Mike McMahon AUSD
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Strategic Instructional Model (SIM)

October, 2009

At its core, Strategic Instruction Model (SIM) is a set of tools that encourages teachers to deliver instructional content in a more explicit and engaging manner. AUSD is planning a three year implementation of SIM to improve student learning.

This webpage is intended to give the reader an overview of SIM, the history of SIM and AUSD, a high overview of the SIM routines and strategies, what impact SIM could have on the stakeholders within Alameda Unified School District and links to additional SIM resources.

I encourage all readers of this section on SIM, to contact me with your thoughts, ideas, suggestions on how to best implement SIM in Alameda Unified School District.

Disclaimer: This webpage is the sole responsibility of Mike McMahon. It represents my intrepretation of the materials presented to me at Board meetings and from attending SIM training classes. It does not represent any official opinions, statement of facts or positions of the Alameda Unified School District administation or School Board. Its sole purpose is to disseminate information regarding the SIM implementation.

AUSD/SIM History

In 2002, the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM) was first implemented at Woodstock Elementary School by principal Rosalind Davenport. Over the next five years, Woodstock Academic Performance Index rose from 650 to 780. SIM was a contribuiting factor to the significant improvement in student achievement.

In the summer of 2006, a SIM training was conducted for a dozen teachers. In the summer of 2007, over 90 middle and high school teachers voluntarily signed up for year one of the Summer Institute for SIM. The implementation of SIM is expected to take at least three years. Here is a Board presentation on the first year implementation (large 3MB file takes time to download). In January, 2009 staff presented another update focused on implementation at Alameda High and Island High. At the of 2008/09 school year, data showed improvement in learning outcomes for AUSD children. In the Fall of 2009, Dr. Deschler from Kansas University shared a presentation with staff about SIM.

The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning developed the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM) . This comprehensive instructional system encompasses revised curriculum materials that take into account different learning styles, routines teachers can use to address the needs of learners in their classrooms, and specific steps at-risk individuals can follow to improve their chances of academic success. Their overriding goal of improving the quality of education available to at-risk students has led the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning to prepare "hands-on" instructional materials and procedures for teachers. Thousands of teachers throughout the world use these products, which also have been incorporated into teacher preparation classes. Content and materials for this component of the Strategic Instruction Model are available to the public only through professional development delivered by certified professional developers.

Strategic Instruction Model Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kinds of results can students expect to achieve when taught SIM strategies?
  • What effect has the use of SIM had on teachers?
  • How is SIM instruction most effectively provided?
  • What types of training and supports are needed to successfully implement SIM strategies?
  • Given the decline in the availability of resource rooms as a venue for teaching Learning Strategies, what alternatives can be considered by teachers?
  • What will happen if there isn't a balance between the implementation of Learning Strategies and Content Enhancement within a school?
  • Given what's happening in schools today, is strategic instruction becoming obsolete?
  • Why is process as important as content?
  • How can strategic instruction be used in our school to help students meet important academic standards?

What kinds of results can students expect to achieve when taught SIM strategies?

The goal of the Strategic Instruction Model is to create independent, successful learners--that is, students who can effectively deal with the demands of the general education curriculum. Too frequently, programs aimed at at-risk learners are only geared to helping students "just get by." Before an instructional procedure is considered to be validated by our Center, the outcome that it produces must be found to be both statistically and socially significant. That is, the magnitude of gains must be sufficently large so as to move students who were previously receiving failing grades into the "C" range or better in standard school subjects.

Central to at-risk students becoming successful learners is the consistent application of sound instructional procedures. Our data have repeatedly shown that student performance markedly changes when teachers use explicit, direct instruction when training students to master a new learning strategy. For students to successfully generalize and maintain the use of a new strategy or skill, it is imperative that students be explicitly taught how to do so. If students are not brought to fluency in the use of a new strategy, the likelihood of them independently using that strategy is greatly diminished. Although the effective instruction of various learning strategies requires time, the pay-off is tremendous because students become capable of learning content information much more quickly and with significantly more confidence than before.

Anecdotal data strongly indicate that students who master several SIM-based strategies become good citizens within the classroom and school. Because they are finally being successful in school, they evidence fewer inappropriate behaviors and set meaningful goals relative to performing successfully in school and in post-secondary settings. Most importantly, as students become better learners, their confidence and willingness to work hard in a purposeful way increases.

Finally, in response to the issue of whether the SIM strategies can do what has been claimed about them, we offer the following response. All research conducted by the Center for Research on Learning has been critically reviewed by scientifc panels in the U.S. Department of Education and other federal and foundation funding agencies. Additionally, Center researchers have regularly presented their findings in the field's most prestigious scientific journals. Perhaps most importantly, however, is the fact that the Center has done no commercial advertising to promote SIM, yet in excess of 175,000 teachers in more than 3,500 school districts have sought out training in SIM. The number of requests continues to grow because of the successes experienced by classroom teachers in a host of settings throughout the world. It is because individual classroom teachers and clinicians find the instructional procedures to work well that the word about SIM spreads to others.


What effect has the use of SIM had on teachers?

