Modeling is so effective that it should be among your most often used teaching strategies.
When most people think of modeling, they envision a teacher standing in the front her class performing a task she expects from her students. For example, if she were modeling an art project, she would most likely make the project herself in front of her students using the same materials they would be using.
There is nothing wrong with modeling in this way. It can be effective, especially if the students are attentive and the project is interesting. However, you can supercharge the effectiveness of what you’re modeling, regardless of what it is, by adding an important element: explicit detail.
Adding detail to your modeling exercises is easy to do, doesn’t take any extra work or planning, and happens to be a lot of fun. Let me explain how it works and then show how it can make your classroom management plan more effective.
Adding detail simply means taking modeling to a more exact degree than you or your students are accustomed to, making it highly specific and realistic. To use the example of the art project, instead of making the project in the front of the classroom, the teacher would do the art project at a student’s desk with the students circled around in close proximity.
Instead of merely constructing the art project, the modeling session might include clearing off one’s desk, lining up to pick up the art materials, and acting out common scenarios, including what not to do. In other words, the teacher would put herself in her students’ shoes, from start to finish, and model everything they would need to do, including eventualities, in order to complete the project successfully.
Though important, modeling the actual making of the project is the least important aspect of this example. It’s the peripheral stuff–the stuff that teachers typically don’t model–that is the most important and will make the greatest difference to your teaching.
Detailed modeling won’t take the creativity out of art or any other subject. On the contrary, when you use detailed modeling, you eliminate distractions, allowing your students to focus on learning, as well as their individual creativity. Furthermore, students love this way of teaching. It’s fun and participatory, and they always know exactly what is expected of them–a comforting thought indeed.
Students’ knowing what is expected of them is a critical part of any successful classroom management plan, and detailed modeling does just that. Too many teachers are vague in this regard. It’s unfair and breeds contempt to hold students accountable for something they don’t fully understand.
But the real power of detailed modeling comes from the ability to cover eventualities. More specifically, it allows you to model the most common behavioral scenarios and what happens as a result.
Take something as simple as calling out in class. I choose calling out because it can be a real showstopper. Nothing breaks up the momentum of a lesson quite like a student calling out. I’ve been in many classrooms where this isn’t a priority, which is beyond my comprehension. How do they get anything done?
To model calling out, the teacher might sit at a student’s desk while a student plays the part of the teacher. This gives the teacher the opportunity to demonstrate the rudeness, and even absurdity, of interrupting someone who is speaking in front of a group of people. By allowing the students to fully understand why raising their hand is important, it becomes less likely that they’re going to call out in class.
Your students must also be clear about what exactly will happen if a rule like calling out is broken. This should also be modeled and, taking it one step farther, practiced by your students. You can have volunteers act out the roles of students misbehaving.
For example, choose students to purposely interrupt you as you’re speaking, and then administer your consequences to them. Go through the whole process, including what happens when they call out a second and even a third time.
Merely explaining classroom rules, or anything else for that matter, is minimally effective. Students must actively participate in and experience what it means to break rules and how doing so negatively affects the learning and enjoyment of everyone in order to understand why rules are important.
When your students unequivocally understand your classroom management plan, they’re much less likely to break classroom rules. Nothing is as effective as detailed modeling in communicating anything important to your students… nothing. Try it and let me know what you think. I know you’ll be pleased.
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