Three Critical Components of Teaching a Lesson


Zig Engelmann taught me this as part of my Direct Instruction training after I had been doing it wrong for a number of years.

Instruction is a situation in which you need pure communication. What you communicate must be open to only one single interpretation. If your instruction can be interpreted in more than one way, some student is likely to accept an alternative meaning. They now understand the concept or operation differently than the way you intended them to learn. This leads to confusion, frustration and a lack of learning, especially with kids who are already behind. There is a solution.

Three Critical Components of Teaching a Lesson

1. Modeling

To overcome this problem, the easiest way is to clearly demonstrate the concept and/or operation by modeling it for the student, showing the student exactly what you want them to do before they are expected to do it. Once the student sees exactly what is required it becomes much easier for the student to produce that specific behavior.

2. Leading

And here’s the step everyone misses.

The second step is to lead the student through the process with you. You both do the same task using the same behaviors at the same time. In the beginning the student is likely to lag behind because they do not know the responses as well as you do. With repeated leads, the student quickly catches up and can complete the task in sync with you. The lead is where most of the teaching and learning happens.

3. Testing

Once you hear the student mimic your behavior exactly, you give them an opportunity to do the task by themselves. They will either succeed which results in praise and possibly points or they will fail and receive encouragement and more instruction. Remember that if the student didn’t learn, the teacher didn’t teach.

An Example: Teaching the Sound – m

Model: “I am now going to teach you a new sound. Listen. mmmmmmmm”

Lead: “Say that sound with me. When I touch the sound, we will both say it. Keep on saying it as long as I touch it. Ready. Mmmmmmm Great work. Let’s do that one more time.” (Repeat task)

Test: “Now it’s your turn. When I touch the sound, you say it. Keep on saying it as long as I touch it. Ready. Student says mmmmmmmm”

Whether you are a homeschooler, a teacher, a parent, or an autism therapist, these simple steps will make your teaching easier. They can be used with individual students or with groups of students. In one case you hear a solo, in the other you hear a choir. Like a choir, they all have to hit the same notes at the same time, which means you as conductor must get your signals clear about when you want them to respond.

The Model–Lead –Test format can also be used to teach more sophisticated concepts and operations in reading comprehension, spelling, math, grammar, science etc. This is done by formatting the concepts and operations in a way that extracts and teaches the rule or rules for that concept using the model-lead-test procedure.

Another Example: Teaching parts of a logical deduction

Model:My turn to say the four rules about logical deductions. Listen. First Rule.”

Lead:Say the first rule about logical deductions with me. Ready.”

Test:Your turn to say the first rule about logical deductions.”

Repeat for the remaining rules.

You could sit down with your existing curriculum and sort out various tasks to be taught in some subjects or you could use the Maloney Method materials which have already been created exactly in the fashion we discussed. At our prices, it is probably not cost effective for you to recreate the wheel.


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