7 Instructional Strategies for Secondary Teachers
“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary”
The beauty of teaching life skills like cooking is that you can hopefully eventually, step back and watch them do some of the work themselves. I love that quote because you should be able to back away from teaching a bit and allow students to learn independently. If you get used to using these teaching strategies, your classroom can be a well-oiled machine! Students will know what to expect when you tell them the strategy for the day.
Why You Need Instructional Strategies
Have you been asked to include instructional strategies in your lesson planning? As the effective teacher that you are, you probably use them all the time and may not realize you are!
Instructional strategies are the tools teachers use to help students learn the content. They help students learn the content and can become routine in a well-run classroom. Let’s look at some instructional strategies for teachers:
1- Think-Pair-Share– Sounds complicated, but it isn’t! Say you have a lot of information to teach students but you don’t feel like lecturing all period. This is one of the active teaching strategies that get kids moving and can facilitate cooperative learning. It also can create student-centered learning which is a great way for students to feel ownership of the material.
- You give each student a chunk of the information to learn or think about. (for instance, each student gets a sheet describing each cooking method).
- Tell students to pair up with a small group or one other student and they teach or share each other their own learning.
- This may take a couple of classes depending on how much information is being taught.
Setting the Stage for Learning with These Teaching Strategies
2- KWL Chart- These are great teaching strategies that can start and end class. Students are given KWL graphic organizers at the beginning of the lesson.
- Ask them to write down what they already know about the topic of the lesson. For instance (“What do you already know about herbs and spices?) They should feel comfortable to write anything they know if it is right or wrong. This is a great instructional strategy to assess prior knowledge.
- You then present to them the objective of the lesson (“students will be able to identify 5 herbs and spices and their uses”). Have students write in the middle column of the KWL what they “want” to learn by the end of the lesson.
- Teach the lesson….at the end of class have them write down what they learned from the lesson. This can be handed to you and can be an exit ticket as well as giving you an idea of what the students knew before and the learning that took place.
KWLS (Know, Want to know, Learned, and Still have questions) is a teaching strategy that promotes active engagement, critical thinking, and reflective learning. It begins by activating students’ prior knowledge about a topic, allowing them to make connections and establish a foundation for new learning. The strategy then stimulates curiosity and inquiry by encouraging students to generate questions about the topic, fostering a sense of ownership and motivation in their learning journey. Through the reflection phase, students articulate what they have learned, promoting metacognition and evaluation of their understanding.
KWLS also helps identify misconceptions and allows for targeted support to address them. By incorporating KWLS, teachers foster active participation, personalized learning, and student ownership of the learning process.
Additionally, it serves as a formative assessment tool, providing teachers with valuable insights to guide instructional decisions. Overall, KWLS is a powerful strategy that enhances student engagement, critical thinking, and deep understanding in the classroom.
There are other graphic organizers that can really help students understand the concepts. Visual tools like concept maps, Venn diagrams, and graphic organizers help students organize information, make connections, and enhance comprehension. These tools can be used for brainstorming, note-taking, summarizing, and analyzing complex concepts.
- 3- Bell Ringers- These teaching strategies are considered “anticipatory sets” as your college education professor would say. These get your students thinking about the class and they help set the tone for your class. Once you establish that students should enter the classroom and get right to work on the bell ringer for the day, students will know what to expect in your class (and it makes your life a whole lot easier). These can also prompt great discussions about what you are teaching. We have a free set of culinary arts bell ringers you can try out!
How to set up bell ringer journals
Bell ringers and bell ringer journals are anticipatory sets. And remember, anticipatory sets help activate students’ prior knowledge and experiences related to the topic of the lesson. Research shows that activating prior knowledge at the beginning of a lesson helps students make connections and facilitates their understanding of new information. Once you implement these little gems, you will have full student participation. You either print them out and put them in a binder (multiple days on one page) or you assign them in Google Classroom or Canvas. The question each day can be linked to your learning objectives. For instance, if you are teaching about kitchen measurement that day, you can them to list as many measurement units as you can name. This can also give you a good idea of student understanding in the subject area.
If you keep them in the classroom then there is no chance they will lose them. You can make them each a stapled packet for a month at a time and keep them in an organizer as seen below.
Holding them accountable
Start right away- after you have informed them of the bell ringer journal and the expectations, on day 2, greet them at the door and remind them to sit down and start working on the bell ringer of the day.
Catching them in the act- walk around the room praising those that are working diligently on the task. Give them a star or even a sticker as an extra point on their classwork grade as they work.
On day 3, do the same thing, keep it going, and don’t let them forget. Once practiced it can be a valuable tool for establishing your classroom setting and classroom management. If done correctly, they can also help student performance because you are reviewing key elements of the lesson that will probably end up on the test.
Give them a grade- periodically, collect the journals, and give them a classwork grade. If there are 10 entries, the most they can receive is 10/10 for 100%. Check for complete journal entries with answers that make sense and show effort. This becomes one of your formative assessments because it gives you feedback on how they are grasping the concepts.
