Modeling a Strategy for Teachers or Students

Showing a teacher what a teaching move is or showing a student how to engage in a task creates deeper understanding
158 teachers like this strategy
Teacher Modeling

About This Strategy

It is important for coaches to model the thinking behind, and implementation of, an instructional strategy or other teaching move for collaborating with teachers, and it is important for teachers to model how to engage in a task for students. Setting up a simple process to allow for this modeling to happen, and the learnings from it to follow is the purpose of this strategy. Examples include demonstrating the elements of a task, thoughtful interaction with learning (reading, speaking, listening, writing), breaking down a complex task into steps, and the behaviors or thought processes of a member of the learning community. Modeling is a highly effective strategy when the recipient knows the purpose and has been given time and a structure to synthesize it. Modeling should not be considered a "final act" that is one and done. Modeling is often needed as a repeated strategy, as it may be demonstrating a complex process that is entirely new to a learner. This strategy provides a toolbox of resources and steps to prepare, execute and reflect on how to model a strategy for teachers as a coach.

Implementation Steps for Modeling a Strategy for Teachers

  1. The target or focus for the modeling is selected, and narrowed so that it is a measurable teaching/learning action.  

  2. A lesson is collaboratively planned with the recipient teacher(s), using that strategy or shift in instruction.

  3. What success, or growth, towards the desired change is identified, and noted as the evidence that the observer will look for.

  4. The implementation of the strategy or shift in instruction undergoes a "hot mess" process to test, proactively, for potential problems.

  5. If needed, the strategy or shift in instruction is revised collaboratively.

  6. The coach delivers that lesson in the teacher's classroom.

  7. The teacher observes and records notes focusing on the implementation, and how students respond. Using an observation guide that indicates what to look for is helpful to this process.

  8. Immediately following the coach's model lesson, the teacher facilitates a collaborative and constructive conversation with the coach.

  9. The teacher and coach plan for the next lesson, using what has been learned.

  10. The teacher delivers a lesson, while the coach specifically observes, and notes, the implementation focus.

  11. A reflective conversation about what has been observed and learned is conducted immediately, using a collaborative log.

  12. This process, when the targeted "change" is kept small or broken into discrete steps, is not as time consuming as this explanation sounds.

Implementation Steps for Modeling a Strategy for Students

1. Determine the purpose for the task and the skills that students will demonstrate and be assessed on at the end of the task. 

2. Before modeling, practice with the task at least once. For example, if you are going to model how to engage in close reading, engage in close reading of the text before modeling it for students. 

3. As you model, make sure to project your work for your students to see you working (if possible) or speak aloud to reveal your thoughts as you are modeling. 

4. After modeling, have students discuss and share with you what they heard and what they observed during the modeling process. To learn more about this process consult the "Y Chart" strategy in the BetterLesson Lab.


Explore some of the videos of teachers engaging in the strategy of modeling in the resources below to see some examples of effective teacher modeling in action.

Modeling a How to Complete a Task for Students during Distance Learning

Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Modeling how to complete a task for a student can be a powerful tool in distance learning. 

Implementation steps:

  1. Determine what you will model for students. Examples could be related to:

    • use of new technology (examples: how to post on FlipGrid, how to comment on a Google document)

    • how to navigate a learning task and what is expected (how to find the assignment, what to do, and where to turn it in)

    •  how to do a skill in your content area (examples: how do write analysis, how to divide fractions etc.) 

  2. Consider the best tool to use to model the task for students during distance learning. 

    • In many cases, creating a screencast will be the easiest, using Loom or Screencastify. You could also record yourself on Zoom using the whiteboard feature or use Miro for an interactive, online whiteboard. You can also create a screencast directly in FlipGrid, which allows students to easily respond to your video with a question. This could also serve as a quick check for understanding if you require students to post a response to your video. 

    • You might also determine that an audio recording is best. You can use Vocaroo or Talk and Comment. 

    • If you want to model in a synchronous session for students, try sharing your screen with Zoom. By hitting the record button when doing so, you also create at the same time a video tutorial that you can share asynchronously later with all your students.

    • If a student needs a 1:1 explanation, set up a time for the student to receive 1:1 support from you. For students with limited technology, calling the student and modeling over the phone might be the best idea. 

  3. If recorded, share the link to your modeling with students. 

  4. Have students share what they learned from your modeling so you could assess their comprehension and make any necessary adjustments for next time. Students could:

    • Respond to a Google form. 

    • Post to a FlipGrid about what they learned from your modeling. 

    • Use the chat feature in a synchronous Zoom session. 

    • Post a response on a class Padlet. 

    • Email, call, or text you directly. 

    • If you shared a Loom video, students could also post a comment or answer a question in the Loom chat. 

Role Play Modeling

Coaches, teachers, even administrators can lower the stakes for taking a risk to try something new in their classroom by adding this approach to their modeling tool box. Going through the same pre "observation" thinking process, then showing and sharing that classroom shift lowers the stakes for everyone, and spreads a new strategy or practice throughout the school more rapidly and effectively. This strategy pairs well not only with coaching observations, but also with collegial observations.


Implementation steps:

  1. Obtain approval from appropriate administrator, and if needed, ask for a regular time in upcoming meetings. This is an ongoing process.
  2. Initially, do the role play / scenarios yourself. Support your observers by providing them with the purpose - the strategy or shift in practice, the why, and what students will be doing as a result.
  3. As you are observing teachers throughout your work, note who might be good candidates to try this next.
  4. Recruit some teachers, and support them in preparing using the same modeling a strategy process.
  5. Continue to recruit a variety of people, in different roles, over time. This creates a shared ownership of the classroom observation process, and lowers the stress.