Five Steps to Effective Teacher Modeling

Five ways to better incorporate modeling into the classroom and create lifelong learners along the way.

By Matthew Spinogatti

Teacher modeling at whiteboard

Teacher modeling is day one of Education 101. All teachers believe in modeling expectations, but how effectively are we doing this? Are we confusing teacher modeling with checking for understanding? Are we allowing a couple of students to set the pace in the classroom and assuming that everyone else is on track?

Where most learners struggle is with the process, and this is where teacher modeling should focus. Students need to see the teacher model working through problems, how to address the problems, and how to deal with the problem in an academic fashion. This type of teacher modeling goes beyond normal classroom expectations and aids in the creation of lifelong learners who can solve problems independently and academically.

1. Model That Which Is Difficult for Students

It is important to be selective of what you are modeling in the classroom, and why understanding comprehension is so important. Not every activity or lesson can be extensively modeled if modeling is being done correctly. So, model what you know will be difficult for students. For example, when reading something difficult, stop and proclaim that you want to reread this section because it is confusing. This will bring attention to that section as well as reassure struggling pupils that it is okay to be confused. In fact, it's normal, and the appropriate response is to slow down and readdress the section.

2. Model Ways to Resolve Problems

If we intend to increase the rigor and the use of complex texts, we are going to be facing some problems. Instead of watching our pupils get frustrated and quit, it is up to us, as teachers, to model the appropriate way to deal with the problems in an academic fashion. Use the document camera to show the class how to look for context clues when reading a difficult word or section of text. Also, finish reading the section and get a dictionary or go to Your actions will demonstrate that it is normal to have to look up words to better understand them.

3. Model How You Interact with a Text

We want students to read with a pencil in hand so they can properly mark the text or take notes. However, many have never done this before. It is up to the teacher to model how to interact with the text. Use the document camera. Underline major points, use stars, asterisks, or other symbols to help emphasize important passages or evidence. In addition to this, number paragraphs and circle words that they will need to look up. Show them what it takes to conduct a close reading.

4. Model Using Think-Alouds

This type of modeling is used when walking students through a thought process. It can be done to check for understanding or just to show them that comprehension and understanding are often accomplished in steps. Name the strategy you are using or the skill you are putting in place. Use “I” statements and alert the learner to potential errors.

5. Model Through Interactive Shared Readings

This strategy puts an emphasis on demonstrating, scaffolding, and supporting peer interactions. Help students tackle difficult texts by guiding them through whole class, small group, and independent reading. Lead them through discussions about the text until they are capable of leading themselves through such discussions.

Unfortunately, many learners who struggle in class will assume that they are just not smart. In fact, their only problem is that they do not have the necessary tools to complete the task at hand. They have never seen someone work through difficulties in the classroom or with a text. By incorporating effective modeling strategies, you will be helping to create lifelong learners who are capable of solving problems using logic and reasoning.

Additional Resources

Model OrganizationModeling Through FeedbackModel with Diagrams