Too Little Direct Instruction?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Sab, Oct 21, 2017.

  1. Sab

    Sab Companion

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    Oct 21, 2017

    It's my first year teaching and one of the subjects I'm teaching is 7th grade science. Honestly, I'm not an expert in the material by any stretch. I have my multiple subject credential. I spend a ton of time planning and finding resources and mostly set up activities that students can do on their own or with groups...such as reading an article or doing research on a topic and answering questions about it, EDpuzzles, making a group poster on a term, doing a simple lab and typing up a lab report, Quizizz, worksheets, etc. I try to switch it up so they're not always on the computers but I do use them a good amount.

    Yesterday one kid said he hated me, hated the class, and that I "never actually teach them anything." I told him that I was sorry he felt that way and everyone has different teaching styles and that I try to get them to learn on their own. I'm guessing he meant I never lecture and tell them information directly, which is true. When I try to do that even briefly I feel like I do a horrible job because I have a vague understanding of the concept, can't explain it clearly enough, and am not prepared for questions. I know I can't expect over 100 students to like me but his comment did kind of upset me and make me wonder whether I really should try to incorporate more direct instruction into my lessons?? Thoughts?
     
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  3. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    A few thoughts:

    First, like you said, don't expect every kid to like the way you run the classroom -- some will prefer direct instruction, some will prefer group work, some will prefer a mix, and some will just want to whine no matter what ;)

    Secondly, it's important to use a mix of instructional strategies. An all-lecture classroom or an all-group work/inquiry classroom likely won't do as well as when multiple strategies are being implemented.

    Lastly, it sounds as though you're choosing less direct instruction not due to feeling it's better pedagogy, but due to feeling as though you lack content knowledge. While it'll be difficult, in my personal opinion, you simply need to do the research and obtain that information needed and practice explaining it, and then if a question comes up you can't directly answer, be honest about that and explain that you'll research it and come back to share about it the next day. If your choices are being driven by lack of knowledge and not best pedagogy, that's worrisome.
     
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  4. TrademarkTer

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    In many ways, I am the opposite of you. I probably do too much lecturing. That said this quote is the part that worries me. When I was in school, I could tell which teachers knew their stuff. If the teacher didn't know their stuff, I resented what seemed to me to be busy work. Also, if students think you don't know the material well, how can they expect that you are coming up with valuable activities for them?
    Regardless of what teaching method you are using, I think you need to have better than a 'vague understanding of the concept', and you should be ready for questions using any method as well. I am sorry if this sounds harsh, but it is true. You need to make it a priority to be a master of the content first and foremost, and then get into how it is best presented to students.
     
  5. Sab

    Sab Companion

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    I have multiple 6th grade classes in different subjects and am already working pretty much 24/7, I don't feel like it would even be possible for me to become an expert in all the things my 7th grade science class is learning. I learn enough to get by and I do feel like my students are learning. I could try to do more direct instruction but unless I really was an expert in the material and had maybe relevant background in it I could bring in, I don't think there would be much benefit to it. If I did add more it'd mostly be me taking notes from online and putting it into a powerpoint or something
     
  6. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Can you give an example of one day's learning goals for one class? Remember that in direct instruction, you want to be keying in on a big idea / one goal for the day.
     
  7. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Are you certified in middle school science? My mentor teacher is not certified in science but she has to teach science this year. It is hard because she also does no direct instruction for the same reason, because she doesn't know the content and it isn't her fault. She mainly just has students read and answer questions or do research on their own. I wish I could help her but I also do not know anything about science.
     
  8. Sab

    Sab Companion

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    Well recently they learned that white light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow, and they did a Phet simulation on that topic
     
  9. Sab

    Sab Companion

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    With my credential I can teach grades k-8 as long as I'm teaching at least 2 different subjects, from my understanding, which I am...but I'm definitely no science expert. My credential is multiple subject.
     
  10. Joyful!

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    Oct 21, 2017

    Why do you need to be an expert to give direct instruction? You need to be a lesson ahead of your class when you are teaching something outside of your areas of strength. Why don't you start small? Choose one lesson for this week and prepare a short lesson with direct instruction. Try it and see how it goes. If someone asks you a question where the answer is not known to you, say, "Why don't we find out together?" A class with no direct instruction is not going to be successful. Variety allows everyone to have an opportunity to learn and grow. If you need help, please reach out. I'll help you any way I can. Others here would do the same.
     
  11. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    I actually think that using notes or a PowerPoint that are already made is a good place to start.
     
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  12. Been There

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    Oct 22, 2017

    When I began teaching middle school science, social studies, language arts and math, I had the advantage of having a B.S. degree in entomology. However, there are now so many resources on the internet that you can use for your science classes. Many teachers even post their lessons that you can access. For example, check out http://www.missdoctorbailer.com/resources.cfm.

