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Declarative Lesson Design K-2. Christina Marinelli RISE Educational Services. Most methods courses and texts about lesson design focus primarily on Procedural lessons (where students are asked to DO something at the end of the lesson).

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declarative lesson design k 2

Declarative Lesson Design K-2

Christina Marinelli

RISE Educational Services


Most methods courses and texts about lesson design focus primarily on Procedural lessons (where students are asked to DO something at the end of the lesson).

Much less emphasis is placed on Declarative lessons (where the end goal for the lesson is that students KNOW something)

procedural or declarative
Procedural or Declarative
  • Which objective would need steps (procedural) and which objective would have the students walking away knowing something (declarative)?
  • Recognize and name end punctuation
  • Understand and use question words
  • Identify who is telling the story at various points in the text
  • Recognize common types of text

The terms “Modeling” and “Guided Practice” imply the learner is practicing a skill, which seems less applicable when learning a new set of facts or concepts.

For example, if the learning objective is “Name the letter D” or “List 3 facts about George Washington”… How does one model that?

q who teaches declarative lessons
Q: Who teaches declarative lessons?

A: Every subject area, though most are found in science/history.


Math: Describe the three digits of a three digit number as representing amounts of hundreds, tens and ones.

ELA: Name the letters and their sounds.

Language: Memorize three new sight words.

how do i model that
How do I model that?

In every subject, the teacher brings an expertise developed by context that can help the learner narrow down what is truly essential to know about that new content.

Similarly, the teacher groups the information in his or her brain, knowingly or not, in a way that helps bring the information up as part of a whole, and not as disconnected facts.


When you were in school, what was one trick a teacher taught you to help you remember content?

Share with a partner.


Describe Modeling in declarative lessons




Emphasis on Concept



Choose Graphic Organizer

Choose Markers

Plan Think Aloud

Choose Delivery Method

Choose Graphic Organizer

Plan mnemonic

Plan Contextualized example

Plan Gradual Release

Plan Structured Academic talk

Plan CFU Methods

Plan how big of a chunk to present

Plan Structured Academic Talk

Plan CFU Methods

big idea
Big Idea

Or ways to keep your students from going into a “COMA”



Thinking maps

Depth & complexity icons

Declarative vs. Non Declarative


Compare & Contrast






mnemonic devices
Mnemonic Devices
  • From the Greek “MNEMA” – to remember
  • Increased rate of storage
  • Reduction, rhyming, & replacement


Recent studies show that the cerebellum plays an important role in attention, long-term memory, spatial perception, impulse control, and the frontal lobe’s cognitive functions – these are the same areas that are stimulated during learning. Bower & Parsons 2003

“It seems the more we study the cerebellum, the more we realize that movement is inescapably linked to learning and memory”



Learning Objective: Compare urban, suburban and rural communities

Big Idea:

  • many people
  • many houses
  • tall buildings
  • many businesses
  • lots of streets
  • many cars
  • outside a city, fewer people
  • houses in neighborhoods
  • fewer businesses
  • parks
  • many animals
  • few houses
  • farms
  • small shops
  • lots of land
  • few roads





Learning Objective:

Recognize and name uppercase and lowercase d





Big Idea:


Learning Objective: Tell and write 3 facts about George Washington

Big Idea: Three important facts about George Washington are he was the first president, he is called The Father of our Country, and he is on the one dollar bill.


Learning Objective:Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information

Big Idea:

Books that tell stories have characters, settings, and a beginning, middle, and end.

Books that give information have facts, charts, reasons, and diagrams.


Learning Objective:Describe four types of landforms.

Big Idea: There are 4 major landforms: mountain, valley, hill, and ocean.



  • What did we learn in this lesson?
  • What are the 4 ways to model in declarative lessons?
  • How can we remember the 4 ways?

Brain research tells us that we can forget 80-90% of what we learn within 24 hours

Sousa 2006, Jensen 2005

Therefore……. It is better to teach smaller chunks, and have learners practice independently, than to teach large objectives that cannot be reached.


