Series Educate Texas Professional Development Network: Engaging Students in Direct Instruction

Engaging Students in Direct Instruction

Lesson Objective: Research the history of American music
Grades 9-12 / ELA / Questioning


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How do students "write to learn?
  2. " How does Ms. Culver use questioning to push her students' understanding?
  3. What engagement strategies can you learn from Ms. Culver?


  • Private message to Lola Ogunro
My student teaching placement is in a classroom that heavily relies on direct instruction. Just as the teacher in the video said, direct instruction can become monotonous and tire out the students, so it is helpful to add in low stakes methods of engaging students while teaching. This teacher demonstrates hells giving information and completely leading the lesson, while also giving students breaks to process and evaluate the information being given. The teacher also makes sure to ask plenty of probing questions that require inquiry and deeper thinking. In my own classroom, I can utilize the low stakes engagement during direct instruction in order to help students gain better understanding of material without adding a lot of pressure on them to get the answers correct or "say the right thing". I also want to adopt her method of chunking the information to the students and then allow them to think or discuss.
Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Holly Lewis
I really like the low stakes and can see some ways in implement into my classroom
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  • Private message to Naomi Poindexter
Notice teacher interrupts and students stop. This doesn't always happen. So When time is called, You would say..."bring your conversation to a stopping point in 3,2,1... Look in my direction at a voice level 0 in 3,2,1... I will be teaching for about 5 minutes... I need your focus this way.... ( Narrate) Shquila is at voice zero ... Shyla is looking in my direction." ( then you roll through with instruction). This teacher is showing the fluidity between her talking and then students' talking. I am asking you to use NNN inbetween these points so students have an obvious start and stop point.
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  • Private message to CD McPherson

What is NNN?

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  • Private message to Naomi Poindexter
How could you use NNN precise directions to address movement, volume, and participation?
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  • Private message to Naomi Poindexter
While teacher is talking, what are students' behaviors?
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  • Engaging Students in Direct Instruction Transcript
    Instructor: Andrea Culver

    Card: Educate Texas supports rigorous, college ready standards for all Texas

    Engaging Students in Direct Instruction Transcript
    Instructor: Andrea Culver

    Card: Educate Texas supports rigorous, college ready standards for all Texas students. The Common Instructional Framework is part of that approach.

    Card: Common Instructional Framework
    • Collaborative Group Work
    • Writing to Learn
    • Scaffolding
    • Questioning
    • Classroom Talk
    • Literacy Groups

    +++ 00:00:26 +++
    Card: Engaging Students in Classroom Lecture

    Andrea Culver: So my question for you guys, as we move forward through this, why should we care about old music and what would happen if there was no evidence of older music?

    Andrea Culver: My name is Andrea Culver. I teach Pre-AP English 1, freshmen here at Sheldon Early College High School in Houston, Texas.

    Card: Andrea Culver
    9th Grade Pre-AP English 1
    Sheldon Early College High School, Houston, Texas

    Andrea Culver: If you take a peek at that piece of paper that I passed out, that's going to be the details of your final project. It's not really a project so much as it is a research paper.

    Andrea Culver: Today's lesson is a history of American music from 1920 to 1979.

    Andrea Culver: You're going to want to take notes today.

    +++ 00:00:57 +++
    Andrea Culver: For this particular project, they're going to be working on their research standards.

    Andrea Culver: In green, those are your available genres that we have for research. You can choose from jazz, folk, blues, swing, pop, rock and roll, country, gospel, doo-wop, disco and punk. I realize that some of these sound really weird right now, because you maybe aren't familiar with them, but you'll be familiar with them by the end of the period.

    Andrea Culver: So we're taking something for English, which is research, and we are coupling it with something that's relevant to them because, let's face it, you can't separate them from their iPods.

    +++ 00:28 +++
    Andrea Culver: Relate the music and/or lyrics to your chosen genre. Explain why knowing musical history can be important, and evaluate how your genre has impacted current musical trends.

    Andrea Culver: There are days where you have to present a lot of information in a little bit of time and that's when it becomes teacher-centric. I don't like to do those kind of activities, but sometimes you just have to do them.

    Andrea Culver: While we are doing our PowerPoint today, we'll stop throughout the period and I might tell you to talk to your group or talk to a certain partner.

    +++ 00:01:55 +++
    Andrea Culver: I keep the Common Instructional Frameworks in mind as I plan my lessons. It's important to me and so I try very hard to go out of my way to add them in.

    Andrea Culver: We're going to do writing to think, okay?

    Andrea Culver: So we do this writing to learn and we do this classroom talk and that's to make sure that the students are understanding and processing the information that's being presented.

    +++ 00:02:13 +++
    Andrea Culver: So we're going to start in the 1920s, okay? This is where America finally has our own original music form. We have jazz and Appalachian folk music. Flappers are the young ladies on the picture and we're going to talk about them in a just a minute. I just want you to look at it so you know what I'm talking about when we get there. "The Great Gatsby," if you've seen the movie or if you've seen the trailers, we've got some flappers there. And some jazz. You guys have heard of jazz, right?