Teachers have repeatedly indicated that their introduction to the Strategic Instruction Model has had a dramatic effect on their careers as classroom teachers. Some report that for the first time, they have been able to help students make significant gains in achievement. Others indicate that the layout and clarity of the SIM instructional materials provide them with a sense of confidence and guidance during the teaching process that enables the teacher to carefully monitor students' progress and to adjust instruction in a systematic way. Although the instructional packages provide a certain amount of structure, teachers are always reminded that these packages are to serve as "blueprints" only during the instructional process. It is clearly recognized that the teacher must have sufficient flexibility to make adjustments during instruction to repond to individual student learning styles and needs.

The SIM instructional materials and procedures provide teachers with a common language and data collection systems that greatly facilitate communication across teachers and settings. The scoring and data display procedures included in each of the instructional packages have been designed to be done relatively quickly by the classroom teachers (or even a paraprofessional). Students are taught to record their scores and chart their performance on graphs so they can see how their performance matches the goals that they set prior to a lesson. Hence, the packages have been designed to minimize the demands placed on teachers for doing excess paperwork, but they contain sufficient specificity to ensure that instruction is carefully monitored during each session so that both student and teacher know exactly what is happening and the types of adjustments that need to be made to reach mastery.

The SIM instructional materials and procedures can be very helpful tools for improving the quality of instruction provided by teachers. That is, in as much as they are grounded in validated learning principles, they can provide the basis from which teachers can set goals for improving the quality of their instruction in targeted areas.


How is SIM instruction most effectively provided?

All assessment done within SIM is curriculum-based. In as much as the major criterion for success is how students perform on tasks they are expected to master in the general education classroom, representative tasks from those settings comprise the pre- and post-assessment measures. These samples are very easy to administer and score and take relatively little time. The major emphasis of SIM is to optimize the time spent in instruction and to minimize assessment activities.

The strategies should be taught in a sequential order according to the demands students are expected to meet in the general education classroom. Student performance escalates significantly when students are taught a "critical mass" of related strategies. Although there isn't a definite scope and sequence of instruction that must be followed when teaching the strategies, there are some sequences that have been found to yield significantly better results than others in certain settings. Of course, a major factor that must be considered in the determination of any scope and sequence of instruction are the needs of the students. The optimal sequence for a given situation is one of the topics addressed during each SIM training session. Regardless of the sequence of instruction followed across strategies, it is imperative that the eight-stage instructional methodology be carefully followed within each strategy to ensure that students both master and generalize the strategy.

Strategies can be effectively taught to groups of students (from six to 12 students). Although the instructional demands on teachers are significantly less if the groups of students they are teaching are homogeneous, the reality is that most at-risk groups of students are quite heterogeneous. The instructional packages make suggestions for dealing with diverse groups. These issues also are covered during training sessions.

Typically, a SIM strategy can be taught to mastery in three or four weeks (about one hour of instruction per day). This time period varies, however, depending on learner characteristics, the particular strategy, and the skill of the teacher.


What types of training and supports are needed to successfully implement SIM strategies?

An effective program of staff development is essential to optimize fidelity of implementation by teachers as well as to achieve significant growth by students. Effective training of staffs proceeds in various phases. During the initial phase, it is important to have all training provided by certified members of the International Training Network. Not only do these trainers have in-depth knowledge of the targeted strategies, but they can effectively respond to the broad array of implementation questions and issues that surface during training sessions. After teachers have had an opportunity to implement numerous strategies at a high level of fidelity, a limited number of individuals who would have interest (and the time availability) could begin the process of becoming a SIM Trainer. Becoming a certified SIM Trainer usually requires about three years. During the training process, these potential trainers would be asked to serve in an apprenticeship role with seasoned SIM Trainers. Thus, over time, your organization could develop a cadre of trainers to serve the needs of your organization.

Typically, one strategy is taught during a training session (which lasts three to six hours). Teachers are then asked to return to their teaching assignment and implement the newly learned strategy. In subsequent sessions, they engage in debriefing and problem solving with their SIM Trainers. During the course of one academic year, approximately three strategies can be effectively mastered by a teacher.

Training sessions should not consist of more than 25 teachers. Each teacher would be expected to purchase (or have provided to them) the necessary instructor's manual and the attendant student materials. The average cost of an instructional manual is $15.


Given the decline in the availability of resource rooms as a venue for teaching Learning Strategies, what alternatives can be considered by teachers?

First of all, educators need to think about the types of instructional conditions that are necessary for students to become good learners. They should not necessarily focus so much on place or where the services for students are delivered. The important question becomes what kinds of things need to be happening instructionally for students to become good learners. The key is for students to receive intensive, well-managed instruction. Sometimes, that can occur in the general education classroom; but often times, it simply can't. As teachers, we can best make our case for finding alternative service delivery mechanisms if we specifically identify what needs to occur in the learning process. Most importantly, at-risk students need multiple opportunities for practicing the strategies as well as for receiving individual feedback on their performance.

If these and other instructional elements--such as modeling, scaffolding instruction, and demanding mastery--are in place, at-risk students will successfully learn strategies. Thus, the task becomes creating an instructional environment where these instructional elements can be implemented.


What will happen if there isn't a balance between the implementation of Learning Strategies and Content Enhancement within a school?

The instructional goals embodied in the Content Enhancement Routines and Learning Strategies instruction are quite distinct. The two are designed to be complementary of each other, and they are not exclusive of one another. Each is needed to create an instructional whole for students.

