In 2012, Barack Rosenshine published the Principles of Instruction: a set of 10 research-based principles of instruction, along with suggestions for classroom practice. The principles come from three sources: (a) research in cognitive science, (b) research on master teachers, and (c) research on cognitive supports.

The 10 Principles of Instruction are as follows:


Rosenshine’s 10 Principles of Instruction offer a helpful structure for teachers to use in planning and delivering effective teaching. In his report, Rosenshine (2012) explains that the principles are drawn from three sources:


While the principles apply to classroom teaching generally, their application in different secondary subjects will vary depending on the nature of the knowledge being taught and on how many lessons pupils have in a subject per week. Testing as a form of retrieval, for example, is more appropriate for subjects where a foundation of factual knowledge is necessary for analysis, such as history, and may be less appropriate for practical subjects that emphasise developing and practising a skill, such as art. Furthermore, guiding student practice will look very different depending on if it is a quadratic equation in maths, or a trampoline half twist in PE. As such, this blog will draw upon examples from various subjects to explore how each principle can be utilised practically in the secondary classroom.

This content was originally produced as part of the Accelerate programme, a Department for Education-funded early career teacher programme designed and delivered by Education Development Trust with the Chartered College of Teaching. It is used here with kind permission of Education Development Trust.


Principle 1: Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning: Daily review can strengthen previous learning and can lead to fluent recall.

In order for pupils to learn new material, they need to be able to easily access background knowledge in order to contextualise and interpret what is new. Rosenshine (2012) therefore places great emphasis on regular review of previous learning as a means to ensure that background knowledge is ‘readily accessible’.

The practice of continuously embedding previously learnt material through guided recall has two main aims:

  1. to recap previously learnt material, and
  2. to make links to new material.


Direct questioning at the start of the lesson is an effective way for students to practice retrieving information from their long-term memory. Furthermore, we can design these questions based on challenging common misconceptions.

To take an example from a science classroom, you may regularly ask students:

  • Which is bigger, an atom or a cell?
  • Why does the mass of magnesium increase when it is heated?
  • On a winter’s day, which is colder: a lamppost or a wooden fence?
  • What is between the nucleus of an atom and the electrons?


This approach allows the teacher to constantly revisit common misconceptions and help students to suppress them. Without such activities, misconceptions are likely to resurface frequently.

Brain dumping, or free recall (Gonzalez 2017), is another effective method that can be used across various subjects. This technique requires students to write down everything they can remember about a specific topic in a short space of time.

In English, for example, students can start lessons by writing down as many quotations as they can remember for a given character or theme of a text. These can then be shared as a class, enabling students to add further quotations to their sheet. The following lesson might then see a repeat of this activity, with students expected to increase the number of quotations they recall each time, thus scaffolding their learning. A natural development of this might be to then pick some of those quotations and write a short paragraph about each. Similarly, when studying poetry, students write down everything they can remember about Romanticism, for example. You could try this in every lesson for a week to see if students make progress and if their brain dumps become more detailed. 

It is important to give students time to review their notes when they have finished their brain dump to add any key information missed, or to correct any errors; this will stop them transferring errors to their long-term memory.

To ensure that the review is relevant to the lesson that will follow, it is important to consider the question what skills and knowledge will students need today? Though there is a vast amount of material to teach in all subjects, this first principle reminds us that in order to move faster, it is well worth our time to first look backwards.


Gonzalez J (2017) Retrieval Practice: The Most Powerful Learning Strategy You’re Not Using. Cult of Pedagogy. Available at: (accessed 15 October 2019).

Rosenshine B (2012) Principles of Instruction Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator  36(1): 12–39. Available at: (accessed 15 October 2019).

Smith MA, Blunt JR, Whiffen JW et al. (2016) Does Providing Prompts During Retrieval Practice Improve Learning? Applied Cognitive Psychology 30(4): 544–553.


Principle 2. Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step. Only present small amounts of new material at any time, and then assist students as they practice this material.

Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) reveals that our working memory (used to process new information) is easily over-burdened. As Sealy (2018) describes, ‘once the working memory is full, it can only take on more information by ‘dropping’ something, in the same way that you might be able to juggle with two balls easily enough, but add a third into the mix and everything would go pear shaped’. Breaking down materials into small steps supports embedding material into long-term memory.

Rosenshine’s research shows that more effective teachers:


Consider this example from geography, where a task for students to critically evaluate a case study is taught in a logical sequence of individual stages:

In a lesson on the Boscastle Floods, we might be tempted to start by giving pupils information on the causes of floods, the physical geography of the Boscastle area, the layout of the town, the impacts of the floods on different groups of people and how they responded to it. We might then ask them to write a report answering the question: How do the responses to the Boscastle Flood make it unlikely that such an event will happen again? We could give this information as a lecture or as a pack of information in different forms that pupils could use as they wish.

