Instructional Practices

There is a great deal of planning and technique that goes into effective instruction and ultimately, student achievement.  And while there are aspects of effective instruction that can be generalized and applied to all teachers, there are also other aspects that are very specific to the content a teacher is teaching.  Below is guidance on both the more generalized aspects of effective teaching, as captured by the Danielson Framework for Teaching, as well the more nuanced applications of different content areas.  

Effective Teaching

At its core, effective teaching leads to student learning. In New York City, Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching supports a common understanding of what great teaching looks like across all our schools and provides a shared language for professional conversations around teaching practice. The Danielson Framework describes aspects of teachers' practice that have been shown to promote improved student learning. It groups these responsibilities into 22 components organized into four domains. The rubric offers a helpful frame for developing teacher practice and, ultimately, improving student learning outcomes.

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

Effective teachers do the following when planning and preparing for instruction:

  • Consider where their students are, where they need to be, and create a plan to get them there in an ongoing cycle of planning, teaching, assessing, and using those results to drive instruction
  • Develop learning goals that are based on appropriate standards, represent significant learning in the discipline, and are appropriate for all students
  • Design units, lessons, and activities that lead students to attain learning outcomes
  • Create a plan and tools for assessing students’ progress towards achieving mastery

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

Effective teachers create a classroom environment that:
  • Is conducive, both physically and emotionally, to learning and intellectual risk-taking
  • Instills high expectations for student learning
  • Conveys the importance and purpose of the work teachers and students are engaged in
  • Maximizes learning time through the effective use of routines, procedures, and behavioral expectations

Domain 3: Instruction

During instruction effective teachers:
  • Ensure that students are cognitively engaged in appropriately rigorous content that leads them to reach their learning goals
  • Communicate clearly with students and ask questions that promote high-level thinking and discourse
  • Keep a pulse on the learning and respond as necessary to students’ level of understanding throughout the lesson, making appropriate adjustments when necessary
  • Capture student data throughout the lesson and use it to inform reflection, self-assessment, and future planning

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

As part of their professional responsibilities, effective teachers:
  • Reflect on how their instruction impacts students on an ongoing basis, recognizing that teaching requires continual improvement
  • Create meaningful opportunities for family and community collaboration
  • Engage in collaborative practices that support them and their colleagues in growing and thriving as professionals
  • Stay current on educational developments, including policy, instructional shifts, and research on both pedagogy and their content area

English Language Arts Instruction

Students become life-long readers and writers when given the necessary supports to develop foundational literacy skills along with opportunities to learn about the world in which we live. Most importantly, students need to be able to experience how they can apply those skills meaningfully to help shape the world.  Implementing this type of comprehensive model of literacy that incorporates a broad range of literacy practices and encourages students to engage deeply with meaningful texts requires thoughtful planning and instruction.


Planning for strong literacy instruction includes:
  • Selecting rich and meaningful texts that are worth reading and writing about
  • Incorporating the Common Core Learning Standards as the basis for the curricular scope and sequence
  • Developing appropriate scaffolds and supports to deepen comprehension of text
  • Creating learning tasks that enable students to practice and apply their literacy skills in authentic and meaningful ways


Strong literacy teaching involves:
  • Incorporating a broad range of literacy practices and strategies including:
    • Language development
    • Foundational skills in grades K-2, specifically  phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency
    • Comprehension
    • Vocabulary
    • Writing, including skills and craft
    • Speaking and Listening
  • Providing opportunities for independent reading at students’ reading levels
  • Strategically building knowledge and  deepening comprehension  
  • Engaging students with rich, meaningful, text-based questions generated by both teachers and students  
  • Encouraging self-directed student learning and ownership through discussion and  forums such as literature circles, partner reading, book clubs, and Socratic Seminar
  • Allowing students to explore high quality  writing through analysis of model texts

Mathematics Instruction

In order to develop the understanding, foundational skills, and fluency required at each grade level as well as to become life-long mathematicians, students should have opportunities to solve cognitively demanding math problems, articulate and share their thinking with others, and apply those skills meaningfully in real-world situations. Creating opportunities for students to build and deepen their understanding requires thoughtful planning and instruction.