    Here's what I would do if I were in your situation. Session 1: Show a fascinating video related to the science unit. Have students work in groups of three to generate 3 questions about the video. Have each group read their questions and ask students in the class to offer possible explanations. Session 2: Present a mini-lesson in which you teach the class about key concepts and facts related to the unit. Use photos, real models, relevant objects, etc. to enhance your lesson. You may occasionally decide to use a lesson taught by someone else (e.g. Khan Academy) if really necessary. Pass out a "lecture outline" with plenty of space between each bullet point that students can use to take notes - let them know that the completed outline will be collected at the end of class and is worth 20 points. Session 3: Return the lecture notes to students (with points written at top) and go over it with the class. Use the models, objects, photos and ask questions to check for understanding. Give the students a short, easy assignment related to what they have learned. For example: Go home and list 10 things that . . . Session 4: Ask for volunteers to present their findings for the assignment to the class - 20 points! Review key concepts and facts of the unit. Session 5: Give quiz.

    While the five-session sequence described above may not include many of the things that your principal may be looking for, it will at least help you to get started. Let me know if it works for you!
     
  13. Sab

    Sab Companion

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    Thanks for the resource! I do have a PowerPoint set up for Monday with some pauses for them to do little activities (related to vision and how the eye works) so we'll see how that goes. My principal has never stepped foot in my room so that's not a huge concern...it's nice to have been given so much freedom but I do wish I had a bit more guidance sometimes.
     
  14. Peregrin5

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    If students haven't been exposed to a lot of inquiry learning prior, they tend to resent having to do too much of it at once, especially if they are used to the opposite. Also middle school students in general are in a stressful time at their lives as school is starting to get hard for them. They definitely prefer some structure in the form of direct instruction. It's best not to do all one way or all the other. For instance students stop paying attention after about 10-15 minutes of direct instruction especially if there is nothing for them to contribute.

    When I taught middle school science, I would do one day of direct instruction along with quizzes, practice problems, readings, games (typical lesson stuff) etc. followed by a day of a hands-on lab, and kind of switch back and forth between the two. Some weeks we did larger inquiry or engineering projects, but even those I still tried to mix up with direct instruction.

    I agree with what others said though. You need to at least appear confident in your subject. If you get asked a question you don't know the answer to (it happens to everyone), you can simply say "Let's try to find the answer in [your resource of choice]". And then have them share the answer. If you make a mistake, you can model for students that making mistakes is okay and happens to everyone, even to teachers. Just try not to do it too often.

    If you don't know your subject that well, and you have too much else on your plate, go on TeachersPayTeachers and buy curriculum. Seriously. I was teaching a class last year that while I majored in that field in my college degree, I had never actually taught it prior to then, and it was only one period out of 7 while I had a lot else on my plate having to essentially create brand new curriculum for my primary course (most of the rest of the 7 periods). I just bought a full year of curriculum package on teachers pay teachers. I shopped around first and tried to find the best one that fit my style. It came with pre-made powerpoints, teachers notes, even lab activities that were easy to set up and run. I could have come up with something similar than that or even better than that on my own, but it would have taken me a LOT of time and energy I didn't have for a single period out of 7. Though I paid a couple hundred dollars out of my own pocket, it was worth the peace of mind I had knowing that at least one of my courses was completely planned for the rest of the year. You might even be able to get your school to comp the cost.

    Having that class off my plate, I could focus my attention on writing curriculum for my other courses. Of course I altered and added and removed to fit the curriculum to my particular situation.
     
  15. AlwaysAttend

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    Google 5E lesson plan model and align your lessons to it. Starts with simply engaging students then they explore on that in some way. Then the explain phase where students can share what they found and make common understandings. You do direct instruction after that to address misconceptions. Each phase could be a whole day or 5 mins depending on the activity.
     
  16. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  17. AlwaysAttend

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    Definitely another great lesson set up. The 5E model is specifically or at least historically a science model. Since OP is teaching science, I feel like it would be a good inquiry-based model to use that still includes direct instruction but also builds time in to catch up. Also, just needs to be able to correct more than build knowledge from scratch. OP no longer needs to be the gatekeeper of knowledge.
     
  18. Zelda~*

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    Some kids are very, very, black and white. What we as teachers might see as fostering independence and encouraging students to seek out material and information on their own---they might very well see as them doing all the work while the teacher just sits back.

    I agree with Leaborb192, you are going to have some students who absolutely need you to do a bit of a lecture. I would have been one of those students in seventh grade.

    Try not to take it to heart. I've been teaching 12 years now, 8 of those were with students with emotional disturbances---I've been called every name in the book and hated more times than I can count. Sometimes "I hate you" is easier to say than "I don't understand this, and it frustrates me".
     