According to Rosenshine’s second principle it wouldn’t matter because it still wouldn’t be effective; pupils would still need to hold too much new information in their heads to answer the question.

A more effective approach would be to do the following:

  • Introduce the idea that flooding increases when surface runoff shortens the lag time and leads to too much water reaching the river too quickly. You could then ask students to apply this to different factors which could increase surface runoff.
  • Discuss the physical and human geography of Boscastle before asking the pupils to annotate a map showing the factors that increased the flood risk.
  • Then look at the day of the flood and break the impacts into social, economic and environmental. Ask students to suggest which category was more significant in the long- and short-term.
  • Then talk students through the immediate response to the flood and ask them to evaluate how effective it was, given the impacts of the flood they have already seen (using the process of recap from principle one).
  • Next, contrast a map of Boscastle before and after the flood. Ask students to identify the flood defence measures put in place and talk them through how they work.


This following example of breaking down a task into smaller steps in maths demonstrates the importance of building upon previously learnt foundations in order for pupils to understand and contextualise new material. In doing so, previously learnt material is also reviewed (as per principle one) and further embedded into students’ long term memory.

When adding fractions there is a journey a student will need to go on first with practice after each stage (see principles five, six and nine) before they can access this material. For instance, one path could be:

  • What is a fraction? This would involve students identifying the two components, the type of splitting/part (the denominator) and the amount of that splitting/part (the numerator). 
  • When are fractions equivalent? This would involve students identifying that we can create equivalent fractions (I find a fraction wall is a useful representation to use in this situation).
  • Adding fractions with common denominators. These can be used to strengthen the concept that the numerator is how many and the denominator is the type of splitting. When adding the fractions with common denominators, we are counting objects of the same ‘type’.
  • Adding proper fractions where the sum is less than a whole. This can then build on the idea that if two fractions do not have a common denominator then they are not the same type of object, so we cannot just count how many we have. This strengthens the need for finding equivalent fractions and introduces another application of lowest common multiple (lcm). 
  • Adding proper fractions.  Finally, a conversation can then be had about the form we would leave our answers in if the sum is greater than one. 


When introducing new material, it is a good idea to first consider what knowledge, skills or concepts will be useful for students to transfer into this topic. This way, we can begin with a targeted review of relevant material (principle one), before presenting new material in small steps that allow students to utilise and practice previously learnt skills.


Sealy C (2018) Cognitive load: a case study. Available at: (accessed 15 October 2019).


Principle 3. Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students: Questions help students practice new information and connect new material to their prior learning.

Despite the beliefs of some that teachers must limit the amount of time they spend talking in the classroom, Rosenshine (2012) found that the most successful teachers spent more than half of the lesson time lecturing, demonstrating and asking questions. In fact, from a language learning perspective this makes perfect sense. Where are students going to hear the language being modelled well if it’s not by you? Questioning in MFL is very different to other subjects as, other than when explicitly teaching grammar, we are not often asking students about concepts, we are encouraging them to use and practice the language.

Considering the above, the questioning in MFL lessons falls into two categories: checking for understanding of structures and rules, and checking ability to manipulate and use language.

The first category is where MFL is most similar to other subject areas, this is where we should be asking as many questions as we can to different students, asking for greater levels of depth and ensuring that all misconceptions are addressed. It is also important to establish how students reached their answers (Sherrington, 2018). An example of this sort of exchange could be as follows:

These kinds of questions are important for clarifying student understanding of the processes behind manipulating language. After a questioning sequence such as the above, you could use multiple choice questions to ensure all students understand.

Questions allow a teacher to determine how well material has been learnt and whether there is a need for additional instruction (Rosenshine, 2012). Such feedback is essential for knowing when to move onto the next step of learning without overloading pupils’ working memory.

When planning questions, consider how you might gather responses in a way that maximises the number of students who are thinking and participating. We might do this by gathering group responses, asking pupils to respond to peers, or by asking for individual responses which are managed carefully by the teacher to maximise impact.

Rosenshine suggests the following questioning methods to involve all students:


Furthermore, the type of questions being asked are critical to enhance learning. 

Types of questioning in Maths (from Watson and Mason, 1998):

  • Are you sure? and How do you know? 

