Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati.
As a teacher, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the principles that underpin effective instruction. One set of principles that has gained widespread recognition is the set proposed by Barak Rosenshine, a former professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 ways you can apply Rosenshine’s principles to your lessons to help your students achieve their full potential.
#1: Start with a clear objective
According to Rosenshine’s principles, the first step in effective instruction is to start with a clear objective. Before you start your lesson, make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want your students to learn.
You may wish to use the ‘Three As‘ to present objectives to the students via a self-discovery process (very powerful). The ‘Three As’ stand for Assign, Analyse and Ask. It’s a simple three-step process for starting each lesson, and allows for the teacher to be as creative as he or she wishes when articulating lesson objectives:
- Assign a starter activity, that links to the topic somehow. This can be as simple as a video playing on the screen as the kids walk in, a worksheet or even a learning game.
- Analyse the starter activity: This may involve peer-assessing the task, having a class discussion, quick-fire questions or a ‘True or False’ activity
- Ask the students: What do you think we are learning about today? This may generate some discussion, but if the ‘Assign’ and ‘Analyse’ parts have been designed properly, then it should be obvious.
For ideas on good starter activities, this blog post is really useful.
#2: Use a variety of examples
Using a variety of examples is a great way to help your students understand the concepts you’re teaching. Use different types of examples, such as visual aids, case studies, or real-life scenarios, to help your students better understand the material.
Different types of examples can help students to better grasp the concepts being taught, as they provide a range of contexts and perspectives from which to view the material. Visual aids, for instance, can be especially effective in conveying complex information in a way that is easy to understand and remember. Case studies and real-life scenarios, on the other hand, can help students connect abstract concepts to real-world situations and make the learning experience more meaningful.
When selecting examples to use in your lessons, it’s important to choose ones that are relevant to your students’ interests and experiences. For instance, if you’re teaching a science lesson on environmental sustainability, using examples that relate to your students’ local community or region can help to make the material more relatable and engaging. Additionally, it’s important to use a mix of examples that are both challenging and accessible. Providing examples that are too easy may bore your students and cause them to disengage from the lesson, while using examples that are too difficult can lead to frustration and discouragement. Striking the right balance between challenging and accessible examples can help to keep your students engaged and motivated throughout the lesson.
#3: Provide guided practice
Guided practice is an effective way to help your students develop their skills and knowledge. Provide your students with opportunities to practice what they’ve learned, but make sure you’re there to guide them through the process.
During guided practice, the teacher provides students with guidance and feedback as they work through problems or exercises related to the material being taught. This can help students to develop their skills and knowledge more effectively than if they were simply left to work independently. Guided practice can take many forms, such as structured activities, group work, or one-on-one interactions with the teacher.
When implementing guided practice in your lessons, it’s important to provide clear instructions and expectations to your students. Make sure they understand what they’re supposed to be doing, and provide them with any necessary resources or materials. Additionally, it’s important to monitor your students’ progress and provide feedback along the way. This can help them to identify areas where they need to improve and make adjustments accordingly. Finally, it’s important to ensure that guided practice is appropriately challenging for your students. Providing practice that is too easy or too difficult can lead to disengagement or frustration. By providing practice that is appropriately challenging, you can help your students to develop their skills and knowledge more effectively.
#4: Use frequent checks for understanding
Frequent checks for understanding can help you gauge how well your students are understanding the material. Use questions, quizzes, or other methods to assess your students’ comprehension of the material throughout the lesson.
Checks for understanding help to ensure that students are comprehending the material being taught and can identify areas where additional support or instruction may be needed. Frequent checks for understanding can take many forms, such as questions, quizzes, or discussions. By incorporating frequent checks for understanding into your lessons, you can help to ensure that students are engaged and actively learning throughout the lesson. Verbal questions are often all that’s needed, just ensure you are not asking the same students to answer. Consider using random name generators (my favorite is the Wheel of Names). Live quiz apps, such a Blooket, Kahoot!, iSpring Quizmaker and others are also great ways to frequently check understanding within lessons, in real-time.
When using frequent checks for understanding in your lessons, it’s important to provide feedback to students on their performance. This can help them to identify areas where they may need additional support or instruction and make adjustments to their learning strategies. Additionally, it’s important to vary the types of checks for understanding used in your lessons to accommodate different learning needs and abilities. For example, some learners may benefit from diagrams or graphic organizers, while other learners may benefit from class discussions or lectures. By using a variety of checks for understanding in your lessons and providing regular feedback, you can help your students to develop a deeper understanding of the material and achieve their learning goals more effectively.
#5: Scaffold your instruction
Scaffolding your instruction can help your students learn more effectively. Start with simpler concepts and gradually increase the complexity of the material to help your students build a strong foundation of knowledge.
Scaffolding your instruction means breaking down complex concepts into smaller, more manageable pieces that build upon each other. This approach can help students to understand and retain information more effectively by giving them the opportunity to build a strong foundation of knowledge before moving on to more complex material. Scaffolding can take many forms, such as providing students with background information, asking leading questions, or providing step-by-step instructions for completing tasks. By gradually increasing the complexity of the material, students can develop their skills and knowledge in a structured and supportive environment.
