Direct Instruction Model, Strategies & Examples

Jennifer Carnevale, Maria Howard
  • Author
    Jennifer Carnevale

    Jennifer taught 9th grade ELA and AP Literature for over 8 years. She has a dual master's in English Literature and Teaching Secondary Ed from Simmons University and a BS in Psychology. She is a full-time senior content writer and certified AP Test Reader.

  • Instructor
    Maria Howard

    Maria is a teacher and a learning specialist and has master's degrees in literature and education.

What is direct instruction? Learn about the direct instruction model, the direct instruction definition and strategies, and see direct instruction examples. Updated: 05/06/2021

Table of Contents


What Is Direct Instruction?

There are many ways to engage and teach students, but the most common form of teaching has been direct instruction. What is direct instruction, and how is it different from other forms of teaching?

The direct instruction definition can vary, but in all cases, direct instruction is an evidence-based method that falls under the category of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). Direct instruction ABA is the use of straightforward teaching techniques that focus on one specific skill or concept at a time. The teacher stands at the front of the room and speaks directly to the class providing relevant information so that the students can comprehend the new concept or skill.

In this direct method of teaching, the focus is on the teacher presenting the material they want students to learn. For example, if an English teacher wants to teach the students about metaphors, she would give the students the definition and provide numerous examples.

Teachers using direct instruction stand at the front of the room and give students the information they need to understand a concept or skill.

Teacher using direct instruction

This method differs from other models of teaching where students are the focus. Constructivism, which gained traction in the late 19th century, puts the onus on the students. Instead of having the teachers engage the students directly, constructivism has the students engage with the content directly by having students actively participating in the learning process, which removes passivity.

The goal of constructivism is to make learning more enjoyable and have students work together in groups or complete project-based learning tasks as opposed to listening to a teacher speak. Instead of telling students directly that magnets attract metals that contain iron, the teacher would give students a magnet and have them explore different items in the classroom to see which objects connect to the magnet. In science classes, this is often called the inquiry-based learning method where students come up with a hypothesis and test their ideas experientially through the scientific method.

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  • 0:02 What Is Direct Instruction?
  • 1:05 Constructivism
  • 2:11 Matching Instruction to Task
  • 2:48 When to Use Direct Instruction
  • 3:17 Mixing Teaching Methods
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Direct Instruction Model

The direct instruction model is based on the teacher giving students the information they need to learn a new skill or concept while scaffolding information to help students grasp each step or task. Teachers directly present the information they want students to learn while providing time and space to practice the new concept or skill.

Teachers who use the direct instruction model do the following:

  • Introduction: Teachers will begin by introducing one specific concept or skill set to the class. This may include reviewing previous information to form learning connections or engaging students with a brand new topic.
  • Present: Next, teachers will give the students any definitions, formulas, or information needed to complete the task on their own. This may include lecturing to provide students with the knowledge they need, showing a video to the class, or modeling the new task for the students to see. A teacher can combine these presentation types to build a strong foundation for the new information.
  • Guided Practice: After presenting the new concept or skill, students will have the opportunity to complete the task on their own with the help of content scaffolds, step-by-step directions, and oral directions where the entire class participates together.
  • Feedback: During and after guided practice, the teacher offers feedback to the group or individual students, so they can understand how to properly complete the task and eventually complete it without any supports.
  • Independent Practice: Next, the students will have the space and time to practice what they have learned without any help or supports. The teacher can still provide feedback and corrections to help students stay on track towards mastering the content or skill set.
  • Assess: After some time, the teacher assesses the students to ensure the group can move on to the next step and content area. Assessment can take many forms, such as a handout, quiz, written assignment, or project.

The direct instruction model is best suited for teaching small amounts of information, such as a math formula, spelling lesson, vocabulary, or literary device. Check out the examples below to better understand how and when to use direct instruction.

Direct Instruction Examples

Direct instruction can be used in any subject area but should be modified based on the skills or concepts being taught and the background knowledge of the students. Read the direct instruction examples below to see how the direct instruction steps come to life in the classroom and the various direct instruction activities that can be used.

English Language Arts (ELA) Direct Instruction Example

An instructor wants to teach their students about suspense in literature. Using the direct instruction reading method, the task can be laid out in various steps to ensure students are eventually able to master the concept on their own.

  1. Introduce the concept of suspense by providing a definition and connecting back to any examples that may have previously occurred in the classroom.
  2. Show a video or two from The Twilight Zone or horror movie clips that showcase suspense.
  3. Read the short story called ''The Monkey's Paw'' by W.W. Jacobs with the students and point to the moments that suspense occurs in the first half of the text.
  4. Give students the time and space to read the rest of the text and have them practice finding suspenseful moments with a partner or in groups.
  5. Share findings as a group and offer feedback.
  6. After more practice, give students a new text, such as ''The Lottery'' by Shirley Jackson, and have them point to suspenseful moments on their own.
  7. Assess and evaluate their work before moving on to the next content area.

Once students begin to master the task on their own, the teacher can start adding to this lesson on suspense. The teacher could then ask the students how the author creates suspenseful moments using different literary devices and have them write about it.

Math Direct Instruction Example

An instructor wants to teach their students the FOIL (First, Outer, Inner, Last) method. Using the same direct instruction method steps, the instructor can scaffold the process to help students master the skill set.

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