“Failure to Model is a Commitment to Re-teach”

Last year, I had the privilege of attending a conference featuring the famous Dr. Anita Archer, a legend in student engagement and teaching explicit vocabulary. She’s delightful to watch actually. As she performs, she reminds her audience of their own teachers of the past and engenders this kind of distant affection for her and her pragmatic manner of teaching.

She “gets” it. She knows what an incredible job it is to teach literacy to kids and her tips are easily applied to current practice. Plus, she’s just plain funny. For a lady who has to be in her 70’s, she’s hysterical, and she gets her audience moving.

For this particular lesson, she was talking about writing and the use of scaffolding for students’ benefit. Before long, she turned to the audience and pointed out that regardless of scaffolding and student level, a model is always needed. She stated, in what would become an echoing mantra for the rest of my year, “Failure to Model is a Commitment to Re-teach.” I scribbled it down quickly into my notes, not knowing at the time how often that phrase would haunt me.

Shortly after, we entered an expository writing unit in English, where I knew that the biggest struggle for kids would not be grammar, evidence, and supporting claims, but the strict rules of the Modern Language Association. My kids were terrible at observing MLA format. We’d been working ALL year long, and every time we turned in a major paper, which was every month, I had to commit at least a day’s lesson to conforming to the rules.

This time, I vowed it would be different. This time, I decided I would model and teach, AND preserve it for the repeated questions that I knew were coming. In addition to a supplementary handout, housed in their binders for the entire year, I directed them to a page on my teacher page where they could hear and see a tutorial about constructing a paper in MLA- both for Microsoft Word, and Google Drive. It can be found here.

This worked swimmingly! It turns out that “Flipped Instruction”, as this can be termed, can offer many advantages to teachers, the best of which includes an increased efficiency that allows a teacher to teach more material in the same amount of time. District Administration reported on this stating, “The methodology didn’t affect test scores either way but did enable teachers to cover an additional two weeks of material, on average, in the six fifth-grade math classrooms that took part in a pilot project in Stillwater (Minn.) Area Public Schools from September 2011 through January of this year,”(Finkel, 2012).

I think that’s huge! The report continued to say, “The results in the Clintondale (Mich.) Community Schools have been very encouraging thus far: The failure rate among freshman math students dropped from 44 percent to 13 percent in one year’s time, while juniors taking the state math exams improved by 10 percent over the previous year,” (Finkel, 2012). Clearly, Flipped Instruction is making a difference. However, it’s important to remember that this technique is simply that- a technique. It’s not a magic wand, and if there is any magic, it’s found in the teacher’s ability to maximize their instruction in other areas. The benefit of Flipped Instruction is that teachers have extra time to differentiate and therefore serve the kids that might need extension or re-teaching.

I saw enough of a difference that the next time I needed to call off from school, I used video tutorials again- in coordination with my colleague who teaches the same content- to teach the lesson while I was gone. This went fairly well, confirming that I still have some work to do in perfecting the use of this tool. The lesson can be found here.

I look forward to continuing my work with Flipped Instruction as I become a little more fluent in it.




Finkel, E. (2012). Flipping the script in K-12. District Administration. Retrieved from http://www.districtadministration.com/article/flipping-script-k12


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