The Lost Art of Teaching Soundly Structured Lessons
More than 20 years ago, I was able to give my sister, Kathy, a life-saving kidney. It almost didn’t happen: Initial tests indicated that I was not a good enough genetic match to make the operation successful. But a few weeks later, the doctor called to tell us that a new combination of drugs could compensate for an inadequate match. This was a game-changer; the operation was a success and gave Kathy 12 more years of life.
There are only a few such game-changing interventions available to educators, but they do more to determine how many students we can educate than all else. One of them is a well-structured lesson, built around certain primary elements. These familiar elements (which I’ll describe shortly) are at or near the top of the list of the most effective known instructional practices. They have an impeccable pedigree, going back nearly half a century. They are critical, moreover, to the success of the most quintessential factors that promote college and career preparedness: coherent, content-rich curriculum, and authentic literacy (all of which the Common Core State Standards are happily, if imperfectly, attempting to clarify for us).
Unfortunately, for decades, the elements of a well-structured lesson have been marginalized or ignored in most schools, forced to compete for time and attention with unending, successive waves of (mostly) unproven innovations and policy requirements. This prevents the kind of sustained practice educators need to master these elements well enough to enjoy the profound impact they would...
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