This week, I chose to focus on the previewing strategies of cues, questions, and advance organizers. As a new teacher, previewing material has yet to be much of a focus for me, but I now understand how important it is to student understanding of material. By activating prior knowledge and getting students excited about the material, students will be better able to hit the ground running with material as the lessons begin. I have never personally used any of these strategies, so in my own personal practice I would consider myself a 1 – Unsatisfactory by Dean et al (2012) and Pitler and Stone (2012) standards, but I have seen two great examples of how these strategies look in practice from my two mentor teachers. One used a skimming strategy as an advance organizer, while the other used a cuing strategy.
The skimming strategy was a way to get students excited about what they were going to learn in social studies throughout the year. It also gave my mentor teacher an idea of which lessons should have more emphasis and which ones were not of interest to the students. My mentor gave each student a text book and three Post-Its. The students were to put their name on each sticky note, then look through the book, reading headings and looking at pictures. After about five minutes of skimming, the students were then asked to choose the three chapters for which they were most excited, then post their sticky note next to the chapter title on a large poster. Like a bar graph, student votes made apparent the chapters for which students were most excited. It also sparked discussion about why certain chapters were their favorites, jogging their memories about their previous experience with the material. After the first month of school, though, the poster disappeared and I am not sure if my mentor took advantage of the valuable information it contained. If I were to do this in my own classroom, I would surely use this chart to seek out in-class experts that might help other students develop their prior knowledge and to help plan additional activities to supplement the curriculum.
In my other mentorship, my mentor teacher used KWL charts in a similar way to my first mentor teacher’s strategy, but she used them more often – usually to introduce units of instruction. This way, students were able to activate more specific prior knowledge and the teacher got immediate feedback on how much students already knew about this specific topic, as well as what they would want to learn. Additionally, she used this information to help guide pacing through the unit and to review the unit upon its conclusion. Not only does this activate prior knowledge, but it also acts as a great resource for the teacher in understanding where the students are in their understanding.
Again, I have little experience with these strategies in my own teaching experience, so I would rate myself as Unsatisfactory, but I understand the importance of this strategy. Pitler and Stone state that “students are more likely to learn if they connect new information to what they already know” (2012, p. 102). This makes sense, as it warms up their mind to the idea and reminds them that they are already partial experts about some aspects of what we are to learn. It is also important for me to remember that explicit cues are critical when introducing new ideas. Dean et al note that “there is no need to be subtle or ambiguous with students about what you want them to learn” (2012, p. 62). While it is always fun to have a little surprise in store, surprising students with content is not beneficial to learning.
Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
As we attempt to honor our students’ access to course material (HOPE standard H2), we must keep in mind that our students’ efforts to pay attention can only go so far. There are two main points to consider when designing a classroom environment that engages students’ minds: their motivation and their attention.
Pressley and McCormick (2007) present many factors that can influence a student’s motivation to put forth effort in the classroom. The factor that concerned me most was that of self-efficacy. The authors define self-efficacy as “a learner’s perception of his or her capability of reaching a desired goal or a certain level of performance” (p. 292). When students have the belief that they are able to successfully accomplish a task, they are more motivated to attempt similar tasks in the future. When they are continually unable to accomplish tasks, they are discouraged from attempting such tasks in the future. A student’s belief in their own abilities can change the course of their lives, influencing the decisions they make and where they place their efforts. A way teachers can boost students’ self-confidence in a given subject is to take advantage of the review periods at the beginning of the year. While some might find it dull and repetitive for the students, those struggling with material can have a second chance to understand hard concepts and feel more confident in their ability to perform those tasks.
Medina (2008) designates an entire Brain Rule to attention. Contrary to popular belief, he notes that “attentional ability is not capable of multitasking” (p. 85). While we may think that giving directions for a second activity while students are actively engaged in the first activity would benefit students and cut down on transition time, it actually requires them to shift their attention from their work, then back to their work once instruction is over. This results in a loss of concentration and possibly, as shown in studies, a loss of time and increase in errors. In order to ensure students are paying attention to only one stimulus at a time, teachers should honor the time students have to complete a task before frontloading the next.
Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: