Give students multiple, scaffolded opportunities to practice with a

P -3: Create objectiveobjective- driven lesson plans
Give students multiple, scaffolded opportunities to practice with a gradual
release of teacher support
The bridge between engaging students in new content and student independent mastery of the objective
How do I plan for student practice?
What are examples of plans that do this well?
What different instructional methods can I use?
Cooperative Learning
Inquiry/Problem Solving
What factors should I consider when planning to do this?
Student needs and interests
The nature of the content
Time and resources available
How can I organize students during practice?
Note: in the 5-step lesson plan, this purpose is usually accomplished by “Guided Practice”
How do I plan for student practice?
In your lesson plan, make sure to:
o Clearly state and model behavioral expectations for how students are to practice
o Ensure all students have multiple, scaffolded opportunities to practice
Create several examples or problems that are aligned to the objective, and organize the practice problems from
lower to higher degrees of difficulty
o Monitor and correct student performance
Develop a plan to check student understanding, provide feedback, and support students who need assistance
Determine the best way for students to practice the key points of the lesson.
o Review different instructional methods, and
o Consider different factors to decide what methods to use:
- student needs and interests,
- the nature of the content,
- time and resources available
Decide how to organize students during practice. To help you consider different methods, see the “Methods for
organizing students during guided practice” in the Tools section
Determine how much time to devote to this section of your lesson – always make sure to allot a significant
portion of the lesson to student practice
Double check the alignment of your practice examples - are all problems or questions aligning to what your
objective requires?
What are examples of plans that do this well?
P -3: Create objectiveobjective- driven lesson plans
5-step lesson plan examples with teacher intentions:
Students will be able to use regular comparatives correctly in an oral presentation.
Guided Practice:
Ms. Cate tells her students that she is thinking of an animal. The class needs
to formulate comparative questions to get more information about the
mystery animal in order to make a good guess at its identity. Examples: Is it
noisier than a dog? Is it faster than a chicken? Is it more dangerous than a
tiger? As each student makes his or her guess, Ms. Cate has the class use a
graphic organizer to record the adjective used, count its number of syllables,
refer to the corresponding rule for comparatives and verify that the child has
used the comparative correctly. If a student does not use the comparative
properly in his or her question, Ms. Cate does not answer. After every child
has participated, students record their guesses for the teacher’s mystery
animal – and the teacher announces the correct answer.
Teacher’s Intentions:
The teacher has designed an activity that reinforces
the objectives continually while enabling everyone to
stay engaged and participate. This activity could
have neglected the objective of using syllable rules
to determine proper comparative forms by having
each student simply make their guess – without the
graphic organizer. This would have limited each
student’s practice to one opportunity, rather than
involving students after every guess. The game-like
aspects of the activity should also keep students
engaged and motivated, and because students get
to choose their own adjectives, the game is
scaffolded to different levels of ability.
SWBAT write a bibliographic entry for a book.
Guided Practice:
Ms. Cartwright distributes a sheet of 10 bibliographic entries that do not
follow the proper format in one way or another. For each example, she asks
students to circle the mistake. Ms. Cartwright circulates and checks for
understanding. The first three entries are missing components of the proper
format (no author’s name). The next three have components out of order.
The last four are subtler (author’s first name first; commas or colons
incorrectly written). After correcting the entries, students are to take out their
copies of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. She then asks a volunteer to state the first
step for forming a bibliographic entry. After each step, students write that
piece of the entry in their notebooks. They continue until they have written
the entire entry. Ms. Cartwright unveils a poster featuring an entry for The
Giver, explaining that she thinks she made a few mistakes. She asks
students to compare the entries they wrote with her entry and circle where
they followed directions and Ms. Cartwright did not. Once Ms. Cartwright’s
“mistakes” have been uncovered, students take out their individual library
books and write an entry in their notebooks. The teacher monitors and
Teacher’s Intentions:
The worksheet activity is scaffolded to ensure that
the teacher can eventually recognize all of the
intricacies of the bibliographic entries – beginning
with obvious errors (a missing piece), then focusing
on sequence, and then getting even more nuanced.
Then students practice the process while being
prompted on the individual steps. Ms. Cartwright
further reinforces the steps by presenting an
example with many mistakes at once. By going
through the process of locating and writing the
information for a bibliographic entry, as well as
noticing errors in the sequence of the entry, students
are taking the next step toward being able to
accomplish the task independently, which they do
with teacher support by the end of this Guided
SWBAT describe the biological risks of drug use.
Guided Practice:
Ms. Donnelly tells her students that they are now doctors. She presents a
series of symptoms that patients are complaining of, and she asks students
to work in pairs and write down what they believe was the cause of those
symptoms, justifying their answers. They may use their charts. Ms. Donnelly
bases these case studies on the handouts the students read and the film
they watched. When students are done, she asks pairs to present and
defend their choices in front of the class. While each pair is presenting, the
rest of the class takes notes and then votes thumbs up or down if they agree
with their classmates’ diagnoses. One student facilitates the ensuing
Teacher’s Intentions:
This activity promotes active student engagement
and participation by creating a scenario where
students must use inductive reasoning to solve realworld problems. By working in pairs, students get
support as they practice the objective. During the
whole class activity, students are still engaged in the
lesson by being required to think critically about their
peers’ analyses.