It is important to create a positive mathematical culture of questioning within the classroom (Bowland Maths 2008). By asking students to firstly make a commitment to their solution or answer and then ask them to justify their position, it opens students up to the hypercorrection effect (Hawes 2010). Hypercorrection deals with the idea that if pupils are more confident about their answer, then find out they are wrong, they are then more likely to remember the correct answer in the long term (Butterfield and Metcalfe 2001).

  • Is there another way?

Way (2011) places this in the final discussion questions of their categorisation of questions in the mathematics classroom. This question can draw together the ‘efforts of the class and prompt sharing and comparison of strategies and solutions’ (Way, 2011). Through this the teacher can bring out the mathematical thinking that has occurred in the class and this can act as an opportunity to check the understanding of the students.

  • Is it always, sometimes or never true?
    An example can be found in Swan (2005, p21-23). In the number example (Figure 1), statements are provided that can be used with students to develop their capacity to explain, convince and prove. One of the teacher’s roles here is to encourage students to think more deeply by asking questions such as “is this one still true for decimals or negative numbers?” Questions like this also allow the teacher to see which students are able to adapt their arguments and apply their previously learnt knowledge. 


Figure 1: Evaluating mathematical statements, (Swan, 2005)

In a subject like English, questioning can be utilised to both check students’ factual knowledge, and also develop their critical analysis. In this example, questioning in the English classroom is separated into three categories: factual questions; process questions; and combination questions.

Factual questions can be used to ensure that key, foundational knowledge is secured. How many witches are there in the opening scene of Macbeth? Who says “unsex me here”? Who sings “Tell me it’s not true”? And so on. In fact, for English literature, quotations quizzes can be an effective way of employing factual questions like this.

Further examples of factual questions might include:

  • How many lines are there in a sonnet?
  • What is a metaphor?
  • Who first witnesses Hyde’s transition into Jekyll?
  • Who steals Desdemona’s handkerchief?
  • What is a complex sentence?
  • What is an adverb?


Factual questions can be employed across the whole range of topic areas, key stages, and ability range in English. They can be used as tools for differentiation, with increasing levels of challenge.

Process questions may be those that ask students for evidence in support of an observation about a text – a quotation, with an explanation of how that quotation supports the claim, or some comment about the effect of the writer’s use of language. For example, we might ask students “How does Shakespeare present Lady Macbeth as manipulative in these lines?”

Combination questions: we can use a combination of factual and process questions very easily. You could, for example, present students with quotations from Macbeth and ask them to identify the speaker (factual), and then to explain that quotation (process). Alternatively, you could use the A-level specifications for inspiration and give students a statement, asking them to say whether or not they agree with it. For instance, sticking with Shakespeare, we might present the students with the following: Shakespeare presents Caliban as a victim. How far do you agree with this statement?

Questioning is an integral part of classroom teaching in all subjects. Brualdi (1998) suggests that teachers may ask between 300-400 questions every day, but according to Spendlove (2009) very few of these questions are planned in advance and only around 20% actually require pupils to think hard. Like the above examples, we can prepare questions, and be familiar with different types of questions that will challenge students, and allow teachers to gauge their understanding.

Another important aspect of effective questioning across all subject areas is the wait time given after a question has been asked. This time gives space for students to think hard by retrieving information from their long term memory in finding the answer.


Bowland Maths (2008) Questioning and reasoning. Bowland Maths. Available at: (accessed 29 April 2019).

Brualdi A (1998) Classroom questions. Practical assessment, research and evaluation 6 (6). Available at: (accessed 15 October 2019).

Butterfield B and Metcalfe J (2001) Errors committed with high confidence are hypercorrected. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition 27(6): 1491–1494.

Hawes DR (2010) Confidently wrong? Psychology today. Available at: (accessed 29 April 2019).

Spendlove D (2009) Putting assessment for learning into practice. London: Continuum.

Swan M (2005) Standards Unit: Improving learning in mathematics: challenges and strategies. Department for Education and Skills Standards Unit. UK: NCTEM. Available at: (accessed 8 May 2019).

Watson A and Mason J (1998) Questions and prompts for mathematical thinking. Association of Teachers of Mathematics. Available at: (accessed 1 December 2020).

Way J (2011) Using questioning to stimulate mathematical thinking. NRICH. Available at: (accessed 29 April 2019).


Principle 4. Provide models: Providing students with models and worked examples can help them learn to solve problems faster.

Modelling requires the teacher to demonstrate, step by step, how to perform a task or solve a problem (Rosenshine, 2012). Modelling is underpinned by the idea that it is easier to understand how to do something much more effectively by being shown how to do it, compared to if we were merely given a description of how to do it. Again, by breaking demonstrations into small steps we can reduce the load on pupils’ working memory.