I am not going to lie, it can be tough to set and keep this routine. I feel tense at the beginning of class for the first couple of months of school because I want to make sure the teaching strategies and routine is kept and students know what is expected of them. I drop what I am doing to greet them and remind them and it pays off eventually. Students will want to push and not get to work on them but you must hold firm for it to work!
How to Use Exit Tickets in the Classroom
4- Exit Tickets– These little tickets pack a big punch in terms of student learning and feedback. At the end of the class period, project a question for students that correlate with the bell ringer question and will tell you if they learned the material. How to do this:
Make it brief- a quick question such as: “Name 3 pieces of kitchen equipment used to make cookies.” Or, “define cooking methods in your own words.” If you have students work independently on this, it can tell you a lot about what they retained from class. If most of the class gets it, you can feel good about moving on. If half of them get it wrong, you may need to revisit the topic and take notes about how you can change it the following school year. Over time, you will know the best practices for teaching your specific students.
I love using these personal whiteboards to have students hold up answers instead of using paper. It is a great way to do a quick check for understanding.
You can use half sheets of paper that have the questions printed on them or you can have students use their own paper and copy the question from the board. You can also have an ongoing exit ticket in Google Classroom so that students know where to go to find an answer. Include the date so you can keep track of each day’s answer.
Exit tickets serve as valuable instructional strategies due to their ability to provide immediate feedback and inform instruction. By collecting students’ responses at the end of a lesson or class period, exit tickets offer teachers insights into student understanding and progress. This real-time feedback enables educators to assess whether learning objectives have been met and identify any misconceptions or gaps in knowledge.
Armed with this information, teachers can tailor their instruction to address individual or class-wide needs, adjusting their teaching strategies, revisiting challenging concepts, and planning future lessons accordingly. Through the use of exit tickets, teachers can make informed decisions that enhance student learning and promote continuous improvement in the classroom.
Teaching Strategies to Get Them Moving!
5- Gallery Walk- Gallery walks are a hit because they get the kids up and moving while learning and looking at other students’ work. If you are able to use the hallway near your classroom to continue the gallery walk in a larger area, that is an added bonus! They are a great way to review the subject matter or to present student work. These can work for all grade levels if organized the right way.
- Assign students a topic or a part of a topic and have them create posters or visuals about the topic. For example (each student is assigned a famous chef).
- The visuals are hung around the classroom or even in the hallway.
- Students have an information recording sheet and gather information from the posters as they walk around and read the visuals or posters. You can use a rubric to grade them on the information that they gathered. You can also have them present the information they learned.
Gallery walks are one of those teaching strategies that actively engage students in the learning process. Instead of passively receiving information, students actively explore and analyze content by moving around the classroom, examining displays, and interacting with their peers. You can set this up to have students move around in small groups working together or individually gathering information. Obviously, the biggest challenge is keeping them focused so the use of a timer can help. For example “you have 2 minutes at each station to gather the information you need.”
Other Types of Gallery Walks
- 1- Graffiti Walk- Write headings or topics on paper and have students brainstorm on each paper as they walk around the room. If you are teaching culinary arts, for instance, you can write “muffin recipe” and have students brainstorm types of muffins and ingredients that they think would go well in the muffins. You can also write down vocabulary words and have students draw pictures depicting the words.
- 2- “I like, I wonder” Walk– Have students or groups display their work around the room and have a blank paper attached. Classmates give feedback on each project by writing one thing they like and one question they have or an “I wonder”. This should be a quick walk and can be fun for students to read the results. This website has a great description of how exactly to set up a Gallery Walk with your students. It includes good ideas for information-gathering variations as well! These are valuable because it prompts:
- Active Engagement: The “I Like, I Wonder” and other moving teaching strategies actively engages students in their learning environment. It encourages them to be attentive observers, taking in the details and characteristics of their surroundings.
- Curiosity and Inquiry: By prompting students to document things they wonder about, the strategy fosters curiosity and inquiry. It stimulates students to ask questions, seek answers, and explore further, promoting a growth mindset and a love for learning.
- Critical Thinking: The “I Wonder” aspect of the walk stimulates critical thinking skills. Students analyze their observations, identify patterns, make connections, and form hypotheses. They engage in higher-order thinking processes, such as making predictions and drawing conclusions based on evidence.
- Connection to the Real World: The “I Like, I Wonder” walk connects classroom learning to the real world. It allows students to see how concepts and ideas from their lessons manifest in their immediate environment, promoting relevance and deeper understanding.
- Collaboration and Discussion: The “I Like, I Wonder” walk can be done individually or in small groups. After the walk, students can come together to discuss and share their observations, providing an opportunity for collaboration, peer learning, and the exchange of ideas.
