Phenomenal Instruction: Don’t Teach In Isolation

Last week, I wrote about Teaching With Backwards Design, which was a piece of advice given to me by a friend and fellow educator, Khaleel Lott, during the 2017-2018 school year. Another comment from him resonated with me that year, as well: “I don’t teach anything in isolation.”

The words ring true because you can’t teach any standard/skill without taking others into consideration–especially if proficiency on State Test is the goal. 

Admittedly, I taught set skills early in my career without knowing how they interrelated. All I knew was Main Idea is “four questions” on the S.T.A.A.R.(Texas State Test) and Theme was “two questions.”

I didn’t realize how students needed to know several skills before mastering others. I’ll provide a few examples.


To master Theme or Lesson Learned, students need to master…

  • Vocabulary
  • Elements of Plot
  • Analyze Characters
  • Inference

Why are these skills important? If you can’t comprehend a story, you can’t tell me the message. If you can’t interpret how the character changed, then you won’t get the message. If you can’t infer from details, then you won’t get the message. If you lack the vocabulary, you won’t be able to properly express the Theme. 

Author’s Purpose

To master Author’s Purpose, students need to master…

  • Vocabulary
  • Key Details
  • Main Idea
  • Text Features

Why are these skills important? Before you can determine an article or story’s purpose, you have to find the key details. Before you can determine the purpose, you have to know its Main Idea. Before you determine the purpose, you have to know how the Text Features support it. Again, you the vocabulary-Tier 2 and 3–to properly articulate the Author’s Purpose. (Many times on State Test synonyms are used for Author’s Purpose terms.)

 Literary Non-Fiction

To master Literary Non-Fiction(Biographies and Autobiographies), students need to master…

  • Analyze Characters
  • Theme
  • Main Idea
  • Point of View
  • Author’s Purpose
  • Poetry

Why are these skills important to Literary Non-Fiction? 

Those are a litany of concepts, but Literary Non-Fiction uses fictional and non-fictional components. Instead of analyzing a fictional animal, you’re analyzing a real human. Instead of identifying the moral of a fable, you’re identifying the moral of a real person’s life. 

Adding to that, Point of View and Poetry elements are embedded within the genre, as well. Of course, you have to determine the Author’s Purpose of Biographies or Autobiographies.

Critical Reading Teacher: That’s why you spiral.

Me: True, but you can’t spiral what you haven’t explicitly taught yet. When you do teach it, makes sure kids master it because you “Don’t Teach In Isolation.”

Be Phenomenal, Mr. Short

Published by Jeremiah Short

My name is Jeremiah Short, and I'm a educator with nine years of experience. I love to teach and the overall craft of the profession. I've written two books(As I Took My Walk With God Volumes I and II) and have one resource: Phenomenal Intervention: The Playbook. In addition to writing books, I've created several instructional routines: Phenomenal Word Power, T.I.D.E., Bloom's Units: Reading and The Phenomenal Classroom.

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