Direct instruction is one of the most basic of teaching strategies. Direct instruction is the explicit teaching of both new and review concepts to students. The term direct instruction is often erroneously interchanged with the term "lecture." Direct instruction helps eliminate assumptions teachers make about what their students have for prior knowledge; by assuming my students only know what has been taught in direct instruction, I can more properly predict and prepare for any questions or confusion students might have.
Think-alouds can be seen as a type of exploratory direct instruction. A teacher models different questions and comments about a work or concept as they come into their minds in order to show students how to think critically about a topic and to prompt further discussion and reflection.
Gradual release (also known as model-lead-test strategy instruction) begins with the direct instruction of a topic or idea. Once the entire class has been given explicit instructions, students are given the opportunity to practice the new skill with teacher supervision. Once the students have mastered the skill on their own, they are "released" to practice the skill independently without direct teacher supervision. This strategy can be further differentiated by the addition of several more step-downs in instruction; students move from being given direct instruction to receiving whole class modeling, then to group practice, after that independent practice under teacher supervision and finally independent practice.
Peer assistance strategies
During turn and talk, students simply turn to someone closest to them and discuss whatever concept or idea was brought up as the subject of the turn and talk. This gives every student an opportunity to share ideas, validate their own opinions, and explore other students opinions and views, without monopolizing large amounts of class time.
Pair and share is similar in nature to turn and talk, however pair and share allows students to pick their own partners by preference, rather than proximity. There are obvious drawbacks to this over turn and talk: it takes more time for students to form their pairs, it often becomes a popularity contest where one or two students might feel left out, and it prevents students from expanding their social horizons by allowing them to pair off with their friends. Most of these problems can be eliminated by turning the pair and share into a dance card pair and share. Like the dance cards ladies used to use during formal balls, a lineup of partners can be created ahead of time, by the teacher. Each time the class has a pair and share, they can progress to the next dance partner on their card. Of course, this can be time consuming for the teacher, but it allows for potential differentiation (either homogenous or "high-low"). Both turn and talk and pair and share lend themselves best to when I want my students to briefly discuss an open-ended concept.
Philosophical chairs is a whole class exercise that allows for formal debate amongst the entire class. Chairs are places in a squared-horseshoe pattern. An assertion is posited by the teacher (or potentially a student volunteer) and students seat themselves by their view of the assertion. Those who agree with the statement sit on the left rung of the horseshoe; those who disagree seat themselves on the right rung; those who are undecided seat themselves along the back of the horseshoe. One student opens by explaining why they disagree/agree with the statement. From there, the sides go back and forth, debating their views. As students change their view, they are free to get up and move to the appropriate section. This is a phenomenal strategy I intend to use when students are considering ethical dilemmas from the texts. For example, a philosophical chair assertion could be "You must always be loyal to your home country." Such an assertion should prompt students to debate the importance of loyalty to self, versus loyalty to others, the meaning of the word loyalty, and the importance of the wording of the assertion (for instance, the use of the word "always").
In small group guided discussion, students break off into groups of three to five to discuss a topic of interest, an idea put forth by a teacher or classmate, the process by which something is best accomplish – virtually anything the teacher can imagine. Different roles can be assigned during small group guided discussion to take advantage of students strengths and weakness. For example, an extrovert might be in charge of keeping the discussion on task while an introvert could be placed in charge of taking notes; on the other hand, these roles can be reversed if a teacher is trying to bolster areas of weakness for the students. Small groups are, like pair and share, a perfect time to differentiate for students. Homogenous groups can prevent one person from feeling left out because they do not understand as much or because they understand in ways their group doesnt. On the other hand, heterogeneous grouping can offer opportunities for student-led teaching; most people learn best from peers, not from authority.
Cooperative learning is similar to small groups guided discussion and pair and share in that the grouping can be similar and the expected outcome is student-led exploration of ideas. Cooperative learning differs from these two strategies in that there is generally an expected outcome beyond merely discussion. Two or more students might work together to solve a problem, conduct research, or team teaching. Cooperative learning helps alleviate much of the stress of competition frequently felt in the classroom atmosphere. Rather than fight each other for the best grade or best answer, students learn to work together and to utilize each others expertise to better themselves – even if they are not aware that is what they are doing.
Independent study strategies
Graphic organizers are a form of note taking for those that learn best visually. Graphic organizers allow students to identify and organize information in numerous different ways to help students sort their own thoughts depending on the needs of the specific topic of study. Flow charts and timelines can help a student make sense of cause and effect or historical events; venn diagrams can help students compare and contrast individuals, events or any other comparable topics; concept maps can help identify how the parts make up the whole (or vice versa). There are countless types of graphic organizers to help students learn virtually any topic in a way that best suits their own visual learning style. I intend to use graphic organizers predominantly for keeping track of characters and events; the main text,
All Quiet on the Western Front
, is not told in a strictly linear manner and introduces many characters.
Various pre-reading techniques are used in order to help students start thinking about what they will be reading before they have actively begun to read. Vocabulary allows students a better understanding of what they will read and offers ample opportunity for students to hypothesize the topic of what they will be reading. Sharing ideas about titles, chapter titles, pictures and quotes also help students predict what they will be reading. Brainstorming responses to different questions (see quick-write journals) forces students to examine their own preconceptions and potentially change them once the reading has commenced.
Quick-Write Journal can be used before, during, or after reading a selection. The purpose of quick-write journals is to teach students not to simply be passive readers, but to interact with their reading. How would they react in certain situations? What do they feel about such and such a topic or idea? Perhaps even more importantly, it teaches students that their opinion and view is valid, especially if journals are openly discussed in the classroom, or silently – in writing – between the student and teacher.
For visual learners, language arts can be a painfully excruciating exercise in futility. It need not be, however. As stated in the rationale, language arts is about the art of language: not just reading, writing, and speaking, but all methods of communication. Posters, political cartoons, and photographs can help a visual learner connect to a piece of literature and minimize some of the agony of reading.
For students who need a grounded, "real-world" connection to literature in order to fully appreciate it, historical articles are a fantastic way to show students how the topic at hand relates to issues they may very well face someday. Articles can help emphasize the fact that stories are not merely "fiction" – fake – but that they illustrate very real ideas and difficulties students may someday face first-hand.
Radio broadcasts and music are excellent ways to capture the attention of aural learners. Having the students
their own music or radio broadcasts can create a lasting educational impression on these types of learners.
Movies and video clips, when done right, are one of the best ways to capture the imaginations (and attention) of all students, irrespective of their learning style. Movies and video clips are truly multi-modal and generally attract and engage all but the staunchest of bodily-kinesthetic learners.