taking formats. 3.) Provide opportunities for students to revise their notes and use them for review.
Through reading the text, Visible Learning for Teachers, by John Hattie, I learned about the progression of the lesson from beginning to end. Setting learning targets and teaching them explicitly to students is critical at the beginning of a lesson. It is important to set objectives, give students success criteria so that they know how to meet the objectives, and also give them feedback to guide their progress. In order to teach by setting objectives and providing feedback, there are certain things that we should do. We should…
- State the learning objectives to our students in terms that they can understand
- Help our students to tie those objectives to learning they have already done and to future learning
- Help our students to set their own learning objectives and give them feedback on those objectives
- Check for student understanding of the objectives
- Plan activities and lessons based on how well they will help students to meet the objectives
- Provide students with success criteria or a rubric before an assessment
- Give timely feedback throughout the unit of instruction
- After giving feedback, give students a chance to improve their performance
- Can use technology to help with feedback and documentation
One of the most important things to maximize student learning is co-planning lessons. Within our planning, we should take into account four things.
- Levels of performance (students’ prior achievement, developmental levels, confidence, & motivation)
- Learning intentions (targeted learning/achievement outcomes)
- Rate of progress (success criteria/progression)
- Co-planning and discussion (teachers plan and critique lessons together)
John Hattie states that a caring, positive classroom climate is one of the critical components needed to promote learning. The classroom should be a trusting environment where questions and mistakes are welcomed. Teachers should explicitly teach the learning targets and the success criteria so students know where they are going and what it looks like to get there. Students need to be taught how to work cooperatively and what the norms and rules of the class and groups are. Hattie states that the four criteria for “relational trust – interpersonal social exchanges that take place in a school community (Hattie, 2012)” are…respect, competence, personal regard, and integrity. We want to challenge students and to help them to be aware that through challenge and learning, there will be mistakes and questions. Both teachers and students should see mistakes as opportunities for learning.
Classrooms should have more dialog than monologue happening throughout the day. Currently, in most classrooms, the teacher does most of the talking. Hattie suggests that we incorporate more teacher-student and student-student discussions into our lessons. Teachers should be listening more than they are talking. We can learn a great deal by listening to our students. We can determine what they already know, any misconceptions they might have, and gaps in their learning.
Social relationships are very important for students to learn effectively. For example, when students move to a new school, Hattie says, based on current research, that “…the single greatest predictor of subsequent success is whether the student makes a friend in the first month (Hattie, 2012).” Peers can be tutors, give feedback, and provide friendship. Cooperative learning is a great strategy to build on the fact that peers and working with other students is so important to the learning process.
Hattie suggests that we see learning through the eyes of our students. We should be more focused on the learning, rather than just the teaching. Once we understand how our students learn and what stages they are in, we can more effectively make teaching decisions. We should teach our students how to use strategies within our content areas, give them time to practice those strategies, and then we can assess how effective those strategies were in promoting learning.
Hattie believes that learning should start with a “backward design” so that we start with the learning objectives and success criteria in mind and then come up with the strategies and activities we feel will best move our students forward in their learning to meet the objectives. There are four stages of motivation…
- See a gap
- Close the gap
Many students get stuck at stage one. We as teachers, need to pinpoint which stage of motivation that a student is in and help them to move from that stage to the next.
Feedback has one of the highest effect sizes on student learning and is therefore critical in the teaching and learning process. Feedback helps students to know where they are and what they need to do to meet the lesson objectives and success criteria. Feedback can be directed toward processes, clear up misconceptions, and motivate students. There are four levels of feedback (task, process, self-regulation, and self) and there are three critical questions to keep in mind when giving feedback. 1.) Where am I going? 2.) How am I going there? 3.) Where to next? The question of where I am going relates to the success criteria and lesson objectives and making them clear to students. Students can monitor and assess their progress toward the learning targets daily to see their progress. There are also three phases of learning which include: novice, proficient, and competent and students move through these phases as they learn and solidify new learning. Errors are an important part of learning and should be welcomed in the classroom. We need to explicitly teach how errors help us to learn even more. When I taught about having a growth mindset to my 4th grade math students, we learned that making mistakes creates more connections in your brain and you actually learn more than when you get all the answers correct. When my students get frustrated when they make a mistake, I remind them of the learning we did on having a growth mindset and how mistakes “grow their brains”.
