Direct Instruction Teaching Method

In this introductory level methods course the teacher candidate will develop and teach two lessons using the Direct Instruction Teaching Method. The lessons will focus on the content areas of either literacy (English Language Arts) or mathematics.

Table of Contents

  • HLP 16 Use explicit instruction
  • Early Childhood Education considerations
  • Watch video on Direct and Explicit Instruction
  • Direct Instruction Teaching Method within the body of the lesson plan
  • Teacher Modeling
  • Guided Practice
  • Questioning
  • Independent Practice
  • Monitoring/Observation/Feedback
  • Maintenance
  • Data Collection and Record Keeping

Direct Instruction is an evidenced based teaching method

Direct Instruction. Authored by: S. Abbott (Ed.). Provided by: Great Schools Partnership. Located at: Project: The Glossary of Education Reform. License: CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

In general usage, the term direct instruction refers to:

(1) instructional approaches that are structured, sequenced, and led by teachers, and/or

(2) the presentation of academic content to students by teachers, such as in a lecture or demonstration. In other words, teachers are “directing” the instructional process or instruction is being “directed” at students.

While a classroom lecture is perhaps the image most commonly associated with direct instruction, the term encompasses a wide variety of fundamental teaching techniques and potential instructional scenarios. For example, presenting a video or film to students could be considered a form of direct instruction (even though the teacher is not actively instructing students, the content and presentation of material was determined by the teacher). Generally speaking, direct instruction may be the most common teaching approach in the United States, since teacher-designed and teacher-led instructional methods are widely used in American public schools. That said, it’s important to note that teaching techniques such as direct instruction, differentiation, or scaffolding, to name just a few, are rarely mutually exclusive—direct instruction may be integrated with any number of other instructional approaches in a given course or lesson. For example, teachers may use direct instruction to prepare students for an activity in which the students work collaboratively on a group project with guidance and coaching from the teacher as needed (the group activity would not be considered a form of direct instruction).In addition, the basic techniques of direct instruction not only extend beyond lecturing, presenting, or demonstrating, but many are considered to be foundational to effective teaching. For example:

The basic techniques of direct instruction not only extend beyond lecturing, presenting, or demonstrating, but many are considered to be foundational to effective teaching. For example:
  • Establishing learning objectives for lessons, activities, and projects, and then making sure that students have understood the goals.
  • Purposefully organizing and sequencing a series of lessons, projects, and assignments that move students toward stronger understanding and the achievement of specific academic goals.
  • Reviewing instructions for an activity or modeling a process—such as a scientific experiment—so that students know what they are expected to do.
  • Providing students with clear explanations, descriptions, and illustrations of the knowledge and skills being taught.
  • Asking questions to make sure that students have understood what has been taught.



The next section of the chapter is adapted from:McLeskey, J., Barringer, M-D., Billingsley, B., Brownell, M., Jackson, D., Kennedy, M., Lewis, T., Maheady, L., Rodriguez, J., Scheeler, M. C., Winn, J., & Ziegler, D. (2017, January). High-leverage practices in special education. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children & CEEDAR Center. (Public domain)

HLP 16 Use explicit instruction

Teachers make content, skills, and concepts explicit by showing and telling students what to do or think while solving problems, enacting strategies, completing tasks, and classifying concepts. Teachers use explicit instruction when students are learning new material and complex concepts and skills. They strategically choose examples and non-examples and language to facilitate student understanding, anticipate common misconceptions, highlight essential content, and remove distracting information. They model and scaffold steps or processes needed to understand content and concepts, apply skills, and complete tasks successfully and independently.

The text below is from a Video Transcript available at:

In summary, explicit instruction is effective for most students, not only those with disabilities. This approach can be used across grade levels and content areas. Although explicit instruction can be provided by any teacher, the unique setting and needs of students being taught determines the level of intensity with which the teacher uses this practice. The difference in intensity is not merely the number of students in each class, but that instruction should be appropriately intense, matched to the unique needs of students. A trained special educator or similar specialist is responsible for ensuring data that is carefully collected and monitored drives instructional decision-making. This ensures the explicit instruction being delivered is appropriately intense, and the team is ready to make changes as needed.

