Before, During, and After Learning

Carol Moody, seasoned high school English teacher, illustrates a day of learning in her class. The student body consists of eighteen black students, three white students, and five Hispanic students. Today’s lesson is “Smart Goals.”


The students will watch a three-minute video on “smart goals” to help students plan goals with a path to accomplishing their goals.

“Good morning, students” (the class continues to talk. The teacher picks up a miniature amplifier to speak).

“Again, good morning, students. I am your teacher, remember? You are supposed to listen when I speak. I need to explain what you will learn in class today, so listen attentively, okay?” (The class quiets but not completely. The teacher continues by walking the room, holding amplifier to her mouth as she speaks with volume.)

“Before we begin with ‘smart goals,’ let’s review the vocabulary we studied yesterday [precise, concrete, attainable, relevant, goal] . . . Thank you, students. I am so happy for your participation, and I am very PROUD that you remember the words we discussed. You will see these words in the video. Knowing the meaning of these words will help you understand the importance of the video’s message. You must also remember that a goal is a plan you write with a date attached to it to achieve, okay? Now, let’s watch the video” (A student bemoans “Ah, man” and turns to another student to talk. Let’s name this student Charlie.)

“Charlie, remember rule number three: listen to the teacher. Please turn around in your seat. Watch the video, as it will help you set goals to be successful in life.” (The class stirs with murmurs.) Teacher turns off lights for a serious tone to appear for the students to watch the video. The teacher walks room, looks at each student, smiles, and compliments students by expressing encouraging words: “Watch the video. It’s only three minutes. You can do it. . . You are smart and can do anything you put your mind to . . . Thank you, Charlie. . . Thank you, Caleb. . . Thank you for watching the video, Kaydence. . .” (Video starts and ends).


With amplifier to her mouth, the teacher stands in the middle of the classroom to instruct students the lesson for today.

“On your desk is an article about ‘smart goals.’ Take five (5) minutes to read or scann the article. Then, turn to your assigned student buddies—buddy to your left, buddy to your right—to asks your buddies to decode [student vocabulary] the acronym S. M. A. R. T. G. O. A. L. S.”

“While you are reading / scanning the article, the instrumental songs by Justin Bieber will play in the background. The music will play softly. I will also set the timer for 5 Minutes for your reading. . . (Charlie raises his hand) “Yes, Charlie?”

“May I go to the bathroom?”

“You may go after the lesson is over.”

“But it’s an emergency.”

“Just hold patiently out of respect for learning, Charlie. This assignment is only 20 minutes. Please wait. Participate in class. You can do it. (The student pouts and places his head on his desk. The teacher ignores the incident and continues with instructions—) Once you have read and discussed ‘smart goals’ with your assigned buddies, students, please return your individual attention to write a paragraph of a varied sentence structure—simple, compound, complex, compound-complex—to express what you understand about ‘smart goals.’ Remember to apply critical thinking to the sentences you write so that the sentences make sense. You may refer to your notes to refresh your memory of sentence structure if necessary. Justin Bieber’s instrumental music will continue to play. The timer will be set for 15-minutes.”

Once students are on task, the teacher whispers into student Charlie’s ear: “Step outside: I need to speak with you.” Charlie reluctantly obeys.

“Charlie, I feel disrespected when you interrupt me while I am teaching because you are breaking my rules for learning. Please, tell me, now, what’s wrong, Charlie?”

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“You ask to go to the bathroom, often, Charlie, especially during class assignments. I cannot always allow you to interrupt my teaching. If you have a particular health problem I need to know about, please have your parent notify me of such a problem, and I will adapt. In the meantime, I expect for you to participate in my class because participating to learn is the very reason you are in school, understand? . . . May I count on you to not disturb my class during instruction unnecessarily, Charlie?

(Reluctantly) “Yes, Mam.”

“Okay. Thank you, Charlie. Your word means a lot. Now, go on to the bathroom and hurry back to catchup on your work.”

“Yes, Mam.”


Circling classroom with amplifier to her mouth, the teacher captures students’ attention: “Time is up. Please end this lesson on ‘smart goals’ by illustrating a picture of yourself five years from now. Who will you be? . . . A high school graduate. . . A medical student . . . An entrepreneur [student vocabulary] . . . An architect . . . A renowned public speaker . . . A music director . . . A plumber / electrician . . . What will you be? Illustrate by providing an example–or by drawing a picture of yourself five years from now. When you have completed your illustration, please place your work in the basket for grading.”


To elaborate on the strategies teacher Carol Moody uses in her classroom during instruction, an annotated version of her management ideas are discussed below. Relevant links pertaining to the actual strategies are also provided to aid the intention of this post, which is to demonstrate, to explain how a real classroom transpires through a framework of before, during, and after tactics.


Learning about reading and writing and arithmetic is important—and more sectors of it should continually be explored—yet an even more effectual learning idea than merely the typical required learning objectives is that of knowledge about real life taught in every class offered in schools. Lessons on personal career goals, self-management, critical thinking—just to name a few, are critical to students’ cognitive development as well as to their emotional well-being. (More ideas for teaching life skills are offered herein the article “10 Life Skills that Should Be Taught In School but Aren’t.” See above link). To maintain students’ interest in learning, educators must engage students in learning by creating lessons mixed with a school’s learning objectives and with life skills. Students flourish as human beings by learning a multitude of concepts and by applying many of these ideas to enhance their personal lives. With creativity, a teacher can teach his or her students lessons that students will appreciate. Teaching lessons of relevance has always been a component of student learning and has been for more than half a century. Adhere to a school’s learning goals, yet make learning relevant by including personal interests and achievable goals.


Every opportunity, students should encounter new words and understand the words’ importance. The more words a student knows, the better he or she understands complex topics. Research reveals vocabulary transports an important role in learning to read (review percentage of importance of vocabulary in link above). Beginning readers must use the words they hear in conversations or in teacher instructions to make sense of the words they stumble upon in print. Vocabulary is key to reading comprehension. Readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. Therefore, a direct instruction of vocabulary is critical for teaching in math, in science, in history, in English—even in electives—music, physical education, health, and others. Research explains learning 10 vocabulary words a day (author of this post says 10 words a day per class) will significantly enhance a student’s understanding of novel concepts, concepts learners have not necessarily learned but can reason through recall by possessing an extensive knowledge of vocabulary. Teachers may illustrate the importance of vocabulary by reviewing words students will encounter in assigned readings. When students read confidently with understanding they develop a sense of “smartness” and will look forward to their own extended reading because they believe they can “do it.” Teachers may strengthen students’ power for reading through direct instruction as well as through context methods: Include vocabulary in every taught discipline.


Teach students how to receive and give compliments. Expressing goodwill is an effective way to add to students’ satisfaction with themselves. Because everyone appreciates a compliment, teachers have the prime opportunity to exploit this motivational tool and use it for broadening relationships with students and for students to remember the compliments to help build their self-confidence. The link below provides research strategies teachers may apply to benefit their students.

When students perform a good deed, a teacher should recognize it immediately and promote the good deed in front of others. If known that some students shy away from public compliments, however, determine another method to compliment them, yet make sure to do so. A teacher may use animated stickers to apply to completed assignments or may write positive notes on assignments or may extend small gift surprises for student excellence and for student good behavior. Make sure to call students by their names when complimenting them: Research shares teachers referring to students by their names is a compliment to students. Students feel complimented when teachers say their names. Every chance a teacher encounters is a good chance to provide a compliment that is sincere, worthy, and honored. A compliment is a boost to many students’ cooperation and learning.


For others to listen, one must be heard. Thus, be heard so that students will listen. The use of an amplifier will help instruction flow and will add a tone of seriousness to teaching. Students can be naturally loquacious and may need a strong sound to command their attention. If a teacher can manage to hold a megaphone in his or her hand and speak and move about simultaneously, a megaphone would be ideal to command attention. While many other amplifiers exist, most amplifiers are designed to wear over one’s head, which may conflict with a person wearing eyeglasses or face masks (covid-19). Moreover, enduring material excessively about the head and face may obstruct one’s ability to speak and teach effectively. Yet, if practical for a certain ilk of instruction, use an amplifier that supports a teacher’s comfort during instruction and calls for the attention of students to listen. The link below provides suggestions for amplifiers and markets to purchase them.


Music is a winner in almost every setting. Without over playing its power to learning outcomes, where appropriate, add music to instruction. Music without lyrics may provide the best learning so that the lyrics will not interfere with the students’ concentration. The above link shares myriads of other links teachers may access to obtain seminal research on music and its benefit to instruction. A teacher who occasionally weaves music into instruction realizes that not only does music motivate students to action of completing their class assignments but also titillates students to enjoy listening to music and sets forth their best behavior for learning.


Misbehavior will transpire in almost every classroom setting. Whether or not a teacher is instructing an advanced class or a general class, the teacher will almost inevitably encounter students who will be defiant or will renege on class assignments. When defiance of any degree happens, a teacher must address it in a most professional yet dominant manner. I-Statements is a research based strategy that has supported classroom instruction for decades. (See link below to learn more about I-Statements.) Teachers must realize when to ignore minor behavior yet contend with misbehavior at convenient times. I-Statements, however, can be settled immediately in the classroom by providing a ripple effect so that other potentially defiant students will receive the teacher’s message loud and clear. I-Statements are best used in private: teacher to student. A teacher may firmly ask a defiant student to remove himself or herself from class, to wait outside the classroom door—and go no other place—until the teacher has the time to speak with the student. At this time, the teacher should begin reprimanding the student by using I-Statements—“I do not appreciate it when you interrupt my class with your inappropriate remarks, for your remarks cause the class to lose time in learning while they wrestle with your interruptions”. . . I need for this behavior of yours to stop.” . . . Explaining to the student how it feels to be interrupted and why it needs to stop gives the student a clear awareness of the problem that he or she can resolve . . . I Statements is a student management strategy that is powerful and necessary (link below) . . .


Carol Moody, although a seasoned teacher, recognizes that a year of new students brings about a year of new experiences and learning. Yet, maintaining a grip of mixing life lessons with learning objectives, teaching vocabulary in every discipline, using a megaphone or amplifier for instruction to be heard, complimenting students for small successes, applying music to instruction, and using I-Statements are relevant in all classroom instruction. Students are human beings first before they are students, and the lessons that matter most to them are the lessons that students deem relevant, fun, and beneficial to their livelihood. Teachers may also benefit from these aforementioned strategies because they apply to learning instruction and to student behavioral dispositions, which will help teachers manage many facets of classroom instruction.

About the writer of this post:

Cynthia Mathews is a Doctor of Education, a specialist of Curriculum and Instruction, and may be reached at








Published by cynthiamathews

I'm an innovative spirit, one who seeks new and practical ways to learn about life. I enjoy exploring innovative styles to motivate people to persevere in a challenging world. Having a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Curriculum & Instruction, I am inspired to maintain a life long learning experience that will allow me to share my knowledge with others. My expertise includes detecting apathy in individuals and prescribing ways to motivate them to be their best. To initiate this endeavor, I create and conduct personal and professional development programs. I write briefs and pamphlets and instructional guides to inspire, and I speak--upon request--to those who need a reminder of their inner excellence. My blog's main focus is to document my research on motivation and curriculum instruction and to share with subscribers the understanding, the ideas, and the strategies that result from my research. I am a native of Alabama, a teacher, and an author. I look forward to learning with you.