The following best practices are eight instructional strategies that Renaissance teachers have agreed by consensus to use.
Cornell Notes — To better prepare students for college success, all teachers employ Cornell Notes, a note-taking strategy to take and review notes, answer essential questions, summarize material, and use in a variety of other ways.
Essential Questions — In Teaching as Jazz, Carol Ann Tomlinson writes: “We are born-and we die-asking ,’What is life, and who am I in it?’ Human beings developed the disciplines of history, the arts, English, science, and math to answer that question. The great questions want to be answered in each of us. We almost can’t help but attend when those questions are raised. To teach is to help our students raise questions they care about and set out together to look for answers.” Renaissance teachers use Essential Questions to focus the big ideas of a unit or lesson, and to spark curiosity and wonder.
Exit & Summarizing (Closure) Strategies — Strong lessons conclude with a strategy that allows students to reflect on their learning which helps them retain the information. Some of these may also be used by teachers as formative assessments to shape follow-up activities and lessons.
- Exit Strategies Handout (from PD presentation)
- Ticket Out the Door Ideas
- Reflective Writing
- Turn & Talk
- Exit Quiz
Moderated Discussion — Renaissance classrooms and staff meetings often use Moderated Discussion as an effective protocol for large group discussions.
Questioning Strategies — Teachers use varying questioning structures: a mixture of volunteer, non-participant, and random systems. Random question systems work best when following a Turn & Talk (which allows students to engage meaningfully with another students); or a quick write, quiet think time, or some other strategy that allows students to prepare an answer (and thereby limit anxiety).
Reflective Writing — Teachers use Reflective Free Write to promote critical thinking skills and to develop writing skills.
Text Marking — Text Marking is used to hold a student’s thinking during any reading activity. While many strategies demand students engage with the text by show their thinking about interactions with the text, MOWED is used in many Renaissance classrooms and offers a concise and effective method to practice this skill.
Turn & Talk — A Turn & Talk insures that ALL students engage meaningfully with another student when a teacher poses a question or a problem (contrasted to posing a question or problem and hearing from only a select few students). This can also be folded into a Think/Pair/Share.