Technology as an educational tool
Technology Integration: Incorporating technology tools and resources into lessons in different ways that can enhance engagement and facilitate learning. With these teaching strategies, teachers can use interactive presentations, online simulations, educational apps, and multimedia platforms to deliver content and promote interactive learning experiences. Leaning too much on technology can cause some problems in terms of the learning experience and hinder social skills, but if used properly, technology can really enhance the learning process. The use of technology can also help to keep students’ attention if used intermittently with other teaching strategies. Here are a few of our favorites:
6- Digital Escape Rooms– Kids love digital escape rooms because they pose a challenge! You can introduce new concepts or review topics that you have taught with these. Students can work on them independently or they can be great for small group work to include collaborative learning. Students move through clues involving a topic and have to find codes to move to the next clue. I create them in Google Forms that link to a Google slide.
These creative teaching strategies help to improve problem-solving skills as well as keep students engaged! Many of these include visual aids such as pictures and videos that can be used to find clues. Activities like this can be helpful for struggling students because it offers visual aids and they can work on them at their own pace. I personally like that I don’t have to grade them and that there is automatic student feedback.
7- Kahoot and Other Review Games– Playing Kahoot is a great way to review material and what I love about the sight is that you can either choose a game that has already been made or create your own. They play against their classmates with a partner or independently. It seems like all fun and games but the interaction and competition can be an effective teaching technique for your whole class.
Kahoot provides immediate feedback to students after each question. This instant feedback helps students understand their progress, identify areas of strength and weakness, and adjust their thinking accordingly. These teaching strategies allow for timely intervention and enable students to learn from their mistakes.
Other online teaching strategies for the secondary classroom
Another one of my favorites is Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a video discussion platform where students can record short videos to respond to prompts or engage in peer discussions. It promotes student voice, and active participation, and can be used for debates, presentations, or reflective exercises. Assign regular reflection prompts or journal entries using Flipgrid. Students can record videos sharing their thoughts, insights, and reflections on what they have learned or experienced in class. These can be great for recipe reflection if you are teaching culinary arts or FACS. It can also be a great reflection for books that you assign or projects.
Pear Deck is an interactive presentation tool that integrates with popular presentation software like Google Slides. It allows teachers to add interactive questions, polls, and drawing activities to their presentations, promoting active participation and formative assessment. You can use Pear Deck to assess what students know before the lesson as well. Before introducing a new topic or text, use Pear Deck to assess students’ prior knowledge or gather their initial thoughts. This can help activate their schema and prepare them for the upcoming lesson.
Edpuzzle allows teachers to create interactive video lessons by adding questions, comments, and quizzes to videos from various sources. It promotes active learning, enables self-paced instruction, and provides teachers with insights into student understanding. Edpuzzle can really help in creating sub-plans. You can find meaningful videos that align with what you are teaching and have your substitute facilitate them working on the assigned videos and questions. You can even differentiate what you assign to meet students’ individual needs.
8- Google tools– allowing students to research topics and create Google slideshows to present is one of my favorite activities. Students love to show what they have created (most of the time) and it can help to foster a student-led classroom. With interactive whiteboards, it becomes even more appealing to be able to present and use the cool tools that come with the technology. And, to be real, it’s nice to let students lead classroom instruction sometimes.
You can just bust out the rubric, sit back, and enjoy the show all while being an effective educator. The students watching also enjoy having their peers in front of the class instead of watching the teacher all of the time. It encourages active participation and students taking an active role and is one of the best ways to fill class time with meaningful instruction.
- Google Docs: Google Docs is a powerful collaborative writing and editing tool. Students can use it for group projects, peer editing, and real-time collaboration. Teachers can provide feedback and monitor student’s progress throughout the writing process.
- Google Slides: Google Slides allows students to create visually appealing presentations. It can be used for individual or group presentations, enabling students to incorporate multimedia elements, collaborate on slides, and present their work to the class.
- Google Forms: Google Forms is a versatile tool for creating surveys, quizzes, and assessments. Teachers can use it to gather feedback, conduct formative assessments, or create self-paced quizzes. The data collected can be analyzed to inform instructional decisions.
- Google Jamboard: Google Jamboard is a digital whiteboard tool that promotes collaboration and creativity. Students can brainstorm ideas, create mind maps, or work together on visual projects.
- Google Translate: Google Translate can be used to support language learning by providing instant translations of words, phrases, or texts in different languages. It can assist students in understanding and communicating in diverse linguistic contexts.
Of course, when using Google tools, it’s important to ensure student privacy and adhere to any applicable data protection regulations. Teachers should also provide guidance on responsible digital citizenship and online etiquette. At the beginning of the year, it is a great idea to do a mini-lesson about online etiquette.
In conclusion, varying the types of instructional strategies used in the high school classroom is essential for engaging students, accommodating diverse learning needs, and promoting deeper understanding.
By incorporating a range of teaching strategies such as gallery walks, games like Kahoot, Flipgrid, Pear Deck, and other specific tools, teachers can create dynamic and interactive learning environments that foster active participation, critical thinking, collaboration, and personalization. The flexibility to adapt instructional approaches based on the content, goals, and student profiles enhances the effectiveness of teaching and leads to improved learning outcomes.
Embracing instructional variety empowers educators to meet the ever-evolving needs of their high school students and cultivate a love for lifelong learning.