You’re probably familiar with Dr. Anita Archer, expert in reading instruction and author of Explicit Instruction and PHONICS for Reading. Her expertise in education as a classroom teacher and a college professor has culminated in a collection of “Archerisms” that inform her teaching.
Here are 10 essential Archerisms that get to the heart of best practices in teaching.
1. Teach the Stuff and Cut the Fluff
You know how quickly instructional time flies by. This Archerism lays the foundation for success by reminding us to focus learning time on the most critical content. Without first developing foundational skills, your students may struggle with complex concepts later. To optimize your limited time, make that critical content a priority.
2. How Well You Teach = How Well They Learn
Sometimes it’s hard to accept that the way we are teaching isn’t working for our students. Don’t feel discouraged if this is the case for you. Instead, work on improving the organization of your lessons to achieve higher levels of engagement. Be intentional with your instruction and don’t be afraid to adjust your approach when needed.
3. Learning Is Not a Spectator Sport
Students need an opportunity to put their knowledge into context as they are learning, not only when the lesson is over. Ask yourself how you can make learning more interactive for your students. Here are a few examples of ways to increase engagement:
- Action response procedures: hand signals, gestures
- Holdups: whiteboards, fingers, response cards
- Inclusive passage reading: choral reading, silent reading
Bonus tip: Avoid relying on raised hands. Often, that only encourages the most confident and higher-performing students to participate.
4. Walk around, Look around, Talk Around
When you offer your students opportunities to respond, what you do with that data matters. First, understand where they are making errors in thinking and encourage them to try it a new way. Be present in your classroom so you are aware when students are missing key concepts. That could look like walking around the room as a silent observer or directly checking in with groups of students as they are completing their work to monitor their progress.
5. Feedback Feeds Forward
Are you providing adequate feedback that propels your students forward in their learning? It’s important that you don’t simply tell them whether they are right or wrong. Instead, provide feedback that is affirmative, informative, and corrective.
- Affirmative: Give specific praise.
- Informative: Explain areas of improvement.
- Corrective: Show students how to find the answer.
6. Perfected Practice over Time Makes Perfect and Permanent
Our goal as teachers is to move the content we are teaching from students’ working memory to permanent memory. Practice alone is not all it takes to master a topic. Perfected practice is about quality and quantity. You don’t want practice to end after one lesson plan. Continue building on those skills and providing feedback so your students get enough time with the material and learn to practice correctly.
7. Predictability Predicts Ability
Routines promote confidence and proficiency. When your students know what to expect, they are better prepared to problem solve. For instance, if you implement the same strategies to sound out monosyllabic words every time, your students are likely to remember that approach the next time they encounter one on their own.
8. What We Expect = What We Get
Predictability applies to classroom behaviors too. Make sure to set expectations early in the year for procedures like, “What happens if I need to sharpen my pencil?” or “Where do I put my finished work?” Clarity is the key component of success when it comes to both academic and behavioral expectations.
9. If You Expect It, Pre-correct It
Classroom management can snowball into a draining and repetitive cycle if you let it. A great way to prepare for undesirable behaviors is to pre-correct them. Verbalize your expectations through clear instructions like, “Time to clear everything off your desk except for your pencil and a piece of paper.”
10. Avoid the Void, for They Will Fill It
When your instruction is engaging and appropriately paced, students are less likely to succumb to boredom and take matters into their own hands. Show excitement for what you are teaching, and your class will mirror your enthusiasm.
Bonus Archerism: Connect. Connect. Connect.
The content you are teaching is so important, and you’re making a vast difference with your instruction alone. Connecting with your students will only intensify the impact within your classroom while making it a place of belonging and learning. Always remember the power of teacher–student relationships.