Insights from Direct Instruction part 1

I have been teaching DI schemes for a couple of years now, having first been made aware of Engelmann’s work via Joe Kirby’s blog post https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/direct-instruction/, which gives an excellent overview of the theory, approach and research base that supports it. The evidence base behind DI is wide ranging and robust: multiple large scale studies have been conducted over the past fifty years, demonstrating DI’s effectiveness.  This recent article gives some links: https://edexcellence.net/articles/direct-instruction-the-rodney-dangerfield-of-curriculum. Kris Boulton has helpfully collated a number of resources and texts that explain the theory and evidence behind DI and you can find these here.

I teach Expressive Writing 2 and Corrective Reading B1 and B2; I have also set up a decoding intervention using Corrective Reading Decoding. Soon, I will be buying Spelling Through Morphographs in order to set up a spelling intervention.

Put simply, teaching these schemes and reading more about the theory behind DI has made me a more thoughtful and diligent teacher. While in the past, my approach to curriculum planning used to be the sum total of the number of lessons in a term, I now tackle it in a far more methodical and systematic way. This will be the first in a series of posts looking at what we can learn from Engelmann’s theory and approach.

DI book cover

While actual, published DI schemes take years to write, develop, test and refine, containing a daunting level of complexity, precision and detail, I will summarise some key ideas from Successful and Confident Students with Direct Instruction, a book that explains some general DI principles that can be applied to everyday teaching.

1) ‘A program design that supports mastery does not present great amounts of new information and skill training in each lesson. Rather, work is distributed so new parts in a lesson account for only 10-15 percent of the total lesson’ p.12

Only 15% of a lesson is new learning! 15%! 85% is spent practising, reviewing and recapping previous learning. Novices require extended practice and repeated exposure to new material if they are to truly master it. I would suggest that this percentage distribution is at best an exact inversion of how teaching is approached in many classrooms. Thinking of learning in terms of discrete, separate lessons combined with a fixation on variety, novelty and pace at all costs means that we may be making it hard for our students to master things. Quickly moving through content with no thought as to the necessity of recap and extended practice will almost always result in a lack of mastery and proficiency from students. Although I do not replicate this percentage distribution-my planning not being effective and efficient enough and the content being too wide to fit into the limited time that we have-since teaching DI schemes, I have massively increased the amount of practice and recap that I do.

2) ‘nothing is taught in one lesson. Instead, new concepts and skills are presented in two or three consecutive lessons to provide students with enough exposure to new material that they are able to use it in applications.’ p.12

If you present new information to students once, you can make a fairly safe bet that they will forget it. This is why retrieval practice is so important as it prevents forgetting. If we are going to ask students to complete ‘applications’ (in English this may be writing paragraphs or essays), then we need to ensure that they retain and are able to use the relevant pieces of knowledge (plot details, vocabulary, sentence constructions, analytical skills etc.) before doing so. A typical DI lesson will contain new material, material from the last few lessons that is ‘being firmed’ and material from earlier in the sequence which, because students have demonstrated sufficient proficiency and competency in restricted drills and practice exercises, is now being used in wider problem solving and freer applications. I wrote about how extended retrieval practice across different lessons can help students move from restricted recall to wider and freer application here. The post explores how to move students from inflexible to flexible knowledge, describing an approach that is heavily indebted to DI planning and sequences.

3) ‘The systematic stairway design does not provide relief because skills and knowledge do not go away. Once introduced, they are used throughout the rest of the program, either as elements that are used regularly (such as a word type that is learned), as details that are embedded in the problems and applications…or as items that are frequently reviewed’ p.14-15

Making choices as to the utility of what you teach is important: as mentioned in this post, choosing and teaching vocabulary that can be used across units and years means that the knowledge ‘will not go away’. Although it may be hard to plan for the usage and practice of a concept or skill across an entire unit or even curriculum, we should be trying as much as possible to do so. As mentioned here, we try to choose words to teach that have high utility-words that can be used across texts, units and school years.

