Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mastering Explicit Instruction - Part 2

By Dr. Deni Basaraba, RME Assessment Coordinator

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed how all students, particularly those who are struggling, benefit from the provision of explicit instruction (Baker, Gersten, & Lee, 2002; Carnine, 1997; Doabler et al., 2012; Witzel, Mercer, & Miller, 2003). Van de Walle (2013) characterizes explicit instruction as highly-structured, teacher-led instruction on a specific strategy. He explains how this approach can help uncover or make overt the thinking strategies that support mathematical problem solving for students with disabilities. 
We started a list of the methods and elements of explicit instruction. To continue this series of blogs, here are some additional elements of explicit instruction as well as examples and/or steps to carrying out these recommendations.

Beginning each lesson with a clear statement of the objectives and goals for that lesson so that students know not only what they are going to learn but why it is important and how it relates to other skills and strategies they have already learned. For example:
  • Today, we are going to continue our work with variables and expressions. You are going to learn how parentheses are used in expressions. You need this knowledge in order to solve algebraic equations.
Reviewing prerequisite knowledge and skills prior to starting instruction that includes a review of relevant information not only to ensure that students’ have the prior knowledge and skills needed to learn the skill being taught in the lesson but also to provide students an opportunity to link the new skills with other related skills and increase their sense of success. For example:
  • First, let’s review. Tell your partner what a variable is. (A variable is a symbol that represents a number.) Yes, a variable is a symbol that represents a number. Look at these expressions (5 + x; t – 10). In the first expression, what is the variable? (X) Yes, x is a symbol that represents a number. Everyone, what is the variable in the second expression? (T) Let’s look again at the definition of an expression...
Modeling the desired skill or strategy clearly to demonstrate for students what they will be expected to do so and can see first-hand what a model of proficient performance looks like. When completing these models, think aloud for students so that each step of the strategy or skill you perform is clear and to clarify the decision-making processes needed to complete the procedure or solve the problem. For example:
  • Look at this expression: 3 × ( 4 - 2). When an expression contains more than one operation, parentheses can be used to show which computation should be done first. So, when we have an expression, we first look for parentheses and do the operation inside the parentheses. In this problem, 4 - 2 is inside the parentheses, so I will do that operation first...
Providing guided and supported practice by regulating the difficulty of practice opportunities from easier to more challenging and providing higher levels of guidance and support initially that is gradually decreased as students demonstrate success. For example:
  • Let’s do some problems together. Please stay with me so we can do these items correctly. Write this expression on your paper, but don’t solve it. Do we do the operations inside or outside of the parentheses first... 
  • Write this expression on your paper. Do we do the operations inside or outside of the parentheses first? Inside. Find the value of the expression.
  • (After several examples where the teacher slowly gives less help) Copy this expression and find the value of the expression. Don’t forget . . . parentheses first...

Baker, S. K., Gersten, R., & Lee, D. (2002). A synthesis of empirical research on teaching mathematics to low-achieving students. The Elementary School Journal, 103, 51-73.

Carnine, D. W. (1997). Instructional design in mathematics for students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, 130-141.

Doabler, C. T., Cary, M. S., Jungjohann, K., Clarke, B., Fien, H., Baker, S., Smolkowski, K., & Chard, D. (2012). Enhancing core mathematics instruction for students at risk for mathematics disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 44, 48-57.

Van De Walle, J.A., Karp, K.S., & Bay-Williams, J.M. (2013). Elementary and middle school mathematics: Teaching developmentally, 8th edition. Boston: Pearson.

Witzel, B. S., Mercer, C. D., & Miller, M. D. (2003). Teaching algebra to students with learning difficulties: An investigation of an explicit instruction model. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, 121-131.

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