6 Powerful Instructional Strategies To Use!

I’m sure you’ve been there before: students attempting to go to sleep or go to the ‘restroom” for 45 minutes or more at a time. It’s crazy! Students don’t think we know when they require more from our lessons or from us in the classroom.

Don’t worry about it! I’ll help you figure out just how to keep students involved and get students to want to come to class and want to stay once they’re in there.

Here are 6 Powerful Instructional Strategies that you can use in your classrooms. Check ’em out!

Student thinking about what he already knows.

1. ACTIVATE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE

This is not groundbreaking information, but it serves as a reminder that this strategy is vital to classroom success. Jog students prior knowledge. Whether you challenge their beliefs, question their stances, recount their past lessons or activities, or rehash their younger days – get students to go back!

Activating what students bring to this new lesson is key because it tells you just how much you need to frontload or how many misconceptions they may already have about the content.

Here’s a few ways to have students connect with their past: do Quick Writes, Do Nows, Brain Teasers, Post a topic for them to discuss with their peers or in pairs, post thought-provoking questions, Revisit home learning, Make a joke about a topic and start a discussion, show them a video, listen to music relating to the lesson, show them an experiement that they will be able to reproduce later that day, give a quiz (no more than 4 – 8 questions), etc. Keep them guessing throughout the year, as you use several of these types. Also, remind students that we’ll validate their thoughts by the end of the lesson. This should get them ‘staying tuned’ and keeping focused.

A teacher being crazy during his lecture.

2. Lecture Less/Limited Lecture

Yes, I know rihgt. This is where we start losing students – the dreaded lecture. They either fall asleep or ‘need to go to the restroom’…again…for 45 minutes…Wait, haven’t we all been there?

Now, as teachers this hurt. Teachers Talk A lot. lol…

However, sometimes we need to talk less. Anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes of a lecture, then students are required to do another part of the lesson.

Later, you can interrupt them to continue the content, if you need to. But, talking for an extremely long time will cause restless students, misbehaviors and more.

You can have your lectures: prerecorded and have them just listen to or watch – You. Use Youtube or Khan Academy videos to assist in the coverage of the content. Have students actively listen by annotating as you lecture. Ask questions about the topic while moving around the room, stand next to students as you give the needed notes, randomly give a compliment or make statements about students and life, as you share information they need from you in this lecture.

Hmmm. one way I add spice to my lectures, especially the longer ones, is to add jokes. Yes, we all aren’t comedians nor do we have to be, but adding a bit of humor or telling short anecdotes to prove a point won’t change you, the content, or the class dynamic. As a matter of fact, students may start huddling over their desks to hear more and are now showing interest.

Bathroom visits should lessen, and if they still have to go, they will hurry back.

I do believe, however, that sometimes we cannot get away from the longer lectures where the content is tricky, nebulous, or nuanced (ergo, high school/college content); students must be prepared for the college professors who prattle on and on or the long business meetings at work, so sometimes they may have to sit and focus for longer than 20 minutes. By the same token, though, there are ways to inject yourself, humor, sarcasm, voice changes (I do a killer British accent), anecdotes, thought-provoking questions, ideas from last or previous lessons into today’s lesson.

Wouldn’t it be a hoot to have your students do this?

3. Have Students Move Around

Who am I kidding? Having students breakout in a song and dance, depending on the period, day, season, time of academic year, and lesson, could be the worse thing ever. (Definitely NOT a day for administrative observations).

However, having students move around periodically is not a bad thing. Get students get out of their seats!

I get my students to move from group to group, several Gallery Walks, come to the board to write on the board, completing chart papers and projects, line up outside to answer a verbal quiz, go to get supplies, move from station to station.

However, some folks recommend movement every time you see the students IN EVERY CLASS FOR EVERY ACTIVITY. I have problem that because I believe in novelty. If students are always moving around, everything, including the movement becomes quotidian and trite and the fun in learning is lost.

Knowing that they have to move sometimes and not knowing just what type of movement is coming, adds interest to the lesson…your lesson; this piques their interest.

Ooh, while typing this, I thought of a reason for my students to get up and move: A Selfie Break! Students must take a selfie with teacher, another student, or group of students; I will try to include this this upcoming semester. (If you want to try this one, make certain you have classroom management because things can get hairy and scary).

Students working in groups answering challenging questions.

4. USE H.O.T.S [higher order thinking]

Yes, we’ve used these before, so it’s not mind-blowing, but there is so much value to this!

Getting students to move beyond the face-value questions of definitions and fact-based answers is needed to get students critically thinking.

So we need to get students from focusing on the Remember and Understanding levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and moving up to Applying all the way up to Creating. Now, obviously, we have to see if they understand the basics, but we cannot let them live in that moment; growth and advancement (higher order thinking) is expected.

As you create lessons for your students, include questions to evaluate their comprehension, assign projects that allow them to analyze, create and synthesize things that reflect their comprehension.

Include question starters and verbs like: How, why, Prove, Disprove, Evaluate, etc. These move students to the next level. YESSSSS! It gets them thinking.

A Students figuring out a part of the lesson.

5. SUMMARIZING

Sometimes getting students to recount a part of the lesson or previous lessons will make their day; they feel they have accomplished a lot for the day.

Being able to summarize accomplishes a lot: (1) it proves they were paying attention (2) it proves (to you) that they were paying attention, (3) it allows others to see how ‘smart’ they are, (4) it gets those who would have problems with the H.O.T.S. questions to still be involved with the lesson and content, (5) it provides a means of class participation, (6) it gets students to be proud of themselves (I’m sure some run home to tell mom that they answered a question in class today).

With that said, allowing space for this banal, yet vital part of analysis in your classroom will do wonders. Yes, you may not even need to have asked for a summary, but you’ll get Little Suzy in the back to have something to contribute to the class discussion.

Here are a few ways to get students to summarize, if you don’t just want to ask them outright: ask them to draw a picture, complete a fill-in-the-blank exercise, reenactments, write instructions for a method or experiment, ask “so what did we do last class?” or “does anyone remember what Josiah did when we watched that video?”, tell your partner what last class’s lesson was about, revisit and share out your Exit Tickets. Then ask “is Henry correct, class?”, ask students to give parts of the summary to by saying, “and what else happened, Tony?”

Some of these ways get you to recalibrate and check for comprehension for the whole class. It also reminds you where you left off…(*I know it does for me). Kids love acting like they know more than we do. 😁

Serious determined student when given rigorous and challenging work

6. RIGOROUS AND CHALLENGING WORK

So this really sounds ironic and confusing since I put #5: “Summarize” right before giving #6: Giving Rigorous and Challenging Work, but hear me out. 😁

Assign work that gives students a level of difficulty. Make them think more and longer, make them ask new questions, let them disagree with each other, allot additional time, make them choose task cards [HIGH SCHOOL QUESTION STEM TASK CARD [MINI-BUNDLE#2] , make them work together, make them realize their theories were not correct and more investigation is needed…indeed, make them sweat.

Know, however, that the above things come with this caveat – some may not do the challenge work because it may be too hard, they’re intimidated, or both. So you must use your discretion, peer assistance, differentiated instruction, teacher one-on-ones, etc. It is important to note, though, that these students can get there, if pushed and supported.

Hey, Summarizing might be challenging for some, and this would be their rigorous, challenging work. You know your students – what they can and cannot handle.

Hey, check out and enjoy this video for more clarity.

Let’s go out and there and BE GREAT! Let’s just go out there and TEACH!

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