44 Powerful Instructional Strategies Examples for Every Classroom



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Looking for some new ways to teach and learn in your classroom? This roundup of instructional strategies examples includes methods that will appeal to all learners and work for any teacher.

What are instructional strategies?

In the simplest of terms, instructional strategies are the methods teachers use to achieve learning objectives. In other words, pretty much every learning activity you can think of is an example of an instructional strategy. They’re also known as teaching strategies and learning strategies.

The more instructional strategies a teacher has in their tool kit, the more they’re able to reach all of their students. Different types of learners respond better to various strategies, and some topics are best taught with one strategy over another. Usually, teachers use a wide array of strategies across a single lesson. This gives all students a chance to play to their strengths and ensures they have a deeper connection to the material.

There are a lot of different ways of looking at instructional strategies. One of the most common breaks them into five basic types. It’s important to remember that many learning activities fall into more than one of these categories, and teachers rarely use one type of strategy alone. The key is to know when a strategy can be most effective, for the learners or for the learning objective. Here’s a closer look at the five basic types, with instructional strategies examples for each.

Direct Instruction Instructional Strategies Examples

Direct instruction can also be called “teacher-led instruction,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. The teacher provides the information, while the students watch, listen, and learn. Students may participate by answering questions asked by the teacher or practicing a skill under their supervision. This is a very traditional form of teaching, and one that can be highly effective when you need to provide information or teach specific skills.

Lecture

This method gets a lot of flack these days for being “boring” or “old-fashioned.” It’s true that you don’t want it to be your only instructional strategy, but short lectures are still very effective learning tools. This type of direct instruction is perfect for imparting specific detailed information or teaching a step-by-step process. And lectures don’t have to be boring—just look at the success of TED Talks.

Didactic Questioning

These are often paired with other direct instruction methods like lecturing. The teacher asks questions to determine student understanding of the material. They’re often questions that start with “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when.”

Demonstration

In this direct instruction method, students watch as a teacher demonstrates an action or skill. This might be seeing a teacher solving a math problem step-by-step, or watching them demonstrate proper handwriting on the whiteboard. Usually, this is followed by having students do hands-on practice or activities in a similar manner.

Drill & Practice

If you’ve ever used flash cards to help kids practice math facts or had your whole class chant the spelling of a word out loud, you’ve used drill & practice. It’s another one of those traditional instructional strategies examples. When kids need to memorize specific information or master a step-by-step skill, drill & practice really works.

Indirect Instruction Instructional Strategies Examples

This form of instruction is learner-led and helps develop higher-order thinking skills. Teachers guide and support, but students drive the learning through reading, research, asking questions, formulating ideas and opinions, and more. This method isn’t ideal when you need to teach detailed information or a step-by-step process. Instead, use it to develop critical thinking skills, especially when more than one solution or opinion is valid.

Problem-Solving

In this indirect learning method, students work their way through a problem to find a solution. Along the way, they must develop the knowledge to understand the problem and use creative thinking to solve it. STEM challenges are terrific examples of problem-solving instructional strategies.

Project-Based Learning

When kids participate in true project-based learning, they’re learning through indirect and experiential strategies. As they work to find solutions to a real-world problem, they develop critical thinking skills and learn by research, trial and error, collaboration, and other experiences.

Learn more: What Is Project-Based Learning?

Concept Mapping

Students use concept maps to break down a subject into its main points and draw connections between these points. They brainstorm the big-picture ideas, then draw lines to connect terms, details, and more to help them visualize the topic.

Case Studies

When you think of case studies, law school is probably the first thing that jumps to mind. But this method works at any age, for a variety of topics. This indirect learning method teaches students to use material to draw conclusions, make connections, and advance their existing knowledge.

Reading for Meaning

This is different than learning to read. Instead, it’s when students use texts (print or digital) to learn about a topic. This traditional strategy works best when students already have strong reading comprehension skills. Try our free reading comprehension bundle to give students the ability to get the most out of reading for meaning.

Flipped Classroom

In a flipped classroom, students read texts or watch prerecorded lectures at home. Classroom time is used for deeper learning activities, like discussions, labs, and one-on-one time for teachers and students.