4) ‘Most programs do not teach to mastery…Students will work on a particular unit for a few days and then it will be replaced by another unit that is not closely related to the first and that does not require application of the same skills and knowledge. This design, referred to as a “spiral curriculum”, is more comfortable for the program designers, teachers and students; however, it is inferior for teaching skills and knowledge’ p.16

Since teaching DI sequences, I am now hyperaware of the flaws and inadequacies of conventional medium and long term planning. The idea of a ‘spiral curriculum’ is common across subjects: in English it might mean ‘doing’ poetry once a year for five years in the hope that if they don’t get it the first time, there will be further opportunities to do so. While the spiral approach to curriculum planning is common place across subjects, Engelmann points out a number of flaws. Firstly, it creates a low expectation for performance as students are merely ‘exposed’ to content without any real expectation for mastery. Secondly, students quickly come to realise that the information and concepts that are being taught are temporary and will soon be replaced with another unit that ‘does not require application of skills and knowledge from the previous unit’. It is almost as if the spiral curriculum, by its very design and approach, reinforces apathy and a lack of application: if you knew that you would not need to use or be asked to use a concept again, then it might be entirely rational to give it less than the desired level of effort and thought. Disposable content fosters indifference.

The alternative to a spiral curriculum, and the approach favoured by Engelmann’s DI schemes, is called the strand curriculum. This paper provides a useful comparison between spiral and strand curricula, focussing on Maths.spiral

In Expressive Writing, a DI corrective writing scheme that I teach which is aimed at helping students who write with poor grammar, bad punctuation and little coherence in their compositions, items are taught across multiple lessons and combined with other items to form a ‘strand curriculum’. In total, there are 55 carefully and methodically sequenced lessons. Exemplifying the premise that knowledge ‘does not go away’, the course teaches students to identify the parts of a sentence from lesson 1-10, then again intermittently from lessons 16-27. Capitals and full stops are taught from lesson 1-3, 11-14, and then intermittently from 16-55. All lessons end with a freer application (writing a story in this case) where students are required to apply ‘the same skills and knowledge’ from the drills and restricted practice activities earlier in the lesson and course.

Our English curriculum is deliberately narrow in terms of the types of texts that we ask students to write, focussing on ‘The Big Three’: analysis (responding to texts-a broad text type!); rhetoric (argument and persuasion) and descriptive/creative. The majority of student writing is focussed on analysis as the broad genre of responding to texts has the highest utility, applicable to all responses in literature and the reading responses in language. The finer details between different exam questions can be taught as exam technique in year 11: their core is broadly the same, sharing more similarities than differences. The three broad text types cover all literature and language questions, as well as hopefully providing a useful springboard for A-level and beyond. By narrowing our focus, we are able to go deeper and ensure that students hopefully master three, rather than being exposed to many and mastering none. Students know that subsequent units will ‘require application of the same skills and knowledge’. These ‘skills and knowledge’ are things like speech structure and rhetorical techniques for rhetoric; sentence structures for descriptive writing and our analytical approach (tentatively dubbed The 6 skills) for all forms of analysis and responding to texts, not to mention high-utility vocabulary that is applicable across units and texts. Our units deliberately attempt to intertwine all these aspects, containing elements from all three text types, deliberate sentence practice (see here for an overview), vocabulary and more. Although it is a million miles away from the level of rigour and complexity contained within DI schemes, it is an attempt to move beyond the flawed model of disposable, forgettable and separated units of unconnected lessons.

When choosing what items to teach, plan to teach them across multiple lessons, moving from a start point of restricted recall to an end point of freer application, as described in this post. We should also stop thinking of the ideal lesson as having one focus and one objective: instead, a lesson could have multiple foci: recalling, practising, ‘firming’ and applying items. As many others have pointed out, learning does not come in neat 60 minute chunks and our obsession with the lesson objective may not only be distorting our approach to curriculum planning, it may be actively lessening the efficacy of our teaching.

