How to Practice Learning Focused Instructional Strategies

group of students in classroom looking at iPad during learning focused lesson using the siop model

This blog post is part of a series of posts unpacking The SIOP Model. In this post, you will find learning focused instructional strategies.

The SIOP Model

The SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) Model (CREDE, 1996) is a research-based framework for instruction that has been shown to improve academic achievement for second language learners and students who need to strengthen their academic language and literacy skills. The model provides teachers with guidance for planning and delivering effective lessons that support language development while also teaching content. The SIOP Model has been used as a best practice in the United States for over 20 years and has been validated as an effective learning focused instructional tool for student success.

The model includes eight components:

  1. Lesson Preparation
  2. Building Background
  3. Comprehensible Input
  4. Strategies
  5. Interaction
  6. Practice & Application
  7. Lesson Delivery
  8. Review & Assessment

Learning Focused Instructional Strategies

The strategies educators use will vary on several levels and are based on the level of instruction to meet students’ needs and student learning. Learning focused unit planning and lesson planning include instructional practices and formative assessments focused on student achievement. Common learning focused instructional strategies used with English language learners are paraphrasing and note-taking. Scaffolding is a teaching strategy that is a gradual release of responsibility for learning from teacher to student. 

When developing lesson plans, teachers answer the essential question of who will do what during the lesson. When designing a lesson, the following four strategies for lesson delivery are used:

  • Teacher does; students watch.
  • Teacher does; students help.
  • Students do; teacher helps.
  • Students do; teacher watches.

Strategic thinking is at the heart of effective teaching strategies. Teachers who are learning focused look at the big picture, anticipate problems, and take steps to prevent them from happening in their own classrooms are more likely to foster positive relationships with their students. In a positive classroom environment, students are more likely to achieve academic success

Choosing strategies that meet students’ needs and lesson outcomes is essential to ensure educators are setting up their classrooms for success.

Building an Inclusive Classroom

To learn and be successful in school, students need to feel safe and have a positive emotional connection with their teachers and classmates. Connecting with others is essential for healthy development and learning.

As children, we are often taught to play nice with others and share. But what happens when we constantly feel like we don’t fit in or like we’re not good enough? These feelings can stay with us into adulthood and make it difficult to connect with others. Maybe you experienced an environment growing up that made it hard to connect with others. Perhaps you were always the new kid, never really knowing anyone.

Creating Belonging

To create a sense of belonging in classrooms as a teaching strategy, teachers need to provide opportunities for students to get to know each other. Teachers lead by creating a safe environment where students feel comfortable sharing and listening and provide chances for students to be listened to so that they feel heard.

For students to feel safe with each other, teachers need to model positive relationships in their classrooms explicitly. An engaging strategy to achieve this is to set up friendly competition through games for formative assessment. Some examples are Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Choose Your Own Adventure, trivia games, and scavenger hunts. 

When students feel they belong, they are motivated to work hard, be challenged to do more, and feel more invested in their learning and the classroom community. Students in a connected classroom also feel safe and feel they can take risks.  

This video addresses how to build a classroom that fosters belonging:

Here are some specific things you can do to make your learning focused classroom an environment where students feel safe enough to explore, learn, and grow.

Key Takeaways

  1. Develop trusting relationships with students.
  2. Take care of your own needs.
  3. Encourage students to take care of each other and themselves.
  4. Get to know the community. Support what the community does well and challenge what it does poorly.

Build a collaborative environment that allows every student to be involved in the classroom and to get the best possible learning experience.

Universal Design for Learning 

The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines are a great starting point for educators looking to create an inclusive, accessible curriculum. The guidelines provide an overview of the UDL framework and offer suggestions on implementing UDL principles in any subject area. By taking the time to familiarize yourself with UDL, you can ensure that your teaching and curriculum planning meets all learners’ needs. In the simplest terms, UDL is an instructional strategy developed to help schools meet the needs of all their students.

The UDL Guidelines are:

  • Providing multiple learning opportunities, rather than relying on a single learning experience, to reach all learners.
  • Developing learning opportunities based on a wide range of intelligence, rather than simply current or prevailing academic standards or a specific cognitive or academic skill.
  • Focusing on unique individual differences among learners, rather than grouping them according to some conventional type (e.g., high school, middle school, and low-achieving students).

In order to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities, there are a few guidelines that can be followed. These suggestions can be applied to any discipline or domain and can help create an inclusive learning environment for everyone. By taking into consideration the different needs of all learners, we can create a more equitable education for all.

UDL Goals:

  • Purposeful & Motivated
  • Resourceful & Knowledgeable
  • Strategic & Goal Directed

UDL emphasizes three aspects of the learning process: engagement, representation, and action. Each of these critical areas is important for students to succeed in their academics.

