Teaching Strategies

Guide on the Side(lines)

May 22, 2015

If we used a football analogy: Teachers have traditionally been the Quarterback holding the football (knowledge) and the students are the Receivers (literally the receivers of knowledge). But now is the time for teachers to "Coach" and watch the students go after resources that enable them to win the game.

Good Coaching

A good coach allows her team to make mistakes so that they grow from the experiences. She provides the players with plays in the same manner that teachers should provide students with a plan for getting through the material (Resources). Teachers no longer have to be the sage on the stage, but rather they get to be the guide on the side(lines).

Teachers have to hand the ball off to the students and allow them to interact with the material. Our lessons become a form of “daily practice”. Showing students how to go through the material so that they are able to “DO” something when they acquire the “football/knowledge” is the true essence of being a teacher. Our students will know how to deal with the challenges they will face when trying to get to the end zone (mastery of content).

When teachers move from the front of the room to working besides students, students begin to take a deeper ownership of the learning process and produce a meaningful connection with the material. The learning process is ignited and the student becomes unstoppable as their passion and understanding drive them toward the end zone!

The Playbook

Showing students how to navigate through curriculum is very different than carrying them through it. Imagine a coach who tried to put his players on his back and carry them through each play. Instead, if a coach wants his players to learn a play, he has them experience the play. Often, the players run the play multiple times to get it right.

This concept needs to translate to our classrooms. We cannot carry our students through the curriculum that we are teaching; we must allow them to experience it for themselves. As we coach them through the content, we communicate with them, watch them, and provide them with feedback to ensure that they are on the right track that points to the end zone.

My students are provided with a playbook (our classroom website). Within our classroom website is the content we study as well as additional resources for research, an APA formatted essay template, a citation guide, project ideas, learning objects, tutorials, video lessons, and a variety of downloadables. The students know that the classroom website is their “How To” guide for mastering the content.

Just as with a playbook, if a student doesn’t use the website, they will not know what is expected in order to master the content for the class. Football players must access the plays, visualize their role and performance, and then perform the play. Students must access content, create a vision for how they want to represent their knowledge, and then engage with the material.


When our students reach the end zone, we do not want them to forget how they got there. When players engage in daily practice and run drills, they develop a passion or desire that drives them toward the end zone. If our players watched us practice and run drills while they stood by as observers, they would never retain the necessary skills to move them toward the end zone/mastery of content. The moment a player sees how a play works and why it works the way that it does, passion is ignited and success is experienced. The same can be said for our students.

Putting the ball in their hands and allowing them to run with it will empower then to take ownership of the play/learning experience and see why the play works the way that it does and how it moves them closer to the end zone. When we experience, we don’t forget. We learn from our mistakes, and we learn from our successes, but until we coach from the sidelines and allow our players to run with the ball, they will never experience the game the way it was meant to be played.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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