Next post: Insights from Direct Instruction part 2

 

Low Stakes Quizzing and Retrieval Practice Part 3

In my last post, I gave an overview of retrieval practice and how it can be informed by whole class feedback. In this post, I will go over some different retrieval strategies, including how to approach quotation memorisation.

I began my teaching career as an EFL teacher, teaching English abroad. On my CELTA course, the entry level training qualification to teach English as a Second Language, we were taught to plan lessons that followed a PPP model (Presentation, Practice, Production), a framework that matches most people’s understanding of a deliberate practice approach to instruction. With regards to the practice element, student would be asked to complete controlled practice (essentially limited and restricted practice activities) before attempting freer practice. This is nothing revolutionary and is the same as ‘I do, we do, you do’, or any other approaches to the gradual fading of support and scaffolding when teaching. With regards to retrieval practice, it is useful to think in similar terms: I want students to experience quick, initial success with restricted and decontextualised recall, aiming for the ability to use the item in gradually freer and wider contexts. As Daniel Willingham points out, ‘Inflexible knowledge seems to be the unavoidable foundation of expertise’ (See this AFT article on Inflexible knowledge from Winter 2002).

I teach some of Engelmann’s Direct Instruction programmes and one of the key maxims behind DI schemes of work, an approach called ‘The Strand Curriculum’, is that concepts are taught to and used by students across a number of lessons and weeks, the intention being not just retention but also fluency and mastery of the material. A gradual progression from restrictive, closed practice activities-things like closed recap questions at the start of a lesson-to wider and application based practice is also something that is common across DI programmes that I have encountered, one of the aims being to slowly and methodically convert ‘inflexible’ into more ‘flexible’ knowledge.

Here is an example of a possible journey of a test item-in this case a new vocabulary term-from narrow to wider tasks and moving from massed to spaced practice:

1) The vocabulary word is initially encountered in a vocabulary table (see this post for more information). The teacher may have asked students questions about it, annotated it with further information and provided examples and non-examples to help define it.

2) Student then use the word when annotating an extract

3) They then see the word used in a wider context, perhaps within a model paragraph that they deconstruct and annotate.

4) They are then asked to use the word in a paragraph of their own.

4) Next lesson: The word is included in a low stakes quiz. The teacher probably gives the first few letters to jog their memories. It will probably be included in the next two or three lessons’ quizzes too, each time with less clues and ending up with no clues.

5) A few lessons later: Students are asked to complete a because, but, so task, as explained in this blog

6) Later still, a student could be asked to complete mini pieces of analytical writing where they use and apply the word in a freer context, perhaps combining the word with other items like quotations, contextual knowledge, analytical approaches, specific sentence structures and plot information.

Examples:

Jekyll and Hyde: How is Hyde Presented? Include:

  • atavistic
  • CONTEXT: Victorian fears about science the enlightenment
  • volatile
  • QUOTATION: ‘snarled aloud into a savage laugh’
  • callous
  • semi-colon sentence
  • ANALYTICAL SKILL: 3 part explanation

 

Macbeth: How is Duncan presented? Include:

  • Meek
  • Benevolent
  • oblivious
  • CONTEXT: Flattering King James, validating Divine Right of Kings/Great Chain of Being
  • QUOTATION: ‘there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face’
  • appositive sentence (see here for an overview of teaching appositives)

 

Depending on the ability of the class and whether you think they have the relevant concepts stored in long term memory, you could either ask them to make a list of relevant points in response to the question before giving them things to include (retrieval practice) or you could explicitly tell them what to include.

The key premise here is the idea that concepts should be recycled across lessons and units, creating distributed practice activities that will help aid retention.

Memorising Quotations

Although I initially baulked at the idea of a closed book exam, I am now a convert to the idea that students should memorise quotations. Not only does it provide them with a solid knowledge base of a text, allowing them to anchor their thoughts when writing and providing sticking points for other concepts to attach themselves to, it also gives them confidence, something that is particularly evident with the weakest students. It also means that as teachers, we now need to know our texts that much better and, as a result of the last two years’ worth of closed book examinations, I know the texts that I teach far more comprehensively than I ever have before.

