Vocabulary and Involving Learners

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Modelling

How can I ensure learners are involved with the modelling processes?

As has been alluded to throughout the techniques discussed on the pages within this section, and much like explanation techniques, modelling affords plenty of opportunity to direct questions to students to check for understanding and enrich the discussions. This page in the first instance is just an attempt to simply and clarify that as much as possible. Questions ensure that our students have been listening and allow us to catch any misconceptions and when it comes to questions to support modelling there are two key ones we can ask readily as we work through steps in front of a class:

  1. What am I doing? – the descriptive question
  2. Why am I doing this? – the explanatory question

These two questions can be used almost rapid-fire, directed at many different students at many different points in the model. It is often common place in Physical Education lessons when a new practical skill is being introduced and the teacher is demonstrating this and will constantly ask the class to articulate what they are doing so they can internalise the technique. It works for all subjects though! Take this example from ‘Making Every Lesson Count’ which shows just how many probing questions can occur during one modelled demonstration (in this case javelin throwing in PE):

How am I holding the javelin? Tell me what my hand is doing?…Tom

Why am I gripping it this way?…Holly

How would you describe my run-up?…Donna

Why did I fully extend my front leg on release?…Hallie

Why will the javelin got further if I release from this point rather than that point?…Dylan

What are the dangers of holding it like this?…Rashid

Also notice how this teacher asks the question first then adds a slight pause before directing it to a student. This way they all have to listen and are expected to mentally rehearse an answer before someone is picked.

Deliberate vocabulary development

In order for students to become fluent in the use of complex terms and language we need to consider how learning the vocabulary becomes a deliberate part of our modelling and this can involve learners directly in the process. Students with weak prior knowledge and vocabulary development really struggle with progressing their learning so this strategy from ‘Teaching Walkthrus’ can help:

  1. Specify and Define the Words: Compile a list or glossary that you know will be important for learners to know, or if using texts and resources consider making these words stand out more. Provide the definitions for these words in a way students will understand; it is not possible to effectively learn new terminology unless meaning can be applied.
  2. Say the words out loud: Use various methods to ensure learners can say the required words, whether in pairs where they speak a word and definition to each other, as a class chorally (helpful for pronunciation) and common when learning languages, or individually selecting learners to tackle a word and definition.
  3. Provide the words in context: Then move on to texts or comprehension tasks where they key language appears. This aids understanding. You could either learn the words before hand or interrupt the text when new key words crop up.
  4. Verbal and written practice: Students should practice using the words through oracy and in their writing. Speaking/sounding out proposed written responses is also helpful. David Didau, in his work around literacy, has suggested that “if you can say it, you can write it”.
  5. Make use of retrieval practice: Glossaries and knowledge organisers that can be used at intervals to practice and test target vocabulary as a revision aid, and a checking aid after attempting to recall an answer. Space the retrieval testing out (ask for definitions, correct use in a sentence, or written down etc) with it likely occurring more often to begin with and then introducing greater time gaps as recall improves.

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.
  • David Didau, LearningSpy.co.uk: Back to School Part 3: Literacy – https://learningspy.co.uk/literacy/back-school-part-3-literacy/