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Modelling, or “showing how”, is perhaps the most powerful and pervasive form of instruction. Almost everything the teacher does and says in the course of the school day provides a potential model to the students in the classroom. Much of this modelling is implicit and occurs without either teacher or students being conscious of it. However, deliberate, goal-directed modelling is an essential teaching tool.
By articulating how they arrived at a solution – thinking aloud as they go through the process – the teacher provides a model of how a good reader or writer works. This sort of modelling makes the thinking “visible”. It is a strategy used to great effect in shared reading and writing, where students are learning to use the sources of information in print along with their own prior knowledge. Modelling often involves providing the language that the learner needs. This may be language for encoding or decoding text, for making meaning, or for discussing texts and thinking analytically about them.
In these examples, teachers are modelling how good readers and writers work (and are also using strategies such as questioning, prompting, and giving feedback).
“This is a new sentence. I start with a … yes, a capital letter. My first word is ‘on’. What sounds can you hear? What is the first letter I write? … Let’s read this sentence. Is it finished – does it make sense? Can I put in the full stop?”
“Is this how we thought Mum would feel? I’m going to read the first paragraph again. Let’s list on the chart some words that might describe how Mum is feeling.”
“We need some help here. We can look at the list on the wall … let’s look down this list. Yes, here it tells you what to do when …”
“What word would make sense here? In the picture, we can see … Let’s look at the word. It begins with a … yes, a ‘t’. And I can see a chunk in it …”
“That’s a new word for us! We can add it to our word tree. Let’s read the sentence again to see if we can find out what it means.”
Sometimes modelling alone is not enough. A combination of modelling and directing (or explaining) may be necessary at times. Using modelling along with other instructional strategies to convey a teaching point is especially useful for those students who are not yet fully familiar with the literacy practices of the school and for any who are experiencing difficulties in reading or writing.