Planning for strong math instruction includes:
  • Incorporating the Common Core Learning Standards as the basis for planning and lesson development
  • Selecting rich, standards-based problems worthy of student exploration that enable students to practice and apply their math skills and content understanding in authentic and meaningful ways
  • Solving math problems in advance of class in order to anticipate various student strategies and struggles
  • Developing appropriate scaffolds needed to support all learners
  • Articulating what is being taught and why, as well as expected evidence of student learning


Strong math teaching involves:
  • Incorporating a broad range of strategies to support the needs of all learners, including skills and procedural development, fluency and content understanding
  • Making the objective of the lesson clear to all students, including connections to lessons previously taught
  • Emphasizing a strategic share at the end of the lesson that highlights and ties together key concepts of the mathematics
  • Modeling mathematical practices explicitly
  • Helping students develop agency, a growth mindset and positive attitude towards mathematics

Science Instruction

High quality science instruction engages students in inquiry-based, hands-on activities focused on meeting the standards. Thoughtful instruction requires creating classrooms where students are challenged to make observations, conduct investigations, engage in data analysis, and provide rational explanations of natural phenomena.


Planning for strong science instruction includes:
  • Selecting and implementing a rich science curriculum that helps students develop deep content knowledge and resolve misconceptions
  • Making strategic use of the Science Scope and Sequence, which integrates the New York State Science Standards
  • Incorporating the Common Core Learning Standards in the science curriculum, along with the content, skills and science processes including engineering skills (as appropriate) as indicated in the enhanced Science Scope and Sequence
  • Developing appropriate scaffolds and supports to deepen comprehension for English Language Learners
  • Creating opportunities for inquiry and project-based learning that enable students to practice and apply their understanding of the content and skills in authentic and meaningful ways


Strong science teaching involves:
  • Providing a range of science practices. processes and instructional strategies including:
    • Inquiry
    • Project-based learning
    • Engineering (as appropriate)
    • Development of academic and content language
    • Reading and listening to deepen understanding
    • Speaking and writing to present and articulate ideas and findings
  • Differentiating to support students’ needs as they arise in a student-centered classroom
  • Creating a culture of risk-taking, in which both teachers and students are unafraid of failure in the pursuit of scientific knowledge
  • Allowing students to experiment and explore in order to develop critical scientific skills and understanding

Social Studies Instruction

Social studies instruction promotes civic participation by engaging students in the use of disciplinary skills and practices to develop an understanding of historical concepts, key ideas and themes. A strong social studies program helps students make sense of the world in which they live, allows them to make connections between major ideas and their own lives, and it helps them understand their roles as active and informed members of an interdependent global community. Developing the critical skills and practices that will serve students well as participating citizens of a democracy requires thoughtful planning and instruction.


Planning for strong social studies instruction includes:
  • Identifying historical documents, sources and text sets, that provide students with authentic learning experiences
  • Seeking out ways to include multiple perspectives and viewpoints such as oral histories, images, journals and family stories
  • Crafting thoughtful questions and inquiry-based learning experiences that challenge  students to use evidence to come to their own understanding of history, rather than focusing only on historical facts
  • Making strategic use of the Social Studies Scope and Sequence, which integrates national standards, the New York State Social Studies Core Curriculum, the Common Core Learning Standards and the New York State Social Studies Framework


Strong social studies teaching involves:
  • Nurturing a space where students play an active role in the creation of disciplinary knowledge
  • Providing opportunities for students to explore the world beyond the classroom through relevant field trip experiences   
  • Integrating an understanding of time and periodization
  • Emphasizing important concepts and deep understanding over coverage
  • Supporting students in developing critical thinking skills, such as the ability to understand cause and effect relationships, context, motivation, independence and interdependence, conflict and rights and responsibilities
  • Introducing students to the complexity of the past and helping them understand how evidence shapes evolving interpretations of history

Academic Intervention Services - Literacy

Academic Intervention Services (AIS) in literacy ensure that all struggling students receive the supports they need to read and write at grade level.  Successful AIS programs are dependent upon strong core literacy instruction as well as the thoughtful planning and teaching of academic intervention.

Strong Academic Intervention Services include:

  • Scientifically research-based practices, approaches and resources/protocols
  • A diagnostic-prescriptive model, which provides students with targeted support(s) based on their precise reading needs 
  • Universal screening, diagnostic assessment tools and ongoing progress monitoring
  • Emphasis on an asset model that builds on student strengths
  • Building on a Five Pillars Model + writing; they are:
    • phonemic awareness
    • phonics
    • fluency
    • vocabulary
    • comprehension


While Response to Intervention (RtI) regulations have been in place since 2012, Academic Intervention Services (AIS) regulations date back to 1999 and state that all students in any tested area are entitled to intervention services at every grade level. Historically, AIS is provided on a long-term basis, though its purpose is academic recovery. Parents must be notified at the start and exit of service, though no permission is required to provide services. View the New York State Education Department's RtI Guidance Document here.