Indicating Importance

On days that it feels like you have a lot of ground to cover in a single lesson, you may find yourself wanting ways to highlight the most important take-aways for students. In this week’s newsletter, you’ll see five different ways to indicate importance as you teach. These strategies and more were covered in Jessie’s Immersive Professional Development last week. Take a look and as always, reach out to your instructional coach with questions!

1. Use the Learning Objectives: 

  • Before the lesson, make sure you have a clear understanding of what the objectives for that day are so that you can emphasize their importance for students. It may help to make an outline of each objective in which you highlight the main ideas and supporting points. This way, when those points come up in the lesson, you are prepared draw students’ attention toward them.
  • During the lesson, direct students to the objectives so that the can see their importance in action. Make sure to have objectives written on the board so that students have a visual cue from the beginning of class about what is most important to look out for in the lesson. Then, continually reference the objectives throughout lesson by pointing to them, checking them off as you go, and connecting checks for understanding to the objectives. When you do so, there will be no uncertainty among students about what key ideas they need to take away from the lesson.

2. Use Verbal Cues:  Draw students’ attention to key ideas by verbally signaling importance. This comes in the form of both what you say and how you say it. Try these ideas:

  • Before something important try saying…
    • “I need your complete attention here…”
    • “Everyone should be paying total attention to this…”
    • “Listen closely…”
    • “This is important…”
    • “I want you to hear this…”
    • “If you take away anything from today..”
  • Use vocal cues like there to perk students ears up while you speak:
    • Pause purposefully – either before, during, or after a key piece of information.
    • Adjust the volume of your voice to be louder or quieter when students should be listening carefully.

3. Use Non-Verbal Cues. Just as with verbal cues, when you use non-verbal cues, students will note a difference in the pattern of your instruction and pay closer attention to what you are teaching.

  • Body Language:
    • Stand centered in the front of the room instead of behind the podium.
    • Put down anything that you are holding and pause.
    • Stand closely to students who you know may be having a hard time paying attention to important information.
    • Close the door if it is open.
  • Eye Contact:
    • Look at students instead of at your notes, the projector, or your screen.

4. Use Visual Cues. 

  • Use poignant images on your slides
  • Cross out “non-examples” or ideas about the topic you are covering
  • Physically point to key ideas that have already been written down
  • Check off objectives or agenda items that you have covered
  •  On your slides, putt key ideas in bold, italics, or underline them

5. Use Graphic Organizers. Graphic organizers are a type of handout that you can give to students to help them construct knowledge and organize information around what you are teaching. Free-form organizers like Venn Diagrams, Webs, and T-Charts help students brainstorm around new ideas while Guided Notes like the below can help you to direct students attention to important ideas you are teaching.


A bit more about graphic organizers here: