Use Inductive Teaching Methods to Enhance Your Effectiveness with Kids


Throughout the years I have used inductive teaching methods to teach students concepts and generalizations. 

I present students with data, ask them to make observations of that data, and on the basis of those observations, I ask students to state the concept or generalization that I'm teaching. 

I have found this to be an effective teaching strategy because it encourages participation, which helps any activity to be more interesting. 

As you know, the more interesting an activity is, the easier it is to get students focused and involved in the lesson. 

The inductive teaching method is also effective for developing perceptual and observational skills. 

Students not only learn content but they learn how to process data and how to use it to arrive at appropriate conclusions. 

This teaching method involves three general initiatives: planning the activity, executing the activity, and evaluating the outcome. 

Planning the Activity

First, I determine the concept or generalization to be taught. For the purpose of this brief demonstration, I will select the generalization, "The end punctuation mark is placed inside the quotation mark in direct quotations." 

With the point of the lesson firmly in mind, I select examples that support this generalization. I prepare a list of sentences that illustrates correctly punctuated sentences in direct quotations. 

I open Microsoft Word on my laptop and turn on the digital projector that's connected to it. I'm ready to begin the lesson. 

Executing the Activity

I begin by typing my first example sentence: "Stop!" Shannon's father yelled as the girl ran toward the street.

I say to the class, "Tell me what you notice about this sentence." 

The first student says, "It's written in English." 

"You're absolutely right!" I respond enthusiastically, as I type his response for all to see. "What else do you notice about this sentence?" 

Someone else says, "It has eleven words in it." 

"Does it? Let's see," I respond. I look at the screen and count the words out loud. Then I say, "Well, yes it does! You are correct!" Then I type that observation on the screen. 

Of course, what I have collected up to this point, has very little to do with punctuation in direct quotations. But, by encouraging students to make observations, I am helping them to develop their observational skills and encouraging them to participate--even those who don't normally do so. 

I continue collecting observations, and we end up with this: 

Now it's time for me to type in my second example sentence. I click back to the top of the screen and insert this new sentence under the first example: Gerald asked, "Is this assignment due tomorrow?" 

"What do you notice about this new sentence?" I ask the class. I continue in this manner by recording student responses and adding additional examples. Eventually, I have a relatively long listing of observations, a few of which are shown here: 

It's time to steer students into the point of the lesson. I do this by asking students how their observations are alike. 

Now, we have this: 

Once I've gotten into this portion of the lesson, students can sense that we are on the verge of some kind of discovery. 

At this point, I return to the original example sentences and say, "Many of you have correctly observed that all of these statements have both quotation marks and punctuation. Let's take a closer look at that. When it comes to quotation marks and punctuation, how are all of these sentences alike?" Then, I continue recording their observations, which for the sake of brevity, are not included here. 

Eventually, students will observe and correctly infer that a pair of quotation marks indicates that someone is speaking. They may infer that a comma is sometimes used to introduce a direct quotation. They may also infer that the first word in a direct quotation is capitalized. All of these inferences were not part of my target generalization, but they are valid nevertheless. 

Some groups of students require more probing than others. I persist. Even if I have to drag it out of them by asking, "As your language arts teacher, what other point about quotation marks and punctuation would you suppose I'm trying to make here? 

Eventually, a student will say, "The end mark comes before the last quotation mark in the sentence." 

He gets it. I celebrate the moment. All of them get it. 

I can see it in their eyes. 

To provide closure, I ask students to state what we have learned today. I type these sentences as the students generate them: 

  • A pair of quotation marks indicates that someone is speaking.
  • The first word in a direct quotation is capitalized.
  • A comma is sometimes used to introduce a direct quotation.
  • End marks of punctuation appear before the last quotation mark.

The learning activity is now complete. We, as a class, have discovered some universal truths about the written English language.

Now, it's time for an evaluation. 

Evaluating the Activity

As you can imagine, work time for this class involves handling 

direct quotations. I have a couple of options here--I can present them with a series of multiple-choice questions that require them to select the sentences that are punctuated correctly. Or, I can ask them to correct sample sentences. 

Either way, I have a means for evaluating individual effort. Additionally, I may find that some students need further explanation or additional practice-- both of which I provide as needed.


This inductive teaching method is, without a doubt, my favorite strategy to use with kids. 

It's an excellent way to teach concepts and generalizations. It's also an effective way to motivate students. 

Because this teaching method promotes participation, it has the potential to involve the maximum number of students as possible in the activity. 

Although the example presented here focused on language arts, the inductive teaching method is ideal for any subject area, at any grade level. 

It does require "thinking on your feet," but you ARE a teacher. 

And teachers, by definition, are particularly good at that. 

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