Students are good learners when they possess both a broad array of content knowledge and a variety of skills associated with processing information effectively. They obtain a broad array of content information by being able to connect with the curriculum that's being delivered in content classes. Teachers who use the Content Enhancement Routines on a regular basis do much to facilitate the degree to which students can build a solid knowledge base. In addition, at-risk students must receive explicit instruction in the use of a broad array of Learning Strategies to enhance their ability to process information effectively.

Our goal is to ensure that these students succeed in general education classes such that they earn average or above average grades. If Learning Strategies instruction is combined with Content Enhancement Routines, we are much more likely to achieve that result.


Given what's happening in schools today, is strategic instruction becoming obsolete?

No, as a matter of fact, it is not.

Due to content explosion--the significant amount of information being added to world knowledge on a daily basis--teachers will not be able to continue to try to teach all of the content related to their subject areas. The only viable solution for them is to teach students how to access, think critically about, and manipulate information on their own so that students can be lifelong learners who access any information they need.

That's where strategy instruction comes in. Strategy instruction is the only instructional method that has been shown through research to enable students with disabilities and other at-risk students to meet the complex learning demands of secondary and post-secondary schools.

Through strategy instruction, they become able to find, study, and express information independently.

Another educational trend in this country, which is somewhat contrary to the emphasis on content coverage, is an emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Increasingly, state competency exams are starting to include tasks that are more authentic. This shift will require schools to spend more time teaching students strategies to improve their ability to do well on these thinking tasks. Again, strategic instruction is one of the few instructional methods that has been shown to improve at-risk students' thinking skills. Thus, it will be a very important part of any school's program.


Why is process as important as content?

The demands that students encounter in school as well as nonschool settings require them to have a solid background in key content areas as well as an ability to process information fluently.

We all know that the nature of the workplace is changing, markedly. Jeremy Rifkin, for example, in his book "The End of Work," indicates that several job areas will be eliminated because of the technology explosion. Other jobs will be transformed very quickly, and only a minority of individuals will have job stability, defined as working in one job with one company for an extended period of time. Some futurists have estimated that students graduating from school in the 1990s will have as many as four separate careers throughout the course of their working lives. Under these circumstances, the only individuals who will be able to survive in that type of working environment will be those who have the capacity of knowing how to learn, who can readily shift from one job situation to another.

Of course, successful transitions across jobs and careers are dependent on individuals being good learners--having the ability to learn the necessary information required for successful performance in a new area relatively quickly.

Hence, having lots of background information or content and knowing how to learn or the process of learning will both be vitally important in the future.


How can strategic instruction be used in our school to help students meet important academic standards?

One of the keys to preparing students to successfully meet academic standards is to expose them to a well-designed scope and sequence of strategy instruction.

The Learning Strategies Curriculum has both the necessary breadth and depth to provide students that type of instruction. For example, the writing strategies can be systematically sequenced over several grade levels and taught in both general and special education classes. The same can be done with the math strategies for younger children. Similarly, the reading strategies, especially the Paraphrasing and Self-Questioning strategies, can be taught to students for the purpose of helping them effectively deal with the reading demands of courses and standardized tests.

In addition, using Content Enhancement Routines, such as the Concept Comparison Routine or the Concept Anchoring Routine, on a consistent basis has been shown to greatly improve the capacity of students to apply critical thinking skills and problem-solving strategies.

Vocabulary performance, obviously a key demand on competency tests, can be greatly enhanced by the use of the Clarifying Routine.

So in short, we have found strategic instruction to be an essential component in helping students meet demanding academic standards.

Teaching Routines

The teaching routines described below have been successfully field-tested in general education classrooms characterized by significant academic diversity. Students judged to be at-risk for academic school failure were in each class; all of the routines were field-tested in classes that contained students judged to have learning disabilities. The research took place in public schools, primarily in middle and high school settings, and the routines were field-tested by teachers. Research has demonstrated that consistent and explicit instruction and use of each routine is a key ingredient for instructional success.

The routines were designed for use during group instruction to help a teacher provide instruction more sensitive to the learning needs of individuals in the group. A combination of instructional models involving general education teachers and special education teachers, individually and collaboratively, have been successfully tested. All of the routines are taught using a standard set of instructional procedures. These procedures define the necessary instructional conditions needed regardless of where the routine is used.

Planning and Leading Learning Explaining Text, Topics and Details
Course Organizer Routine Clarifying Routine
Unit Organizer Routine Framing Routine
Lesson Organizer Routine Survey Routine
. .
Teaching Concepts Increasing Performance
Concept Mastery Routine Quality Assignment Routine
Concept Anchoring Routine Question Exploration Routine
Concept Comparison Routine Recall Enhancement Routine
. LINC Routine

Planning and Leading Learning

Course Organizer Routine is used to plan courses around essential learning and critical concepts. The teacher uses the routine to introduce the course and the rituals that will be used throughout the course. The teacher then uses this framework throughout the year to maintain the big ideas and rituals. Research showed that the use of the Course Organizer Routine helps teachers and students keep the big ideas in mind and focus their attention to understand important relationships. Instruction results in learning more about the big picture and less in trying to cover large amounts of information. Teachers using the routine spent more time introducing major course ideas, concepts, themes, and routines to students than did the comparison teachers who did not learn the routine. Students with LD answered an average of 3 big idea course questions correctly at the beginning of the year. The students with LD in the class that used the Course Organizer answered correctly an average of eight big idea questions by the end of the course while the students with LD in the class that did not use the Course Organizer answered only an average of four of the big idea questions correctly.