Note to the teacher candidate’s in the Early Childhood Education Program- The emphasis for planning for ECE is to be aware of the school/state learning objectives, and then plan lessons that can be either teachable moments around the children’s interests or project-based learning units exploring and discovering.  Ideally, instruction in ECE should not be direct instruction- it should be experiences; activities and guided play with the teacher as the more capable peer asking open ended questions.  Elizabeth Reed

New Hampshire Early Learning Standards (birth through 5 years)

Vermont Early Learning Standards (birth to 3rd grade)

Massachusetts Early Childhood Program Standards for three and four year olds


How to do Direct Instruction – Teach Like This  (3:40 minutes)

[TeachLikeThis]. (2013, Oct. 11). How to do Direction Instruction-TeachLike This. [Video File]. Retrieved from

The lesson plans that will be developed in this course will follow the Direct Instruction teaching method. Below is a screenshot of the body of the lesson plan template. You will include the headings of each section of the direct instruction sequence of components in the lesson plan(s). This will help to develop a habit of including these important elements of a high quality lesson plan.

You will complete the introductory and intermediate level sections of the GSC lesson plan template. Sections 4b, 4c, & 4d, of the lesson plan will include all of the following elements of Direct Instruction. Please label each section listed below within your lesson plan.

4b: Systematic Introduction of the Lesson

  • Orientation to the lesson– defining prior knowledge, anticipatory set, essential questions, clarifying the purpose of the lesson.

4c: Systematic Body of the Lesson

  • Teacher Modeling
  • Guided practice
  • Questioning
  • Independent practice w/ monitoring
  • Feedback

4d. Systematic Closing of the Lesson

  • Check for understanding- formative or summative assessment

*Differentiation, accommodations, etc. are embedded in the body of the lesson

*formative assessment data can also be collected during the lesson, in addition to a closing activity.

*In the body of the lesson the sequence of teaching components may switch back and forth as the lesson naturally progresses or needs to be adjusted.

Below is a brief introduction to the Direct Instruction Teaching Method. The next chapter, Delivering Instruction, will go into further depth on the components of teaching.

Teacher modeling ( I do)

During the modeling phase, instructors “think aloud” as they model the process of working through a computation problem; read, set up, and solve a word problem; use a strategy; or demonstrate a concept. During modeling, instructors should be clear and direct in their presentation; they also should be precise and mindful in using general and mathematical vocabulary as well as in selecting numbers or examples for use during instruction. During modeling, instructors should involve students in reading the problems and should ask questions to keep students engaged in the lesson. (math lesson example)

(National Center on Intensive Intervention, 2016)

Guided Practice (We do)

During guided practice, instructors engage all students by asking questions to guide learning and understanding as students actively participate in solving problems. During this phase, instructors prompt and scaffold student learning as necessary. Scaffolding is gradually eliminated as students demonstrate accuracy in using the material being taught. Positive and corrective feedback is provided during this phase, and instruction is adjusted to match student needs.
Students should reach a high level of mastery (typically 85 percent accuracy or higher) before moving out of the guided practice phase.

Although there are no specific guidelines concerning how much time should be devoted to each phase, the bulk of the instruction should occur within the guided practice phase.

(National Center on Intensive Intervention, 2016)


Teachers ask questions for many instructional reasons, including keeping students’ attention on the lesson, highlighting important points and ideas, promoting critical thinking, allowing students’ to learn from each others answers, and providing information about students’ learning. Devising good appropriate questions and using students’ responses to make effective instantaneous instructional decisions is very difficult. Some strategies to improve questioning include planning and writing down the instructional questions that will be asked, allowing sufficient wait time for students to respond, listening carefully to what students say rather than listening for what is expected, varying the types of questions asked, making sure some of the questions are higher level, and asking follow-up questions. (Seifert and Sutton, 2009)

