MODEL CLASSROOM CRITERIA
The following should be consistently implemented to meet goals for students:
In order for all lessons to be completed in the teaching day, schedules must be followed closely. If a teacher is even five minutes late, a group may not be able to finish a small group lesson, some critical tasks may be missed, and the equivalent of one and a half months teaching is lost during the school year. Use of time is critical if we are to reach the goal of teaching each child to his/her full potential. Schedule should be posted in classroom.
Completing a lesson each day in the small groups must be a top priority for each teacher. If high groups are taught a lesson a day and follow skipping procedures from the mastery tests, an average of 7 lessons will be taught per week in Reading and Arithmetic. High groups should be accelerated by using a fast cycle program or a skipping schedule. Middle groups should be taught one lesson each day. Low groups should be taught one lesson a day as well, although their weekly gain may be lower because lessons may be repeated for firming. DATA: Lesson number-day in program should be posted in the classroom.
At times a group will not complete a lesson during the small group period due to a delayed schedule, a difficult lesson, or children who need more repetition and firm-up. These groups should be completed later in the day. Teachers should have criterion time scheduled or, if necessary, other class activities should be pre-empted so the core academic areas can be completed. An uncompleted lesson should be made up daily, or the children will fall behind. With higher performing groups, the teacher may be able to skip lessons or combine lessons to make up a loss in lesson gain. However, student mastery of the tasks is the ultimate goal. By firming and completing lessons daily, the teacher can ensure progression through the program as well as mastery.
Group size. The size of the group should be appropriate to the age, social maturity and academic level of the students. It is important to remember that in small group instruction, the teacher is responsible for evaluation of the answers of each student. Therefore, the group size may also depend on the experience of the teacher in evaluating and analyzing student responses. If attention cannot be paid to each student, the group is too large. Therefore, the slowest-processing group should be the smallest group.
Students can see teachers and materials. The teachers should be aware of the position of their hands, fingers or body parts so that they don't block visual material that students have to see. For example, the teacher's body may block the chalkboard writing for a student or two seated at the end of the row. It may also happen that a teacher's arm or finger partially obscures a printed word or picture in the Teacher Presentation Book.
Seating arrangement.. All distracting objects should be removed. The chairs or desks are arranged to allow the teacher easy monitoring of everyone in the group. If the group is large, teacher should walk among students in order to monitor. In small groups, the slowest processors or students with the most academic problems should be seated directly in front of the teacher to be frequently monitored. If students are allowed to sit on the floor, it may take extra time and energy to keep their attention. Young children or immature learners need to sit within touching distance of the teacher for purposes of reinforcement and for touching teacher-held materials without leaving their chairs. If a table is used, consider its necessity and if it is inhibiting attention or performance of the students.
Monitoring responses. The teacher's attention should be on the students not on the book. If the students are writing, the teacher should be watching their papers. If the students are answering, the teacher should be watching their faces.
All signals have the same purpose: to allow each student enough think time so that they can initiate their own responses and so that the teacher is controlling the pacing of the presentation by a cue for simultaneous group response. A response is considered simultaneous when all students respond together and individuals are not cueing from other students. Criterion: 90% of all group responses should be simultaneous.
A signal should consist of three parts: an "attention" portion to let students see or hear or think about what they need to respond to; a "get ready" portion that tells students to prepare themselves for an immediate answer; and a "response" portion that actually elicits the answer. The parts may happen in a fast, consecutive order. The last two portions--"get ready" and "response"--must follow quickly. If not, the purpose of the "get ready" is lost. Sometimes a fourth part--a "release" portion--is needed.
The type of signal used varies with the type of task. The most common signals are those that elicit responses while the students are looking at the teacher or some visual material--a touching signal. Other signals are for use with students who are looking at their own material, such as a story or a math problem. In order for the students to respond correctly, they must continue to look at the material, rather than the teacher. This signal used is an auditory signal-a tap, clap, or snap.
Appropriate pacing contributes to student attentiveness and reduces errors. Students are usually more attentive to variant fast-paced instruction. However, providing fast-paced instruction does not mean that a teacher rushes students, requiring them to answer before they have had time to determine the answer. A pause for thinking (appropriate to difficulty of task) should be included before signals to respond. A teacher's pacing can be measure by counting the number of students responses (group and individual) and dividing by the number of minutes that elapsed during data collection. The rate of pacing will certainly vary with the types of tasks, however, if the students have been taught how to work in a small group and if the teacher is prepared, the children should be responding to an academic task at least 10 times every minute (6 seconds between each response). If the teacher has to interrupt the lesson to attend to behavior problems, the number of child responses will be fewer. The goal is to teach each child the expected group behavior so most of the group time is spent learning academics.
Transitions from exercise to exercise and from activity to activity are fast and efficient. Students are taught how to come and go to instructional group. Most Direct Instruction lessons take a full 35 minutes to teacher (45 minutes in 3rd level up). A teacher must be prepared to use all the scheduled time in teaching the lesson. A teacher is prepared, has teaching materials at hand, and has the classroom organized, so that valuable teaching time is not lost.
The words, or the script, of a lesson was carefully analyzed and decided upon when the DI materials were developed. In order to effectively present a lesson (or formats within the lesson), it is important that the teacher practices the script. This ensures that pronunciation and intonation as well as the speed and smoothness of delivery is of the best quality so that maximum learning is conveyed through the words presented in a spontaneous sounding manner. Teachers can maintain a groups' attending behaviors by varying the voice from warm and friendly, calm and enthusiastic, conspiring/whispering. If teacher delivery is unexciting, group behavior will reflect that delivery. Teachers sometimes unconsciously cue the correct response for the students by silently mouthing responses with students; this, of course, should be avoided.