In this section we will consider three strategies that are effective across various subject areas and support learners when learning a new skill or procedure:

  1. Model and exemplify tasks and activities
  2. Provide excellent models and worked examples
  3. Articulate metacognitive strategies; think aloud.


Exemplifying skills and activities

Practical subjects such as P.E. rely heavily on demonstrating skills and activities both as a teaching tool and as a safety precaution (if, for example, the activity or equipment needed are potentially risky). The following example from the Education Endowment Foundation (2018) demonstrates how a PE teacher might model a safe forward roll:

The teacher might use both action and talk to exemplify:

‘I don’t want to hurt my neck and want to do this neatly. So first, to protect my neck, I need to tuck my chin to chest like this. Then when I start to roll, I remember not to roll onto my head. Instead, look how I’m going to roll onto my back and shoulders. This also means my back is round, so I can smoothly roll like this. Now, who can remember what I did first to protect my neck?’

Education Endowment Foundation, 2018, p. 16

This example is transferable across different subjects; as the EEF reports, ‘to move from novice to expert, our pupils need to know how an expert athlete, artist, historian, or science habitually thinks and acts’ (2018, p. 16). For practical subjects in particular, exemplifying and explaining skills is fundamental to teaching and preparing students for independent practice.

Josie Morgan (2019) has explored ways of retaining student attention and reducing their cognitive load during teacher-led demonstration of practical skills in art and DT. Reflecting on her use of verbal instructions alongside practical modelling, she noticed that ‘wordy demonstrations completely discounted the processing capacity of my students, and this was evident in their outcomes’.

In order to reduce the cognitive load, and demand on attention, of her students, Morgan (2019) found two helpful methods that we can utilise in practical modelling to ensure a more focused approach:

In stark contrast to the ‘thinking aloud’ model explored below, silent modelling can prove effective for modelling practical skills, reducing students’ cognitive load, and ensuring focused attention during teacher demonstration.

Worked examples

Let’s take translation in MFL as an example. In this case using a visualiser is particularly helpful for modelling. Rather than just telling our students that we want them to annotate the text, we can use the visualiser to show them, step by step what to do and explain our thought processes. Without this explanation our students are likely just to jump straight into the translation in front of them, without careful consideration of the structure of the text or the grammar and vocabulary knowledge they will need.

At A Level, this may mean that students miss structures which trigger the subjunctive as they haven’t taken a step back and really considered the text.  Below is just one possible way of approaching modelling a translation task.

Live modelling a worked example (like above) not only demonstrates the answer that you are looking for, but the cognitive process required to achieve it. Prepared worked examples are also effective across different subject areas; by first supplying an exemplar (for example a solved equation or a model paragraph) we can then guide students through looking at the steps involved in finding this solution.

Thinking aloud

In the classroom, we are the experts and our aim is to support out pupils, who are novices, to become experts like us. By thinking aloud we can model effective metacognition – that is how we think about our own learning.

Exemplifying skills, live-modelling and prepared worked examples are all useful for demonstrating the processes of finding solutions or perfecting a skill. By articulating our metacognitive strategies (thinking aloud) we can also demonstrate how experts think. 

For example, as science teachers, our knowledge of science far outstrips that of our students. There are many things which are obvious to us and research shows that experts struggle to understand what it is like to learn something from the perspective of a novice (Heath and Heath, 2006). Often termed “expert blindness” this is a cognitive bias which prevents us from accurately anticipating student knowledge and understanding.

Thinking aloud is an excellent strategy to avoid this cognitive bias. For example, if a teacher is constructing a symbol equation of neutralisation on the board, they may say, ‘Hydrochloric acid, which is HCl’ and then write ‘HCl(aq)’ on the board. For the teacher and some of their students it may be obvious that acids are aqueous, but there is a chance that this will confuse some students. This cognitive distraction will inevitably reduce the impact of instruction.

Science teachers should take care to make every step explicit so that students do not need to desperately search through their long-term memory to gain a cognitive foothold in your explanation. In the example above, the teacher should have written ‘HCl(aq)’ on the board then either explicitly explained what the (aq) stands for or asked a student to do the same.


Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning Guidance Report. Available at: (Accessed 15 October 2019).

Heath C and Heath D (2006) The Curse of Knowledge. Harvard Business Review. Available at: (accessed 3 January 2019).

Morgan J (2019) Cognitive Load Theory Explored Through Modelling in the Practical Classroom. Available at: (accessed 17 October 2019).


Principle 5. Guide student practice: Successful teachers spend more time guiding students’ practice of new material.

