How to Implement Direct Instruction in the Classroom




Posted in LivingEducation

Introduction: How to Implement Direct Instruction in the Classroom

The DISTAR (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) program gained prominence during Project Follow Through, the largest federally funded experiment in public education. Project Follow Through was started in 1967 under President Lyndon Johnson, and concluded in 1995 after consuming $1 billion and conducting research on over 20,000 students nationwide. Its express purpose was to study instructional methods that would lead to a reduction in the disparity between low- and high-performing students by improving the performance of low-performing students.

Three overarching models of Project Follow Through:

Basic Skills
   Behavior Reinforcement (scripted instruction, tokens & praise)
   Direct Instruction (scripted systematic instruction, pacing, correcting, praise)
   Language Development (language focus)
Cognitive/Conceptual Models
   Cognitively Oriented Curriculum (Piaget, High Scope)
   Parent Education
   Self Directed Literature (Learning Styles)
Affective Skills Models
   Learning Center (Head Start Model)
   Open Education (British Infant School Model)
   Self Esteem

Direct Instruction was created by developed in the 1960's by Siegfried Englemann and Wesley C. Becker.

Features of DI include:

- Explicit, systematic instruction based on scripted lesson plans.
- Ability grouping. Students are grouped and re-grouped based on their rate of progress through the program.
- Emphasis on pace and efficiency of instruction. DI programs are meant to accelerate student progress; therefore, lessons are designed to bring students to mastery as quickly as possible.
- Frequent assessment. Curriculum-based assessments help place students in ability groups and identify students who require additional intervention.
- Embedded professional development/coaching.

DI programs may be implemented as stand-alone interventions or as part of a schoolwide reform effort. In both instances, the program developers recommend careful monitoring and coaching of the program in order to ensure a high fidelity of implementation.

Below is a video from 1966 showing Zig Engelmann, the founder of Direct Instruction, demonstrating what kindergartners can do in math.

(Video courtesy of

Step 1: Step 1: Introduction/Opening

Designed to grab the attention of the students and review key points of the previous lesson

Step 2: Step 2: Introduction (I Do)

Teacher demonstrates/models concept as students listen and observe

Step 3: Step 3: Guided Practice (We Do)

Teacher signals the students to answer in unison as she reviews the concept.

Step 4: Step 4: Firming Responses (Little You Do)

Teacher reviews and calls on individual students to ensure concept has been learned

Step 5: Step 5: Independent Work

Students are given an activity to complete that firms the concept learned

Step 6: Step 6: Behind the Scenes

The teacher will use a data collection tool while the students are participating in the lesson. This can be a simple checklist or something more elaborate.

The teacher must have a data decision rule to decide whether the lesson must be reviewed or taught again. An example of a data decision rule would be, "If the student makes 3 or more errors in independent responses/independent work, the lesson will be reviewed the next day."



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    Best wishes in your education, I hope your prof gives you high marks.