Many rules and explanations of basic skill learning include key or pivotal words that, if properly stressed, let the students know which words to pay attention to. Stressing key words in the script aids rapid learning and develops meaning. When students encounter later tasks that are closely related and dependent on the student being firm on these key words, they will have problems if these words weren't used or stressed.
Generally, instructional personnel should closely follow scripted wording during the first year of presenting a program or until rationale for specific wording is clearly understood; only when modifications effectively convey the same message as original script should they be attempted. For example, saying "what sound?" is as clear as "get ready" on sounds page.
Teachers have individual styles of interacting with students; however, most of those interactions should be positive. During instruction, to motivate the students to be attentive and work hard to respond correctly the first time an exercise is presented, the teacher should state specific positive expectations for behavior and academic performance. Each correct response can then be confirmed and reinforced by the teacher repeating the response with a word of praise, especially for tasks that are new or difficult. If the exercise includes tasks that are relatively easy for students, the exercise can be the unit for reinforcement, with praise offered at the end of the exercise.
Most praise comments should be about academic performance rather than for prerequisite attending behaviors (e.g., eyes on book, etc.). A Teacher vs Group Challenge Game can provide the appropriate structured reinforcement system that places priority on first-time correct academic performance. Students earn points (toward a preferred activity or other reward) by responding correctly the first time to an exercise and fewer points when the exercise is repeated after corrections. Students can also earn points for working on task during extended firming practice. The only way the teacher earns points is for students' inattentive or off-task behavior. If the teacher earns a preset number of points, all the previously-earned student points are erased; thus, there are positive consequences for working hard and performing academically and a negative consequence for not working. To be effective, points need to be awarded quickly and paired with specific praise comments. A reinforcement system with points is effective for encouraging accuracy on independently completed work.
All the children should be engaged in the group. A quick scan may be taken of each child to see if they are watching the teacher or the book, and responding. If a child is not attending or responding, the teacher should correct the child. Non-responding is treated like academic error.
The teacher should be listening and watching the children so that any error or questionable response (mumbling, quiet answering) or drony and loud response is corrected immediately. RULE: Whatever we practice, we get good at. So, if we allow a learner to practice incorrect responses, we can assume that they will just get better at making errors. If the error is made during a group response, the correction should be done with the group. The part-firming procedure should be used: model correct response, repeat task, complete exercise, repeat exercise, and finally, give individual turns. Teacher should not lead the group through a response unless the error was on a motor-type response (e.g. pronunciation, repeating a series of words or numbers, etc.).
On difficult tasks or tasks for which students have previously made errors, teachers should provide pre-correction or prompt (e.g., "Remember there's an 'e' on the end of this word.") and reinforce correct responding. If prompts have been given the first time through an exercise, the teacher should repeat the exercise without prompts and then give individual turns.
The teacher should be motivating students to respond correctly the first time through each exercise. Even though some errors may be expected during group instruction, the group should have a 75% first-time correct rate. If students are making more errors, they will become frustrated and learning will become punishing. The teacher needs to be sure complete corrections are done, more individual turns and more frequent review are done; then consider placing students at a lower lesson level where they can perform at a 75% success rate.
After corrections, to insure mastery, the teacher presents accumulative review of task in which the error occurred. The goal is to review the missed task, gradually increasing the amount of time between the successful reviews, so that the students remember the correct answer over a long period of time.
Having a child do a task alone, without help, is the only sure test of mastery. The teacher should call on individual children as a spot check of teaching after most group tasks. The teacher should ask children to do different tasks, as opposed to having every child answer the same question. Since most of the teaching and practice have taken place during the group turns, the children should be able to do most of the tasks without mistakes.
The teacher should be focusing on lower performing children by giving them at least half of the individual turns. If the lower performing children have mastered a task, the higher performers have probably mastered the task as well. Lower performers can be spotted by the errors they make in group through data from Mastery Tests, or through worksheet errors. Individual turns should always be given after an error has been made and the group has been corrected.
Responses to Independent Work
Worksheets. The Direct Instruction worksheets can function as a daily test of the children's skills. After children have been introduced to new skills and have been lead through the tasks by the teacher, they are given these skills on the independent worksheets. If the children can work the problems with few errors, they have been taught well. If the children are having trouble, the teacher can see which areas need review or practice. It is critical that the worksheets are corrected daily. Teachers and children should receive daily feedback. It is also important for children to correct the errors and receive additional help so they will succeed at these problems the next day.
Additional seatwork. Children should be able to complete the Direct Instruction worksheets for each subject (at levels 1 and 2) in 20 minutes. Therefore, additional seatwork that the children can do without help is required. This seatwork should teach academic skills rather than "busy work." The programs include some writing and spelling work, but teachers should provide supplementary activities in both areas that is appropriate to the students' skill level and require only brief introduction from teacher.
Individual or group performance data. There is sometimes a discrepancy between a student's performance in a group situation and in an individual setting. Some indicators of individual mastery could be: reading part or all of a story (note fluency and accuracy), and looking at independent portions of worksheets in comprehension and math programs. Teachers should be keeping records of students' performances on In-Program Mastery Tests that occur within many of the DI programs.
Group mastery indicators might involve such measures as: total number of errors during group story readings and keeping error data summaries of independent worksheet or workbook task performance.
Positive Learning Environment
The classroom should be a pleasant place for the students both in terms of the physical atmosphere (well organized, work displayed, bulletin boards, etc.) and the positive interactions that occur throughout the day.