Monday, July 18, 2011

Explicit Direct Instruction notes

Hey ya'll!
Before school let out for the summer, our school administration gave us a book to read over the summer. It's called Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) The Power of the Well-Crafted, Well-Taught Lesson.  I KNOW... a mouthful right?! Anyways, like the big procrastinator I am, I waited until tonight to start reading it. It's actually REALLY helpful as a newer teacher to help me give my lessons some structure. I thought I would post a few things I highlighted each time I read and see if you wonderful bloggers have any input!  (Plus, when I type out my notes, it helps me retain the info better!) =) I'm a hands-on/visual learner! Can you tell?!)

The book began by giving 2 effective strategies that make teaching more effective:
1. When asking a question, always present it to the ENTIRE class before selecting a student to respond.
2. Then pause several seconds before selecting a student to respond. (While you are pausing, students don't know which person you will select, and they all start thinking about the answer in case they are called upon.)
As soon as I read #2, I was glued! It's something so simple as this little tip, that can change my whole effectiveness to the lesson! WOW! Moving on...

The book goes onto to explain how Checking for Understanding (CFU) is the backbone to effective instruction.
1. If you look at quizzes/tests, homework, etc. it's TOO LATE to modify your instruction.
2. CFU guarantees HIGH student success because you provide additional examples and reteach when necessary.
3. CFU allows you to confirm you students know how to do the independent practice/homework BEFORE they are asked to do it.

When do you Check For Understanding?
-After telling the students the learning objective, ask them to tell you what they are going to learn.
-After giving a definition, ask students to state the definition in their own words. Ask them for examples, or provide examples and ask them to select which one meets the definition.

CFU tips:
-Don't call on hand wavers.
-Call on students at random.
This is the only way you can measure if EVERYONE is learning.

Use sticks with the student's names on them to randomly select non-volunteers. After calling on a student, put the stick BACK in the cup each time. (That way they stay engaged b/c they could be called on again!) Also include a few sticks that say "Teachers' Choice" so you can look around and make a strategic selection! =)

Then they gave us an easy way to remember how to CFU.

Teach first
Ask a question
Pick a non-volunteer
Listen to the response
Effective Feedback

Teach first. They go on to say that when you ask questions BEFORE you teach (like asking "Who knows what a platypus is?") you are not really measuring the effectiveness of your teaching. Instead, you are assessing the existing background knowledge of your students.
When you CFU, your students can answer correctly because they are applying the information you just taught them. 

Ask a question. When you CFU, always ask specific questions about what you are teaching. Don't ask students if they understand. (Because they probably don't want to identify themselves OR based on their opinion- they could think they do understand... when in reality, they don't.) So don't ask students their opinions of whether they are learning. Ask them SPECIFIC questions about what you just taught. That's the A in Tapple! =)

Pause (aka: Wait time or Think time) provides time for ALL students to think of an answer, even if they aren't called upon. While you are waiting, students don't know who will be called upon so they are more engaged in mentally preparing an answer. Remember that the rule here is to present the question to the WHOLE class and then to pause, giving everyone time to think of an answer. (If you call on a student first before giving the question, the other students tune out. They're off the hook. They don't need to THINK of an answer or even listen to the question.)
                How long should you wait before selecting a student?
                    Pause atleast 3-5 seconds. If you are asking a challenging question, wait 8-10 sec.
  • During the "wait time", walk around the room and repeat the question a couple times. Even "stir the sticks" as you get ready to pull one. This will signal to the students to get ready with an answer.
  • Another wonderful technique is to "pair share". This is great during the initial phases of learning new information. You tell your students to discuss the answer with their neighbor so they will be ready to respond to your CFU question. For example, you say "I'm going to select one of you to tell me ___________. But first, turn to your neighbor and discuss ________ so you will be ready when I call on you."
  • During pair share, your students are:  practicing pronouncing and saying new vocabulary AND using them in sentences. (Great for your low and ELL kiddos!) It also provides extended wait time for your Higher Order Thinking questions. (HOTS questions) If you float around the room during pair share, you can ensure that everyone is on task and have a feel for how much time is needed for the kiddos to compare their answers.
Pick a Non-Volunteer. (This is when you could use the Popsicle sticks.) Helps you find out if there are students who don't know the answer. Their general rule is: Call on at least 3 kiddos each time you "TAPPLE".  If 3 students respond correctly, it's likely all your students are understanding. If 2 or 3 random students are confused, you don't need to check any further. The class hasn't learned it yet.

