Explicit presentation refers to the practice of intentionally naming materials or actions, and demonstrating proper care and use. Its roots can be seen in Montessori practices. Montessori advocated for the power of clear modeling as a way to help children learn new skills that would help them in future learning and discoveries. These “lessons,” covered everything from learning to put on a coat to “grace and courtesy” lessons that foster social interactions, as well as instruction in using specific materials. For young children there is “no lesson too small” – opening a lunch box, carrying blocks, interrupting politely, and using a paintbrush all require instruction. When children don’t use materials with care, it is usually because teachers have not taken the time to carefully unpack the steps, purposes, or interactions. Then we fall into the trap of having to police behaviors we don’t want to see rather than introducing behaviors we do want to see.
There are many applications for explicit presentation but we offer three general opportunities:
- To introduce a new material and demonstrate the care, properties of the material, and how to use it.
- To introduce a specific activity and its objective, process from beginning to end.
- To introduce a social norm or interaction.
Introduce a New Material
To introduce a new material and demonstrate the care and properties of the material and how to use it.
- Use a mat or small, low table on the floor in front of you.
- Cover the material with a cloth.
- Tell the children, “I have something new to show you.”
- Some teachers like to give clues and have children guess. Others might just say, “This new thing goes in our art area.”
- Uncover the item. Ask, “What do you notice about this?”
- Name the item if children haven’t already. “This is a glue stick.” or These are unifix cubes.”
- Demonstrate its use. “This is how you use it. Watch me carefully.” Highlight points of interest – sound a cap makes when you take it off and on, twisting up the glue stick 3 times whispering “twist, twist, twist”, demonstrating carefully rubbing glue on paper and then pressing to another piece of paper. Or for cubes, “See how the cubes snap together, listen for the snap.”
- End by showing where the material “lives” in the classroom and where to get it or put it away. Show how to handle or carry the material appropriately. Talk about caring for materials.
Here is an example of how to introduce the use and care of work mats in the classroom to either or group of children or individual.
Here is an example of how to introduce the use and care of glue sticks in the classroom to either or group of children or individual. This same introduction can be modified to introduce a variety of materials.
Introduce a Specific Activity
To introduce a specific activity and its objective, process from beginning to end.
- Invite the child(ren) to do something new. Or, if at whole group, “I have something new to show you today.”
- Use a mat on the floor in front of you at whole or small group, or at a table as appropriate for the material.
- Name or introduce the material or activity. (“This is how you carry a chair.” or “This is called watercolor painting.” or “This is the sound sorting game.”)
- Ask, “What do you notice about this.”
- Demonstrate the exact steps and use of the material or routine with gestures and efficient use of words from start to finish (Taking it off the shelf, doing it, and putting it away.)
- Invite children to repeat.
- Model and support clean-up or closure.
Here is an example of how to introduce carrying a chair in the classroom to either or group of children or individual
Introduce a Social Norm or Interaction
To introduce a social norm or interaction.
- Gathering children in a small or whole group.
- Introduce the problem or behavior. “I have something new to show you today.” or “I have noticed something that I want to talk about today.”
- Name the problem or behavior. “I want to show you how to interrupt politely.” or “I noticed some children bumping into each other in line to go outside today.”
- Model (with another adult or with an experienced child) what the undesirable behavior looks like if appropriate. Otherwise go to next step. “Here is what I saw today, let me show you.” Ask, “What did you notice?”
- Model what the desirable behavior looks like. (Let me show you what lining up can look like.” or “Here is what it looks like to shake hands with someone.” Ask, “What did you notice?”
- End by saying, “You can practice this every day by….” Can also have children come up and try it out or practice the behavior at the group time together.
Here is an example of how to introduce getting a lunch box for lunch or snack with a child and working with them through the multiple steps in following the classroom routine.
Some General Guidelines for Explicit Presentations
- Show children how to be purposeful with all materials: use a small workmat at meeting to define your space as you carefully show materials. Demonstrate how to carry, setup, and do specific activities. Practice before you have the children in front of you.
- Go into different areas to demonstrate – Gather in the block area – “This is the block area. This how we carry the longest blocks. Who would like to try?” Or, in the art area – “This is collage, I will have a turn first and then you can try.” Keep the language minimal, specific, and include key vocabulary.
- Slow down your movements – children will imitate you and if you move fast and carelessly, their imitation of it will be even sloppier.
- Give step by step instruction and then release and check in – this is scaffolding! Not simply free play and intervention. After presenting, say, “Now, when you go to the table for (collage, making books, sorting, etc.) remember to…..” Then check back with children periodically to see what supports or scaffolds they might benefit from.
- Look around your room and do an explicit presentation inventory – what do you need so show them? For example, look at your art area: Have you presented how to use markers, how to place the caps back on, and how to use a glue stick?