Here are some of the things that we did to address this new requirement:

1) Make lists of quotations, choosing lines that fit key characters and themes

This was a painstaking yet crucial first step, forcing us to think about the most salient and relevant parts of a text when seen through the lens of GCSE and A Level (we deliberately included some quotations that deal with themes and ideas that would push students beyond the requirements of KS4). The great works of literature are considered great for a reason and attempting to choose, prioritise and reduce them to a condensed list is always going to be difficult. Despite this difficulty, it needed doing: without a codified body of knowledge, retrieval practice and teaching for retention is all but impossible. For Macbeth, we listed quotations by scene, the intention being to aid understanding of the narrative arc and plotline by following it chronologically. For Jekyll and Hyde, we grouped them by character and theme. For Inspector Calls (arguably the most important one for students to learn parts of due to the lack of extract on the paper), we made 4 sets with no overarching organisational approach. The jury is still out in terms of which approach is best!

3) Upload them all in sets onto Quizlet

If you haven’t had a look at Quizlet, it is a free computer based memorisation programme. Some of our student use it regularly, finding it less tedious and more effective (it knows which items you perform badly on and prioritises retrieving those) than using traditional paper based self-quizzing.

2) We ask students to memorise them for homework

We explicitly taught and demonstrated how to approach self-quizzing so that students were able to take advantage of retrieval practice, taking care to explain that spreading their study over the week is a better and far less laborious approach than cramming the night before the test. Quotation learning homework is typically ‘lagged’ (the idea that students are studying one text in class, but learning quotations from a previous unit in order to better distribute practice). During the week that they are completing homework, I will include questions about their quotations in recap quizzes, again helping them understand whether they are on track and know the quotations (laser precise AfL!) as well as sometimes (particularly with weaker classes) giving them practice tests. We set the bar high, typically allowing students to fail two quotations out of the ten or so that they have to memorise. I explain that the pass mark is challenging because, if students use the strategies that we give to them and plan their sessions across the week, memorisation is achievable by almost everybody. This does not mean that all students are doing their homework-if only!

3) We test them

Initial tests are gap-fill, blocking out important words and usually providing the first letter to jog their memories.

4) We keep testing them, distributing practice across the unit, year or course.

As I mentioned earlier, the idea is to gradually move from restricted practice (gap fill test) to freer application, culminating in an essay response that uses the quotations. Here are some possible retrieval approaches and I have attempted to order them using this principle:

a) Start a lesson with a gap fill of the quotations

You could then annotate and then write using annotations (these could be teacher-led annotations or retrieval practice)

b) Write one quotation or gap fill on the board, then ask students to write for 5/10 mins about it

You could include explicit success criteria like mentioned in this post, setting high expectations as well as allowing you to give precise feedback

c) Start a lesson asking them to write down 3/5/7 quotes on a particular character/theme/idea

The idea here is to encourage students to make connections and deepen their knowledge of the items. You could provide the first few words for weaker students; again, this could be the beginning of a writing activity.

d) Model the planning of the essay response (paragraph titles) and then ask kids to match quotes to specific paragraphs

By providing them with an essay structure, we give them a framework to attach their quotations to, demonstrating how they fit into a freer more complex practice task.

e) Write essay question on the board and then ask kids to list quotes that are applicable:

You could make kids explicitly aware of parallel, equivalent questions that essentially ask the same thing:

E.G. Explore the idea of deception in Macbeth/Explore the theme of equivocation/Explore the theme of appearances vs reality (all essentially the same question!!!!)

E.G. Explore the theme of responsibility/How does An Inspector Calls comment on society?/ Explore the notion of community/ Explore the theme of inequality (all essentially the same question!!!)