Course Organizer Template covered in 2007 Summer Institute

Unit Organizer Routine is used to plan units and then introduce and maintain the big ideas in units and show how units, critical information and concepts are related. Research results showed that when the teachers used the Unit Organizer Routine, understanding and rrretention of the information by low-achieving students, students with learning disabilities, and average-achieving students improved substantially over baseline as reflected in unit test scores and in scores on unit content maps and explanations of these maps. The students of teachers who used the Unit Organizer Routine regularly and consistently scored an average of 15 percentage points higher on unit tests than students of teachers who used it only irregularly.

Unit Organizer Template covered in 2007 Summer Institute

Lesson Orgnizer Routine is used to plan lessons and then introduce and connect ideas to the unit and the course. Research has shown that regular, explicit, and flexible use of the lesson organizer routine by secondary classroom teachers can have a significant influence on student learning. Studies showed that use of the routine increased student learning and performance. Research results showed that the students of teachers who used the Lesson Organizer Routine regularly and consistently scored an average of 15 percentage points higher on unit tests than students of teachers who used it irregularly.

Explaining Text, Topics and Details

Clarifying Routine is used to focus on a topic and then explore related details and its importance to the critical ideas and concepts. Using this routine, teachers can help students master the meaning of targeted words and phrases. Research has shown that students benefit from the use of this routine. Studies in upper-elementary and middle-school general education classes composed of highly diverse student populations, including students with learning disabilities and those for whom English is a second language, have shown that students benefit from teacher use of the routine. When the teacher used the Clarifying Routine, high socioeconomic level students improved their number of correct answers by an average of 14% percentage points, middle socioeconomic level students by an average of 30 percentage points, and low socioeconomic level students by an average of 20 percentage points.

Framing Routine (FRAME) is used to transform abstract main ideas and key topics into a concrete representation that helps students think and talk about the key topic and essential related information. Research results have consistently demonstrated that the routine can effectively facilitate subject-matter learning as well as the development of literacy and thinking skills. In a study focusing on written products of 35 eighth grade students, the students who were taught with the Framing Routine wrote an average of 102 words more per product than did the students who were in the comparison group..

covered in 2007 Summer Institute

Survey Routine provides an overview of a reading assignment when students are having difficulty reading and sorting out information from inconsiderate text. Research has shown that students with LD and other low-achieving students as well as average and high achieving students correctly answered an average of 10% to 15% more of their test questions when the Survey Routine has been used with the students than when the Survey Routine was not used.

Teaching Concepts

Concept Anchoring Routine is used to introduce and anchor a new concept to a concept that is already familiar to students. In research studies with students in secondary science and social studies classes, there were more correctly answered test questions by those high-achieving, average-achieving, low achieving students (including those with learning disabilities) who had been taught with the Anchoring Routine in contrast to those who had not received the routine instruction. Students with LD taught with the Anchoring Routine scored an average of 25 percentage points higher than those who were not taught with the routine. Low-achieving, average-achieving, and high-achieving students taught with the Anchoring Routine scored averages of 27, 19, and 7 percentage points higher than their respective groups that were not taught with the routine.

Concept Comparison Routine is used to help students compare and contrast key concepts. Research with students enrolled in general secondary science and social studies classes showed that students correctly answered substantially more test questions related to information that had been presented through the use of the routine than test questions related to information presented using traditional teaching methods. Students with LD and other low-achieving students correctly answered an average of 71.2% (LD) and 86.4% (NLD) respectively of the test questions associated with information presented through the use of the routine, compared to 56.7% (LD) and 62.6% (NLD) of the questions associated with information presented through traditional means. The experimental study involved 107 students.

Concept Mastery Routine is used to define, summarize, and explain a major concept and where it fits within a larger body of knowledge. Research shows that the secondary teacher use of the routine causes the student to benefit in several ways. First, students scored significantly better on tests designed to assess concept acquisition. Second, students scored significantly better on regularly scheduled, teacher-made or commercial unit tests during the enhancement condition than during baseline. Gains by students with LD (from a mean score of 60% to 71%) were comparable to those of their NLD peers (from a mean score of 72% to 87%) on these regular tests. The percentage of students with LD who passed increased from 57% to 75%; the percentage of NLD students who passed increased from 68% to 97%. Third, the students took better notes during the enhancement condition than before using the routine.

Concept Mastery Template covered in 2007 Summer Institute

Increasing Performance

Quality Assignment Routine is used to plan, present, and engage students in quality assignments and then evaluate assignments with students. From the research study, characteristics of good assignments and the important elements for the routine were learned through surveys completed by teachers and students and from focus groups with teachers and students. All of the characteristics and elements were deemed important through the survey results. Research study results showed the following. Prior to the study, teachers were observed to include an average of 50.5% of the planning behaviors based on the validated assignment characteristics, 32.8% of the presentation behaviors based on the validated explanation factors, and 8.2 % of the evaluation procedures. After the intervention, participants used an average of 96.1% of the planning behaviors, 89.3% of the presentation behaviors, and 93.8% of the evaluation procedures. In contrast, a group of comparison teachers used an average of 45% of the planning behaviors, 26% of the assignment presentation behaviors, and 10% of the evaluation procedures at the end of the study. Teachers who received the training in use of the routine and their students were significantly more satisfied with assignments.