    Students: Yes.

    Andrea Culver: What about Appalachian folk music?

    Students: No.

    Andrea Culver: What if I said honkytonk?

    Students: What?

    Andrea Culver: What if I said jug bands?

    Students: No.

    Andrea Culver: What if I said hillbilly music?

    Students: Yes.

    +++ 00:02:47 +++
    Andrea Culver: Okay. I want you to write down the musical styles that you notice and I want you to write down as many details about this video as you possibly can.

    Andrea Culver: Okay, stop. Put your pencil down or pen down. With your group, what do you like about this? What do you not like about it? What do you think in general? Where have you heard it before? Ready, go.

    Student: I just kept thinking of the little bar themes.

    Student: I know.

    Student: It sounds like it's happy music.

    Student: I like the beat.

    Student: Yeah, like fast-paced.

    Student: Yeah.

    Student: It's like old style.

    +++ 00:03:21 +++
    Andrea Culver: As I was walking around, I heard a couple of people say some interesting things. I actually heard somebody say "Yee-haw." We're moving pretty quickly. We've already covered 20 years in what, 10 minutes. Are we going too fast? Okay. Moving into the 1950s. We're going to start seeing some things that you guys are going to be more familiar with. We've got Elvis, rock and roll. We have country, gospel and doo-wop. Instead of talking with your groups, what I want you to do on your piece of paper is write down, who do you think the target audience of this kind of music is?

    Card: Writing to Learn.

    +++ 00:03:50 +++
    Andrea Culver: Writing to learn, it's essentially low stakes writing. Ask a question, and it's usually pretty short and they write, they respond to it. It's just a way for them to process the information that you're giving them. It gets them accustomed to putting their thoughts on paper in a way that isn't scary. They don't have to worry about what the rest of the class thinks. They don't have to worry about what kind of grade they're going to get.

    Andrea Culver: I'll give you about 45 seconds. Why do you think the blues is called the blues? How did it get its name? What do you think? If you don't know, that's okay. Take a guess.

    +++ 00:04:19 +++
    Andrea Culver: What the students really get out of these kinds of activities is they're able to process the information in a way that's going to make them retain it.

    Andrea Culver: We're going to move into the 1960s here. Saw many girl groups, people like Diana Ross and the Supremes. You heard of them?

    Students: Yes.

    Andrea Culver: The Marvelettes? Lots of surf music. Late 1960s, we get something called psychedelic rock.

    Card: Questioning.

    Andrea Culver: It's the kind of music that's associated with hippies and the anti-war movement. What war is happening?

    Student: Vietnam War.

    Andrea Culver: Vietnam War.

    +++ 00:04:46 +++
    Andrea Culver: As far as questioning goes, what I usually do, I'll plan certain questions that I know I want addressed. I will go through my lesson plan and I will say, at this point, I want them to know this. So what's a question I can ask to get them thinking about this?

    Andrea Culver: Destiny, how about you?

    Student: I'm going to say that when I heard it, I thought of the Toy Story movie, that, "You've Got a Friend in Me," song.

    Andrea Culver: Yes, Randy Newman. It sounds very similar to this. Good call.

    Andrea Culver: It's sort of scaffolding too, because I'll ask questions that get them thinking to relate what we're doing now back to what we're doing in ten minutes.

    +++ 00:05:16 +++
    Andrea Culver: We talked already about another kind of music, that is protest music. Does anybody remember what it was?

    Student: The swing music.

    Andrea Culver: Swing music. We said that swing was a kind of protest music. Now we've got psychedelic rock that is a kind of protest music. So again, we've got music kind of influencing what's happening in general.

    Andrea Culver: I think at the end of the day, it's noticing what your students are struggling with and addressing that in the form of a question.

    +++ 00:05:41 +++
    Andrea Culver: So we have 1970s, Burn, baby, burn, disco inferno." Now at this time, there's other things going on, but this is one of the most popular things that it's remembered for.

    Card: Classroom talk

    Student: It sounded like they were kind of just making random noises and then it sounded like a foreign language.

    Andrea Culver: By doing something like classroom talk, or writing to learn, where they're addressing these things in a low stakes environment, that gives them the opportunity to sort of learn for themselves, or think it out for themselves. So I don’t have to spoon feed it, so they're growing as individuals.

    Andrea Culver: I want you to write about what we saw. What stuck with you? What genre did you particularly like, or what video stuck with you?

    +++ 00:06:15 +++
    Andrea Culver: The Common Instructional Framework is really just kind of best practices of teaching. So by having that information and knowing these are research-proven, they work, it's a really nice kind of toolkit to go to. It makes the teaching a little bit easier, so that I can focus on ways to push my students, or I can push myself as an educator.

    +++ 00:06:34 +++
    Andrea Culver: For clarification purposes, hip cats and cool chicks, you have two weeks of class time in which to accomplish this. I'm not throwing you to the winds and saying, "Have fun." Questions about research projects? Peace out, kiddos. Have a wonderful day.


Andrea Culver


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