Rosenshine’s Principles in action

And Conti's Extensive Processing Instruction

On this post I will be looking at what they are and how they can be implemented in the languages classroom as well as how they fit with Conti’s E.P.I methodology.

My school, just like many other schools across the country, is exploring and providing an extensive CPD on Rosenshine’s Principles in Action by Tom Sherrington. You can also watch his Masterclasses videos which are very detailed and easy to follow. As a result of this CPD, all of the subject leaders at my school including myself have been asked by our SLT to demonstrate how we implement these principles within our subject area. 

Here is my take on the matter. I am by no means an expert and these are my own ideas and opinions.

This article was previously published on Silvia Bastow’s blog – click here to view original post. You can follow Silvia on Twitter by clicking here.
Picture by Oliver Caviglioli.

So what are Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction

Before we look at the principles we need to understand first how the memory works, specifically looking at the differences between ‘Working memory’ and ‘Long term memory’ and ‘The forgetting curve’. For more detail please refer to Tom’s book (please explore the picture above). Picture by Oliver Caviglioli.

Environment affecting learning

Recall of new learning

Embedding into long term memory

reusing information.

if not revised or used learning gets forgotten

Link – Principles of  Instruction – Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know

So how do they fit into MFL classroom? Let’s have a look…

  • Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning: Daily review can strengthen previous learning and lead to fluent recall. – 

I personally think that this is not a new idea in the world of the language, maybe it is more of a revelation for other subjects that didn’t use to routinely review and quiz previous learning, but all of us language teachers know how important the recall of previous learning is and this has been our practice for years even if it was just in the form of routine vocabulary tests. Language lessons follow on each other and require students to learn and memorise chunks of vocabulary and structures on a daily basis which retrieval practice and Conti’s approach (we re-visit our Sentence Builders every lesson either via Quizlet quizzes or in booklets) cover naturally so this is not something we need to incorporate into our lessons as it has always been there.

 Example of a retrieval practice task:

Present new material in small steps with students practice after each step. 

In languages, we always present a new language using our Sentence Builders which introduces vocabulary in sentences rather than as individual items, so students know how to use them in the context and real-life situations. If we consider that students can remember only 5 pieces of information at a given time, then if we teach words in isolation that would mean they can only remember and recall 5 words, however, if we teach them 5 sentences as per Conti approach then they can potentially remember and recall 15-25 words depending on the SB. New language is always introduced gradually in small chunks and steps using extensive modelling with thorough practice of pronunciation and new structures until it is firmly embedded. 

Example of a Sentence Builder:

Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students: Questions help students practise new material and make connections between new and prior learning.

I personally love using mini-whiteboards as they provide me with instant feedback and are also easily used with Conti’s E.P.I. approach, but to be honest, since I have been looking into Rosenshine’s Principles I have changed how and who I ask questions. I started to use more and more of ‘cold calling’ – asking students not to put their hands up and choosing myself who to question to ensure every students’ understanding and progress is checked. As teachers, we are often quite tempted to pick the same students who are keen and always have their hand up and often forget about some of our less confident and quiet students. This technique does not only ensure the teacher checks understanding of all students but also addresses any gaps in students’ knowledge or misconceptions. 

Provide models: Models and worked examples help students learn faster. The first phase of Conti’s E.P.I methodology is extensive modelling and awareness raising of new language using a number of activities such as I say – you say, I start a word/sentence you finish, I utter sentences and students highlight what they hear, lots of modelling/dictations and translations using mini whiteboards etc. More activities available in my previous post on Modelling phase using SB. It is astounding how quickly students learn and how much progress and confidence they gain using this approach. I highly recommend it, especially for reluctant language learners.

Guide students practice; spend more time guiding students’ practise of new material.

The next phase in the Conti approach which again nicely marries up with Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction is  Receptive Processing which allows students a lot of guided practise using a variety of activities such as; Spot the error, spot the missing details, spot the difference, one pen one dice translation etc. I will talk about this phase in more detail in my next post but guided practice is at the centre of the second phase of the learning process.