  • Remember to concentrate on student learning, not just involvement. Most of teachers’ observations focus on process—student attention, facial expressions posture—rather than pupil learning. Students can be active and engaged, but not developing new skills.
  • Walk around the room to observe more students “up close” and view the room from multiple perspectives.
  • Call on a wide variety of students—not just those with their hands up, or those who are skilled as the subject, or those who sit in a particular place in the room.
  • Keep records
  • Be cautious in the conclusions that you draw from your observations and questions. Remember that the meaning and expectations of certain types of questions, wait time, social distance, and role of “small talk” varies across cultures. Some students are quiet because of their personalities not because they are uninvolved, nor keeping up with the lesson, nor depressed or tired.  (Seifert and Sutton, 2009)
Read more about Questioning in the chapter on Teacher Questioning.

Independent Practice (You do)

 After achieving a high level of mastery, students move to the independent practice phase where they autonomously demonstrate their new knowledge and skills. During independent practice, the instructor closely monitors students and provides immediate feedback as necessary. Countless independent practice activities can be used with students, and the primary focus of the independent practice activity should be related to the content of the modeling and guided practice. If students demonstrate difficulty at this stage, instructors evaluate and adjust their instruction to re-teach concepts as needed.

(National Center on Intensive Intervention, 2016)

Monitoring/Observation  and Feedback

Effective teachers observe their students from the time they enter the classroom. Some teachers greet their students at the door not only to welcome them but also to observe their mood and motivation.

During instruction, teachers observe students’ behavior to gain information about students’ level of interest and understanding of the material or activity. Observation includes looking at non-verbal behaviors as well as listening to what the students are saying. For example, a teacher may observe that a number of students are looking out of the window rather than watching the science demonstration, or a teacher may hear students making comments in their group indicating they do not understand what they are supposed to be doing. Observations also help teachers decide which student to call on next, whether to speed up or slow down the pace of the lesson, when more examples are needed, whether to begin or end an activity, how well students are performing a physical activity, and if there are potential behavior problems (Airasian, 2005). Many teachers find that moving around the classroom helps them observe more effectively because they can see more students from a variety of perspectives. (Seifert and Sutton, 2009)

Feedback can serve many different purposes such as to provide: a grade, a justification of a grade, a qualitative description of the work, praise, encouragement, identification of errors, suggestions of how to fix errors and guidance on how to improve the work standard.

  • Feedback can be directive and tell students where they went wrong or facilitative and provide guidance on how to improve.
  • Feedback that includes elaborations about how to improve is more likely to lead to improvements in learning efficiency and student achievement.
  • Improvement based feedback that includes guidance is more effective than statements about whether work is right or wrong as it takes into consideration how feedback is received by learners. (University of Queensland, 2017)

More on Feedback


 Students with disabilities often have a difficult time maintaining what they have learned when the knowledge is not used on a regular basis. Students are given opportunities to independently practice these skills during the maintenance phase. During this phase, instructors use distributed practice to assess student maintenance at regularly scheduled intervals. Distributed practice is focused practice on a specific skill, strategy, or concept. The frequency of these practice assessments is determined by the difficulty level of the skill and according to individual student needs. Maintenance may also include cumulative practice.

(National Center on Intensive Intervention, 2016)

Read chapters on:

Scaffolding Instruction

Differentiated Instruction 

Data Collection and Record Keeping

Quantitative data are always numbers (e.g. how many; how much; or how often, what percent).
Qualitative data are data about categorical variables (e.g. error analysis, concept development, environmental conditions, motivation, and other descriptive attributes).
Anecdotal notessimilar to qualitative data, may focus on the students behavior related to the task or in a general sense.

Keeping records of student observations (qualitative data) improves the reliability of overall data related to learning objectives, a student’s IEP goals and objectives, and can be used to enhance understanding of one student, a group, or the whole class’ interactions. Sometimes this requires help from other teachers. For example, Alexis, a beginning science teacher is aware of the research documenting that longer wait time enhances students’ learning (e.g. Rowe, 2003) but is unsure of her behaviors so she asks a colleague to observe and record her wait times during one class period. Alexis learns her wait times are very short for all students so she starts practicing silently counting to five whenever she asks students a question.

