An Easy-to-Access Guide to Instruction

Classroom Instruction from A to Z, Second Edition
By Barbara Blackburn
(Routledge/Eye on Education, 2016 – Learn more)

vonstaden3Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

In this updated edition, Barbara Blackburn has provided a handy reference tool for teachers. With short chapters, graphic organizers, rubrics and acronyms, the strategies in this book are right at the fingertips of busy teachers, ready for trial runs and implementation.

While there are 26 chapters in this 200-page book, there are many more strategies than that, as each chapter gives several strategies for a specific topic (see table of contents).

clrm-instruc-a-z-vonstadenEach chapter begins with a reflective question on the topic and ends with a set of bulleted summary points along with four links to resources (two books and two electronic resources). The strategies in each chapter are set off by titles and boxes with key information, making her advice easily accessible on topics such as:

Begin Lessons With a Bang

C Can You Hear Me? Teaching Speaking and Listening Skills

I Integrate Subject Areas

J Just for me: Differentiated Instruction Strategies

K Keys to Blended Learning

S Social Emotional Learning Matters

T Turn the Tables: Helping Students Take Responsibility for Their Learning

And much more.

When and how to use what

This is the second edition of this book, and while it continues to be a set of core instructional strategies that many teachers may be familiar with in one form or another, there are specific examples and discussion of how best to use the strategies in the classroom.

For example, in the chapter on grading and assessment, Blackburn talks about using CROWN exit slips: Communicate what you learned; React to what you learned; One sentence summary; Way(s) to use what you learned; Note how well you did today (p. 46). While I have used exit slips for years, I like the acronym to use with students, and will use this one along with others.

I also like Blackburn’s adaptations of the 4 Corners technique for self-assessment, using (for example) “Laundry Day” where students pick a corner of the room to group themselves by how they feel they are doing on a specific topic, using detergent brands (p. 47):

  • cheer Tide: I’m drowning;
  • Gain: I’ve got the basics;
  • Bold: I’m confident, but missing details;
  • Cheer: I understand.

The second edition is also updated to be more technology based than the previous edition and contains a good many online resources, including free downloads of 10 of the tools in the book available at Routledge’s book webpage.

Classroom Instruction from A to Z, part of Blackburn’s A to Z series, contains a plethora of strategies that are easily accessible, and it proves to be a handy quick-reference tool for the classroom teacher’s bookshelf, especially for new teachers.

Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Middle School Special Education Lead Teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates both online and face-to-face Professional Development for her school district.


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