While the concept of “explicit teaching” is not new or revolutionary, my school has been focussing on it heavily over the past couple of years. The emphasis is that it’s not just our instructions that should be explicit, but our class discussions, small groupwork and one-on-one teaching moments with individual students needs to be highly explicit and focussed.
To teach explicitly, I believe: Lessons are focussed, strategies are reinforced, connections are made, examples are provided, language is direct and consise and students are encouraged to reflect on their learning. The original goals of the lesson are always in my mind as I work with small groups and conduct roving conferences during activities. If I feel that the purpose of the lesson is becoming a little lost, I will stop the students and ask them “what are we learning about today?” This helps the students and me to refocus and concentrate our attention to the aims of the lesson.
Importantly, when I teach explicitly, I try to only have one main focus and stick to it. I also give my students multiple opportunities to practise the skills I am reinforcing.
My team teaching partner, Kathleen Morris, and I regularly evaluate our teaching and determine how to get the most out of our students, and we both agree we have never taught in a more explict fashion. When we sit down to plan, we work out what our focus is (we often have a weekly focus in Literacy) and how our students can best achieve the learning outcomes. If we feel an idea or activity is a little vague or indirect, we scrap it. We really feel that most of our teaching hours need to be spent on explicit teaching and learning.
Some examples of how I teach Literacy explicitly are shown in the presentation below.
Of course, sometimes a less explicit approach is necessary. It is important to remember that students need to also direct their own learning, and they benefit from “self discovery” and independence. It is sometimes helpful for students to learn on their own without being guided through the process by their teacher. This allows students to focus on what they choose, and explain their learning, strategies and discoveries in a less structured and focussed environment.
I enjoy and see the rewards of explicit teaching and I’d love to hear how you teach explicitly in your classroom.