The importance of modelling and guided practice in the classroom — Beamont Teachers Collective (2024)

Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction’reminded us that guided practice is a vital step in teaching. However, I must admit that, at times, I often feel tempted to skip right over it and head straight to independent learning; especially due to time constraints. Without realising, I have found myself asking my students to apply a skill or concept independently, sometimes after little or no modelling. When this happened, I was hit with the frustration of having students feeling confused, struggling with the task at hand and not knowing how to approach it. Skipping this step backfired to the point where I had to face students feeling demotivated and just ‘not good at languages’. These times made me realise the importance of guided practice and why it is a necessary component in teaching.

It is important for us, as teachers, to not only provide opportunities for students to practise but to practise correctly. This does not mean that we should not allow students to make mistakes. In fact, asPit Corderstates in ‘The Significance of Learners’ Errors’, mistakes are an integral part of the learning process and we should not correct pupils when the focus is on fluency as opposed to accuracy, as this would have a negative impact on their confidence and self-esteem. What’s more, when the focus is on accuracy, we should provide feedback at a later stage.

We know that practice builds fluency; for students to learn to read or write, they must participate in the act of reading and writing. Just as to ride a bike, they must try several times, fail and fall and try again until they learn how to do it automatically.

So, what does guided practice look like in the classroom? Many of us will be familiar with the phrase "I do, we do, you do" or the gradual removal of the scaffolding. We see lots of situations where the teacher guides the students through a discussion; modelling the whole process to achieve a specific skill. The teacher then moves straight away into independent practice by asking students to apply the modelled skill to solve a series of problems. However, these teacher-led interactions miss a critical learning point: learning through collaboration with peers. This was highlighted, last week, in Emily Atherton’s (Languages teacher and HLL lead) CPD on self-efficacy where she mentioned the benefits of having a student model a strategy for the whole class. Therefore, if we consider a slight change to the previous phrase to "I do, we do together, you do together, you do independently" we are likely to get a higher success rate and increase students’ sense of self-efficacy.

We could summarise the steps as follows:

Stage 1: I do - the teacher models and shares their thinking about how to solve a problem.

Stage 2: We do - the teacher starts solving a similar problem and asks students in the class to help with the next step(s) explaining why. HLLs can shine by demonstrating what they can do and be used as the pupil's voice to clarify possible misconceptions.

Stage 3: You do together - students work collaboratively, in pairs, or groups by solving similar problems together. Here, less confident students will have a chance to ask questions to their partner(s).

Stage 4: You do independently - students are assigned a few problems to do on their own to practise their application of the skills learnt. Differentiation becomes very important in this stage to ensure the most able students are challenged, while weaker students know how and where to access help if needed.

Recently, I have been preparing my Year 11 students for their first set of PPEs and I can confidently say that modelling, analysing a variety of good examples, guided practice, collaborative practice and independent practice – in that order - have been key strategies to help them master and internalise the complex skills needed to succeed in their writing exam.

I would like to finish by saying that it is clear from our life experience that if you want to master something you need to practice it repeatedly. When my students state that they cannot spell in English – never mind in Spanish or French – I ask them: ‘Are you able to spell your name or your home address accurately?’ They give me a quizzical look and reply: ‘Of course, we can do that, we have written our names a million times!’ That is the key: practice. Did not someone say, ‘practice makes perfect’? Likewise, in the classroom, students must practise the skills we teach them for them to become internalised. They need to practise something for it to become habitual. AsCharles Carroll Everettwrote in “Ethics for Young People”:

"Most of all, a man tends to imitate himself. The fact that he has done a thing once, in a certain way, makes it easier for him to do it again in the same way. The oftener this is repeated, the more fixed does the habit become."

The importance of modelling and guided practice in the classroom — Beamont Teachers Collective (2024)

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