At Foxfire School in Yonkers, teachers Ivan Vasquez and Lucia Ricciardi have seen their students, especially students with disabilities, blossom in response to some explicit teaching strategies they are implementing. The students show increased focus and on-task behavior. Ivan has seen a reduction in anxiety as students learn that every one of them will have to respond, every one of them will make mistakes, but every one of them will be supported in arriving at the correct response. Lucia has seen a significant increase in student engagement and participation and in students’ ability to answer critical thinking questions, to dig deeper into the text and to share their findings with each other.

What are the strategies?

Ivan and Lucia have added multiple explicit teaching strategies to their toolbox. Here are a few:

  • Introducing, teaching and maintaining routines. Lucia uses SLANT, or “Sit up-Listen-Ask & Answer Questions-Nod Your Head if You Understand-Track the Listener”, to teach her students how to be active learners throughout a lesson. Ivan uses prompts to remind both his students and himself to use routines. He has posters around the classroom prompting use of classroom routines like “Tell, Show, and Do” and “Check for Understanding”.
  • All students responding all the time. Ivan uses student response strategies in every lesson that require every student to respond. He might have them write and display responses on white boards or index cards or give verbal responses in a whip-around or in think-pair-share and/or read-write-pair-share activities. Lucia uses “Cold Call” so students don’t raise hands to answer questions—she randomly calls on students to respond. Students know they might be called at any time.
  • Corrective feedback. Both Ivan and Lucia note the importance of ensuring that every student knows that errors are acceptable and that they will be supported in arriving at correct answers. Lucia notes that when a student either answers incorrectly or not at all she might call on another student for the correct answer, but she always goes back to the first student to let him or her also give the correct answer. Ivan notes the importance of pair-share activities in this regard. Students have the opportunity to support each other in arriving at the correct answer and to rehearse responses before being called on.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • Explicit and direct instructional strategies work! They allow teachers to engage all students in successfully mastering complex concepts.