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How to Manage Classroom Instruction

Not having heard something is not as good as having heard it; having heard it is not as good as having seen it; having seen it is not as good as knowing it; knowing it is not as good as putting it into practice.—Xun Kuang, c. 312-230 BCE

Choosing Instruction Modes

Facing a classroom of students who represent different levels of learning curves is not an easy task. We know students learn better by doing, but they may not all be ready at the same time. This is a key reason for planning how to manage classroom instruction.

An effective way to start planning is to ask yourself:

  • When should I teach the whole class?
  • Should I move some students into group work?
  • When are students ready to work independently?

The choices you make directly affect students’ learning and the structure and pacing of lessons. The presentation below gives an overview of when whole-class, small-group, and independent modes work best in classroom instruction. Just click “Start Prezi.”

Use Your Goals to Guide Your Choices

Of course, there are always multiple ways to teach a particular lesson, and teachers might find themselves using different approaches with different classes. One class might benefit from students remaining in groups until completion of the assignment, while another may benefit from bringing the groups back into whole-class instruction to share what they have learned.

No matter which mode of instruction you are using, the goals, expectations, and responsibilities of the students need to be clear at the beginning of each lesson. Knowing the purpose of your lesson helps you decide which instruction mode best engages the students at each stage. And then, of course, have fun with the lesson!


See this book by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey for additional research-based guidance on classroom instruction: Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility, 2nd Edition.

See this website for the quote by Xun Kuang.

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