Example of some of the activities for Receptive Processing


Check for students understanding: this can help students learn the new material with fewer errors.

For this, I find using the mini-whiteboards is great as I can instantly see what are my students getting right and what not (KS3 students love them and so do the older students). What are the most common spelling mistakes… When we have progressed to Structured Production, specifically writing using a visualiser is a great way to give students feedback as well as show WAGOLLs and address any misconceptions. I tend to make notes of the most common mistakes and misconceptions and provide whole class feedback using my visualiser.  

Obtain a high success rate: this is important for students to achieve.

As mentioned in my previous post I teach in a comprehensive secondary school with students from all social backgrounds, some of our students come from very poor and disadvantaged families and many come without the support and encouragement of their families; we also have a higher than average proportion of students with SEN and many of our students don’t have the opportunity to travel beyond the place they live. As a result of these barriers, languages and often even education are not of importance to them but the Conti style approach has been a game-changer for us, it has made them more excited about learning a language, more open to it and gave them the confidence that they can do it. This is the most important thing to me as an educator; the fact that my students are enjoying the process of learning and have the belief they can do it and that they are achieving! One of my year 7 students told me last week: ‘Frau Bastow, I thought I can’t do German, but now I know I can and you make it really easy!’ My year 9 (who are notoriously known to be a difficult year group as they are in the year when they are choosing their GCSE options) when asked which delivery style they prefer – textbook or Conti were all united in their response – they love the Conti style. I absolutely loved hearing this and I am really happy because it makes sense and makes the process of learning a language accessible, enjoyable and students can see instant results. 

Example of independent work after 4 weeks – year 9 mixed ability class

Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks: this provides students with temporary support.

The introduction of tasks is often scaffolded in language learning. This scaffold is then gradually withdrawn depending on classes and when students become more confident with the new language and structures.
Below is an example of Gianfranco Conti’s Oral Scaffold adapted to German.

Another example ARE structure strips that I have first seen in a CPD delivered by Wendi Adeniji two years ago.

This great resource has been designed by my colleague Claire Dymond and supports the picture task.

Require and monitor independent practise: Students need extensive, successful and independent practice for knowledge and skills to become automatic.

We extensively practise in lessons all four language skills, but ultimately when it comes to learning another language it is the speaking skills that one would use the most when travelling or working abroad. This is all covered in Conti’s fluency training phase at the end of a unit of work, i.e. the R and S in EARS. We would be hardly asked to write an essay when we visit another country, but we will be always required to speak it, and this is the skill I find our students struggle the most with; they are too scared to take risks, too worried they get things wrong, this is the skill in which they lack their confidence most. Whilst delivering the Conti style lessons and because we are extensively practising pronunciation and key structures, I am finding out that my students are more willing to read and speak aloud, they are not too worried about making mistakes and they are definitely motivated. They are confident with the language that we are learning and they are more spontaneous using it, but as a linguist to reach the point of automacy in another language and become a fluent speaker can take years of practice and commitment.

Example of independent speaking practice

Engage students in weekly and monthly review. Reviews of previous knowledge have always played a big part in language learning and acquisitions, being it your regular vocabulary tests or end of unit assessments. However, the word test and assessment often causes a lot of anxiety amongst the students and forces teachers to teach for an exam rather for retention. Following our training on Rosenshine’s principles, we have looked more closely at Retrieval Practice and low stake quizzes instead of using tests. We have incorporated low stake quizzes and a variety of Retrieval Practice tasks into our weekly lessons as well as into the homework we set. This way we still check that students are preparing for their lessons regularly as well as making sure homework has been consistently completed and screenshots of the results proudly uploaded to our SMHW and monitored. Feedback is also crucial whether it is immediate or delayed, however, to avoid students learning mistakes, if a mistake is made feedback must be given immediately to avoid incorrect learning.


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