Live Modelling

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Modelling

Worked examples and backward fading

Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) suggests that if the cognitive load exceeds our processing capacity, we will struggle to complete the activity successfully, so to combat this novices learn more successfully from studying a series of complete worked examples of problems/tasks before trying to solve problems independently. This works because cognitive load is reduced if you learn the method separately from applying it a problem. showing worked examples facilitates this, and backward fading is an approach where a teacher gradually moves learners from guided to independent practice. This technique is outlined in ‘Teaching Walkthrus: Five Step Guides to Instructional Coaching’ by Tom Sherrington and Oliver Caviglioli:

  1. Step One – Fully Worked to Introduce the Method or Ideas: Introduce the first example of a question you are aiming for students to be able to answer. Go through the problem on the board, producing a model answer, talking through what you do as you write (this works better than showing the final product on a PowerPoint slide). With the full answer now in view, go over each step you did again quickly and perhaps ask questions like “What did I do here?”, “Why did I write this phrase/this value?”
  2. Step Two – Fully Worked for Reinforcement: Repeat as with Step One, pointing out any ways this second example is similar to the first, or any ways it is subtly different. The aim is to reinforce the modelled approach. Again, remember to narrate your thinking and ask the questions along the way “How is this similar to example 1?”, “What am I doing here?”
  3. Step Three – Partially Worked, Students to Finish Off: This time, begin to answer the question, perhaps doing the first line or two (if it is a maths or science calculation for example, or a sentence starter if a written response). Then given time prompt students to complete the rest, check for answers, errors and any variations/misunderstandings.
  4. Step Four – Starter’s Orders: Students should now be ready to practice more. Set one or more questions but provide a few key verbal instructions or reminders and then signal that they can begin.
  5. Step Five – Complete Independently: When ready students now work on more questions like those covered but independently. Stress the need to follow the modelled method. Follow up with relevant self-assessment, checks for accuracy, provide some challenging questions etc.

This approach works for many subject topics where rehearsal and repetition will be of benefit.

I do, We do, You do

Backward fading discussed above follows similar principles to the approach of ‘I do, We do, You do’ when it comes to modelling and introducing content. Essentially it is about a gradual release of responsibility.

Developed by Ellen Levy (2007)

As a teaching and content delivery approach this can be made into a consistently experienced activity for students in classrooms with examples of schools having used PowerPoint slides or presentations that clearly flag which part of the lesson is the starter/do now task (with some great retrieval practice!) and then has the I do, We do, You do sections colour coded and linked as the slides progress.

Example of an I do, We do, You do template from Harris Academy Bermondsey

Can you prepare your models in advance?

Much of what has been discussed above is reliant on ‘live’ modelling, working through the process in front of the class. An advantage perhaps of preparing models in advance is that you can really fine tune aspects of it, and produce something that is more substantial by way of a model answer or response (that can be re-used and recycled) in terms of a model essay, a model solution to an extended maths problem etc.

When preparing models in advance we try to view it through the eyes of our students, in terms of the language we are using and how it is presented and then consider how we will deconstruct it with them when all together. Andy Tharby illustrates this point by sharing a model response style paragraph to a poem a class would be studying:

Andy Tharby’s modelled paragraph in response to the poem, ‘Mid-Term Break’. Prepared in advance.

When the class are then together with Andy he ensures he takes the opportunity to refer to any successful features and discusses why/what makes it successful: the first sentence referring back to a previous paragraph, the writer using short, embedded quotations, the effect of words are analysed such as ‘corpse’, the last sentence adds the writer’s thoughts and emotions. The model paragraph and the examples of success then work together to provide the class with the structure they need to go on and attempt the next paragraph or write in the same way about another aspect of the poem (if you gave them the exact same excerpt and task you may just end up with copies of the teacher’s).

Associated further reading and references:

  • ‘Chapter 3: Modelling’, in Allison, S. and Tharby, A., 2017. Making Every Lesson Count. Carmarthen: Crown House.
  • Sherrington, T., and Caviglioli, O., 2020. TEACHING WALKTHRUS. [S.l.]: JOHN CATT EDUCATIONAL LTD.
  • Ellen Levy (developed by), 2007. – Gradual Release of Responsibility: I do, We do, You do