Once students have processed new material in their working memory, they require significant practice to then transfer and store this material in their long term memory (Rosenshine, 2012). Before students attempt independent practice however (principle nine), teachers should guide and support practice through explanation and examples.

Summarising is a useful tool for rehearsal and practice in many subjects where we support students to process factual content and concepts (‘declarative’ knowledge). As the teacher guides this practice by dictating when and how students should summarise material, students are given opportunities to rehearse material in steps. Consider this example of guided practice in English:

In a lesson with Year 7 on William Caxton you might begin by explaining that Caxton lived in the 1400s, introduced the printing press into England and published an edition of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. You might then cold call on students to repeat this information, before writing it on the board for students to copy into their exercise books.

You could follow this with a reading of the Caxton’s Eggs text which can be divided into three sections: the varying nature of the English language; the story about the merchant asking for eggs; and Caxton’s dilemma of which version of ‘egg’ he should write. The teacher might pause the reading at the end of the first section, summarising it and inviting students to summarise it too. This enables students to rephrase the summary, which is itself a powerful facet in embedding the new information in long-term memory (so long as the rephrasing is accurate and retains the correct knowledge). The teacher might then write a summary on the board for students to copy down.

After a reading of the second section – the story of the merchant – you might invite the students to verbally summarise what happens, taking responses from several students, allowing them to rephrase, and then repeating their summaries back to them. You could then invite the students to write their own summary of the story of the merchant, walking the room to read the students’ work as they write to check for accuracy, and to look for opportunities to use the work of individual students as models (see the fourth principle).

In practical subjects such as music, art or DT,  we may seek forms of guided practice that support students’ ‘procedural’ knowledge – their ability to understand and perform procedures and skills. Rather than summarising, answering questions or engaging in discussions, we might instead observe and provide feedback for practice of a practical skill, break the skill into smaller ‘chunks’ to be practiced, and continue to model the skill being practiced.


Principle 6. Check for student understanding: Checking for student understanding at each point can help students learn the material with fewer errors.

Rosenshine (2012) notes that the most effective teachers frequently check to see if all students are learning the new materials, and if they are developing misconceptions. Pausing learning in order to check for student understanding will allow teachers to identify if anything needs to be revisited.

Effective questioning

Questioning is a useful tool for checking student understanding, though Rosenshine warns against asking ‘are there any questions?’ – an ineffective question that exposes very little about what students have understood or misunderstood. Instead, questions should be directed and relevant.

Questioning can be particularly illuminating when introducing a new concept in order to gather whether our pupils hold common misconceptions. Furthermore, we can then plan questions to ensure that these misconceptions are being addressed continually, such as in this example from geography:

If pupils are about to write a paragraph contrasting high and low pressure areas we might ask one pupil to tell us which place will have less rainfall and another to tell us which will be warmer. The second question helps to draw out the misconception that high pressure areas are warm just because they are dry.

Multiple choice questions are another great way to check pupils’ knowledge and understanding, and mini whiteboards, paper or hand signals can be used to gather whole class responses while questioning.

For some subjects or topics, questioning may not be substantial to check student understanding. In these cases, questioning can be used to begin a sequence of relevant tasks designed to check understanding:

In MFL, take the example of teaching the mechanics of a particular grammar point. Here, some multiple-choice questions might be just what we need. However to make an accurate judgement of students’ understanding, a few more tasks would be useful. They would certainly check understanding much more accurately than a thumbs up/down check.

Some considerations:

  • Include enough multiple-choice questions to allow students to demonstrate that they can follow the steps we have shown them to reach the correct answer.
  • Further extend students by asking them to complete some translations using that structure.
  • Finally, elicit a written or spoken response that will include the grammatical structure that we have just taught.


What am I going to do with this information?

The most important part of checking student understanding is what you do with that information. Giving students timely feedback is essential but can contribute to workload pressures. Giving feedback doesn’t have to be the most onerous task.  So, think about your next steps:

  • A poor score on multiple choice questions could just require the correction of a simple misconception before answering another similar set of questions.
  • Instead of marking and giving detailed feedback on a whole piece, you could focus on the grammar concept that has just been taught or use of specific phrases.


Checking for students’ understanding at any given time will only reflect what students understand in that particular moment. Thus regular review (principles one and 10) is needed to ensure that students’ understanding of material does not change.


Principle 7. Obtain a high success rate: It is important for students to achieve a high success rate during classroom instruction.

Rosenshine’s seventh principle encourages teachers to make sure that all students achieve a high success rate during practice. As many of these principles are, this would seem like common sense. That said, there are a number of complications related to this principle.