This process of grouping problems according to their deep structure will hopefully help students deal with a range of potential exam questions, prompting them to apply the correct problem solving strategy. Experts intuitively see the deep structure of a problem, a skill that novice learner (our students) find difficult. Students can often get thrown by novel wording in a GCSE question and fail to realise that it is asking them about something that they know: making these links and drawing attention to the deep structure may help them to see past the surface structure (the wording of the question). If you want to find out more about the distinction between the surface structure and deep structure of problems, this AFT article is a fantastic introduction.

Next post: Insights from Direct Instruction: How can Engelmann’s theory and approach help with everyday teaching?

Low Stakes Quizzing and Retrieval Practice Part 2

In my last post, I outlined an approach to low stakes quizzing, focussing on vocabulary retrieval. Although vocabulary is important, there are a number of other things that I want my students to remember and apply. Like many other schools, we have begun developing knowledge organisers in an attempt to make clear what we believe to be the most important information in a particular unit. These ‘core knowledge’ documents contain crucial plot and character information, themes and facts about the socio-historical context of whatever text we are teaching. We have also begun to develop booklets, essentially home-made text books, so that knowledge is defined down to the word level. While knowledge organisers provide the core, the booklets allow us to define a wider associated domain, all of which is available for teachers to use in retrieval practice. As well as vocabulary, a typical low stakes quiz will ask questions about anything from the booklets. At present, we are approaching this in an ad hoc, spontaneous fashion, although I can see the potential for being more rigorous by aiming for optimum spacing between tests as well as thinking about the relative importance and utility of each concept that is being quizzed, prioritising the essential.

Here is a short sample quiz from a year 7 unit on Shakespearean rhetoric which exemplifies the range of questions that could be asked. Crucially, all the questions are about things that we have taught them from the booklets. (Although I have left them out here, as mentioned in the last post, students may be given clues and the answers may be followed up by further questions that deepen understanding or encourage students to make links):

1) What rhetorical technique involves a series of rhetorical questions? (key term from knowledge organiser)

2) In chronological order, write down the two monarchs who were on the throne during Shakespeare’s lifetime (information from a non-fiction text)

3) Who wrote Telephone Conversation and what country is he from? (question about previous unit)

4) Name two other famous playwrights who were Shakespeare’s contemporaries (information from a non-fiction text)

5) When did Queen Elizabeth ascend to the throne? (information from a non-fiction text)

6) Write a noun beginning with Emp….. that means the ability to understand and share the feelings of others (vocab from a vocab table…see this blog for more information about this resource)

7) Why was it difficult to be a Catholic in Elizabethan England? (information from a non-fiction text)

8) What is a pause in the middle of a line of poetry called? (question about a previous unit)

9) What adjective beginning with profi….. means competent and skilled? (vocab word highlighted in non-fiction text)

10) What was the system of racial segregation in South Africa called? (question from a previous unit)

 

Again, the purpose of these quizzes is to take advantage of the testing effect in order to promote retention. We don’t mark them or record scores. Quizzes should be cumulative, asking about things from yesterday, last week, last month and previous years.

Whole Class Feedback and Low Stakes Quizzing

Whole Class Feedback is a revelation, saving time for teachers and encouraging a focus on weaknesses, misconception and gaps in student understanding. If you want to know how to approach it, there have been plenty of influential and informative blogs that explain the process in detail: see this (https://readingallthebooks.com/2016/03/19/giving-feedback-the-michaela-way/)  from Jo Facer, one from Daisy Christodolou (https://thewingtoheaven.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/feedback-and-english-mocks/) and this from Mrthorntonteach (https://mrthorntonteach.com/2016/04/08/marking-crib-sheet/).

This approach links in perfectly with low stakes quizzing as you can compile a list of errors which can then be added to your recap quiz in order to help student make corrections. If you are worried about the fact that whole class feedback means that some students will be asked to practise or retrieve things that they were previously able to do, therefore wasting their time, the concept of overlearning seems to suggest that extra practice beyond the point of initial mastery aids long term retention. (see this blog for a useful overview of overlearning: http://www.learningspy.co.uk/featured/should-students-be-overlearning/ )

Here are some examples:

1) If a student spells antithetical wrong, include it in the quiz. Ask them to spell it, then write the correct spelling under the visualiser and they can then check and amend if necessary. Ask them to spell the noun and the adverb too!