Prompts are great tool for eliciting feedback. Prompts can be organizational, elaborative, and can monitor progress. Page 129 gives some great question prompts to use with students (Hattie, 2012). Teaching students to use prompts while giving peer feedback helps to make the feedback more effective. There is a great rubric on page 133 that guides students in giving peer feedback (Hattie, 2012). Feedback needs to be specific, focused, and clear. As teachers contemplate their effect on the learning of their students, they should look at lessons through the eyes of their students.
The additional sources that I read related to feedback were: The 2 Es, (Kroog, King Hess, & Araceli Ruiz-Primo, 2016) and Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning (Chappuis, 2009). Formal formative assessments are defined as being planned in advance and should help to move students forward in their learning by providing feedback or changes of instruction. We need to have students show us what they are thinking in order to understand where they are and where they need to go next. Our feedback comments can be both descriptive and prescriptive. A prescriptive comment helps students to understand how to improve. A descriptive comment lets students know why something was right or wrong. It is not effective to put a score on a paper if you want to provide comments. Students are more interested in the score and will not get much out of the comments. Plus, it is too late to make any changes based on the feedback when a grade was already assigned. Feedback should be actionable. An effective way to give feedback to younger students is the Stars and Stairs method. The star represents what the student is doing well and the stair represents steps the student needs to take to improve. For older students we can use the “That’s Good” and the “Now This” feedback frame.
Throughout this class we also practiced our new strategy learning by writing up lesson plans, teaching them to our students, and reflecting on how they went. We also conducted extended research related to some of these different teaching strategies.
I chose to focus on CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.4 (Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text) with both my cooperative learning and advance organizer lessons. One of them was with a higher level narrative text and the other was with a grade level information/expository text. I teach Safety Net and work with students who are below standard in reading. These students oftentimes don’t have a repertoire of effective reading strategies. Through my outside research I found the importance of teaching these strategies explicitly. “Despite the clear and longstanding connection between meaning vocabulary and reading comprehension, programs designed to teach vocabulary have often had surprisingly little impact on overall reading ability. One possible reason for this small effect is that teaching methods may not make this vocabulary-to-comprehension connection explicit for the students” (Greenwood & Flanigan, 2007). “This substantial research review underscored the need for strategy instruction to be explicit, especially for poor comprehenders” (Bishop, Reyes, & Pflaum, 2006). This same article stated that students should be taught what they termed as “Global Reading”, which is comprised of activating prior knowledge, making text predictions, skimming text, using context clues, and using text structure and textual features (Bishop, Reyes, & Pflaum, 2006). Based on these findings, I incorporated activating prior knowledge through the use of advance organizers such as skimming the book and its different text features and talking and drawing about what they already knew about the topic. I also gave them a graphic organizer to help them organize and track their learning.
I teach Safety Net, so I oftentimes forget about using cooperative learning strategies because we are already in a small group. Throughout this course, however, I have tried using more partner groupings and structured cooperative learning activities and have had great success with them. I have noticed that my students have been more engaged and have enjoyed working with a partner. They have helped each other and shared their ideas. Through my formative assessments and observations, I noticed that the partner groups were picking out the same challenging words that I predicted that they would in the text. With their partner’s help, they looked at context clues within the text to help them figure out what the words meant. They filled out their findings on a graphic organizer that I provided for them. They were able to figure out what all the words meant. The students who I am working with are 4th graders who are below standard in their reading. I am exposing them to complex text by working with a 5.4 reading level book. They are testing out the strategy of using context clues to decipher the meanings of challenging words within a challenging text and are succeeding and enjoying it! I ended up modeling the strategy for a bit longer than I had anticipated. We went through finding three different words/phrases before I sent them off to work in their partner groups. Sometimes it can be challenging to know exactly how much time I will need to spend on a particular part of the lesson. Through my observation of my students, I noticed that they needed more modeling time than I had originally planned.