An unreasonable expectation…

That learners are successfully able to complete the task after modeling. It is during guided practice that learners begin to master the skill.


Average Retention Rate After 24 hours













Verbal and Visual





Discussion Group


Practice by Doing



Teach Others /

Immediate Use of Learning

Adapted from D.Sousa – 2006: p95


What is Guided Practice in a Declarative Lesson?

Learners aren’t practicing a skill. They are more fully engaging with the big idea.

This should include multiple methods of rehearsal including

Review information

Make sense of information

Elaborate on the details

Assign value and relevance

Instructional implications of the OWLS


DOK Level 1

  • Used when a learner needs to store information exactly as it is entered into working memory
  • Used when information needs to be learned in a specific form or sequence
    • Parts of a digestive system
    • Name the events leading up to the Revolutionary War

Rote rehearsal simply allows students to acquire information. It doesn’t ensure they understand the information or can apply it to new situations.

elaborative rehearsal dok levels 2 4
  • More complex thinking process that requires making connections to previous learning and assigning meaning.
    • Students use rote rehearsal to memorize a poem but elaborate rehearsal to interpret its meaning.

If students are not explicitly taught how to practice elaborate rehearsal or how the expert thinks, they will resort to rote rehearsal.

rehearsal implications for declarative lessons
Rehearsal Implications for Declarative Lessons

Rote Rehearsal

Elaborate Rehearsal

Elaborate rehearsal is necessary in

order for students to answer higher

order questions that have them

apply their knowledge to new


If students only use rote rehearsal

to memorize important facts they

will do fine on a true-false or fill in

the blank test.

Questions for planning my Guided Practice:

How am I having my students rehearse?

What synthesis questions can I ask to provide opportunities for elaborate rehearsal?

how do i plan my guided practice in a declarative lesson
How do I plan my guided practice in a declarative lesson?


  • Determine how big of a chunk to deliver or access
  • Determine the method of checking for understanding
  • Determine critical junctures for academic language and/or DOK questions
  • Determine note taking process if necessary

What would Guided Practice look like for this lesson?

Water can get into cracks in rocks and freeze. It pushes against the rock and widens the cracks until the rock breaks.

Motion: make waves with hands

Rocks can slide down hills and break into smaller rocks.

Motion: slide on your feet

Strong winds blow sand against rocks and wear them down into smaller rocks.

Motion: blow air out

Earthquakes cause rocks to rub against each other and break apart.

Motion: shake your body

Plants can grow inside cracks in rocks. As the roots grow bigger the rock will break apart.

Motion: move your fingers like roots growing


What would Guided Practice look like for this lesson?

-top of plant

-has petals

(picture of flowers)

-holds the flower

-middle part, looks like a straw

(picture ofstems)

-attached to stem

-usually green, stretched to sun

(picture of leaves)

-under the ground


(picture of roots)

Head ,shoulders, knees, and toes song with plant parts.

in a lesson key ideas to keep in mind regarding checking for understanding
In a lesson, key ideas to keep in mind regarding checking for understanding

You need to know who doesn’t know and what they don’t know- not what they think they know, or you assume they know.

in a lesson key ideas to keep in mind regarding checking for understanding1
In a lesson, key ideas to keep in mind regarding checking for understanding

Choral response or calling out is a very popular, very self-affirming….very dangerous way of:

  • Exacerbating the achievement gap
  • Being led to believe that students are able to move to independent practice
steps for checking for understanding at key points in lesson
Steps for Checking for Understanding at Key Points in Lesson
  • Pose the question to make all students accountable
  • Pause to allow time for all students to develop an answer
  • Process to build language and develop soft skills
  • Pick a non-volunteer
some common conversations
Some common conversations:

When do I do the vocabulary?

What about the fun activities in science, social studies?

Can I incorporate movement, music, dance?

I like to have them pre-read the content….

What about scholarly discussion?