Question Exploration Routine is a package of instructional methods that teachers can use to help a diverse student population understand a body of content information by carefully answering a critical question to arrive at a main idea answer. Research results showed students who were taught a lesson using the Question Exploration Routine earned an average test score of 70% while students who were taught the lesson with traditional methods scored an average of 48%.

Recall Enhancement Routine focuses on procedures teachers can use to help students remember information. Performance of the students in a post-test only comparison group study indicated that the performance of students was related to the teachers use of the routine. Students with or without disabilities in the classes of teachers who used the routine performed significantly better on test items that could best be addressed through the creation of the types of Recall Devices that their teachers had presented than did the students in the comparison classes. The recall performance of both the LD and the NLD students in the experimental group was higher by 29.10 and 20.5 points, respectively than the performance of similar students in the control group on reviewed facts.

Vocabulary LINCing Routine is designed to facilitate student use of two powerful tools, an auditory memory device and a visual memory device that will help them learn and remember the meaning of complex terms. Research results showed that students including those with LD improved their performance by an average of 19 percentage points on vocabulary tests..

covered in 2007 Summer Institute

Learning Strategies

The learning strategies listed here have been successfully field-tested with students judged to be at-risk for academic school failure; additionally, all of the strategies have been field-tested with students judged to have learning disabilities. The research took place in public schools, primarily in middle and high school settings, and the strategies were field-tested by teachers. Research has demonstrated that consistent, intensive explicit instruction and support are key ingredients for instructional success. A combination of instructional models involving general education teachers and special education teachers, individually and collaboratively, has been successfully tested. All of the strategies are taught using a standard set of instructional procedures. These procedures define the necessary instructional conditions needed regardless of where the instruction occurs.

Reading Strategies Storing & Remember Information Strategies
Word Identification Strategy FIRST Letter Mnemonic Strategy
Visual Imagery Strategy Paired Association Strategy
Self Questioning Strategy LINC Vocabbulary Strategy
Paraphasing Strategy .
. .
Social Interaction Strategies Cooperative Thinking Strategies
Self-Advocacy Strategy THINK Strategy
SLANT Strategy LEARN Strategy
Surface Counseling Strategy BUILD Strategy
. SCORE Strategy
. .
Community Building Series .

Reading Strategies

Word Identification Strategy (DISSECT) provides challenged readers with a functional and efficient strategy to successfully decode and identify unknown words in their reading materials. The strategy is based on the premise that most words in the English language can be pronounced by identifying prefixes, suffixes, and stems, and by following three short syllabication rules. In the research study, the students made an average of 20 errors in a passage of 400 words prior to learning this strategy. Having learned the Word Identification Strategy, students reduced their errors to an average of three per 400 words. Reading comprehension increased from 40% on the pretest to 70% on grade-level passages.

The Word Identification Strategy used in SIM was developed by Lenz and Hughes (1990) and initially tested on 12 middle school students with learning disabilities. This strategy is intended to help struggling readers decode and identify unfamiliar words, and is based on the common underlying structure of most polysyllabic words in English. Most of these words can be pronounced by identifying the components of the words (prefixes, suffixes, and stems) and then applying three syllabication rules to the stem word. In this approach, prefixes and suffixes are loosely defined as recognizable groups of letters that the student can pronounce.

As described by Lenz and Hughes (1990), there are seven steps to identifying an unknown word. The steps are remembered using the first-letter mnemonic, DISSECT:

Step 1: Discover the context. This step requires the student to skip over the unknown word and read to the end of the sentence. Then, the student uses the apparent meaning of the sentence to guess what word might best fit. If the guess does not match the unknown word, the student moves on to the next step.

Step 2: Isolate the prefix. In this step, students look for a pronounceable sequence of letters at the beginning of the word. Students are taught a list of prefixes to facilitate recognition. If a prefix is identified, the student draws a box around it to separate it visually from the rest of the word (for example, in the word inactivity, the "in" would be boxed; in underachievement, the "under" would be boxed).

Step 3: Separate the suffix. Using a procedure similar to Step 2, the student boxes off the suffix, if there is one (in the word inactivity, the "ity" would be boxed; in underachievement, the "ment" would be boxed).

Step 4: Say the stem. The student attempts to pronounce the stem (activ, achieve). If the stem cannot be named, the student moves on to Step 5.

Step 5: Examine the stem. In this step, the student divides the stem into small, pronounceable word parts, using the Rules of Twos and Threes (Lenz & Hughes, 1990, p. 151). The rules can be summarized as follows:

    Rule 1: If the stem or part of the stem begins with a vowel, separate the first two letters; if it begins with a consonant, separate first three letters; continue to apply this rule until the end of the stem is reached (ac\tiv, ac\hie\ve).
    Rule 2: If you cant make sense of the stem after using Rule 1, take off the first letter of the stem and use Rule 1 for the remainder of the stem (a\chi\ev\e).
    Rule 3: When two vowels are together, use what you know about pronunciation (for example, pronounce two adjacent vowels as a single sound, and remember that a final e following a consonant is usually silent) and try the different possibilities (a\chiv, a\chev).

Step 6: Check with someone. The student checks with a teacher, parent, or other person.

Step 7: Try the dictionary. The student looks up the word, uses pronunciation information to pronounce the word, and, if the word is unfamiliar, reads the definition.

