A new trimester has begun and one of my classes is Teaching, Learning and Assessing in the Digital Era. This week we have reviewed teaching strategies that provide “the most bang for the buck.” John Hattie and Robert Marzano each analyzed years of research and came up with their own list of effective teaching strategies. Teachers should be cautioned not to think of these strategies as a list of things to teach in isolation. Many strategies are often used simultaneously in a lesson. Teachers should also not exclusively use strategies with the largest effect size at the expense of other strategies. As with most things in teaching, a balanced approach is necessary. The success of these strategies depends on how effectively they are taught, the students’ experience and motivation, the type of activity or lesson, and many other factors.
Two strategies I explored this week were Marzano’s summarizing and note-taking, and Hattie’s spaced practice. As a strategy, summarizing and note-taking helps students to digest difficult texts and solidify their understanding of the material. Skills like summarizing and note-taking cannot be taught just once. It takes practice over time for students to master these skills. Once mastered at one level, students still need to practice summarizing and note-taking with increasingly complex texts.
I incorporated these strategies into a lesson idea about teaching argumentative writing skills to seventh graders. Students will watch engaging videos of spoken word poems and answer the question: How does the author make his/her argument? They will take notes using Google Docs to trace the author’s argument throughout the performance. The focus for the notes will be on identifying the argument and the text-based evidence the author provides for the argument. This can be done as a whole-class activity, with students sharing notes and the teacher recording ideas. With repeated, spaced practice, students will eventually write “flash drafts,” or five-minute quickwrites based on topics related to the videos.
While using technology such as videos or Google Docs can be motivating for students, technology alone is not the basis for a strong lesson. It is important for teachers to have a clear goal in mind first, and then use technology that will help them meet that goal. For example, the activity above addresses the following strands from the Common Core State Standards: argumentative writing, close reading, citing text evidence and analyzing the author’s point of view. By using a variety of Marzano’s and Hattie’s teaching strategies, teachers can help students grasp the standards in various formats over time. To summarize, the key to a successful lesson: know the goal, leverage technology to achieve the goal, incorporate effective teaching strategies.