SIOP Feature #12:  Use a Variety of Techniques to Make Concepts Clear

Nothing makes concepts clearer than giving a variety of opportunities for students. Rarely, is one opportunity enough for all students to understand. After all, they are the ones who need to do the heavy lifting.

Students learning in classroom

SIOP Feature #12:  Use a Variety of Techniques to Make Concepts Clear

The 12th feature of SIOP deals with making sure students are getting the content.  It's important to consider the idea of variety when we present something.  Students don't learn at the same speed nor do they learn the exact same way.  Teachers need to consider how a variety of opportunities can help all students grasp the important concepts in class.

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How can we increase the variety of techniques we use?

Students are almost always better off when teachers vary their approach to working with classroom concepts and language.  Spicing things up with a little variety is more engaging (just remember how torturing some teachers' lectures were when you were in school).  Also, approaching things from a variety of different angles  invites all learners to the party (we may all be drawn towards different learning mediums).  Providing more opportunities also recycles important language and concepts which also makes things more comprehensible.

Once the teacher senses a lack of comprehension, there are a number of things that s/he can do to try and make the content more accessible.  Here are 5 proven strategies that you can use to set all of your students up for success:

  1. Use the board.  Rather than just speaking through something, give students something to visualize as well. Too often, when we are talking to our students or explaining something we forget that the biggest learning aid we have is the board (black, white, or smart).  Frankly, we are not all great auditory learners (my guess is that neither are most of you).  This is especially true with English language learners who may be drowning in a sea of oral language.
  2. Use students.  Students learn more from one another and are often better equipped to help their peers understand.  Think-pair-share is a fine example of how students can support one another's understanding.  Consciously planning group activities will help students cultivate the ability to help one another constructively.  
  3. Use another language domain.  The four domains of language (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) can also be used to increase comprehension (just look at #1 - Use the board).   Similarly, when students are asked to read something that is not comprehensible to then, we can give them a chance to listen to someone discussing the topic or view something on the same  theme.  
  4. Use manipulatives.  The more concrete we can make things, the easier they will be  nderstood. Putting things in the hands of our students can greatly increase comprehension. In Math class, teachers use Cuisenaire rods to help students understand fractions or bears to help students count.  Manipulatives can also be things like post it notes that students themselves post.  They include sentence strips that students sequence to form a paragraph or story.  They may be pictures of living and non-living things that students categorize.
  5. Use movement.  Getting the students up and out of their seats is not only symbolic of leaving confusion behind, it's also effective at helping students switch gears.  Getting students up also tends to wake them up a bit.  There are a lot of ways to use movement to increase comprehension.  Students can mingle around asking and answering questions to peers.  They can carousel around the room from station to station doing small, digestible tasks.  Students can also just get up and find a new partner to complete a task.

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