Strategies for UDL

Teachers with a learning focused mindset provide options in each of the three goals of UDL to help students succeed. For example, they can offer ways to sustain effort and persistence, use different language and symbols, or improve expression and communication skills. Doing so can help students better understand the material, stay motivated, and express themselves more effectively.

Firstly, engagement is achieved through options teachers provide for sustaining effort and self-regulation. Teachers must engage students in their learning to retain information and stay on task.

Secondly, representation is achieved through language and symbols that help comprehension.

Lastly, action is achieved through the options teachers provide for students’ expression, communication, and executive functions. 

This TEDx Talk shares a powerful testimony about the impact of UDL on students and communities:

The UDL Guidelines provide educators with a framework to implement Universal Design for Learning in their classrooms. This approach to teaching and learning takes into account the different ways humans learn and provides strategies to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities.

Find detailed information about UDL here.

Strategies for Classroom Management

A variety of strategies are available to learning focused teachers to accommodate different types of learners. Educators must choose strategies that meet the needs of their students and align with the desired outcomes of the lesson. By doing so, teachers can set their classrooms up for success.

First and foremost, it is important for teachers to set up the classroom environment to manage all the bodies coming and going. Managing disruptions in an efficient and respectful way are the first step. Instead of handling disruptions after they’ve happened, it can be more effective to set up conditions in which they are less likely to occur.

Here are seven classroom strategies:

  1. Greet Students at the Door
  2. Establish, Maintain, and Restore Relationships
  3. Use Reminders and Cues
  4. Optimize Classroom Seating
  5. Give Specific Praise
  6. Set clear expectations
  7. Actively Supervise
  8. Be Consistent in Applying Rules
  9. Meeting Student’s Individual Needs

Managing interactions between students and teachers and students is an important aspect of developing learning focused instructional strategies. This post explores strategies for managing interaction:

Strategies for Managing Student’s Exceptional Needs

One of the most important aspects of being an effective teacher is knowing how to meet the individual needs of each student in your classroom. While some students may be able to thrive in a more traditional educational setting, others may benefit from different types of instruction or accommodations. As such, you must take the time to learn about the various available strategies and then choose those that will work best for your students.

For instance, you may find that students with learning disabilities will benefit from meeting with special education teachers and administrators in your school district to learn more about learning disability accommodations and services. Or, students who struggle with reading comprehension may benefit from reading study skills lessons, while students struggling to write complete sentences may need help developing their sentence structure.

Adapt Lesson Plans

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to education, and this rings especially true when considering the needs of individual students. Therefore, to be an effective teacher, it is crucial to adapt your lesson plans and teaching strategies to best meet the needs of each student in your classroom. Doing so can ensure that all your students are engaged in their learning and achieving positive outcomes.

Needing to adapt lessons is true even if you’re only teaching a single student. Many of us will have the opportunity to work with a variety of students each year. For example, you may have a student who needs some unique accommodation because of a learning disability. Then, the following year, you may have a student who requires accommodation because they have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

Differentiation of Instruction

Differentiation is a process of providing students with customized instruction based on their individual needs. This approach to teaching can be successful when teachers use ongoing assessment and flexible grouping. Differentiating content, process, learning aids, or the learning environment can help meet the needs of all learners.

Differentiating instruction in the classroom can look like many different things, but some standard practices include: assessing students’ learning regularly and adjusting content as needed; grouping students by shared interest, topic, or ability level for assignments; and designing lessons based on students’ learning styles. Creating a safe and supportive classroom environment is also crucial for differentiation to be effective.

Strategies for Differentiation of Instruction

Tiered assignments are a type of differentiated instruction where students are given different tasks to perform based on their comprehension skills. Tiered assignments allow all students to learn the same skill but at their level.

Choice boards allow students to select which activity they would prefer to complete to practice a skill that the teacher has selected. In addition, the board typically contains options for different learning styles, such as kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and tactile.

Teachers can help students move ahead in their learning by compacting the curriculum. Compacting curriculum involves:

  • Assessing student knowledge.
  • Excusing them from covering material they have already mastered.
  • Providing free time for them to work on accelerated skills.

By using these instructional strategies or differentiation of lessons, teachers can ensure that all students are challenged and supported according to their individual needs.

Summary

Teachers need to take the time to learn about various teaching and learning strategies to meet the individual needs of their students and then choose those that will work best. By doing this, they can ensure that their classrooms are set up for success.

References

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines | SABES. (n.d.). Www.sabes.org. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.sabes.org/content/universal-design-learning-guidelines

 UDL Guidelines Poster. (n.d.). CAST. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.cast.org/products-services/resources/cast-publishing/udl-guidelines-poster

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Educator and published author of conflict management and children's books. Living life to its fullest. I believe in courageously honouring my truth and living my legacy. Lover of meaningful conversations, coffee, food, art, and building connections. I love writing about my fascination with culture, food, adventure, self-love, and living a healthy and fulfilled life!

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