To my mind, the first issue here is to do with how we are defining success. In many other subjects I suppose this comes down to the number of correct answers a student can give. This can’t be applied in quite the same way to language learning. Yes, students can be given a score for a vocabulary or grammar test, but that’s one of the few situations where it can be quite so clear cut. The way we define success must of course come down to the intentions of the lesson, but there may be more to it than that.

If the aim for our lesson is for students to be able to express their opinions on their favourite television programmes, what does success look like? Do they need to express these opinions in writing or speaking? Do the opinions need to include certain structures? This is where success criteria come in particularly useful.

You may choose to use a structure such as WALT (we are learning to) and WILF (what I’m looking for) (Clarke, 2001). Such structures give students a really clear idea of what success will look like in that lesson and will also help you to clarify exactly what you are looking for. Additionally, we must separate what we are looking for in terms of the learning, from the tasks we are asking the students to complete (Wiliam, 2018) so that we can be clear about exactly what learning has taken place.

Only once we are clear on exactly what success will look like can we think about how we are going to get our students to actually achieve that high success rate that we are after. When presenting this to students we may well choose to show them a model answer, something we have discussed in relation to principle four.

We all know, without needing research to tell us, that when we do well at something we tend to enjoy it more and we probably want to do it more. There is, of course, much more to motivation than that, but on a basic level it’s just what we need to remember. The key here is, how do we help our students to feel successful and confident and therefore, we hope, enjoy their language learning more? Of course, the solution isn’t just to make things easier.

Helping our students to feel successful in their language learning is a difficult balance. Pitch a lesson too low and students can feel that the work is too easy, boring and pointless. Pitch it too high on the other hand and they can feel that they aren’t any good at languages, will never understand it and should just stop trying. Factor into this the fact that many of us are teaching classes with a huge range of abilities and we find ourselves with a problem.  One way of increasing student motivation is to increase their linguistic self-confidence (Smith and Conti).

Clear presentation, scaffolded, structured and repeated practice, stepped progression and effective assessment and feedback will all contribute to this. These are, of course, already elements of your practice that you are already considering through the use of the other Rosenshine’s principles. Increasing our students’ linguistic self-confidence means that they will be more likely to be willing to speak the target language in class (Kiil Moberg, 2010) and therefore hopefully be able to obtain a high success rate.

Without this self-confidence, there are students that we are unlikely to hear contributions from and therefore this high success rate will only be seen in their written work. Whilst in some subjects this may be ok, language learning relies much more on those oral contributions.  In order to foster this self-confidence, we need to help our students to feel successful in their language learning.

In his book, Teach Like a Champion (2010), Doug Lemov has an entire chapter dedicated to planning for success. ‘The most effective [teachers] help as many students as possible meet or exceed a high standard of excellence. To do this, they view the lesson from the student’s perspective and then systematically add supports or remove obstacles to success, without diluting rigour.’ To do this effectively we will next need to consider the importance of  scaffolding, which is the focus for principle eight.

In summary, if we want our students to obtain a high level of success, we need to know exactly what that success should look like and build in the appropriate supports to help them achieve this.


Clarke S (2001) Unlocking formative assessment. London: Hodder And Stoughton.

Kiil Molberg HK (2010) The consequence of motivation and linguistic self-confidence in relation topupils’ oral interaction. Available at: (accessed 16 June 2019).

Lemov D and Atkins N (2015) Teach like a champion 2.0: 62 techniques that put students on the path to college. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Rosenshine B (2012) Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator 36(1): 12–19/39. Available at: (accessed 12 April 2019).

Smith S and Conti G (2016). The Language Teacher Toolkit. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace.

Wiliam D (2018) Embedded formative assessment. Bloomington, Indiana: Solution Tree Press.


Principle 8. Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks: The teacher provides students with temporary supports and scaffolds to assist them when they learn difficult tasks.

Rosenshine describes a scaffold as a temporary support that is used to assist a learner, and is gradually withdrawn as learners gain competence (Rosenshine, 2012). Using scaffolds allows teachers to support students with challenging tasks, rather than simplifying them or lowering expectations. Examples of scaffolding include teacher modelling, prompt questions, sentence starters and model answers.

Scaffolding a writing task: Geography

You might want pupils to complete the task: Evaluate the effectiveness of the response to a tropical storm you have studied.

This task involves pupils recalling a specific tropical storm and its response, deciding what ‘effectiveness’ in this instance refers to (economically, politically, socially or environmentally), deciding whether the response was effective and selecting the relevant information to make the case. Students then need to put this argument in a suitable structure.

If you scaffold this task too heavily, and give them a writing frame to complete where most of these decisions have been taken from them, they may not be practising the element of the discipline you were hoping for. They are likely to just be practising the recall of relevant information which, while important, can be done at another time.

