Practice what you preach

A genius has the ability to take in large amounts of knowledge about a given subject. But when it comes to being a teacher, it is not how much a person knows, but their ability to transfer this information through a lesson to a class of students. Across the KLA syllabus of the Board of Studies from K-6 there are a variety of different forms of information that a teacher must transmit to students, it is therefore important for teachers to go beyond the syllabus on most occasions and identify important information on the content they are to teach in order to confidently teach students, with room to answer any extra questions if possible.


The Mathematics class today was greeted by a large groan across the classroom as my supervising teacher handing out a lesson worksheet based on the symbols <, > and =.

After roaming the class for 10 minutes, seeing that most of the students had not even attempted the questions appropriately, I decided to draw a crocodile on the whiteboard. I indicated the mouth of the crocodile to be the < symbol, like a mouth, with a clear defined outline of the symbol shape at the large mouth, with the Red in the image indicates the symbols to be used in the image below. At the other end, the evidently smaller tail, shaped like the < sign was shown. I then proceeded to ask the children questions.

I now asked the students, with the crocodile still on the board to complete the task, which quite a few grasped and began to correctly answer questions now with enthusiasm.

The NSWIT Professional Teaching Standard 1.2.1 indicates a teacher must:

“Apply and use knowledge of the content/discipline (s) through effective, content-rich, teaching activities and programs relevant to the stage” – NSWIT, 2006.

With the casual teacher having the prior knowledge to the task, but no tailoring of the activity to assist the student in grasping the task, it was an ineffective activity, essentially wasting precious teaching time. A study by Shulman (1986) indicated that teachers who understood the content they were to teach were more confident in presenting their lesson than those identifying themselves as lacking deeper knowledge of content they were to teach.


As a teacher I believe that when it comes to transferring knowledge of an idea to students, the adoption of strategies can assist a teacher, but it is more effective for a teacher to read up a little about what they are to teach in order to develop a sense of confidence in the topic (Killen, 2007 & Cunningham, 2007).

What are your thoughts on this? Any comments would be appreciated?

Until next time,

Mr. Stevens

Also here are some great resources on knowing what you teach and how it can help in your teaching in the classroom:

Knowing your content as a teacher:  Retrieved from (

In depth content knowledge as a teacher: Retrieved from (



Cunningham, P.M. & Allington, R.L. (2007). Classrooms that work: They can all read and write. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Killen, R. (2007). Using direct instruction as a teaching strategy. In Effective Teaching Strategies: Lessons from Research and Practice, (4th ed.), (pp 101-124). Thomson Social Science Press.

New South Wales Institute of Teachers. (2006). Professional Teaching Standards. Retrieved 17 March, 2012 from

NSW Board of Studies (2002). Mathematics K-6: Syllabus 2002. Sydney: NSWBOS

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15, 4-14.


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