Thursday, January 20, 2011

Core Teaching Strategies

My colleagues and I at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford crafted this document several years ago, which we utilzed as a handout for volunteer tutors and inserted into our tutor training program. As part of the revision process we obtained invaluable feedback from a selected set of tutors. The challenge was two fold: to hone in on those key strategies that have the most significant potential teaching effect and to craft clear support statements that could be readily grasped and easily implemented.

No doubt if I were currently utilizing this document in a training capacity there would be opportunity and need for additional refinement. It is in that spirit that i post it here. Draw on it as you may to make sure that it resonates with your particular training or program needs.

The initial concept sprang from a handout on learning disabilities that was housed on the Center for Literacy Studies website

Core Teaching Strategies in Adult Literacy Instruction

A. Balance Contextual Learning with Basic Skill Development

a. Focus on a mix of basic and context skills that reflect the needs and abilities of your students. Use your best judgment, as well as feedback from students, other teachers, and supportive staff.
b. Include opportunities for regular practice of skill-based activities related to phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, fluency, and structured comprehension activities.
c. Include life application material that apply to student interest areas that can be accessed from books, the Internet, and real life contexts

B. Draw on Adaptable Structured Materials

a. A well constructed text usually provides a basic structural framework, but you will want to make adaptations based on the learning needs and styles of your students and the nature of the learning task.
b. Spontaneous, improvisational learning opportunities are often stimulating in opening up new insight and fresh perspectives. Nonetheless, a regular return to adaptive materials available in well constructed texts brings a sense of practiced regularity to the learning process that benefits students a great deal.

C. Quality Over Quantity

a. Adult learners need intensive instruction combined with numerous opportunities for practice and reinforcement to master and retain skills they are working on. Don’t short change this in order to “cover” the curriculum.
b. Our goal is to help students learn. This is the curriculum-their internalization of the learning that they deem significant— not the book. If such learning is not at the center of your classroom activity then modify your approach, and seek assistance, if needed, on identifying new approaches.
c. Check in with your students as well as teacher and staff colleagues on questions you may have on the extent to which you think significant learning is taking place in your classroom.

D. Explain What is to be Learned and Why it is Important

a. Explaining the purposes of a learning activity of a lesson helps students understand what they are learning and gives them some tools for practicing more effectively on their own.
b. Make sure your students are really understanding your meaning. Ask questions and read body language.
c. Use modeling, demonstration, and structured practice to reinforce new learning.

E. Review and Reinforce Previous Learning Activities Before Teaching the New

a. Systematic review and routine practice of developing skills and knowledge are essential for learning mastery.
b. Successive approximation rather than complete mastery serves as a realistic aim. For example, common sight words, basic rules of grammar, developing context skills, fluency, and basic comprehension will be reinforced from lesson to lesson. Consequently, it may be better to move on to a new lesson to reduce boredom and practice skills in a new context, keeping in mind that older lessons can be reviewed from time to time.
c. Be consistent, yet be flexible. Make adjustments based on the responses of your students. Introduce new learning gradually, building on established learning. Follow the cues of your students as well as your own best judgment and balance the need for continuous reinforcement with opening up new learning opportunities.

F. Model the Skills to be Learned and Provide Sufficient Practice

a. Give a clear demonstration prior to practicing a new skill, strategy, or activity.
b. Effective modeling includes clear descriptions and slightly exaggerated demonstrations. Acting out is definitely encouraged!
c. Provide opportunity for practice through specific prompts, cues, questions, and feedback.
d. Carefully monitor student performance and provide individual attention.
e. Provide enough structured practice for students to develop competency.

G. Use Controlled Materials

a. During the initial stages of practice, control the difficulty of the task. Initial practice with easier materials allows students to gain confidence.
b. Focus on more difficult tasks when some success has been achieved. Review challenging learning tasks from time to time and include plenty of opportunity for reinforcement.

H. Enhance Student Engagement

a. Ask to the point, fact-based questions and draw out as many students as you can.
b. Ask point of view questions and draw out as many students as you can.
c. Provide directions that are clear and are doable. Check in with students to make sure they’re with you.
d. Use multiple methods and approaches, and materials (text, discussion, the board, interesting real-life materials, and computer-based instruction).
e. Provide opportunity for individual, paired and small group work and circulate around the room.
f. Draw on more advanced students for part of the lesson.

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