Rosenshine’s Principles in Action

After being much more active on twitter in the last 6 months I had read a lot of conversations about Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction. As the summer break rolls in its brings the major opportunity to reflect on the year and invest in some personal development. Last years focus from a Maths point of view was developing questions sets which have good variation and the ability to change the context with another connected question set within lesson.

500+ questions sets now in place on the site

The more I read this year the more my interest moved to looking at the different approach’s to the ‘learning stage’ before the student independent practice stage covered above. I know at times I can become too formulaic as a maths teacher and remembered a slide I had seen shared at a development session.

I liked the simplicity of the message as it gave me clarity that Mode A is fine as long as you do Mode B some of time! When I read that @teacherhead Tom Sherrington had a book coming out which reviewed Rosenshine’s Principles I was all in!

The following is not so much a review but my interpretations/ideas/ questions after reading the book. This blog is allowing me consolidate my thoughts as the book put so many ideas in my head, solidified some of my beliefs about effective phases in the classroom and challenged other phases. I have to say that if you’ve not read it its a brilliantly concise, straight talking and informative book. Particularly like how it explicitly looks at the most effective teachers and the common practice that generally exists between them. I also liked that there is no suggested ‘golden bullet’ and these principles can easily reinforce current practice or enhance it.

Regular Reviewing


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The daily review of previous learning is strongly recommended as students need to recall the previous work which improves their ability to recall over time and put less strain on the working memory. These last few years i have started to consider that students do naturally forget things and once the have ‘got it’ doesn’t necessary mean in a years time they can recall it. An interesting figure suggested that the optimum time is 5 to 8 minutes at the start of the lesson – i certainly need to amend the styles of activity my students undertake at the start to achieve this. Continual remembering also supports greater fluency and over time builds to automaticity

The concept of consistent weekly and monthly episodes of review was an interesting concept. I’m now thinking of learning now as spinning many plates in the air with each student making sure that I plan opportunities to re-spin the Angle Reasoning plate before it smashes on the floor and it forgotten. Long Term planning is crucial here and the book suggests building in routines for this e.g. the first Monday of each Month etc…

As a mathematician I naturally want to make everything fit nicely and be consistent and I must remember to vary the methods and pace of activities used for recall e.g. multi-choice quizzing, whiteboard work and ensure it is viable workload wise the default should be students completing the assessment to see their success and them me then reacting to this in the lesson or with future planning.

Time to deliver content is always the reason not to do this, but students learning content badly repeatedly will help nobody!

Questioning and Checking for Understanding

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This section is more a set of prompts/ideas…

Questioning – ask lots! Be really clear on what success is going to look like in your lesson so the students can repeatedly check in themselves and understand the progress they are making. Ask students to explain what they have learnt as when they are verbalising it improves their understanding and builds stronger pathways in their brain. Dig deeper with follow up questions to build stronger schemata within a students brain. Ask them to explain the process not just the numbers so they start to generalise to build mental models.

Consider student all-response systems you can use within lessons to get feedback e.g. mini-whiteboards, A/B/C/D multi choice, showing fingers, raise their hand if they agree with or have got the solution discussed, create a generalised checklist of success for a question type. Use collaborative learning techniques effectively and appropriately to improve answers to questions.

The Learning Phase

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This section is the one I was most interested in as it’ll be a focus point for me personally in the coming year. The general model is shown below:

  • Teacher – Explains and Models, checking for understanding
  • Student – Engages in guided practice with scaffolding being gradually withdrawn
  • Student – Engages in independent practice and becomes fluent

An interesting part of the book discussed the option of checking prior knowledge for a topic within the lesson to ensure these fundamentals are in place before you build on it. It really hammered home the need to continually check in the lesson and ensure that students are not embedding errors which are harder to then unpick later in the learning process.

Explain the bigger picture to the students and be consistent in how this is shared. I’m now thinking of each students brain as a individual library and I need to make sure that they have gone to the correct bookcase, row and then book to add more into it. If they don’t build logical schemata in the brain I presume making greater connections between topic areas in tougher and less likely to happen? I’m putting the question there as i’m not an expert!

A repeated theme in the book talked about breaking learning into small steps and checking throughout that students are building the correct mental methods and applying them. The first phase generally consists of the teacher working first and at times inviting students up to model and explain their thinking. After reflecting on the books content and seeing some recent work Ben Gordon @MrBenGordon using question prompts on the right hand side of his resources i know I need to be more explicit over the steps required to successfully complete a taught process/topic. Verbalising my thought processes in the examples supports students capacity for metacognition and self-regulation.

The guided practice stage consists of short activities where the teacher is continually checking and remodelling based on the feedback they get. My default is likely to be mini-whiteboards but know I need to vary this over the term.

In all stages it is encouraged to have an optimum success level of 80% in your classroom. 70% is too low and 90%+ is too high and needs more challenge. I loved the book for this as it put figures on some of the classroom behaviour/activities of more effective teachers and was really specific about it!

Complete the reasoning, problem solving or investigative style phases after the material has been learnt well. Make sure the basics are fluent so that these skills can be built on, as without this its likely the students working memory will be overloaded trying to recall initial concepts.

Don’t try and force all of this in one lesson, judge it individually based on what you are seeing in the classroom. Give yourself a lot of time the most effective teachers spent a significant amount of time sharing examples and completing guided practice. Interestingly 23 out of 45 minutes in more effective lessons were spent on the first two phases.

In independent practice check for learning by surveying the room but ensure individual student contact times is around 30 seconds or less. Crucial students are prepared before independent practice stage as if you are spending more than this amount of time its likely the previous stages may not have been as successful as they should have been.

I feel further informed over effective methods in the classroom and will be trying some of the methods shared in the coming year. This book is a jem and would recommend anyone in education taking the time to read it.

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