Using Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction in English

Updated: Dec 4, 2019

If you are interested in how to incorporate Rosenshine’s principles of instruction into your lessons, check out a few of my tried and tested examples below. I’ve tried to draw together all of my lesson ideas, tips and practical examples to show how using Rosenshine in your lessons can improve the learning of your students.

Let’s start with who he is…

If you’ve never come across these principles before they are the work of Barak Rosenshine. He was a Psychology Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at University of Illinois until he became a history teacher. He then went back to the University of Illinois to conduct research into education. He developed his 10 Principles of Instruction as well as expanding this into 17 Principles of Instruction.

The reason I’m such a fan of his ideas is that they have a grounding in the psychology of learning as well as educational research. In addition, as a teacher it is easy to incorporate most, if not all, of his principles into each lesson we teach.

As teachers, I actually think we do a lot of what Rosenshine promotes. However, by looking in detail at his principles of instruction and the research behind them, you can find ways of streamlining your practice and tailoring it further to the needs of your pupils. Or, it may just give you the confidence of knowing you’ve been doing it right all along.

I have tried to go through each principle in turn and give examples from my own classroom as well as a range of activity ideas to use in yours – I hope you find it useful!

1. Begin with a short review of learning

‘Review can help us strengthen the connections among the material we have learned.’

I used to do this verbally after the starter had been completed, however I have recently changed to including a starter (do now activity) that focuses pupils on reviewing what we have looked at in the previous lesson. I have found that this makes the learning feel much more relevant and allows for a better transition between lessons, especially if you don’t see your classes on consecutive days. I also find this is a great way for me to assess how much information has been recalled; I am then able to fill in any gaps or re-address certain areas.

Some ways in which I have incorporated this into my lessons:

  • Mini quizzes created by me

  • Mini quizzes created by pupils

  • Peer questioning

  • Matching definitions to new vocabulary learned in a previous lesson.

  • List 5 things you learned learn about…?

  • What do you know about? What do you want to find out?

  • What are our 5 top tips for successful writing?

  • Write down 3 words to describe what____did in the chapter we read yesterday.

  • I also use this time to look at errors that I may have noticed in a homework or marked piece of work.

These reviews can be from the previous lesson or even from over a week ago. The main point here is that the review acts as a sort of bridge from one lesson to the next and allows pupils to make links to previous lessons and knowledge. Your decisions on what to review at the beginning of the lesson will also depend on what you want to do for the remainder of the lesson. If you would like to do a diary entry from the perspective of a minor character, but this character hasn’t been discussed in class in a while, then you may want to use the starter to focus on words and phrases to describe this character or even ask pupils to make a list of key events that they have been involved in so far. I have found that in my own teaching, when this type of review is made explicit, clear and simple, pupils are able to process the content and skills much quicker and continue to make links to previous learning throughout the lesson.

2. Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step

‘Presenting too much material at once may confuse students because their working memory will be unable to process it.’

This particular principle is closely linked to the idea of mastery and requires the teacher to carefully consider the following:

  • What do I want pupils to be able to do?

  • Which skills do I want them to use?

  • What do they already know?

  • What is the end product I am aiming for?

  • What is the success criteria?

  • How will this be useful to pupils on a long-term basis?

  • What is the timeline for this?

  • What are the different stages of this task or skill?

  • Which activities best support this?

  • How will I know if pupils are on track?

  • How will I know if they have mastered a skill?

I always do a rough plan before I begin to plan lessons and write out my end goal first, this helps me to think about all of the different tasks I may need to embed and also helps me to map out the skills I either need to test or review.

This a plan for an assessment I wanted to prepare pupils for

However, things don’t always go to plan! And that’s ok. I try and ask questions to establish understanding; embed small activities that I can quickly check; or use peer support. Ultimately, if they haven’t mastered it, I don’t move on.

3. Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students.

‘Questions allow a teacher to determine how well the material has been learned and whether there is a need for additional instruction.’

I love this one because I’m a huge fan of the value of using questions throughout a lesson. It’s quick and easy and is something you can just run with if you feel it’s necessary to dig deeper with your questions.

At the moment, I’m really focusing on my use of ‘what, how, why’ questions and am currently working on encouraging pupils to use these with each other. If you’re interested in learning more about this, please see my earlier blog post.

Here are some of the ways I use questions in my teaching:

  • I write questions on their work and then ask them to answer them e.g. ‘why is this metaphor used?’ ‘How do you know she feels sad?’ They answer in green pen so I can then quickly check their responses.

  • I give example responses to the class and ask them to ‘do my job’ and write down the questions they would like answered. This helps pupils to understand how they can then question themselves and use their answers to extend the quality of their responses. Some questions they have asked are ‘I still don’t know what the effect of the metaphor is – explain.’ ‘Why have you used a full stop here?’

  • Peer questioning and feedback. I like pupils to do this verbally as so much more tends to reveal itself this way.