22: Explicit Instruction


Chapter 1 in Archer, Anita L., and Charles A. Hughes. Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching. New York: Guilford, 2011. Print.



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Explicit: direct, unambiguous teaching approach
  • series of scaffolds
  • clear statements of purpose and rationale for learning a new skill
  • clear explanations & demonstrations of target
  • supported practice with feedback until mastery is achieved
  • Small chunks
  • Checks for understanding
  • Active participation of ALL students
Elements of Explicit Instruction
  • Focus on critical contents
  • Sequence logically: simple -> hard, familiar -> new, foundational -> advanced, separate easily confused skills
  • Break down complex skills into smaller instructional units (chunking)
  • Design organized focused lessons
  • Lessons start with clear statements of lesson goals and expectations
  • Review prior knowledge prior to main instruction
  • Step-by-step demos
  • Clear concise language
  • Provide examples & non-examples
  • Require fréquent student responses
  • Monitor student performance closely
  • Provide specific feedback
  • Deliver lesson at a brisk pace
  • Help students organize knowledge
  • Provide distributed and cumulative practice (practice old and new skills to help with retention)
6 Teaching Functions
  1. Review previous homework and prerequisite skills
  2. Presentation: chunk new material, modeling, example/non-examples, avoid digressions, be clear
  3. Guided practice: require high frequency responses, ensure high rates of success, provide timely feedback, continue practice until fluent
  4. Corrections & feedback (and reteach if needed)
  5. Independent practice: monitor early attempts, practice till automatic
  6. Weekly/monthly reviews
Underlying Principles of Explicit Instruction
  • Optimize time on task
  • Promote high levels of success
  • Increase content coverage
  • Cooperative learning
  • Scaffold instruction
  • Address different forms of knowledge
    • declarative – facts
    • procedural – how something is done
    • conditional – when/where to use skill
How to ensure high levels of success:
  • material is not too difficult given their current skills
  • clear presentations
  • modeling of skills and strategies
  • supported practice
  • active participation
  • careful monitoring of student responses
  • timely corrective feedback
Content coverage:
  • Identify highly leveraged content:
    • commonly used skills
    • well connected ideas
    • generalizable skills and ideas
Cooperative grouping
  • homogeneous
  • small
  • leverage homogeneous groups to deliver workshops attuned to different groups needs
Scaffolding tips:
  • chunking
  • logical sequencing
  • progress gradually in complexity
  • demo / model
  • use cues: thinking sheets (small sheets with problem solving steps), checklists


The explicit instruction model can be used to develop clear, well-chunked scaffolding activities that clearly tie to students’ need-to-knows and learning targets.  The combination of clear modeling, logical sequencing, differentiation through grouping, guided practice, and frequent timely feedback could help develop content fluency for ALL students.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards.  Identify skills that are highly leveraged (used often, generalizable to many contexts)
  • Design short lessons that are logically sequenced
  • Design assessments and assessment practices that allow students to get frequent timely feedback
Early Implementation Steps
  • Start lessons by explaining why learning targets are worth knowing
  • Start lessons with students’ related prior knowledge
  • Be clear and concise during workshops
  • Provide a lot of feedback to all students during guided practice
  • Provide enough practice opportunities for students to become fluent in skills
  • Use cumulative practice approach – practice old and new skills in order to develop fluency
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Have student reflect and provide evidence that they have achieved mastery in learning targets
  • Differentiate workshops to match learning needs of different student groups
  • Use peer feedback to increase frequency of supportive, corrective feedback on guided practice



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