When implementing scaffolding in your lessons, it’s important to keep in mind the needs and abilities of your students. This means providing scaffolding that is appropriate for their level of understanding and adjusting your approach as needed. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that scaffolding does not become overly restrictive or limiting for your students. While providing structure and support is important, it’s also important to allow students the opportunity to explore and make their own connections between concepts. By striking a balance between structure and flexibility, you can help your students to develop a strong foundation of knowledge while also allowing them the opportunity to think critically and creatively.
#6: Provide feedback
Feedback is an important component of effective instruction. Provide your students with feedback on their performance, both positive and constructive, to help them improve.
I’ve written a LOT about feedback in the past, and there’s lots that we could explore here. However, if I were to distil the essentials into a few bulletpoints, they would be as follows:
- Praise often: See my blog post about the Four Rules of Praise, and check out my acclaimed book, The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback, for detailed strategies on how to use praise as a tool for rapport-building, character-building, empowerment, behavior management and learning.
- State the negatives first, then follow with positives
- Use verbal feedback, but make sure the students take action on what you have said
- Use time-saving marking strategies which are efficient and effective (e.g., ‘live’ marking, peer assessment, self-assessment and automated assessment)
#7: Use models and examples
Using models and examples can help your students better understand the concepts you’re teaching. Provide your students with examples of how to apply the material to real-life situations to help them make connections.
Models and examples can take many forms, such as diagrams, charts, or simulations. By providing students with concrete examples of how a concept works, you can help them to build a mental model of the concept and understand how it can be applied in different situations. Additionally, using a variety of models and examples can help students to see the same concept from different perspectives, which can lead to deeper understanding and better retention of the material.
When using models and examples in your lessons, it’s important to choose ones that are appropriate for your students’ level of understanding. Providing examples that are too complex can lead to confusion and frustration, while using examples that are too simple can lead to boredom and disengagement. Additionally, it’s important to provide students with opportunities to interact with the models and examples, such as by asking them to explain how they work or to identify different features. By providing opportunities for active engagement with the material, you can help students to develop a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught.
#8: Use a variety of instructional strategies
Using a variety of instructional strategies can help keep your students engaged and interested in the material. Use different methods such as lectures, discussions, group work, or hands-on activities to keep your students engaged.
Every student has unique strengths, and by using a variety of instructional techniques, you can help to accommodate these differences and ensure that all students are able to engage with the material being taught. Some effective instructional techniques include direct instruction, group work, hands-on activities, and multimedia presentations. By varying your approach, you can keep students interested and engaged in the learning process, which can lead to deeper understanding and better retention of the material.
When using a variety of instructional techniques in your lessons, it’s important to keep in mind your learning objectives and the needs of your students. Different techniques may be more effective for different types of learning objectives or for different groups of students. Additionally, it’s important to provide clear instructions and expectations for each technique you use. This can help to ensure that students understand what they’re supposed to be doing and how the technique relates to the material being taught. By using a variety of instructional techniques in your lessons, you can help to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment that supports the needs and interests of all your students.
#9: Review and revise
Review and revise your instruction to ensure that you’re meeting your students’ needs. Regularly assess your students’ progress and adjust your teaching methods accordingly.
Providing opportunities for regular review is an essential part of effective instruction. Review allows students to reinforce their learning and connect new concepts to previously learned material. It also helps to identify areas where students may need additional support or instruction. Regular review can take many forms, such as quizzes, games, or discussions. By incorporating review into your lessons, you can help to ensure that students are retaining the material being taught and developing a deeper understanding of the concepts.
When implementing regular review in your lessons, it’s important to provide opportunities for both formal and informal review. Formal review activities, such as quizzes or exams, can help to provide a structured and systematic approach to review. Informal review activities, such as class discussions or games, can be more flexible and allow for more creative and interactive review. Additionally, it’s important to provide regular feedback to students on their performance during review activities. This can help them to identify areas where they may need additional support or instruction and make adjustments to their learning strategies. By providing regular review opportunities in your lessons, you can help your students to develop a deeper understanding of the material and achieve their learning goals more effectively.
#10: Provide closure
Provide closure at the end of your lesson to help your students solidify their understanding of the material. Summarize the key points of the lesson and provide your students with an opportunity to ask any remaining questions they may have.
Channeling the energy of your students in a healthy and competitive way should be one of the core aims of all plenaries. Reviewing the content and skills learnt in class in a fun, competitive and energetic way can really help with memory and concept retention. Do this consistently each and every lesson and watch your students make tremendous progress as the weeks and months roll by!
See my blog post entitled 7 Plenary Activities for PGCE Students and Newly Qualified Teachers for some great ideas for ending your lessons with a fun review of the concepts and skills taught, thereby providing closure.
By applying Rosenshine’s principles to your lessons, you can help your students learn more effectively and achieve their full potential. Remember to start with a clear objective, use a variety of examples, provide guided practice, use frequent checks for understanding, scaffold your instruction, provide feedback, use models and examples, use a variety of instructional strategies, review and revise, and provide closure.