I taught two lessons to my fourth grade before-school reading group using nonlinguistic representations. I am helping my students to access higher level text by reading aloud “The Trolls” by Polly Horvath. This book is at a 5.4 reading level and has complex text, vocabulary, and phrases. My lesson objective for both lessons was to have my students be able to paraphrase sections of the text that were read aloud to them. During one of the lessons, I had my students draw quick sketches of what they were hearing in the text to help them to visualize and make the story more concrete for them. During the second lesson, I had them do the same thing, but with Play Dough. After I finished reading aloud, I had each student share their drawings or sculpture and describe what was happening in the story. In this way, they were able to use nonlinguistic tools to help them to visualize and then verbalize what they had heard. At the conclusion of each of the lessons, I asked students the following questions: What is the strategy we learned today to help us follow what happens in the text? How was this similar to what you did yesterday with drawing as I read aloud? What do you have to do when you are listening to a story and working with Play Dough or drawing? What does your mind do? What if we didn’t have the Play Dough or the drawing paper to work with and you were listening to a story or reading? What would you do? Both lessons went well and students were able to paraphrase the part of the story that I read aloud by using their Play Dough sculptures and their drawings. They were very engaged in the lesson and were also able to explain that we create pictures in our heads when we listen or read a text and that it is a good way to help us remember and focus on what we are reading. The drawing and sculpting helped students in a concrete way to see what images that their minds were creating while listening.
While reflecting on our collaborative inquiry project, My fourth grade team and I felt that the evidence showed us that we were correct in choosing the inquiry question that we had, as many of our students were struggling in this area. After we implemented the strategies, we saw a marked improvement in our students’ multiplication skills. We made the assumptions that our students were struggling with their multi-digit multiplication problems due to a lack of basic fact knowledge. We also made the assumption that using a variety of strategies, such as scaffolding, flip charts, songs, flash cards, IXL, and having students track their progress would help them with these basic facts and with their multi-digit multiplication. One of the strengths of the strategies that we used was that we saw large gains in assessment scores among our students. One of the weaknesses of the strategies that we used, based on the data and the fact that some of our students didn’t master their facts and multi-digit multiplication, was that we didn’t have enough time in the learning cycle. If we had had more time, we feel that we could have gotten more of our students to the mastery level.
Our collaborative inquiry team felt that the strategies that we used to help our students to build their multiplication skills were effective. Next time however, we feel that we need to spread the process throughout the school year to work on building these skills over time, so that we aren’t rushed for results. In that way, we can focus more on helping our students to have a stronger foundation of their basic facts and more gradually build up to multi-digit problems. We also feel that spending more time on each of these strategies would definitely benefit our students.
It was very helpful to work together as a team to address our students’ needs as a whole grade level. We were able to share our problems and brainstorm solutions and strategies together. We each tried out the strategies and came back to share our progress and to discuss how it was going and look at student assessment data. We then revised our teaching to address any issues that we hadn’t anticipated at the start. We were able to come up with more strategies and ideas when working with the group, as opposed to thinking just on our own. We were also able to celebrate our successes together and determine what attributed to the student achievement so that we could continue with those teaching methods and strategies in the future. Collaborative Inquiry is a very effective way to team together to increase student learning and achievement.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.
Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works – research-based strategies for increasing student achievement (2nd ed.). Denver, CO: McRel.
Chappuis, J. (2009). Seven strategies of assessment for learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Kroog, H., King Hess, K., & Araceli Ruiz-Primo, M. (2016). The 2 Es Implement Effective and Efficient approaches to formal formative assessment that will save time and boost student achievement. Educational Leadership, April, 22-25.
Bishop, P. A., Reyes, C., & Pflaum, S. W. (2006). Teaching tips: Read smarter, not harder– global reading comprehension strategies. Reading Teacher, 60(1), 66-69. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&Au thType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ749433&site=ehost-live; http://dx.doi.org/10.1598/RT.60.1.7
Greenwood, S. C., & Flanigan, K. (2007). Overlapping vocabulary and comprehension: Context clues complement semantic gradients. Reading Teacher, 61(3), 249-254. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&Au thType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ778606&site=ehost-live; http://dx.doi.org/10.1598/RT.61.3.5