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Here’s a situation I found myself in ALL THE TIME as a teacher: I would plan some kind of task for students—say it was something pretty standard, like working in pairs to complete a graphic organizer from some text we were reading. 

And we’d get started, and I’d walk around the room, and some students would be doing it the way I’d pictured it in my mind—the size and neatness of their writing, the amount of writing they put into the organizer, even how they were working, with both partners contributing their thoughts, coming to a consensus, then writing the stuff down. 

But other pairs? Not so much. Some were writing HUGE letters in the organizer, so it took almost nothing to fill each cell. Some were writing long, complete sentences that overflowed each cell. Some seemed to be fighting over the organizer, snatching it back and forth to write different things. Others just kind of sat there, saying they didn’t get it. 

Had I just modeled the process, things would have gone way better. Before ever putting one of those organizers in students’ hands, I should have put an example up on the projector and showed students how to fill it out. I could have presented another one already filled out for another text. I even could have pulled a volunteer up from the class to sit beside me and demonstrate how we would talk to each other while working on the organizer, checking to make sure we came to some kind of agreement before we wrote anything down. 

There are so many things we ask our students to do in school that they would do so much better if we just modeled it for them. While modeling is already probably a strategy you’re using to teach some concepts, you probably could be using it a whole lot more, and getting more from your students as a result.

Here are just a few ideas for things that would probably go much more smoothly with a little bit of modeling:

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