P -3: Create objectiveobjective- driven lesson plans
What different instructional methods can I use?
Guided Practice and Centers
Centers are specified areas in the classroom that allow students to work at their own pace on specified activities. In
order to support the individual needs of each student, centers can have permanent activities (such as the classroom
library, with multi-level materials) or changing ones that support your current unit of study.
Centers can be used at every grade level, although they are more prevalent in the elementary classroom and are
always present in the early childhood/pre-K classroom. You can develop centers for writing, reading, science, math,
art, etc., but they should all perform one of three basic functions: enrichment (to deepen students’ current
understanding of content or skills), skill development (to introduce or practice new skills), or exploration (to
incorporate student interest or provide opportunities for student discovery). One organizational benefit to centers is
that, rather than finding the various materials and manipulatives for a given task in all corners of the room, students
working on the same activity congregate at one station.
When you are creating a center, you should:
1. Decide on the type of center. Should it be for enrichment, skill development, or exploration?
2. Specify the outcomes. What is your objective for students at each center?
3. Create center activities and instructions. Be sure to include varied levels of work to allow students to
focus on their current skill level. For example, have reading material at a range of grade-levels or math
problems at various levels of complexity. You should also ensure that students are able to accomplish the
work independently or with the help of peers. Make instructions extremely clear so they can focus and learn
without your direct guidance.
4. Model how to use centers. As with any new instructional method, you will have to teach students how to
use centers effectively. Discuss, model, and practice appropriate behavior while at the center and while
moving between centers (if students will rotate through each center).
5. Provide constant feedback to students. You should review what students learned and did at each center
in order to reinforce the key skills and concepts. That might involve spending a brief amount of time with
each student while they are at the center or taking time at some later point to explicitly review what was
learned at each center with the whole class
Guided Practice and Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is more than just placing students in small groups and having them complete an activity
together. There are various cooperative learning theories and structures that call for particular methods of dividing up
students’ responsibilities in the group, handling collective production of assignments, and reporting back to the whole
P -3: Create objectiveobjective- driven lesson plans
Cooperative learning requires students to be responsible not only for their own learning but also for the learning of all
others in the group. Research has shown that students who participate in cooperative learning tend to have more
mature social skills, higher test scores, greater self-esteem, fewer stereotypes of individuals of other races or ethnic
groups, and a deeper understanding of the concepts and skills they are studying. “Cooperative learning also creates
the potential for cognitive and metacognitive [thinking about how they are working and thinking] benefits by engaging
students in discourse that requires them to make their task-related information-processing and problem-solving
strategies explicit (and thus available for discussion and reflection).”
Generally speaking, cooperative groups should be as heterogeneous as possible, first by ability, and then by other
factors such as gender, culture, and learning styles.
Successful cooperative learning groups meet the following criteria:
1. Facilitate interdependence. Students must be dependent on each other to such an extent that one student
cannot succeed unless everyone succeeds. Group goals and tasks should be designed and communicated
to students so that they believe they “sink or swim” together, with each group member responsible for a
unique contribution that is required for group success. To create this dynamic you might establish mutual
goals and mutual rewards (e.g., if all group members achieve an 80% or higher on the test, each will receive
bonus points). Because the teacher is not directly leading the group, students develop a sense of ownership
and responsibility.
2. Instill individual and group accountability. The group must be accountable for achieving its goals and
each member must be accountable for contributing his or her share of the work. This means that the teacher
needs to formally and informally assess the performance of each group member as well as the entire group
by having students complete a form outlining exactly how they contributed and giving individual tests on the
objectives. Groups can also be responsible for their members by taking notes and reviewing missed
assignments when students are absent.
3. Teach students the required interpersonal and small group skills. In cooperative learning, students must
be taught social skills such as compromise, encouragement, constructive criticism, leadership, decisionmaking, and conflict-management. Teachers often need to teach and model these skills and assign students
specific roles (Praiser, Encourager of Participation, Facilitator, Checker for Understanding, etc.) to help
students consciously develop these skills.
4. Allow time for group cohesion and group reflection. While students can stay in cooperative groups for
any length of time, a period of four or more weeks allows groups to reap the social and academic benefits of
cooperative learning. Cooperative groups also need to have structured time to reflect on how well they are
achieving their goals and interacting together. Again, this reflection skill is something that needs to be taught
and modeled.
Guided Practice and Inquiry/Problem Solving
One way in which students of varying levels can work cooperatively and contribute to a common cause is through
a problem solving activity. Inquiry problems involve the use of real-world cases to tease out essential learning for
students. Typically, the teacher presents a vignette, story, or scenario related to the concept or skill under study.
