Frontloading: Lots of Work. Worth the Effort!

What happens when we take time to
frontload our instruction? 
Frontloading, a topic that frequently comes up when I work with  teachers, is an instructional strategy that requires lots of work on the part of the teacher before introducing a new lesson to students, requires students to be very engaged with vocabulary, questions, concepts, and related topcis before the initial reading, and ultimately leads to increased comprehension compared to  students  jumping into reading without any preparation. 
Let’s recap:
Frontloading works.    
Frontloading is a lot of work for the teacher.
Frontloading requires lots of students engagement.
Frontloading results in significantly increased comprehension.
Frontloading works. 
   
And yet, frontloading is often skipped by teachers because it IS a lot of work.  However…. when teachers are willing to give it a try, the benefits turn them into ‘instructional converts’ almost immediately.  Really.
Case in point….
I have the pleasure of facilitating training  for teachers and administrators  at various  levels, mostly  high schools and tech centers, and always love hearing how folks  are  incorporating strategies they’ve learned in our training sessions into their instruction and leadership roles. 

During a recent visit to Orlando Tech, one of our  Career and Technical Education centers  here in Orlando,  Health Sciences instructor Diane Bontempo  greeted me with a big smile as I entered her classroom; within 15 seconds, she  was showing me how frontloading was working for her and her dual-enrolled high school students who are completing their technical training on the tech center campus for half the school day, and returning to their high school campus for academics in the afternoon.   

During a  conversation after a recent training session, Diane confided that motivation was a  problem in her classes, as high school students appeared bored and disinterested in the content.  We talked about why students were bored and she decided she needed to change up her instruction, “jazz it up,” make it more engaging. 

She reported that the textbook was simply ‘too hard’ for many of her students and  she needed to make it more accessible to them.  We talked about frontloading and introducing more focused discussion and student interaction into her lessons; she would talk less, students would talk more.

Fast-forward a few weeks to my visit to Diane’s class this week.  She recently began using board games to introduce terms and concepts in her textbook.  She converted (4) Clue games into a  learning tool for her students,  changing the rooms into chapter topics, and making index  cards with  definitions  from the textbook.  

Diane also used color-coding to scaffold students’ learning.  She says she color-coded to help organize cards if the game became shuffled, too. (Smart lady!) 
So how much work was required on Diane’s part? 
LOTS! 
She reports, “It was a bear, but definitely worth it.”  When asked to quantify her frontloading time, Diane estimated about ten hours of preparation between two teachers ~ five hours each. 
She also reported (rather gleefully) how engaged her students were during the activity, discussing the terminology and concepts with table partners, looking through the chapter and interacting with text, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating the information ~ all while having fun.  Now there’s a concept – having fun while learning!  Perfect!
Diane says she will continue to frontload in spite of the time investment, and recommends it to anyone thinking about giving it a try.   
Thank you, Diane, for the feedback and your willingness to go the extra mile!  
Have you tried frontloading or is it part of your instructional planning and preparation? 
Would love to hear your stories …. 
   

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