“Of all the strategies I have learned in my twenty five years of teaching, no strategy improves my students’ writing more than having my students watch and listen to me write and think aloud. None.”  Kelly Gallagher.



Katy modelling.


Katy first showed an IRIS clip of modelling machine embroidery to students.  Here students gathered round the table and watched Katy go through various steps.


Katy discussed how when she reviewed the clip she realised that quite a few things she demonstrated must have been very difficult for students to see and that at 6 minutes she had talked for a long time. She felt that really she would need to break down the demonstration into smaller bits.


Following this, Katy demonstrated live modelling. This time using the visualiser. Katy described how she would in this method make sure that the class were following her with each step so that they were completing the work alongside her demonstration instead of waiting till she had finished. This she said worked much better, she had less question about what to do next and students completed work much quicker.


A question asked was about students being passive, and not really engaging in their responses to modelling. How do we ensure students were thinking and engaging with the modelling?


Katy mentioned how students doing the work as she modelled had helped to ensure engagement. Ryan spoke about how he watched an IRIS clip of his teaching of modelling and realised that using the visualiser would help students see much more clearly which line or word of poetry they were using.


He mentioned that when modelling he wanted students to write with him and that he talked though his thinking as he modelled. Student appreciated seeing that it was hard work and that he was having to think through the writing process.


Another question was asked about what to do with those students who seem to be asking the same questions or just waiting to be helped. Could it be that some students are a bit lazy and will always resist the hard work required in thinking.


it was pointed out that actually for some classes 2/3 minutes of modelling might be needed. Then ownership of the writing process should be given over to the students.  Here the teacher can see if students are still struggling or need further modelling. If students were asking questions and seemed to be slow getting starting then further modelling was needed.


A question asked was if you are demonstrating modelling for a short time and doing only the start of the paragraph then you may not get to the important part of analysis of material.


A few comments were made pointing out that it was important as a teacher to find the balance and gauge what you can do in the moment. Other people suggested that you could set students off and then make sure they are reminded of the main things to that you are looking for.


Other suggestions were to add to the live modelling by sharing some exemplars that outlined a model answer including analysis and then applying those ideas to the next paragraph in the essay.


It was noted that sometimes live modelling can be a challenge and thinking through things on the spot sometimes difficult to do so that it was useful to have prepared an answer in advance and use it as aide memoir when live modelling.


A question was asked if students should write with the group or whether you should encourage your students to listen. It was felt that there were no straightforward answers to these questions as if often depended on the nature of the groups. Some classes benefit from the focus that writing whilst modelling while other classes might gain a lot from careful listening.


The debate continued for a little longer with discussion around how best to ensure engagement for a class and the most effective way to model with students. The 15 minute forum had been a great session to open up discussion around the key teaching skill of modeling and start to explore in detail how to make it as effective as possible. What came across was that effective modelling relied on teacher expertise and teacher judgement – there were no simple right or wrong answers. What struck me was how important teacher dialogue is in exploring pedagogy and how useful IRIS had been for two experienced teachers as a way of reflecting on practice.


It reminded of the chapter on Live modelling in make Every lesson Count. On Page 94 they note:

  1. never assume that students know how to do something they have never been taught to do.
  2. Always model high – set the benchmark for excellence


“Like all aspects of teaching the more you practice live writing, the better you get at it. It has two key features: when you model independently and the students listen, and when the students take part in the process (sometimes known as co-construction) The later will generally follow the later but the reality tends to be more organic – they work in tandem.”


They have the following tips – echoing much of the previous discussion:


  1. A short piece (paragraph or two) that captures the academic register.
  2. It helps to practice writing the piece before the lesson.
  3. Clarify with students why you are doing this.
  4. When modelling talk through your decisions – admit the struggles openly.
  5. Consider allowing the class to collaborate once you have started.
  6. Modelling and managing a class are tricky. Sometimes requiring students to write it down helps keep students focused.
  7. Use the students to critique
  8. Recap what made this a successful paragraph – use this as a basis for SC.
  9. A warning – that after modelling it is possible to feel disheartened as they can lack fluency. However ignore your misgivings! Learning is rarely a fluent process.


Thanks to Katy for sharing her an IRIS clip and to stimulating such useful discussion. It was great to see modelling from a practical subject and compare to how it can be used for modelling writing.