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Video transcript

Presenter intro: Helena Moore

A lot of what we teach our pupils will be new or abstract, and it can be difficult to learn. To help with this, teachers can explicitly teach the knowledge and skills that pupils need to succeed. Exposition is the part of a lesson where the teacher can explicitly teach their pupils. This includes explaining, modelling and demonstrating. Exposition provides an opportunity for teachers to set things out clearly.

Presenter main

Exposition is the part of the lesson where the teacher carefully shares material with pupils. Think of it as the I part, where I refers to the teacher sharing something with their pupils. Our working memories, where conscious thinking takes place, have a limited capacity and can become overloaded, especially when dealing with unfamiliar content. Good expositions support pupils to think by breaking knowledge down to steps, highlighting key ideas, and building on what pupils already know.

Depending on the content, teachers may want to choose between the following modes of delivery: explaining, modelling, or demonstrating. Different modes will suit different content.

An explanation is where we clearly tell students some information. This works well for explaining a concept. One approach is to give a carefully worded definition, and then a couple of examples. In a primary maths lesson, this might mean showing pupils an empty bottle of water and explaining that capacity is the amount that something can hold. In history, this might mean explaining what propaganda is followed by an example of a propaganda poster used in the first world war to encourage women into the workplace. Another approach is to use a concrete example, such as number blocks for visualizing tens and units. Teachers can use the concrete examples to illustrate abstract concepts like addition.

Modelling is where we work through a process, articulating the steps and our thinking process as we go. In an English lesson, a teacher might tell pupils that a topic sentence introduces the main idea of a paragraph, and share their thought process out loud, like "I’m looking for the first sentence in the paragraph", as they scan a paragraph on the white boards. Sometimes a visual representation of the concept or process that you’re modelling helps pupils to understand the material.

Demonstrating is where a teacher uses the physical object to show a process or a concept, such as how to use shade with charcoal pencils, or how to use a ray box, slit and lens to see how different surfaces refract light. As the teacher demonstrates, they draw our attention to the important features and the most relevant thought processes.

To be effective, expositions need to be carefully planned. At the planning stage, teachers can identify what they want pupils to know or be able to do. They need to do this in detail. One approach that can be helpful is to complete the following sentences:_“I want my pupils to know that...”_or _“I want my pupils to be able to...” _Being granular and specific at this stage will improve the clarity of expositions.

Teachers also need to ask themselves where their pupils’ current starting point is. Expositions should build on what pupils already know. This will help them to access the content and link it to existing knowledge.

Finally, teachers need to plan out what they say in advance. Scripting expositions is a good idea.

To get the best out of an exposition in the lesson itself, pupils need to think hard during it. To promote this, teachers can ask questions during the exposition. Questions can draw attention to the key features of the example, model or demonstration, and they can also check for pupil understanding.

Overall, pupils shouldn’t be passive during an exposition.  Instead, they need to think about the new content they are learning. Only then will they be able to use it independently, an important goal of good expositions and effective teaching.

Presenter exemplification framing

In a moment, you’ll see an Ambition Institute coach give an example of how to model during an exposition. Pay particular attention to the following as you watch:

  • Start expositions at the point of current pupil understanding
  • How modelling provides more structure for learners early on in the domain

Exemplification: Ambition Institute Coach

In this example, I’m going to model how teacher exposition can support pupils to learn.  I want you to imagine I’m teaching a year four geography lesson, and this is part of a series on ordinance survey maps. In this lesson, pupils will learn how to use four figure grid references to locate places on a map.

“Okay, class, last lesson, we looked at ordinance survey maps, and how people can use them. But this lesson, we’re going to be looking at how we find certain things on the map.

Okay, before we get started, I’d like to draw your attention to three things on the map.

The first is that the map is divided into squares [teacher points to squares on map].

The next thing is that we’ve got a horizontal line along the bottom. This is called the eastings, and it’s numbered, 74, 75, 76, et cetera [teacher points to eastings line].

And the final thing is that we’ve got a vertical line up the side. This is called the northings, and this is also numbered, one, two, three, and so on [teacher points to northings line].

So when we want to help somebody find something on a map, we give them a grid reference.  This is a four digit number and it’s made up of the eastings and northings line numbers. So rather than somebody having to look on the map all over to find the thing that you’ve told them to look for, instead, we give them the four digit grid reference. And this is what I’m going to teach you today, how to create that four digit number.

Okay, so the first thing I’m going to do is decide on a symbol that I’m going to be looking for. I’m going to use the symbol P, what does the symbol P mean? Aisha?

[Pupil gives correct answer]

Parking, super. Okay, so the first thing I do is I highlight the square that has my symbol in, and then I’m going put a cross in the bottom left hand corner, you will see why in a moment.

So, remember those lines we were talking about, the eastings is the first one we start with, along the bottom, the horizontal.

[Teacher drawing on map on board] So we go along the bottom until we come in line with that x that we just drew. And now look at the number, 77. So this forms the first part of my grid reference, and I put a comma after it. The next thing I do is I then look at the northings. So I’m going to now go up until I hit that cross again. And I look at the number here, 05. So this goes here after the comma, one, two, three, four, that’s my four digit grid reference number.

So there’s a couple of things I like to remember that helps me get these numbers in the correct order. We have to put eastings first and northings second, so I remember along the corridor and then up the stairs.

Let’s do a couple more together, using that to help you remember the order they go in.”

I want to draw your attention to a couple of things in that model. First, let’s think about how I use pupils’ current understanding as a starting point for the exposition. So, from the previous lesson, pupils know that a map is designed to help people navigate to somewhere. Knowing that maps are designed for navigation gives a meaningful and concrete purpose for the grid reference task. I also used the terms vertical and horizontal when introducing pupils to the new terms. I know that we’d learnt the terms vertical and horizontal in maths and art.

Secondly, I explained and modelled the process of given a full figure grid reference to scaffold and support the learning. I used non-verbal gestures like tracing around the square with my finger to reinforce what I wanted the pupils to focus on, and I articulated my thought processes out loud, like always start from the bottom left hand corner. In doing this, I provided pupils with clear steps to follow, which is a really useful structure for their thinking. As I provide further examples that model and demonstrate this process, this is going to help pupils become familiar with identifying symbols and locating places of interest using the grid references. We’ll work on these examples on the board, practising a range of examples together before moving on to the independent practice.

By modelling the process that we want pupils to engage in clearly, we can help to support and scaffold the new learning.

Presenter key ideas

In this video, we have explored how exposition can be used to support pupils to access content. Expositions are especially important for setting up new or complex material. Before we finish, read through the key ideas of the module. Which of these have you applied in a recent lesson?

  • Using modelling, explanations and scaffolds, acknowledging that novices need more structure early in a domain
  • Starting expositions at the point of current pupil understanding
  • Combining a verbal explanation with a relevant graphical representation of the same concept or process, where appropriate

Presenter summary

Teachers are likely to use expositions in the majority of lessons they teach. They might explain, model or demonstrate. It’s a key instructional tool, which at its best can make content much more accessible and increase the chance of success.