During this academic session I have had one class that has required me to reteach topics quite a lot. Perhaps this could be due to poor instruction in the first instance, however I could argue that due to skilful checking for understanding I have identified that I don’t have an 80% success rate.
We know from Barak Rosenshine that the most effective teachers “frequently check to see if all the students are learning new material” and we do this by asking a lot of questions. For me, the expert teacher is one who knows what to do with this information that they glean from their students.
When teaching new material it is vital that lots of questions are asked and that you never ask ‘are there any questions?’. In your questioning you will ask recall questions, explain questions, comparison questions and so on. If the students are providing satisfactory answers then you are ready to move on, but what if the students aren’t getting it quite right.
Mark McCourt in Teaching for Mastery would argue that unless all pupils are having above 80% success then you should absolutely not move on and apply some corrective teaching. It is important to note here that McCourt outlines that this is not the same as reteaching material but a part of an expert teachers arsenal they can use with small groups of students. He writes that we should celebrate mistakes in low-stake quizzes as the teacher “now knows something new about you….. it means I can help you nail it right here, right now”
Sometimes, however, we do need to go back and reteach material. If students aren’t achieving success in our low stake quizzes and assessments then we need to be brave, bold and imaginative so that we can help them attain an 80% success rate. When reteaching we should look to explain differently, try new tasks, identify groupings and model our explanations.
A powerful reteaching strategy is Thinking Aloud. This is where the expert teacher will model and speak their thinking process in order to unpack the material for their students. Many teachers do this while using a visualiser so that students can see their thinking as well as hear it. While modelling in this way the teacher doesn’t simply reteach the material in the same way that they introduced it, they use different explanations in response to the students misunderstanding, misconceptions and mistake. Reteaching must expose the mistake and extinguish the error so that the student achieves success moving forward and is ready to learn new material.
A teacher can also use Purposeful Grouping when reteaching. A teacher can place 1-3 pupils in a group and tutor them in small groups to clear up misconceptions and mistakes. This does require a deep subject knowledge from the teacher as they will need to keep the other 28 students busy while they focus on reteaching the material to smaller groups.
Finally, when reteaching the teacher should use Explicit Instruction. This is where the teacher talk might increase and the volume of questions to deepen understanding of the material also increases. A large volume of questions to all students will help build a clear picture of misconceptions and mistakes. Explicit Instruction is where the teacher talks directly at the students while modelling their thinking and finding a new approach to explain the material at hand.
Teachers need to be brave and bold when making the decision to reteach and commit to doing this when students aren’t achieving a high success rate. We do this because we believe that all students can learn well and base this decision on our continuous assessment of their progress through low stakes quizzes, a large volume of questions and pre- and post-assessments. In my own teaching I often try to fly through work and move onto new material without securing the knowledge and having a high success rate. Moving forward I will commit to being braver and ensuring a high success rate by asking lots of questions, reteaching where necessary through modelling my thinking to extinguish errors and misconceptions.