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P-3/E-2: Practice, Practice, Practice: Guided and Independent

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There are two pieces to effective practice: the planning (P-3) and the execution (E-1).

In planning, effective practice:

* Ensures that all students have the opportunity to practice

* Has multiple opportunities to practice (e.g. more than just one problem)

* Is scaffolded from easiest to hardest

* Clear connection between practice and daily objective

* Provide opportunity for extention (e.g. challenge yourself problems)

In execution,

* Clearly communicate instructions, with an emphasis on key points and rationale

* Monitors student performance and engaged with students to offer clarification and extend student understanding

* Makes flexible lesson plan adjustments as necessary to meet desired outcomes

What’s the difference between guided & independent practice?

Guided practice is the “we do” part of the lesson. The teacher guides students through practice activities. Independent practice is the “I do” part of the lesson where students are expected to practice on their own. Many practice activities can be used for guided or independent practice. The list below does not differentiate between guided and independent because most can be used for either.

What if something doesn’t fit into the GP/IP model?

Some topics don’t lend themselves to the INM/GP/IP model, particularly at the higher levels of Bloom’s. If what you’re teaching seems awkward in the typical 5 step format it may be better addressed through an inquiry-based model. To learn more check out the 5 E model.

Alternative Lesson Practice Patterns

At Institute we all learned one basic lesson pattern:

Intro to New Material (INM)

Guided Practice (GP)

Independent Practice (IP)

Many times that lesson pattern works wonderfully, but there are some situations where it pays to mix it up. When you are teaching multiple skills in a single lesson, a multi-step procedure, a very dense topic, or when you teach on a block schedule (90 min) you may consider some alternative lesson patterns so that practice is interspersed within the intro to new material and helps avoid giving students more intro to new material than they can take in at one time. You can find some alternative lesson patterns here. The number of potential patterns is almost limitless depending on the intervals of INM, GP and IP necessary for students to build fluency in the skill, knowledge or understanding at hand. So, does that mean I always have to use the same lesson pattern? No. The key is to choose a lesson pattern based on the type or number of objectives you’ll be teaching that day.

Ideas for practice:

A list of products & practice ideas that can be used for multiple levels of Bloom’s

Practice activities catagorized by Bloom’s level

Practice Challenges:

1. My students’ low reading and writing levels often hold them back from being able to practice some things.

Teaching is choosing and this is an example of a tough choice many educators have to make. There are two potential paths: 1. you could use this as an opportunity to work on building up their reading and writing skills or 2. you can play to your students’ strengths and choose practice opportunities that are light on reading/writing. If you choose option 1 Do I Really Have To Teach Reading? by Cris Tovani is a great book about teaching reading in the subject areas and Teaching Writing in the Content Areas by Vicki Urquhart is a great resource for writing. If you choose option 2 there are great practice ideas even for complex ideas or understandings that don’t require a lot of writing like asking your students to draw and explain a diagram or create a comic strip that shows a particular understanding or create an analogy that parallels the concept. For more ideas for practice see the links to lists above.

2. How much of my class should be guided practice? How much should be independent?

The short answer to this is as much as it takes for students to master the material, but since that’s hard to know ahead of time I can share some general suggestions. Generally you should shoot for at least 10-15 minutes of independent practice in a 55 minute class period or 20-30 minutes in a 90 minute class period. Your independent practice time should be equal to or longer than your guided practice- after all, our ultimate goal is to teach students to perform a skill or apply an understanding on their own.

3. How do I get students to practice material that is a lot of information and all knowledge-based?

It’s always easier to think about ways students can practice skills, but practicing information can be a harder task. The secret is to get students to organize that information in different ways and describe the relationships between different pieces of information. Check out a great example of this in Ryan’s lesson on soil for his 6th grade science class. Other ways to do this are:

graphic organizers

concept maps

– diagrams and graphs

– comprehension questions

Other Resources:

D. holds his students accountable for participating in the Do Now (he calls it “Let’s Go”), INM, GP, IP, and exit slip with a stamp sheet. Students earn stamps for completing each part of their work. Students in D.’s class – many of whom are juniors and seniors- go out of their way to earn their stamp.

Please note, this is by no means a complete list. Some of the practice ideas listed can be placed in multiple Bloom’s catagories depending on the type of scaffolding and design of the practice. If you have additional ideas, please e-mail them to me at

Written by theonlinepd

February 24, 2008 at 2:10 am

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