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  19. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  20. Zelda~*

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    Oh, man. I remember those classes. I took delight in writing those course evaluations.

    My favorite teachers, college, high school, wherever---might not have been experts, but, they were enthusiastic and involved.
     
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  21. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  22. a2z

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    OP, what do you do for those students who are close to illiterate? How do they learn the information?
     
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  23. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  24. TrademarkTer

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    I think this also highlights the problem with the flipped classroom. There is an AP Biology teacher in my school who runs a totally flipped classroom. The students complain about it endlessly because they are supposed to learn the stuff through videos at home and then they just do what they claim to be "pointless activities" in class. I take what they say with a grain of salt, but I do know this teacher is big on the flipped classroom, which I could never fully get behind for more than one or two lessons a month.
     
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  25. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  26. AlwaysAttend

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    I can actually speak to this as I did a flipped classroom in this fashion for an entire school year. After the school year I came to the realization that I was putting bad teaching online. I was simply lecturing presentations. It does have a place, but it can’t be the only tool in your toolbelt.
     
  27. EdEd

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    Some great comments here. My two cents would be that the material should drive the instructional method, not some teacher-preferred learning style. If there is technical information to be learned, that may be best taught through more close direct instruction. If there are more general, conceptual, or procedural knowledge sets, projects may be helpful. Often times, I've found that some direct instruction is helpful even in the context of more inquiry-based learning - giving kids at least an advance organizer or general lay of the land. Then, let higher order learning happen with projects, etc.

    Another observation: There is a difference between independent work and project-based learning. Not all independent work in which kids are expected to "discover things" is created equal. Not sure what you're doing in your situation, but I'd ask yourself if each of your projects qualifies and therefore will get the benefit of that style of instruction, or if you're just essentially having them do their own direct instruction.
     
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  28. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I agree that you should use a mix of teaching strategies. Also, if we look at John Hattie's work, direct instruction has a .6 effect size. This is higher than the hinge point of .4. In other words, anything .4 or higher is effective. Therefore, though we don't want to be providing direction instruction all day long (students need time to work, explore and discover), we do need to be providing direct instruction. It's probably worth looking into what the data shows is and is not effective: https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/
     
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  29. AlwaysAttend

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    I keep wanting to pick up my copy of visible learning again, but never seem to have time. I need to make time.
     
  30. heatherberm

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    Many, many people have already mentioned that a mix of inquiry and direct instruction is best and I think that's definitely true. Many students just aren't used to inquiry and it's uncomfortable for them. And some students - low readers, students who have processing issues, students who struggle with science content etc. - just need more adult guidance. The only thing I'll add is, you do NOT need to be an expert. Don't let that freeze you up. You just need to know more than the average 7th grader. I was also a generalist and the first year I spent teaching 6th grade science, I was doing a lot of learning content as I went. The kids never knew the difference. If they asked me something I didn't know, I admitted I wasn't sure and we either looked it up together or I looked it up and answered the question the next day. No one knows everything. It's not bad for them to see that.
     
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  31. rpan

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    I'm a big fan of John hatties work. Meaningful feedback has one of the highest effect sizes. To do so requires you to know the content well. In my opinion it's one of the bread and butter of our job. When you don't know your content, you can't possibly teach it using best pedagogy and this has several knock on effects, both for achievement and also classroom management. I get that it's hard to know something out of your speciality, but like another poster mentioned, you know need to know a little bit more than the kids every lesson, so just focus on prepping for that. Take it one day at a time, one lesson at a time.
     
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  32. AlwaysAttend

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    Just because another poster will tell you, Hattie doesn’t place much extra value in content knowledge https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/how-important-subject-matter-knowledge-teacher
     
  33. EdEd

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    So this idea of the global effect size is a bit misleading, in my opinion. I think they're interesting in terms of thinking broadly about education - for example, perhaps as a building-level leader when brainstorming in-service topics to address at the beginning of the year. However, the idea of using these effect sizes for selecting specific instructional approaches may not work as the effect sizes are not specific to particular applications. For example, I'd imagine an ES for DI to be much less with a high school literature class than for an elementary-level beginning reading segment.
     
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  34. ShellyAve

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    You took the words right out of my mouth. I also don't mean to be harsh, but it sounds like you need to make a greater effort to understand the material on a deeper level. It is concerning to me that you don't feel like you grasp what you're teaching well enough to answer questions. How are you judging your student's progress if you don't fully understand the concepts you are trying to teach?

    As for content, agreed with PPs that not every kid will like your style, but I do think providing a mix of hands-on lectures where students can ask questions and the type of activities you are already do is the best path forward.
     
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