SIOP Feature #26: Pace the lesson appropriately to your students' ability level

As teachers, we must pay attention to the pacing of our lessons.  What is too fast for us may not be fast enough for them, and what is too slow for us may not be slow enough for some students.  Teachers need to be sensitive to the pacing of the lesson, what the students needs are, and how to match the two when possible.

Pacing the lesson appropriately is definitely part art and (fortunately) part science.

  • Pacing is part art because effective teachers almost seem to intuite when things should slow down or speed up.  They seem to be one step ahead of their students who seem to follow the teacher's pacing perfectly.  When we observe a class that has good pacing, things seem to flow effortlessly from one step to another with the perfect amount of time per step.
  • Pacing is part science because teachers can use tools to measure what the students' needs are and pair them with the content of the lesson in order to determine the most appropriate pacing.  The benefits of relying on science and research based techniques is the heavy lifting has already been done for us.​

Strategies for Proper Lesson Pacing

Here are three strategies you can use to improve the pacing of your lessons:

  1. Shake it up:  Fast pacing or slow pacing is the same unless we shake things up.  I need to get comfortable with both as do my students.  This doesn't happen if I don't build the muscle.  The truth is this:  Some of my students will like my pacing and others won't, so shaking it up gives everyone a little something.
  2. Ask and Assess:  Ask the students how the pacing using the Goldilocks method:  too fast, too slow, just right.  Now, assess them in some way to measure their understanding.  Then compare what they say about the pacing with what you assess their needs to be in terms of their learning.
  3. Keep track of your time:  To understand time and pacing better, you have to pay attention to it.  Using stop watches, jotting down how long something takes versus how long you thought it would take, etc will all give you opportunities to comprehend the clock and how you manage it.
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