2) If students have made a poor word choice and failed to use a more precise word, write the weak sentence and ask them to replace the word. Again, this is not vocabulary brainstorming-an activity that flatters yet fails to stretch the word-rich and disadvantages or ignores the word poor; I would ask them to replace the word with one that you have taught them, which is a far more equitable approach:

Weak sentence: Gerald was able to use Eva Smith because she was poor.

TASK: Replace the underlined words with more precise and sophisticated vocabulary.

Possible answer: Gerald was able to exploit Eva Smith because she was destitute.

Like other quiz questions, you can give them clues-the purpose is for them to successfully retrieve the word from memory. If they are successful, the memory’s durability will hopefully have been strengthened.

With this particular activity, you can ask them use write more complex sentences if they are able to:

As a result of her destitution, Gerald was able to exploit Eva and ‘install her’ as his mistress.

Destitute and vulnerable, Eva Smith was easily exploited by Gerald, a man of wealth, power and status who must have seemed like a ‘fairy prince’.

In a future post, I will write about how Whole Class Feedback can further inform the deliberate practice of sentence structures, ensuring that you teach, practice and recap areas of weakness (a precise approach to Assessment for Learning).

In the next post, I will explore how we help students succeed in closed book literature exams by asking them to memorise quotations, as well as looking at other retrieval practice strategies.

Low Stakes Quizzing and Retrieval Practice Part 1

When I began teaching, I thought that a starter activity was there to ‘engage’ students in the learning, perhaps by providing some form of irresistible conundrum or puzzle for them to work out or maybe a multi-media, pyrotechnic laser show to wow them into compliance, competency and submission. By creating overblown and incredibly time consuming activities, I thought that my lessons would be memorable, burning themselves into the minds of my awestruck students and ensuring 100% retention. The lesson was everything: I thought of learning in 60 minute episodes. Learning over time, and by implication the notion of long term retention, was not something that I really considered, dazzled as I seemed to be by the allure and promise of engagement, novelty and the hallowed ‘hook’.

Oh how wrong I was! Not only was this desire for novelty and edutainment exhausting, but it implicitly sent the message to my students that my subject needed to be made more interesting, thereby giving them the impression that it was inherently boring in the first place. Worse than this, my focus on super-mega-wow starters categorically failed to help students to remember the information. Like the teacher who wanted students to appreciate, understand and remember the life of a slave through baking biscuits (see this article: https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/summer-2003/ask-cognitive-scientist), I had completely misunderstood how to ensure that students retain information-or more arrogantly, I had assumed that I knew!)

Since emerging from this muddled quagmire, long term retention has become one of my primary aims. Now, I generally start lessons in one of three ways:

1) Whole Class Feedback

2) Deliberate Practice of sentence constructions (some of which are explained here)

3) Low stakes Quizzing and retrieval practice

In this post, I will look at how I approach low stakes quizzing, a technique that has dramatically improved my students’ knowledge and motivation. If you are interested in an overview of retrieval practice, this concept map is really useful: http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/4/1-1.

Before beginning to discuss low stakes quizzing, it is important to recognise that there is one major prerequisite that you need: an explicitly codified curriculum that lists the content down to a fine grain, fact and word level. If you don’t explicitly state what it is you want students to remember, then it is difficult to keep track of what you want to quiz them on. Over the last year or so and like many other schools, we have been developing ‘booklets’ for our students. These are essentially ‘home-made’ textbooks, containing passages or extracts to annotate; worked examples to deconstruct and exemplify quality (a future blog will explore how we are attempting to apply the alternation strategy, worked example and problem completion effects from Cognitive Load Theory); vocabulary tables (explored in this blog post); supporting non-fiction articles and knowledge organisers amongst other things.

