Format Matters: Strategy One

All About: Format Matters

The 4th technique in Teach like A Champion explains why format matters in the classroom. It’s not simply what student’s say that matters, but how they communicate it. The skill of being able to speak in complete sentences will allow them a straight ticket into college and will grant them the opportunity to succeed in the work force. The strategy Format Matters challenges teachers to correct students’ grammatical errors, syntax, word usage, and require them to always answer questions in complete sentences.  This strategy helps prepare students for the future by requiring complete sentences and correct grammar by ensuring that they understand that this is the correct way of speaking and just as school is a professional place, they will need to use this language to succeed in other professional settings.

Why this strategy would work

As teachers, we try to repeat and elaborate on things so it can be instilled in student’s long term memory. Long term memory is essentially a huge storage system in your brain that categorizes and sorts things based on the subject, like a filing cabinet. As we try to permanently store things in the memory of our students, we continuously repeat or “bring up” the subject so that in the future their retrieval process of that specific subject will take less time. Basically, after much repetition and learning, a word or subject can be triggered and the brain will recognize what filing cabinet to open, immediately. Therefore, every time a student makes any kind of mistake related to their format of speaking, we must first identify the error, then being the correction. The student will understand that they made a mistake and will only improve after continuous correction.

Life Example

Every day teacher’s around the world use the question and answer strategy. For example, “Who knows what the Capital of North Carolina is?” Teachers ask their students a specific question and are looking for a specific answer. Student’s hands will shoot up as their brains recognize the answer and they compete for the chance to share their answer with the class.  In my classroom it will be a necessary task for all answers to come in complete sentences; no matter if the answer is requested on paper or verbally. This means that when I ask a question such as, “Who can tell me the Capital of North Carolina?” I am looking for a response such as, “The Capital of North Carolina is Raleigh.” If a student simply answers the question with, “Raleigh” I will suggest, “Is that the way you’d like to answer this question? Can you think of a better way to respond?” Therefore, the student will understand he or she might have gotten the correct answer but answered the question in an inappropriate manner. Students will gradually learn that a one word response is not a correct, professional answer and in order to succeed now and in the future, they must speak grammatically correct.


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