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Modeling, modeling, modeling

It’s a vital part of direct instruction and necessary for students to become stronger readers and writers

Analyzing a text can be hard. So can writing an analytical essay. These tasks require students to use multiple levels of knowledge. And with writing, they are going to have to transfer everything they have learned about analytical writing so far to create their own piece of writing. This can be incredibly challenging for students who haven’t done it before. It is imperative that we show them how we would approach these tasks. Modeling is that vital piece of direct instruction that allows teachers to show students different ways they would approach a complex task.

“I” Statements

One key to quality modeling is the use of “I” statements. For example, a teacher might say:

  • When I see this word, I wonder what it means. First, I’m going to look at context.

  • When I look at my writing, I wonder if my reader is going to understand what I mean here. Am I being clear?

  • Based on what I read in this paragraph, I can infer…

It is clear this is the teacher’s thinking. A student might think differently or look at things a slightly different way. If you instead use “you” statements, students may feel like they have to think exactly as the teacher does. That’s not the point of modeling. We want to lead them to ways of thinking, not exactly what to think. We want to show them the process, not teach rote recall.


It’s often important to use a visual during modeling. This could mean using a powerpoint or a document camera. As you talk through your process using “I” statements, visually show students what you are doing to make your thinking explicit. For example:

  • As you say “I’m not sure what this word means,” circle it on the paper and show students your work using a document camera.

  • As you say “I think this sentence would be better earlier in the paragraph,” underline the sentence and use an arrow to show the movement or copy and paste on a word document or Google doc you are projecting.

These visuals reinforce what you are saying and quite literally shows rather than just tells. The more comprehensible you can make your process, the easier it will be for students to do what is being asked of them.


Modeling is not something you do once and then move on. You cannot decide to model inferring once and then move on. You will likely need to model this skill every time you model closer reading. You won’t just model revision once. Instead, every time you revise for a different element, you will model that revision skill. And for some classes, you will need to model even more. Don’t be afraid to take the time to model skills and help build student understanding of the processes of literacy.

Where to use it

Modeling should be built into direct instruction every time a new skill is introduced. It will likely also be necessary to maintain until full responsibility is released to the student. You can model every day. You can model in whole group or with a small group. You can model in a conference. Model whenever you know students need to be guided through a process or problem solving. Basically, model, model, model! You are the master reader and writer in the room. Show them how it’s done!

Your challenge: Find places in your lesson plans for the next week where you need to model for your students. Make sure you use “I” statements, make sure you are specific, and make sure you show visuals when possible.

And have fun modeling!

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