Instruction: Ask an Expert - Ray Reutzel
Ray: One of the characteristics of the most effective reading teachers is the ability to be explicit in their instruction. There are various ways to define explicit instruction, but I think for the most part teachers in Utah have been taught first it starts with you as the teacher explaining and modeling what it is you want students to do and then at some point involving students in sharing that responsibility over a scaffold guided practices and to the point where the student takes that ability or that skill, task or strategy or concept and make it their own and do it independently. The work of becoming an explicit teacher is the work of a professional lifetime. I in no way want to send out the message that it's easy or quick. There is no quick and there is no easy fix for becoming an explicit teacher. It is hard work and it requires a great deal of professional and personal discipline to become an explicit teacher. And one of the first steps when I work with teachers is I tell them they need to write their lesson plans out and I know that kind of scripting, it really offends some people but I can tell you you're much more polished when you've taken the time to reflectively sit and think about how you're going to say something and the words you're going to use to say it and then write that out, then when you just fly from the seat of your pants. That does not make you a good teacher. I really believe that explicit instruction is one of the most important and most long term efforts that we need to be engaging in at helping teachers in at the level of professional development. It is very hard work, its complex work. Once you get one thing really explicit and well taught, like maybe fluency or phonics, learning how to do that with another skill or strategy is almost like learning to do it all over again. It's very difficult work, I can't say enough about how important it is because the research is there very clear that explicit instruction helps children, who particularly children who are at risk. It's also very, very hard, there's a lot of support that's needed. You think you're explicit, and then you check it with kids or somebody else who's listened to what you've done and find all kinds of gaps in their understanding because you weren't as clear and as complete as you might have been and so explicit instruction is key.