How Modeling Translates to Outcomes for Struggling Students & ELLs:

Modeling is one research-based strategy that allows students to hear a teacher’s thought process.  By making their thinking or process visible and clear, teachers are able to help students to mirror or parallel that thinking process or level of performance.  This is nothing new and it is mostly human nature.  When we want to learn something new, most of us go online and look for a youtube video or an example of it on some website, like pinterest that will give a clear visual.  When I wanted to learn how to braid my daughter’s hair, I went online and watched a 5 minute video.  It showed me the process and talked me through each step as it was going on, which helped to guide me when I was ready to start braiding her hair.

For struggling students and English language learners, the theory is no different.  Rather, this is an essential strategy that must be used if ELLs and struggling students are to be successful.  A well-planned and clear model can be used any time of the year to show students a way of thinking about something or a way to do something.  

With strong models, students get a clear visual of what is expected of them and what success looks like.  When modeling a new task (as in during math problems, science experiments, etc.), students get the opportunity to feel more confident as they begin a new task since they know what the steps and process that is expected of them.  

Additionally, think alouds help students to understand how to interpret, analyze, and make inferences about content that has just been learned.      When thinking aloud, it is important for students to understand the thought process or the “why” as the teacher is working through the problem.  It is also important to consider what language to use in order to make the teaching as clear and explicit as possible for the range of learning needs represented in your class.


So how can you begin modeling effectively in your own classroom?  Try following this quick process.

  1. Teacher explains what the skill or strategy is and why there is a need for the skill that is about to be presented.
  2. Teachers shows how to do the new skill (routines or procedures can be taught in this manner as well), walking through each step explicitly.
  3. Teacher explains “out loud” why they are including each step in the process as they get to it.
  4. Students have the opportunity to share what they notice about the modeled skill or strategy.
  5. Students practice the new skill or strategy right away while it is fresh in their minds allowing them to forge the new learning and make the connections stronger.
  6. Teacher observes students as they practice and they receive immediate and targeted feedback while practicing the new skill or strategy in order to avoid misconceptions becoming part of the newly acquired skill or strategy.