Does Modelling Need To Come First?

At the end of September, I began taking the Reading Part 1 course through our Board.

The other Additional Qualification Courses that I’ve taken have all been online, so it’s been a new experience for me to attend class once a week with others, but I’m quite enjoying it. At this week’s class, we all shared our presentations on Comprehension Strategies. It’s funny what happens when you sit back and listen to multiple presentations in a row: sometimes repetition of similar points leads to new thinking. This is what happened to me on Monday night. 

Towards the end of the presentations that night, I sent out this tweet.

Many of us — our group included — discussed the value in modelling the use of these comprehension strategies. Yes, I still support this, but now I’m starting to rethink the timing. Does modelling always have to come first?

I can’t help but think about one of my favourite Dr. Jean Clinton videos on “stuffing the duck.” 

Every day, my teaching partner, Paula, and I work hard at living by the words and ideas that Dr. Clinton shares here. And so, if kids are not “empty vessels,” and there’s value in building on their natural curiosity, then would these same ideas continue to hold true when it comes to reading? As we stood up at the front of the room on Monday night and began our presentation, I listened to the message that our group shared about “starting with modelling.”  All of a sudden I wanted to shout, “Wait a minute! Now I’m not so sure.” What message do we give children about themselves as readers and as thinkers when we insist on modelling first? How could we use modelling to extend what children already know? I love how a few repeated statements in an evening of presentations began to shift my perspective. Would they have shifted yours?


8 thoughts on “Does Modelling Need To Come First?

  1. I guess my question would be does the modelling always have to come from the teacher? Also, does modelling always have to be unidirectional or can it be more of a conversation? That might be veering into shared and guided practices but I wonder if our rules and recipes might be a little too rigid in practice.

    • Leave it to you, Kristi, to challenge me even more and in the best of ways. As I think about what we see in our Kindergarten classroom each day, modelling doesn’t always need to come from the teacher. With a new approach, maybe the teacher modelling would be beneficial, but these strategies continue year after year. So students come with even more background knowledge, and can likely also support each other even more. I also think that a conversation — and even some good questions — could be modelling. We also tend to think of modelling as a full class strategy, but if we model (or support) in small groups, does this make it a guided or shared approach? I think there’s something to be said for your final point … and a little less rigidity!


      • Aviva, as always, I love where your head goes! I think when we consider the purpose of modelling, iwhy “we” do it and when we do it, the notion of who does it becomes perhaps clearer? And I love the notion that you and Kristi have discussed, about less rigidity. That allows us to ask ourselves “why this strategy for this child/these children at this time and in this context”?

        • Thanks Jill! The line that you referenced here is one of my favourite ones in the new Kindergarten document. I think it’s always worth considering. And I’m thinking that the name of the strategy, or even the fact that one strategy overlaps with another one, matters less than really targeting what students need and providing the best possible option to move them forward.


          • You are SO right, Aviva! We should be making the “strategy” fit the kids and the needs, not the other way around.

          • Thanks Jill! I think this is really important to consider, and both your comment and Kristi’s really reminded me of that. Thank YOU!


  2. I think in terms of math more than reading, but in my class, we often start with the problem and then model strategies that come out of the solutions that students come to (or don’t). We use both teacher and student models. I find that I start with models only for topics in which the vast majority of students have no background knowledge (like in introducing new types of notation or vocabulary that is subject-specific and doesn’t appear anywhere in the prior curriculum). Even then, I try to bring the student voice, ideas, and questions into the conversation. The question for me is “what do I want students to get out of this activity/what do I want students to learn today?” The answer determines if and when modelling will support that learning.

    I don’t know that there is always one correct answer either. Teaching sometimes comes down to gut feeling about what will work. Some students need to see lots of models and learn by synthesizing. Others need to jump in and try it on their own first and then learn from their mistakes and compare to a model after. That’s what makes our job such a glorious challenge. 🙂

    • Excellent points, Melanie! I love how you really highlighted how different approaches may work differently for different students. Starting with the child first makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for sharing what you do & chiming in on this important conversation.


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