George Lucas Educational Foundation
Assessment

# Modeling: Essential for Learning

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

Do you remember learning to tie your shoes? Or learning to bake a cake? Or learning to read? I'm guessing you did not learn by watching a video or listening to a lecture. You learned by being shown, and by practice. The same principle applies to our teaching! We must model for our students.

Okay, so that is easy in mathematics, science and some other hands-on subjects. Yes, but do we really model? Do we:

1. Use visuals or examples that are relevant?
2. Model while thinking out loud so that students hear the process?
3. Concisely communicate what we are doing and what is needed?
4. Present or model logically?
5. Present or model only what is needed and leave the extra "stuff" out?

We must become deliberate in our modeling so that students learn. Math VIDS has some great information on modeling in the classroom. How do we do that? Let's look at the Common Core Standards and focus on Reading Informational Text.

Standard: Describe the overall structure (chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts or information in a text or part of a text.

Lesson: The standard says "describe," but that does not mean "tell." If we just say the words, very few students will understand. Telling isn't modeling. So how do we model this? Think about how we can "show" students the text. You can use timelines to show chronology. Do we do this on paper? We can, but why not use technology? There are several sites that allow you to use technology to create timelines. Check out SoftSchools' Timeline Maker or ReadWriteThink's Interactive Timeline. Model for your students how to use these apps or other software, and model how to decide what goes first on the timeline. Let the students hear you think about your decisions of what to put in the timeline. Then have them create their own timelines.

What about comparisons and cause/effect? Again, use technology and let the students hear your thinking. Start with some examples where students compare objects in the classroom. You can also start with life examples where you talk about cause and effect, such as how not setting an alarm clock might mean being late for school.

So, modeling is not all about the teacher doing and the students watching. It is the teacher doing while involving the students in the thinking, the doing and all aspects of the process. Modeling also means a progression of teacher doing less and students doing more. This starts with the teacher doing most of the work for one example, then less of the work for a second example, until the fourth or fifth example when the students are doing most of the work. Don't have time to do five examples? If you do not take the time to ensure that all students understand, then you will spend the time you saved by reteaching. Why not take that time in the beginning instead of later?