Learn more: What Is a Flipped Classroom?

Experiential Learning Instructional Strategies Examples

In experiential learning, students learn by doing. Rather than following a set of instructions or listening to a lecture, they dive right into an activity or experience. Once again, the teacher is a guide, there to answer questions and gently keep learning on track if necessary. At the end, and often throughout, the learners reflect on their experience, drawing conclusions about the skills and knowledge they’ve gained. Experiential learning values the process over the product.

Science Experiments

This is experiential learning at its best. Hands-on experiments let kids learn to establish expectations, create sound methodology, draw conclusions, and more.

Learn more: Hundreds of science experiment ideas for kids and teens

Field Trips

Heading out into the real world gives kids a chance to learn indirectly, through experiences. They may see concepts they already know put into practice or learn new information or skills from the world around them.

Learn more: The Big List of PreK-12 Field Trip Ideas

Games and Gamification

Teachers have long known that playing games is a fun (and sometimes sneaky) way to get kids to learn. You can use specially designed educational games for any subject. Plus, regular board games often involve a lot of indirect learning about math, reading, critical thinking, and more.

Learn more: Classic Classroom Games and Best Online Educational Games

Service Learning

This is another instructional strategies example that takes students out into the real world. It often involves problem-solving skills and gives kids the opportunity for meaningful social-emotional learning.

Learn more: What Is Service Learning?

Interactive Instruction Instructional Strategies Examples

As you might guess, this strategy is all about interaction between the learners and often the teacher. The focus is on discussion and sharing. Students hear other viewpoints, talk things out, and help each other learn and understand the material. Teachers can be a part of these discussions, or they can oversee smaller groups or pairings and help guide the interactions as needed. Interactive instruction helps students develop interpersonal skills like listening and observation.

Peer Instruction

It’s often said the best way to learn something is to teach it to others. Studies into the so-called “protégé effect” seem to prove it too. In order to teach, you first must understand the information yourself. Then, you have to find ways to share it with others—sometimes more than one way. This deepens your connection to the material, and it sticks with you much longer. Try having peers instruct one another in your classroom, and see the magic in action.

Reciprocal Teaching

This method is specifically used in reading instruction, as a cooperative learning strategy. Groups of students take turns acting as the teacher, helping students predict, clarify, question, and summarize. Teachers model the process initially, then observe and guide only as needed.

Debate

Some teachers shy away from debate in the classroom, afraid it will become too adversarial. But learning to discuss and defend various points of view is an important life skill. Debates teach students to research their topic, make informed choices, and argue effectively using facts instead of emotion.

Learn more: High School Debate Topics To Challenge Every Student

Class or Small-Group Discussion

Class, small-group, and pair discussions are all excellent interactive instructional strategies examples. As students discuss a topic, they clarify their own thinking and learn from the experiences and opinions of others. Of course, in addition to learning about the topic itself, they’re also developing valuable active listening and collaboration skills.

Learn more: Strategies To Improve Classroom Discussions

Socratic Seminar and Fishbowl

Take your classroom discussions one step further with the fishbowl method. A small group of students sits in the middle of the class. They discuss and debate a topic, while their classmates listen silently and make notes. Eventually, the teacher opens the discussion to the whole class, who offer feedback and present their own assertions and challenges.

Learn more: How I Use Fishbowl Discussions To Engage Every Student

Brainstorming

Rather than having a teacher provide examples to explain a topic or solve a problem, students do the work themselves. Remember the one rule of brainstorming: Every idea is welcome. Ensure everyone gets a chance to participate, and form diverse groups to generate lots of unique ideas.

Role-Playing

Role-playing is sort of like a simulation but less intense. It’s perfect for practicing soft skills and focusing on social-emotional learning. Put a twist on this strategy by having students model bad interactions as well as good ones and then discussing the difference.

Think-Pair-Share

This structured discussion technique is simple: First, students think about a question posed by the teacher. Pair students up, and let them talk about their answer. Finally open it up to whole-class discussion. This helps kids participate in discussions in a low-key way and gives them a chance to “practice” before they talk in front of the whole class.

