What is explicit instruction?

By Kim Greene, MA

At a glance

  • Explicit instruction makes learning crystal clear.

  • It gives kids lots of opportunities to practice skills and get feedback.

  • It can be especially helpful for kids who learn and think differently.

Explicit instruction is a way to teach in a direct, structured way. When teachers use explicit instruction, they make lessons crystal clear. They show kids how to start and succeed on a task. They also give kids plenty of feedback and chances to practice.

Think about a time when you tried to follow a new recipe, only to find that a step is missing or unclear. You may have been able to guess what to do next. But without explicit instructions, you may have added the wrong ingredient or stopped cooking the dish altogether.

The same thing can happen when kids learn something new. Some can make inferences to figure out the next steps or to work through the unknown. But for kids who learn and think differently, one unclear direction or having too many things to remember can be a deal-breaker.

That’s where explicit instruction comes in. It can be used with students of all ages. And it can be taught with a whole class, a small group of students, or one student at a time.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Kim Greene, MA is the editorial director at Understood. A former elementary teacher and a certified reading specialist, she has a passion for developing resources for educators.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Devin M. Kearns, PhD designs and researches assessments and interventions to help students with reading issues, including dyslexia.