Designing Instruction

My Guest Blogger today is Jean, a preservice teacher.
I invited  Jean to share what she learned recently about designing instruction.
Please enjoy & engage!  

Bridging English – Ch. 2
This was a doozy of a chapter.  I feel like this one chapter covered more than all my classes so far.  It is easy to get buried by the theories and concepts, so I attempted to tease out the important ones.
Our learners – As teachers, we will be faced with a myriad of students, no two the same.  Some will be visual learners, while others are tactile, auditory, active, reflective, sensing, intuitive, sequential, or global learners (for a description of these, see pg. 16).  Some students primarily rely on the left side of the brain while others rely on the right side.  Students will display their intelligence in many different ways according to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences:  through sports, dance, art, math, communication, maps.  (For a good description of the multiple intelligences, visit Great Performances.) We also must consider our English Language Learners (ELLs) who do not speak English as their first language.  And though we hear much about including children with disabilities, we must also not forget about our gifted students, those who are overachievers as well as those who do not live up to their potential.

from flickr


Why must we, as teachers, be aware of our broad student base?  Not only must we learn to accept and celebrate out students’ differences, but we must learn how to effectively reach each student.  Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching.  Differentiation has become such a buzzword in education, and many school districts even require teachers to turn in differentiated lesson plans.  Though it sounds hard and time consuming to me, there is simply no other way to reach a diverse student body besides diverse instructional approaches.


Four instructional approaches to teaching

As you read about the four instructional approaches that the book covers, think about how you would use or modify these for different intelligences, learning styles, levels of development, gifted or special education students, and ELLs.


·         Lecture – We have often been taught that lecturing is a bad form of teaching.  Avoid being the “sage on the stage,” we learn.  However, some forms of “teacher talk” can be effective.  Shorter lectures that are punctuated with student questions and responses (partial or kernel lectures) can be more effective than total lectures which last a whole class.  Interactive lectures, which is dominated by student questions keeps students’ attention more than other types of lectures.


from flickr

·         Whole-Class Discussion – Let’s talk about what discussion is not:  It is not simply rearranging the desks in a circle.  It is not aggressively debating until one side “wins.”  It is not two or three students dominating the conversation.  It is not students telling rambling stories that go nowhere.  Instead, whole-class discussion invites all students to participate and help one another create meaning.  Questions should be open-ended and encourage higher-level thinking.  The questions should matter to the students, so a good idea is to ask students to generate the questions that will be discussed.  The teacher should not begin a discussion with certain answers or outcomes in mind.  He or she needs to be willing to give up some control and allow students adequate time to respond and elaborate.  Teacher responses should challenge students, recap important ideas, clarify, link ideas, and encourage active listening.

·         Group work – Group work is also known as collaborative learning and is based on the theory that students learn by social interaction, talking, and trying out ideas on their peers.  Students are in control during group work, which causes them to take on greater responsibility for their own learning.  There are many types of group activities (see pg. 41 for ideas), but each activity should require students to take on a specific role so they have both group and individual accountability. 

from flickr

·         Individual work – Individual projects allow students to work on their own assignments on their own time.  It allows teachers to differentiate based on ability, interests, and learning styles.  Students may choose an independent study project in which they are responsible for the direction and pacing of the project.  Or they may participate in a workshop, which requires them to periodically meet with a group or the teacher.  Again, the student takes greater interest and responsibility for his assignment since it is self-chosen and self-directed.


So as a future teacher, you are probably wondering, “Which one of these approaches is best?”  Well surprise, surprise, it’s all of them.  The book calls it layering your lesson plans.  The more variety included in a lesson, the better.  The book even suggests learning stations (like in elementary school) to keep student interested and moving around.  Or, in a more traditional setting you could start off class with some pairs work, then a group discussion, followed by a small lecture, some individual work, pairs work again, and finally the pairs could combine to form groups of four.  Throw some appropriately used technology into the lesson, and you will reach the broadest base of students possible.


Think about your favorite teacher.  Did he/she primarily use one approach, or did he/she layer them, as the book suggests?  Did this chapter give you any ideas about how to expand on your “go-to” instructional approach?  Did they leave anything out?