Listen very carefully to you student's answer. Ideally, your students will always have the correct answer to your CFU questions, but sometimes they won't. What you do next depends on what you hear- you think about the answer, decide if it's correct, partially correct, or just plain wrong.

Effective Feedback. The last step of your CFU where you provide 1 of 3 types of tailored, effective feedback:
  1. echo
    • when the student response is correct- restating of the correct answer.
      • "That's right, Susan, all sentences start with a capital letter!"
  2. elaborate
    •  when the student response is tentative or partially correct- elaborate and paraphrase to reinforce the correct answer, which benefits the student who answered AND the rest of the class
  3. explain
    • actually re-explain, when student answers are incorrect.
      • don't make a big scene out of it, instead say "Listen carefully because I am coming back to you."
      • If the 2nd student DOES have the correct answer: echo and elaborate a little to reinforce the correct answer, then go RIGHT BACK to the first student and ask them the question again.
      • If the 2nd student does not have the correct answer= RETEACH!
        • After you RETEACH, go back to the same 2 original students, ask the same CFU question and then call on additional students to reinforce the content.
Students are never let off the hook. They always have to respond correctly (even if we need to hand-feed them the answers.
When students give an incorrect answer, don't say "No, that's wrong." and move on to another student... Instead ask students to explain or justify how they arrived at their answer.
Avoid the trap of calling on volunteers to get the right answer.

When to call on volunteers:
  • to expand the topic or
  • provide an additional way of looking at something
    • HOTS questions! 
This is a fantastic teaching strategy b/c if you call on three students and then ECHO three times, your class just hear the answer SIX TIMES!!! The general rule is that is takes 16-24 repetitions to transfer info into long-term memory.

The CFU chapter ended with the best way to CFU.... can you guess what it is???

If you guessed whiteboards, you are CORRECT! =)

Benefits of using the whiteboards for CFU:
-allows you to check everyone at once
-allows all students to work on the problem
-all students are ENGAGED
-if you see multiple wrong answers, it signals you to RETEACH.

They ended on a note to say that when you see a student that has the wrong answer on their whiteboard, call on those students to hear their thinking on how they got to their answer.

So when using whiteboards, pull sticks and have several individuals justify or explain their answer. Every student should be able to successfully explain his or her reasoning by applying the methods you taught them.

So this is where YOU come in!
What are some ways you Check for Understanding in your classroom?
Do you use whiteboards? If so... can you give me some examples of how you use them?
The book gave several examples of upper elem grades and highschool.... but not very any for K-2. So I would LOVE some input or advice on how to implement this in my K classroom!

My ideas:
  • When teaching syllables, say the word and have the students clap out and write the number of syllables they heard on the whiteboard.
  • Towards the end of the year.... the teacher says a simple sentence and the students write it out on their boards (focusing on conventions)
  • Practicing spelling and vocabulary
  • practice handwriting letters and numbers
  • practice letter sounds/blends/etc... (teacher says the sound/blend, students write the letter(s))
  • addition/subtraction (I would show the kiddos a flashcard and they would work out the problem on their whiteboard and show me the answer)
  • shape recognition (teacher says a shape, the students draw it)
  • show the students a pattern and they finish the pattern on there boards
Okay, now it's your turn!!! Lets see what we can come up with! =)



  1. what a GREAT post! I know a lot of these things but this is a great reminder! I really appreciate all the time it took you to write all of this! i have used whiteboards in 5th grade a ton but I am moving to kinder this year so thank you for the suggestions on how to use them!

  2. I was thinking white boards at the beginning of your post..and then I read about white boards! I have the white board paddles and I use them daily!
    Thanks for sharing. I may have to look into this book as well!

    Kinder Kraziness


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