If we wanted them to practise selecting relevant information and forming an argument, we could scaffold by taking away the final part of the task where they need to worry about the structure of the writing. This could be achieved by providing structure strips that tell pupils the type of information to include in each paragraph, rather than the information itself (Logue, 2017).

If you wanted pupils to think about how to structure their answer, you could lighten the load on recall. In this instance the scaffolding would be a crib sheet of facts to include in the answer but less guidance on how to structure the work, as this is the skill you want them to practice.

A common way to scaffold a task in geography is to give pupils a very explicit success criteria so that they know how their work will be judged. This removes an element of guesswork and allows them to concentrate on practising the task at hand. For the task discussed above, this might look like:

  • Names a specific tropical storm
  • Includes details on the responses
  • Evaluates both immediate and long-term responses
  • Links the impact of the storm to the response
  • Considers the economic and social effectiveness of the response
  • Reaches a conclusion about both.


It is important to first consider what exactly you want pupils to practice in a task in order to avoid scaffolding in such a way that the very skills you want to develop is not practiced.

Scaffolding through drama

In her article Using Drama for Learning – How and Why It Works, Patrice Baldwin (2019) outlines the following drama strategies that can be adapted to scaffold and aid learning:

  • A character can be played by a group (collective role). Each person answers questions in turn, as the character (hot-seating).
  • A hot-seated character can have several children standing behind, who speak the character’s thoughts (thought-tracking/collective thought).
  • The class can form a circle around the character and pass by him/her in turn, voicing their thoughts about/to the character at a particular moment (passing thoughts).
  • They can position themselves physically in relation to the character and justify their positioning aloud (proxemics).


Using drama in this way need not be limited to the drama classroom; such activities can helpfully scaffold building students’ knowledge of fictional, literary, historical or political figures, as well as support their ability to express critical ideas.


Baldwin P (2019) Using Drama for Learning – How and Why It Works. Available at: (accessed 17 October 2019).

Logue P (2017) Differentiation Ideas that Work Every Time. Available at: (accessed 4 October 2019).


Principle 9. Require and monitor independent practice: Students need extensive, successful, independent practice in order for skills and knowledge to become automatic.

Independent practice is necessary for students to become fluent and automatic in a skill (Rosenshine, 2012), however it is only worthwhile if sequenced appropriately. Students’ ability to competently engage in independent practice depends on prior support, particularly modelling (principle four) and guided practice (principle five).

This example from the MFL classroom outlines the sequence of lessons necessary to prepare students for a GCSE exam question. Importantly, the teacher recalls the sequence of teaching that has enabled students’ to attempt independent practice, and considers feedback methods that relate to that sequence.

For language teachers preparing students for GCSE exams, examples of tasks we might want students to be able to carry out automatically include:

  • Prepare a description of a photo
  • Orally answer questions that they haven’t been given time to prepare
  • Prepare a response to a roleplay
  • Write an answer to a written question of varying lengths (40, 90 or 150 words)
  • Translate a text from English to the target language
  • Translate a text from the target language to English
  • Answer multiple choice questions on a written or spoken text
  • Answer questions which require a written response about a spoken or written text.


Before this stage, students will have practiced very specific parts of these tasks many times, they will have seen worked examples of what you will expect the final outcome to be and they will know the steps involved in getting there. The aim of this final practice stage is to show that students can now complete these tasks on their own without close supervision. It is important that they are now expected to complete the whole task themselves, without the scaffolds that you would previously have put in place. So long as there has been sufficient practice beforehand then this won’t be an issue. If this is too hard then students haven’t practiced sufficiently yet and are not ready for independent practice.

Take, for example, preparing a description of a photo. In previous lessons you have made sure that students know the key vocabulary needed, you have taught them how to use the present continuous tense to describe what is happening in the photo, you have provided scaffolds for how to structure the response as well as model answers. These stages have all been tested and checked and all students understand the process. Before asking them to complete a full photo description on their own you might give students a reminder of these steps.

Students could then be given a range of pictures to describe. In future lessons, students should just need a reminder of how you expect them to tackle the task so eventually, by the time they get to the exam, they will be well-rehearsed and ready for the task. You will of course need to give them feedback on what they have produced in order to check that this practice has been successful. This feedback should match up with the stages that you have practiced and comment on how well the student has done at each of those parts as well as the task as a whole. This way you will be able to pinpoint exactly what it is that needs practice.

Shown below is an example of how you might structure this practice. This is not a full lesson sequence and there would be more content to these lessons than just the photo description work.