Learn more: Think-Pair-Share and Fun Alternatives

Independent Learning Instructional Strategies Examples

Also called independent study, this form of learning is almost entirely student-led. Teachers take a backseat role, providing materials, answering questions, and guiding or supervising. It’s an excellent way to allow students to dive deep into topics that really interest them, or to encourage learning at a pace that’s comfortable for each student.

Learning Centers

Foster independent learning strategies with centers just for math, writing, reading, and more. Provide a variety of activities, and let kids choose how they spend their time. They often learn better from activities they enjoy.

Learn more: The Big List of K-2 Literacy Centers

Computer-Based Instruction

Once a rarity, now a daily fact of life, computer-based instruction lets students work independently. They can go at their own pace, repeating sections without feeling like they’re holding up the class. Teach students good computer skills at a young age so you’ll feel comfortable knowing they’re focusing on the work and doing it safely.

Essays

Writing an essay encourages kids to clarify and organize their thinking. Written communication has become more important in recent years, so being able to write clearly and concisely is a skill every kid needs. This independent instructional strategy has stood the test of time for good reason.

Learn more: The Big List of Essay Topics for High School

Research Projects

Here’s another oldie-but-goodie! When kids work independently to research and present on a topic, their learning is all up to them. They set the pace, choose a focus, and learn how to plan and meet deadlines. This is often a chance for them to show off their creativity and personality too.

Journaling

Personal journals give kids a chance to reflect and think critically on topics. Whether responding to teacher prompts or simply recording their daily thoughts and experiences, this independent learning method strengthens writing and intrapersonal skills.

Learn more: The Benefits of Journaling in the Classroom

Play-Based Learning

In play-based learning programs, children learn by exploring their own interests. Teachers identify and help students pursue their interests by asking questions, creating play opportunities, and encouraging students to expand their play.

Learn more: What Is Play-Based Learning?

More Instructional Strategies Examples

Don’t be afraid to try new strategies from time to time—you just might find a new favorite! Here are some of the most common instructional strategies examples.

Simulations

This strategy combines experiential, interactive, and indirect learning all in one. The teacher sets up a simulation of a real-world activity or experience. Students take on roles and participate in the exercise, using existing skills and knowledge or developing new ones along the way. At the end, the class reflects separately and together on what happened and what they learned.

Storytelling

Ever since Aesop’s fables, we’ve been using storytelling as a way to teach. Stories grab students’ attention right from the start and keep them engaged throughout the learning process. Real-life stories and fiction both work equally well, depending on the situation.

Learn more: Teaching as Storytelling

Scaffolding

Scaffolding is defined as breaking learning into bite-sized chunks so students can more easily tackle complex material. It builds on old ideas and connects them to new ones. An educator models or demonstrates how to solve a problem, then steps back and encourages the students to solve the problem independently. Scaffolding teaching gives students the support they need by breaking learning into achievable sizes while they progress toward understanding and independence.

Learn more: What Is Scaffolding in Education?

Spaced Repetition

Often paired with direct or independent instruction, spaced repetition is a method where students are asked to recall certain information or skills at increasingly longer intervals. For instance, the day after discussing the causes of the American Civil War in class, the teacher might return to the topic and ask students to list the causes. The following week, the teacher asks them once again, and then a few weeks after that. Spaced repetition helps make knowledge stick, and it is especially useful when it’s not something students practice each day but will need to know in the long term (such as for a final exam).

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are a way of organizing information visually to help students understand and remember it. A good organizer simplifies complex information and lays it out in a way that makes it easier for a learner to digest. Graphic organizers may include text and images, and they help students make connections in a meaningful way.

Learn more: Graphic Organizers 101: Why and How To Use Them

Jigsaw

Jigsaw combines group learning with peer teaching. Students are assigned to “home groups.” Within that group, each student is given a specialized topic to learn about. They join up with other students who were given the same topic, then research, discuss, and become experts. Finally, students return to their home group and teach the other members about the topic they specialized in.

Multidisciplinary Instruction

As the name implies, this instructional strategy approaches a topic using techniques and aspects from multiple disciplines, helping students explore it more thoroughly from a variety of viewpoints. For instance, to learn more about a solar eclipse, students might explore scientific explanations, research the history of eclipses, read literature related to the topic, and calculate angles, temperatures, and more.

