What are instructional strategies?
Instructional strategies are methods that are used in the lesson to ensure that the sequence or delivery of instruction helps students learn.
What does effective mean?
The term “effective” means that student performance improves when the instructional strategies are used. The strategies were identified in studies conducted using research procedures and guidelines that ensure confidence about the results. In addition, several studies exist for each strategy with an adequate sample size and the use of treatment and control groups to generalize to the target population. This allows teachers to be confident about how to apply the strategies in their classrooms.
Strategies to use in designing effective lessons
These six strategies have been proven to work with diverse groups of learners (Kameenui & Carnine, Effective Teaching Strategies that Accommodate Diverse Learners, 1998). All students, and particularly those with disabilities, benefit when teachers incorporate these strategies into their instruction on a regular basis.
- Focus on essentials.
- Make linkages obvious and explicit.
- Prime background knowledge.
- Provide temporary support for learning.
- Use conspicuous steps and strategies.
- Review for fluency and generalization.
Identify important principles, key concepts, and big ideas from the curriculum that apply across major themes in the subject content.
- Big Ideas: Instruction is organized around the major themes that run through a subject area. This helps students make the connections between concepts and learn to use higher order thinking skills. Kameenui and Carnine (1998) gave these examples of big ideas for social studies:
- success of group efforts is related to motivation, leadership, resources, and capability
- Graphic organizers: Important ideas and details are laid out graphically to help students see connections between ideas. Semantic webs and concept maps are examples of graphic organizers.
- Thematic instruction: Instructional units combine subject areas to make themes and essential ideas more apparent and meaningful. Lessons and assignments can be integrated or coordinated across classes.
- Planning routines: The Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas website (go to http://www.ku-crl.org/sim/lscurriculum.html) has developed the Learning Strategies Curriculum, systematic routines that include graphic organizers to help teachers plan a course, unit, or lesson around the essentials or big ideas. Teachers guide students to use the organizer to monitor their learning.
Actively help students understand how key concepts across the curriculum relate to each other as you are teaching.
- Give clear verbal explanations and use visual displays (such as flow charts, diagrams, or graphic organizers) to portray key concepts and relationships.
- Help students use techniques like outlining or mind mapping to show connections among concepts.
Connect new information or skills to what students have already learned. Provide additional instruction or support to students who lack necessary background knowledge.
- Ask questions to prompt student recall of relevant prior knowledge.
- Make comparisons between the new concept and things students already know.
- Relate the topic to current or past events that are familiar to students.
- Relate the concept to a fictional story or scenario known to the students.
- Use instructional materials that provide easy access to critical background knowledge.
Provide support (scaffolding) while students are learning new knowledge and skills, gradually reducing the level of support as students move toward independence.
- Provide verbal or written prompts to remind students of key information or processes.
- Physically assist and guide a student when learning a new motor skill, such as cutting.
- Provide study or note taking guides to support learning from text or lectures.
- Use commercial materials that have been specifically designed to incorporate supports for learning.
- Use mnemonics to help students remember multiple steps in a procedure.
Teach students to follow a specific set of procedures to solve problems or use a process.
- Model the steps in the strategy, using a think-aloud process.
- Name the strategy and give students prompts for using it such as posting steps on the board, providing an example of a problem with the strategy steps labeled, or using memory strategies, such as mnemonics to help student recall the steps.
- Prompt students to use the strategy in practice situations.
- Reduce prompting as students become proficient in applying the strategy.
- Explicitly teach students the organizational structure of text and prompt its use.
Review for fluency and generalization
Give students many opportunities to practice what they have learned and receive feedback on their performance to ensure knowledge is retained over time and can be applied in different situations.
- Use multiple reviews of concepts and skills.
- Give students specific feedback about what they are doing well or need to change.
- Give students enough practice to master skills.
- Distribute reviews over time to insure proficiency is maintained.
- Provide review in different contexts to enhance generalization of learning.
- Provide cumulative review that addresses content learned throughout the year.