Through discussion, students then analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the facts or circumstances associated with
the case. Inquiry problems are most effective when students can relate (cognitively or affectively) to one or more
aspects of the case intimately.
The general process for problem-based learning is:
(1) Choose a compelling case;
(2) Define the nature of the problem (may involve illustrating the problem);
P -3: Create objectiveobjective- driven lesson plans
(3) Compile relevant information (ask questions, do research);
(4) Formulate and carry out a solution;
(5) Have students assess their solutions and debrief their understanding in terms of the lesson objectives;
(6) Conclude with further examination of issues, another case, or final resolution of the problem.
In one Web-based science lesson for sixth-graders, students are told that, due to several environmental disasters,
the Earth is no longer habitable for humans. Students must research the other eight planets and determine which
one will best meet humanity’s needs. The assignment suggests several websites to use for research purposes
and requires students to write a report to the United Nations explaining their conclusion and justifying it with
examples. By the end of the lesson cycle, students learn that this mission was technically impossible, given that
none of the planets feature all of the features that are needed to sustain human life. In addition to learning the
various facts and concepts that make Earth unique, students develop a greater sense of responsibility about the
environment, given that this is the only one we’ve got!
Some classes even go beyond historical or hypothetical situations, and look in their own backyard for problems to
solve. Imagine your science students demonstrating an interest in the neighborhood pond and pointing out a
dramatic decrease in wildlife. You could design a problem-solving unit around the ecological issues of the pond.
The point of learning particular knowledge and skills objectives would grow naturally out of student curiosity, not
teacher mandate.
Inquiry methods tend to engage students because they see the real-world applications of the concepts or skills
that they have learned. At the same time, inquiry learning allows students to practice the process of problem
solving. However, this method also may require teachers to prepare a great deal of materials, as well as ensure
that all students are engaged in the process to master the intended objectives.
If these examples seem too grandiose to implement on a regular basis, note that inquiry and discovery learning
can be as simple as asking students to confront an unusual quirk of your subject matter.
What factors should I consider when planning to do this?
Student Needs and Interests
Nature of the Content
Time and Resources
Student Needs and Interests
To learn more about tailoring your plans to meet individual student needs, read about differentiating instruction.
The same factors mentioned in the “engage students in new content” page play into how you decide to have your
students practice new material, though in slightly different ways.
• You would probably find that your attempt to implement co-ed cooperative learning groups would encounter a different
set of developmental challenges if you were teaching eighth grade than if you were teaching fourth grade.
• Student interests may really come into play when students practice skills on their own. The simple act of allowing
students to pick a research topic within some predefined parameters is based upon a recognition that you need to
leverage students’ interest into learning the key skills in your unit plan. Doing this can help motivate students by
building their desire to achieve (I-2)
The Nature of the Content
As mentioned in “engage students in new content” page, some concepts and skills, by their very nature, are best
presented and practiced in particular ways.
- If your objective involves the mastery of some process (determining the area of a circle, or tying shoes, for example),
your system of practice should probably involve repeated completion of that process.
P -3: Create objectiveobjective- driven lesson plans
If your objective involves straight memorization of facts (the bones in the human skeleton, or multiplication tables, for
example), your practice system should probably engage students in a process of repetition that will facilitate
You should ensure that the mental rigor of student practice is aligned with the cognitive level of the objective.
- If the cognitive level of the objective involves knowledge and comprehension, simple short answer questions and
more rote activities can provide effective student practice. These activities give the teacher an easy opportunity to
check for student understanding of new terms or skills.
- If the cognitive level of the objective points to application, students need to apply their knowledge to specific
scenarios, such as word problems in math or a document to edit in language arts.
- If the objective requires synthesis and evaluation, student practice should include activities that require complex
thinking, such as designing a science experiment that tests the physics theory about which they have been learning.
Time and Resources Available
The amount of time dedicated to student practice should be a function of the time students need to master the objective.
Remember that practice is the most important part of the lesson cycle, so make sure you give students enough time to
practice and internalize the content of your objectives. As you might expect, the cognitive level of the objective might also
affect the amount of time that should be dedicated to student practice.
- Knowledge and comprehension activities generally only need to be of short duration. Such activities are suitable to
discrete periods of class time or as homework.
- Application activities generally take longer, depending on their complexity.
- Complex thinking—such as that demanded by evaluation or synthesis activities—often requires think-time and usually
calls for extended practice.
Again, just as when you engage students in new content, the types and amounts of resources you have available may
also influence your choice of practice strategy.
In addition to these several factors that influence your decision about how to have your students practice new material,
you should remember the value of variation. You might think of the need for variety as a fifth factor that will affect your
instructional strategy decisions. You will have more engaged (and therefore more successful) students if you vary your
instructional strategies.
How can I organize students during practice?
For detailed guidance on this question, see the P-3 Tool “Methods for organizing students during guided practice”