Lenz and Hughes (1990) recommend that the strategy be fully employed only for those words that are most critical to understanding a passage of text, such as a word in a chapter heading. Bryant, Vaughn, Linan-Thompson, Ugel, Hamff, & Hougen (2000) note that this strategy works best when the word being analyzed is one that is already in the students listening vocabulary.

Visual Imagery Strategy (SCENE) is a reading comprehension strategy for creating mental movies of narrative passages. Students visualize the scenery, characters, and action, and describe the scenes to themselves. Research results showed that students who demonstrated a 35% comprehension and recall rate prior to learning the strategy improved to a 86% comprehension and recall rate after learning the strategy.

Self-Questioning Strategy (ASK-IT) helps students create their own motivation for reading. Students create questions in their minds, predict the answers to those questions, search for the answers to those questions as they read, and paraphrase the answers to themselves. Research results have shown average gains of 40 percentage points in reading comprehension on grade-level materials after students have learned the strategy.

Paraphrasing Strategy (RAP) is designed to help students focus on the most important information in a passage. Students read short passages of materials, identify the main idea and details, and rephrase the content in their own words. Using grade-level materials, students performed at a 48% comprehension rate prior to learning the strategy. During the posttest, these students comprehended 84% of the material

Strategies related to storing and remembering information

The FIRST-Letter Mnemonic Strategy (FIRST/LIST) is a strategy for independently studying large bodies of information that need to be mastered. Specifically, students identify lists of information that are important to learn, generate an appropriate title or label for each set of information, select a mnemonic device for each set of information, create study cards, and use the study cards to learn the information. Research results showed that students who learned the FIRST-Letter Mnemonic Strategy received test grades that increased from an average of 51% to 85%.

The Paired Associates Strategy (PAIRS) is designed to help students learn pairs of informational items like names and events, places and events, or names and accomplishments. Students identify pairs of items, create mnemonic devices, create study cards, and use the study cards to learn the information. Research has shown that before students learned this strategy, they answered correctly only an average of 8% of test questions related to paired information when the paired information was identified for them. After they mastered the strategy, they answered correctly an average of 85% of the questions about paired information that was identified for them. When given reading passages to study on their own, they answered an average of 22% of test questions correctly before instruction in the strategy versus answering 76% correctly after mastering the strategy.

The LINCS Vocabulary Strategy helps students learn the meaning of new vocabulary words using powerful memory-enhancement techniques. Strategy steps cue students to focus on critical elements of the concept, to use visual imagery, associations with prior knowledge, and key-word mnemonic devices to create a study card, and to study the card to enhance comprehension and recall of the concept. Research results showed that in the social studies class where the LINCs Strategy was taught to the students, the students with LD performed at a mean of 53 percent in the pretest and at a mean of 77% correct answers after learning the LINCs Strategy. In the control class where students did not learn the LINCs Strategy, the mean percentage of correct answers decreased from the pretest to the posttest.

Strategies related to expressing information

The Sentence Writing Strategy (PENS) program comprises two parts: Fundamentals in the Sentence Writing Strategy and Proficiency in the Sentence Writing Strategy. Together these components constitute a strategy for recognizing and writing 14 sentence patterns with four types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. The program consists of two products: an Instructors Manual and a Student Lessons Manual. The Instructors Manual features a systematic sequence of instructional procedures; the Student Lessons Manual features exercises that correspond to instructional procedures. Research results showed that students wrote an average of 65% complete sentences on the pretest and an average of 88% complete sentences on the posttest.

The Paragraph Writing Strategy (SCRIBE) is a strategy for organizing ideas related to a topic, planning the point of view and verb tense to be used in the paragraph, planning the sequence in which ideas will be expressed, and writing a variety of topic, detail, and clincher sentences. The program consists of two products: an Instructors Manual and a Student Lessons Manual. The Instructors Manual features a systematic sequence of instructional procedures; student lessons manual features exercises that correspond to the instructional procedures. Research results showed that the students earned an average of 40% of the points available when writing a paragraph on the pretest and 71% average of the points when writing a paragraph on the posttest. The Error Monitoring Strategy can be used by students to independently detect and correct errors in their written work to increase the overall quality of their final product. Instruction stresses the importance of proofreading written work for content and mechanical errors and eliminating those errors before work is submitted. This strategy also includes the development of personal strategies to avoid future errors. Research results demonstrated that students who mastered this strategy dramatically increased their ability to find and correct errors in their written products. Prior to instruction, they were making one error in every four words. Following instruction, they made only one error in every 20 words.

The InSPECT Strategy (spelling) can be used by students to detect and correct spelling errors in their documents either by using a computerized spellchecker or a hand-held spelling device. Research results showed that students corrected 41% of the errors in their compositions prior to being trained in the InSPECT Strategy and corrected 75% the errors in their composition after receiving training in InSPECT.

