From infancy onward, we all need models to learn new skills. Infants’ babbling mirrors the sounds of caregivers and lays the foundation that enables them to develop spoken language. Children learn by watching models and mimicking—to dress themselves, show manners, and swing on a swing set, for example.
In fact, throughout our lives we depend upon observation of models to help us learn. We follow diagrams to learn how to repair a leaking faucet and watch how a dog trainer gets a pet to respond to commands. These types of models help us learn efficiently and effectively.
Oddly enough, as students move through school, they often lack access to models for academic skills. Though we ask students to “take notes,” for example, we don’t always show them what good notes look like, or teach them how to do it. The same might be said for comprehending reading material, writing essays, or studying for tests. Some teachers may assume students already possess a skill, so they don’t model or teach it. Others may feel that providing models inhibits creativity or prevents students from learning to do something independently. Though most students muddle through, they could be far more successful if they had models and explicit instruction to guide them.
Imagine attending a pottery class in which the instructor holds up a beautifully glazed teapot as a project model and provides a history of ceramic kitchenware. If the teacher’s next step is telling the class to get started on a teapot of their own—due in a week—the results may be a disappointment to all. Instead, if the teacher chunked the project into sequential steps, modeled each step, and provided guidance along the way, many more students would sustain their efforts and find success. The model teapot, and the models of each step to make it do not inhibit creativity or prevent students from learning how to craft a pot. Rather, they empower students to persist through a complex process and achieve the goal.
Try these strategies for using models in your classroom.
Providing models is simple, yet very important. It is one of the most effective teaching techniques. Models are concrete examples of what teachers expect. They do not mean that teachers are doing assignments for students. They are standards to which students can compare their own work. A model or example of a completed assignment serves as a springboard for students to begin the assignment. For example, teachers should give students a model of a sequential paragraph when teaching basic sequential paragraph writing.
For the full text of Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles™, including “Provide Models,” click here.
Mathematics: Two-column Notes
This activity models steps and examples through mathematics notes.Download
English / Language-Arts: Proofreading & Editing
These steps break down the proofreading and editing process and incorporate models.Download
General Classroom Strategy: Provide Models
Seven steps for using models in your classroom.Download
Let us know what you think! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts and strategies.