#28 When modelling, do an example in real-time
It stops simple processes appearing overly complex
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I think a lot about modelling and worked examples. Ever since I started experimenting with my Silent Teacher approach almost a decade ago, the modelling phase of a lesson has been the one that interests me the most. It is students’ first experience of a new idea, and the first experience of anything is significant. I discuss my current thinking and experimenting on worked examples with Ollie Lovell in the third of our Tools and Tips for Teachers monthly collaborations.
Here I want to reflect on a mistake I have still been making after all these years: students never get to see me perform a procedure in real-time.
During Silent Teacher I deliberately go slowly, pausing at critical points to give my students an opportunity to consider what I have just done, and what I might do next. During the We Do part of the process, I ask my students to write the next line of working on their mini-whiteboards, hover when ready, and show me in 3, 2, 1… We do this for each line of working, which of course slows things down. Finally, in the You Do part of the process, students work through a problem on their own.
Because students never get to see me perform a procedure in real-time, a 20-second procedure actually comes across as a 2-minute procedure. I think there are two problems with this:
Performing a procedure slowly and methodically may give the impression that it is harder than it actually is, which may put off some students.
By performing a procedure slowly and methodically, students may never develop the fluency and automaticity necessary to free up attention to use that skill to solve more complex problems
Now, none of this is to say we should rush through the modelling phase. Of course, it is crucial we slow down and draw students’ attention to critical parts of the process. But, I think we should also make time to show students what the process looks like from start to finish when a relative expert does it. For me, this comes after Silent Teacher and the subsequent reflection, but before the We Do: “Now we have thought hard about this, let’s watch it play out in real time”. This shows our students what they can aspire towards.
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