Strategies related to demonstrating competence

The Assignment Completion Strategy (PROJECTS) is designed to enable students to complete and hand-in assignments on time. The package consists of two books: the Instructors Manual, which provides step-by-step instruction for teaching this strategy, and the Quality Quest Planner, a spiral-bound notebook designed specifically for student use with the strategy. Each Instructors Manual comes with one Quality Quest Planner and contains the materials needed to teach the strategy, including blank copies of the forms used with the planner. The planner contains sufficient forms for recording, scheduling, and evaluating assignments for an entire academic year. Performance results in general education classes showed that the number of students who simply turned in their assignments before learning the Assignment Completion Strategy was 43% with the percentage increasing to 77% after students learned the strategy. Prior to learning the strategy, the number of student who did the assignment correctly was 45%. After learning the strategy, the number of students who did the assignment correctly increased to 73%. Students were interviewed who did not hand in the assignments in order to discover their reasons for not turning in the assigned work. The major reason they gave was that they did not understand how to do the assignment.

Strategic Tutoring describes a new vision of the tutoring process in which the tutor not only helps the student complete and understand the immediate assignment but also teaches the student the strategies required to complete similar tasks independently in the future. Research results showed that the students in strategic tutoring improved their achievement test scores in reading comprehension, written expression, and basic math skills. On average, their grade-level achievement scores increased by 10 months during a four-month instructional period. In contrast, the students in the comparison group without the strategic tutoring instruction experienced a mean gain of only 3.5 months during the same period.

The Test-Taking Strategy (PIRATES) is designed to be used while taking classroom tests. Students allocate time and priority to each section of the test, carefully read and focus on important elements in the test instructions, recall information by accessing mnemonic devices, systematically and quickly progress through a test, make well-informed guesses, check their work, and take control of the testing situation. The emphasis is on teaching adolescents and adults who struggle with learning. Research results in which students were taught the Test Taking Strategy produced an average 10 point increase on tests for participating students.

The Test-Taking Strategy, researched and developed by The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning provides a sample strategy to improve student performance on classroom tests. Its design includes a six-fold purpose:

  1. Students will allocate time and order to each section of the test.
  2. Students will read and focus on the instructions.
  3. Students will either answer or abandon each test question.
  4. Students will make informed choices (Guesses) on the questions they dont know.
  5. Students will feel in control of the test and self-talk and test-wiseness can help.
  6. Students will utilize any and all of their study strategies as they take the test.

An integral part of this strategy is the active role the students take while engaging in the test. It is empowering for students who are test-phobic and/or low achieving. Teaching students a strategy to pass classroom tests is very powerful since passing the course relies on it. Many students feel passing a test is out of their hands and there is nothing they can do. Their fears can be calmed and confidence boosted as they see significant gains in their test scores. Quick and obvious gains can be expected as students learn this strategy.

This strategy (and every strategy and routine from CRL) has a set of linking steps represented by a mnemonic. The mnemonic for the Test-Taking Strategy is PIRATES. Students are encouraged to visualize a pirate who gets aboard a ship, goes for all the gold and quickly leaves. The same should be true for them when they enter a testing situation; go into the test, get all the possible points and exit! Below are listed the steps of the strategy and what they are all about.

Step 1: Prepare to succeed: Students begin taking the test using the steps PASS:

P: Put your name and PIRATES on the test,
A: Allot time and order to the sections of the test,
S: Say your affirmations and
S: Start within two minutes

Step 2: Inspect the instructions: Students are taught to use the steps RUN:

R: Read the instructions,
U: Underline what to do and where to do it,
N: Note any special requirements.

Step 3: Read, Remember, Reduce: In this step they begin to answer the questions using the techniques of

READ the whole question,
REMEMBER what youve studied, and
REDUCE your choices, marking out the choices that you know arent applicable.

Step 4: Answer or Abandon: Students have a choice to either answer the question or abandon it to make the best use of time. If they abandon it they must place a mark next to it to indicate theyll come back to it. They recycle through this step answering everything they know on the test and then turning back to the ones they are unsure of.

Step 5: Turn Back: When they get to the end of the test they turn back to those abandoned questions using the ACE guessing techniques described below.

Step 6: Estimate: Using the ACE guessing techniques students follow the sequence of:

Avoiding absolute words,
Choosing the longest and most detailed answer and
Eliminating similar choices.

Step 7: Survey: Now that they have completed all the steps the student must look over the test one more time to survey if they have answered all the abandoned questions and only change an answer if they are positively sure it is right. Usually their first choice is the correct one.

This strategy is taught to students using the SIM model (Strategic Instructional Model) which is based on good and sound teaching practices. The model begins with a pretest to determine what strategies, if any, students use when taking tests, and gain their commitment to learn it. Then the teacher describes each step of the strategy to them, models how it would look when they would use it and the student in turn verbalizes each step to 100% accuracy. They are then given controlled practice tests to use the strategy before you move them into their own classroom tests. It is your intention for them to generalize this strategy on not only your tests, but all other classroom tests in the future.

Strategies related to social interaction

The Self Advocacy Strategy (IPLAN) can be used by students when preparing for and participating in any type of conference including education and transition planning conference (i.e., IEP or ITP conference). Strategy steps provide students both with a way of getting organized before a conference and with effective communication techniques to use during the conference. When students learned the Self Advocacy Strategy, 86% of the goals they most valued were found in their IEPs. The students who had not learned the Self Advocacy Strategy had only 13% of their desired goals in their IEPs.

SLANT: A Starter Strategy for Class Participation is a simple, easy-to-teach strategy designed to help students learn how to use appropriate posture, track the talker, activate their thinking, and contribute information.

