Manage student practice [E-2]

Give Clear Instructions

  • Focus on the effective delivery of directions
  • Internalize and rehearse your instructions

Monitor and Improve Comprehension

  • Keep students on task
  • Pay attention to the quality of student responses
  • Offer clarification and extend understanding
  • Maximize the use of classroom assistants

Adjust Wisely

  • Look for patterns in student comprehension and, if necessary, adjust wisely

Illustrations are grouped by the proficiency that they best bring to life.

We would like to communicate our deep appreciation to these teachers who are allowing us to learn from their experiences.

Explanation

Giving too many directions will overwhelm students and distract them from the key points of your instructions. Too much talking can also cause your students to tune you out.

Solution

Your goal is concision balanced with comprehensiveness. Consider visually displaying the key points as you speak to keep both you and your students focused on the essential information. If you still find yourself struggling to limit the length of your instructions, consider breaking them into different stages rather than delivering them all at once (i.e. for a four-step activity, give students directions for just the first two steps; when they finish, re-convene as a class and give them the directions for the third and fourth steps). This will keep students from being overwhelmed and losing you.

Explanation

New teachers often consider their role in practice sessions to monitor whether or not the work is being done, as opposed to determining the quality of student responses.

Solution

While ensuring that students are on-task is legitimately part of your work in monitoring student practice, you must also effectively gauge student understanding through active interactions and in-depth checks for understanding with students during guided and independent practice.

Explanation

Students (and teachers) sometimes lose sight of the objective because they get distracted by hands-on activities or fun games or songs initially designed to reach a valid learning objective. Teachers often launch students into some scissors-and-glue activity without communicating (or sometimes even considering) how the task relates to the lesson goal. Students should be involved in active learning, but be sure they know the purpose of the exercise.

Solution

Keep the activity focused on the achievement of the objective. If you find that your activity leads students to this kind of unintended focus, make necessary adjustments to refocus them. Review the objective – assume that students don’t remember it. Consistently connect the activity to the objective and explain the alignment.

Not So Effective: “Roberto’s going to stand in the middle of the room, and everyone else is going to rotate and revolve around him. Go!”

Effective: “Roberto is going to be our sun. Enrique will be Earth and will rotate for us. Enrique, when you face Roberto, you will hold up the ‘day’ sign. When you turn away, you will hold up the ‘night’ sign. Everyone else, write down why…”

Explanation

“Monitoring” of student understanding during practice happens with varying degrees of success. It very easy to think we are monitoring effectively when in reality we are unintentionally overlooking or underestimating student confusion. Superficial or inadequate review of student work during practice can give us an inaccurate read of student comprehension.

Solution

Never settle for a students’ self-assessment of their own comprehension (i.e. “Do you understand? Are you getting it?”). Carefully examine students’ written work and, when students are in groups, closely monitor group discussions to gauge the level of comprehension. Intervene and re-direct when students seem confused.

Deliberately question students working both individually and in groups to determine the extent of understanding. If/when misunderstanding seems widespread, stop the activity and re-teach as necessary (or in the event of individual confusion, provide individual clarification).

Explanation

Some teachers struggle to effectively anticipate (and therefore pre-empt) potential student challenges.  Because their whole-group instructions don’t take these contingencies into account, the class can get derailed.

Solution

Learn from your mistakes. Take time to reflect after both successful and not-so-successful practice sessions. See if patterns of confusion emerge. What has confused them in past? For instance, have directions about moving between stations been too complex? Have there been too many detailed steps in a student activity? Be sure to break down anything that is complicated or convoluted. Might visually displaying the instructions as you give them help your visual learners? Might that prevent your having to repeat the same information over and over?