Although there seem to be optimum gaps between retrieval in order to maximise retention, depending upon the length of time in between teaching and the test (see this blog for more info: https://mrbenney.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/optimal-time-for-spacing-gaps/), I am currently just quizzing students on a selection of stuff from last lesson, last week, last term and previous years, ensuring that quizzes are cumulative. I can see how, in future, we could begin to use some of the research on optimum spacing in order to improve and hone our quizzing, maximising its efficacy.

This is how I approach the quiz:

I ask questions orally and students write answers in the backs of their books. They know that they are not permitted to shout out or talk, so everyone has an opportunity to retrieve the information from their memories. I have explained why we are doing this, briefly going over some of the science behind it, and that it is not a ‘test’-they cannot fail and I just want them to try their best. I do not take scores or mark the quizzes, the process of retrieval being the purpose, not the recording of data. With weaker classes or information that is trickier to recall, I give clues, perhaps providing the first couple of letters and writing them under the visualiser: What term means the ‘S’ sound: Sib……….(sibilance) I generally ask 15-25 questions. I do not create quiz sheets or resources or anything else that is potentially time-consuming and may only be used once.

How I feedback:

I ask individual students for the answer, sometimes choosing and sometimes accepting someone whose hand is up. When they say the answer, I ask them to explain what the word means, reinforcing the link between definition and meaning. If they can’t, I ask someone else and, if the answer is correct, I ask them to repeat or paraphrase the answer that was given, following No Opt Out from Teach Like A Champion (you can access a pdf explaining this approach here). I then write the correct answer down under the visualiser, asking students to correct their errors or add the answer if they did not know. Then, I ask a series of oral follow up questions and students give spoken responses. The intention is to move beyond mere factual recall to application and generalisation, deepening their understanding of the initial answer. These can be asked to a range of students.  This seems to be the premise behind ‘Elaboration’, an idea explained here: http://www.learningscientists.org/elaboration.

Let me show you some examples with some commentary:

ANSWER: “Sibilance’

Possible oral follow up questions:

a) What is the adjective of sibilance?

As mentioned in this post, drawing attention to and practising different forms of the same word is not only having a noticeable effect on students interest in word formation, but it also encourages them to make generalisations as they attempt to nominalise and make other morphological transformations. If they can use all derivations of a word, they understand it better.

b) Tell me a sibilant phrase

c) What is the effect of the sibilance in ‘the merciless east winds that knives us’

Accurate and effortless application of vocabulary is the ultimate aim. Initially, I want them to successfully use a word in the first context that they encounter it and will ask them to apply it to the current text we are studying; later on, I will ask them to apply it to different texts, attempting to achieve near transfer (an idea discussed in this blog: http://www.learningspy.co.uk/learning/trouble-transfer-can-make-learning-flexible/). It seems that, despite the fact that transfer is difficult to achieve, prompting and asking students to extend practice and application to different situations, units and tasks may go some way towards achieving it.

 

ANSWER: ‘Juxtaposition’

Possible oral follow up questions:

a) What is the verb?

b) What is the general effect of juxtaposition?

c) How is it different from an oxymoron?

Asking questions about concepts that are minimally different from the original idea allows students to better discriminate between the two. If they understand both the scope and the delineation of a concept, the potential for confusion and ambiguity will hopefully be minimised.

ANSWER: ‘Polysemic’

Possible oral follow up questions:

a) What does the prefix ‘poly’ mean?

Suffixes, prefixes and roots are important: morphology allows students to generalise and adapt.

b) Think of another word that starts with the prefix ‘poly’

c) If ‘poly’ means many, which prefixes can mean ‘one’?

d) Is it the same as ‘ambiguous’?

 

ANSWER: ‘Venerate’

Possible oral follow up questions:

a) Which word is a synonym of ‘venerate’ (they have been taught revere)

b) What is the noun?

c) Why is Macbeth venerated at the start of the play?

d) Give me a sentence using ‘venerate’

In the next post, I will explore the range of questions that may be asked in quizzes as well as the link between low stakes quizzing and Whole Class Feedback.