Surface Counseling details a set of relationship-building skills necessary for establishing a trusting, cooperative relationship between an adult and a youth and a problem-solving strategy that youths can learn to use by themselves. Materials include study guide questions, model dialogues, and role-playing activities. This is useful for an adult who has daily contact with children and adolescents. Research results showed that teachers who had not been trained in Surface Counseling used an average of 23% of the surface-counseling identified skills to counsel students on a problem. After being trained in Surface Counseling, the teachers performed an average of 93% of the surface-counseling components in counseling sessions. They also reported an increased feeling of confidence and competence in counseling sessions.

Cooperative Thinking Strategies

The THINK Strategy is used by students working together in teams to systematically solve problems. The research studies in which this strategy was used developed school improvement goals in which problem solving, reasoning, and communicating were major targeted areas. Results showed that the mean percentage of points earned by the groups before instruction was the same for experimental and comparison groups at 34%. However, at the end of the school year, the mean percentage score for the experimental groups was 84% and for the comparison groups 39%.

The LEARN Strategy was designed to enable students to work in teams to learn together. Each step promotes creative cooperation; students think together to generate ideas to help them learn. Research results indicated that students in the experimental classes performed a significantly higher percentage of study behaviors than comparison students in their cooperative study groups at the end of the school year. Experimental group pretest scores averaged 18% with posttest scores averaging 70%. The Comparison group pretest score average was 27% with the posttest score average 35%.

The BUILD Strategy is a strategy students can use to work together to resolve a controversial issue. The purpose of the strategy is to enable students to work together to make decisions using a process similar to a debate. Research results showed that the average score from the observational measure and products written by students as they discussed the issue for the experimental students was 21.4% on the pretest and 80.1% after learning the Build Strategy. The comparison group that did not learn the Build Strategy scored 15.1% on the pretest and 19.6% on the posttest.

SCORE Skills: Social Skills for Cooperative Groups describes a set of social skills that are fundamental to effective groups. Students learn to share ideas, compliment others, offer help or encouragement, recommend changes nicely, and exercise self-control. Results showed the mean percentage of cooperative skills used by students in cooperative groups in class before learning SCORE was 25% and increased to 78% after learning SCORE Skills. The students in the comparison group that had no instruction in SCORE had average scores of 25% and 28% for the cooperative skills they used in the cooperative groups.

The Community Building Series

In this series, the general goal is to create safe and supportive learning environments for students with disabilities in inclusive classes. This is done through teaching students about concepts such as respect and tolerance and providing each student a partner who can provide support during the learning process.

  • Following Instructions Together is designed to teach students concepts and strategies associated with following instructions effectively.
  • Organizing Together is a program that can be used to provide instruction in some basic strategies associated with keeping notebooks, schedules/calendars, desks, lockers/cubbies, and backpacks organized.
  • Taking Notes Together is a program that can be used to teach students a simple strategy for taking notes in response to a variety of stimuli, including lectures, demonstrations, movies/videotapes, and reading assignments
  • Talking Together is an instructional program designed for introducing the concept of learning community to students and for teaching them how to participate respectfully in class discussions

SIM and its Potential Impact On AUSD

SIM and Students

SIM fosters a learning evironment where student can be fully engaged in productive academic work. SIM routines and strategies allow the teacher and students to co-construct the meaning and revelance of the instructional content being delivered. Along with a rich array of reading materials, teachers can "hook" students to become active participants in their learning process.

SIM and Teachers

The effect of SIM on teachers is often dramatic. Beyond the potential individual impact on their instructional practice, SIM provides a common approach than teachers can use to collaborate as professionals.

SIM and Principals

To effectively implement SIM, coaching is essential. While professional SIM trainers will provide coaching during the implementation phase, principals will need to be developed as instructional coaches of SIM.

SIM and Administration

Implementation of an instructional methodology needs to be mesasured for its effectiveness. While student achievement as measured by the traditional standard based testing is important, additional outcomes that could be used to measure the effectiveness of our efforts are:

  • Reading (and other learning) proficiency
  • Improved attendance
  • Persistence in school
  • Challenging courses
  • Graduation

In addition, alocating and aligning resources to effectively implement SIM will be a significant challenge.

SIM and Parents

SIM offers an opportunity for parents to engage in their student's learning process. By reviewing course organizers, unit organizers and FRAME assignments parents will have the background to ask specific questions to start a dialogue about school work instead of the generic "what happened in school today?".

SIM Resources

SIM and Adolescent Literacy (3.2MB ppt file)

A 2005 presentation by Don Deshler showing the challenges teachers face with adolescent literacy and how SIM can address those challenges.

Dehsler Article

An article by Don Deshler on a new framework tying improved student outcomes to two critical factors: (1) an instructional core (which is primarily related to high quality teaching), and (2) an infrastructure core (which is primarily related to strong administrative leadership).

SIM Framework

Word document on SIM and adolescent literacy.

SIM Content Enhancement pdf

Kansas University pdf on content enhancement materials.

Content Literacy Continuum

A pdf defining Content Literacy Continuum from Kansas University.

Levels of the Content Literacy Continuum

A framework for guiding the development of schoolwide Content Literacy Continuum from Kansas University.

Skagit Valley Network Content Enhancement Organizers and Routines

One Washington school district implementation of SIM materials for grades levels K-8.

Muskegon High School & the Strategic Instruction Model

A case study of a SIM implementation in a high school in Michigan.


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Last modified: March, 2007

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