Interdisciplinary Instruction

This instructional strategy takes multidisciplinary instruction a step further, using it to synthesize information and viewpoints from a variety of disciplines to tackle issues and problems. Imagine a group of students who want to come up with ways to improve multicultural relations at their school. They might approach the topic by researching statistical information about the school population, learning more about the various cultures and their history, and talking with students, teachers, and more. Then, they use the information they’ve uncovered to present possible solutions.

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction means tailoring your teaching so all students, regardless of their ability, can learn the classroom material. Teachers can customize the content, process, product, and learning environment to help all students succeed. There are lots of differentiated instructional strategies to help educators accommodate various learning styles, backgrounds, and more.

Learn more: What Is Differentiated Instruction?

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally responsive teaching is based on the understanding that we learn best when we can connect with the material. For culturally responsive teachers, that means weaving their students’ various experiences, customs, communication styles, and perspectives throughout the learning process.

Learn more: What Is Culturally Responsive Teaching?

Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention, or RTI, is a way to identify and support students who need extra academic or behavioral help to succeed in school. It’s a tiered approach with various “levels” students move through depending on how much support they need.

Learn more: What Is Response to Intervention?

Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning means tailoring your curriculum to what your students are interested in rather than having a set agenda that you can’t veer from—it means letting children’s curiosity take the lead and then guiding that interest to explore, research, and reflect upon their own learning.

Learn more: What Is Inquiry-Based Learning?

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is key for learners. They must be open to new ideas and processes and believe they can learn anything with enough effort. It sounds simplistic, but when students really embrace the concept, it can be a real game-changer. Teachers can encourage a growth mindset by using instructional strategies that allow students to learn from their mistakes, rather than punishing them for those mistakes.

Learn more: Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset and 25 Growth Mindset Activities

Blended Learning

This strategy combines face-to-face classroom learning with online learning, in a mix of self-paced independent learning and direct instruction. It’s incredibly common in today’s schools, where most students spend at least part of their day completing self-paced lessons and activities via online technology. Students may also complete their online instructional time at home.

Asynchronous (Self-Paced) Learning

This fancy term really just describes strategies that allow each student to work at their own pace using a flexible schedule. This method became a necessity during the days of COVID lockdowns, as families did their best to let multiple children share one device. All students in an asynchronous class setting learn the same material using the same activities, but do so on their own timetable.

Learn more: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning

Essential Questions

Essential questions are the big-picture questions that inspire inquiry and discussion. Teachers give students a list of several essential questions to consider as they begin a unit or topic. As they dive deeper into the information, teachers ask more specific essential questions to help kids make connections to the “essential” points of a text or subject.

Learn more: Questions That Set a Purpose for Reading

How do I choose the right instructional strategies for my classroom?

When it comes to choosing instructional strategies, there are several things to consider:

  • Learning objectives: What will students be able to do as a result of this lesson or activity? If you are teaching specific skills or detailed information, a direct approach may be best. When you want students to develop their own methods of understanding, consider experiential learning. To encourage critical thinking skills, try indirect or interactive instruction.
  • Assessments: How will you be measuring whether students have met the learning objectives? The strategies you use should prepare them to succeed. For instance, if you’re teaching spelling, direct instruction is often the best method, since drill-and-practice simulates the experience of taking a spelling test.
  • Learning styles: What types of learners do you need to accommodate? Most classrooms (and most students) respond best to a mix of instructional strategies. Those who have difficulty speaking in class might not benefit as much from interactive learning, and students who have trouble staying on task might struggle with independent learning.
  • Learning environment: Every classroom looks different, and the environment can vary day by day. Perhaps it’s testing week for other grades in your school, so you need to keep things quieter in your classroom. This probably isn’t the time for experiments or lots of loud discussions. Some activities simply aren’t practical indoors, and the weather might not allow you to take learning outside.

Come discuss instructional strategies and ask for advice in the We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook!

Plus, check out the Things the Best Instructional Coaches Do, According to Teachers.



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