Teachers can keep anecdotal notes (qualitative data) about students without help from peers. These records contain descriptions of incidents of a student’s behavior, the time and place the incident takes place, and a tentative interpretation of the incident. For example, the description of the incident might involve Joseph, a second grade student, who fell asleep during the mathematics class on a Monday morning. A tentative interpretation could be the student did not get enough sleep over the weekend, but alternative explanations could be the student is sick or is on medications that make him drowsy. Obviously, additional information is needed and the teacher could ask Joseph why he is so sleepy and also observe him to see if he looks tired and sleepy over the next couple of weeks.

Anecdotal records often provide important information and are better than relying on one’s memory but they take time to maintain and it is difficult for teachers to be objective. For example, after seeing Joseph fall asleep the teacher may now look for any signs of Joseph’s sleepiness—ignoring the days he is not sleepy. Also, it is hard for teachers to sample a wide enough range of data for their observations to be highly reliable.

  • Teachers will also conduct more formal observations and data collection (quantitative data) for students who have IEPs. An example of the importance of informal and formal observations in a preschool follows:

The class of preschoolers in a suburban neighborhood of a large city has eight students with special needs and four “typical” students—the peer models—who have been selected because of their well developed language and social skills. Some of the students with special needs have been diagnosed with delayed language, some with behavior disorders, and several with autism.

The students are sitting on the mat with the teacher who has a box with sets of three “cool” things of varying size (e.g. toy pandas) and the students are asked to put the things in order by size, big, medium and small. Students who are able are also requested to point to each item in turn and say “This is the big one,” “This is the medium one,” and “This is the little one.” For some students, only two choices (big and little) are offered because that is appropriate for their developmental level.

The teacher informally observes that one of the boys is having trouble keeping his legs still so she quietly asks the aid for a weighted pad that she places on the boy’s legs to help him keep them still. The activity continues and the aide carefully observes students behaviors and records on IEP progress cards whether a child meets specific objectives such as: “When given two picture or object choices, Mark will point to the appropriate object in 80 percent of the opportunities.” The teacher and aides keep records of the relevant behavior of the students with special needs during the half day they are in preschool. The daily records are summarized weekly. If there are not enough observations that have been recorded for a specific objective, the teacher and aide focus their observations more on that child, and if necessary, try to create specific situations that relate to that objective. At end of each month the teacher calculates whether the special needs children are meeting their IEP objectives.

(Seifert and Sutton, 2009)

This scenario, shows how you (teacher candidate or paraeducator)  might need to collect specific data on your case study student (student with and IEP) who has IEP objectives that need to be addressed during the lesson, in addition to the overall class or small group learning objective.


Direct Instruction. Authored by: S. Abbott (Ed.). Provided by: Great Schools Partnership. Located at: Project: The Glossary of Education Reform. License: CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Educational Psychology. Authored by: Kelvin Seifert and Rosemary Sutton. (2009) Located at:  LicenseCC BY: Attribution, Chapter: Selecting appropriate assessment techniques II: types of teacher-made assessments

McLeskey, J., Barringer, M-D., Billingsley, B., Brownell, M., Jackson, D., Kennedy, M., Lewis, T., Maheady, L., Rodriguez, J., Scheeler, M. C., Winn, J., & Ziegler, D. (2017, January). High-leverage practices in special education. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children & CEEDAR Center. (Public domain)

National Center on Intensive Intervention. (2016). Principles for designing intervention in mathematics. Washington,
DC: Office of Special Education, U.S. Department of Education and is in the pubic domain.

[TeachLikeThis]. (2013, Oct. 11). How to do Direction Instruction-TeachLike This. [Video File]. Retrieved from

UQx: LEARNx Deep Learning through Transformative Pedagogy (2017). University of Queensland, Australia (CC BY NC)

Preschool Image- Image by Seila800 from Pixabay