Lesson one Free time activities
Lesson two Free time activities with the present continuous tense
Lesson three Introduction of photo description task. Using PALM W OJ or similar.








Modelling and practice as a class.

Lesson four Starter – what does PALM W OJ stand for?

One modelled example.

Independent practice

Lesson five Feedback and new topic
Later lesson Applying PALM W OJ to a photo related to the latest topic

The above example from MFL provides us with a thoughtful consideration of the way that we prepare students for independent practice. Importantly, the sequence incorporates the re-emphasising of key knowledge that students need for the practice, such as useful vocabulary and outcome expectations.

Arguably, the practice of skills in some subjects depends less on retaining and exercising knowledge that has been transferred directly from teacher to pupil (Robinson, 2019). In artistic subjects specifically, Robinson describes that when students practice a skill they demonstrate an application of both knowledge, skill and technique, as well as feeling and self-expression.

For the arts then, preparing for independent practice can look more like:

Here is something, don’t respond yet, learn about it, try to copy it, from this develop your taste, your ability to discriminate, compare and contrast, bring it into your repertoire, respond to it, adapt to it, understand it, feel it, adapt it to you, reject it, accept it, argue about it, make it… create what you want to create based on all you know… (Robinson, 2019).

The consideration to be made here then, is in how to ensure student success while accepting the subjective nature of independent creative practice. Indeed, in order to really encourage students engaging with their imagination when creating, there is a limit to how narrow our expectations for independent practice can be. It is therefore essential in all subjects, to consider the sequence that leads up to the independent practice. Just as we can in other subjects, we can sequence learning in the arts to ensure that students have encountered, evaluated, replicated and adapted a concept or technique before significant independent practice.


Robinson M (2019) The Awkward Arts: Why the Teaching of the Arts should be Challenging for Schools. Impact 7. Available at: (accessed 17 October 2019).


Principle 10. Engage students in weekly and monthly review: Students need to be involved in extensive practice in order to develop well-connected and automatic knowledge.

Consistent review of learnt material presents two great benefits for students:

  1. knowledge stored in long-term memory becomes solidified and better-connected, and therefore
  2. working memory space is ‘freed up’ and made available for reflecting on new information and for problem solving (Rosenshine, 2012).


Whether these reviews occur weekly or monthly will depend how often your subject is taught; for subjects that are taught weekly, a ‘weekly review’ would be indistinguishable from principle one (review previous learning at the start of the lesson).

Tests and quizzes are commonly used as a way to review specific material with a whole class. This example from the Geography classroom explores methods of review that are specific to individual learners:

One way would be to sit with a pupil and discuss their work with them. This can be done while other pupils are getting on with independent practice. In this time you can discuss the progress they are making, ask searching questions about their work and help them make connections between different topics. You may only be able to sit with one pupil each lesson but it means you will review each pupil’s work with them a couple of times a year.

Another way to approach frequent review is to use the Cornell Note Taking system (Allison, 2018). This system involves pupils creating a wider left-hand margin in their exercise book and a box of a few lines at the bottom of the page. They then complete their work in the right hand box as usual. At the end of the lesson they summarise what they have learnt in the box at the bottom and then write a few quick questions based on their work in the margin on the left. When it comes to review their work they can now quickly read their summary before attempting their own questions.

You can also carry out a review through concept mapping (Blunt and Karpicke, 2014). At the end of the topic ask pupils to create a mind map of what they have studied from memory. They then need to identify the links from the different parts of the topic and add these links (using lines of different colours can be an effective way for them to show these). It is important this is done from memory so as to take advantage of the testing effect and improve the ability to recall the information in the future. Once they have done as much as they can from memory, they can then use their notes to review what they have managed to remember and fill in any gaps.

As with principle one, engaging in regular review greatly benefits students’ long-term memory. This is particularly effective when concepts, skills and ideas that are transferable between various topics are regularly reviewed. Doing this will allow students to transfer and build upon skills and ideas in various contexts.

All ten of these principles will aid students in becoming more fluent and competent in retrieving information, developing skills, and interpreting new material. Many of the principles and examples discussed in this blog will already be part of your everyday repertoire – they may even appear obvious. It is important to remember that the aim is not to enact all ten principles at once – in practice, we discover that many of them overlap and repeat anyway – but to keep these principles in mind and use them to guide you in the design of effective lesson sequences that will purposefully support  students development from novice to expert.


Allison S (2018) Supporting Retrieval with Cornell Note Taking. Available at: (accessed 4 October 2018).

Blunt J and Karpicke J (2014) Learning with Retrieval-Based Concept Mapping. Journal of Educational Psychology 106(3): 849–858.




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