Explicit Presentation Guide

Explicit Presentation

Explicit presentation refers to the practice of intentionally naming materials or actions, and demonstrating proper care and use.  Its roots can be seen in Montessori practices.  Montessori advocated for the power of clear modeling as a way to help children learn new skills that would help them in future learning and discoveries.  These “lessons,” covered everything from learning to put on a coat to “grace and courtesy” lessons that foster social interactions, as well as instruction in using specific materials.  For young children there is “no lesson too small” - opening a lunch box, carrying blocks, interrupting politely, and using a paintbrush all require instruction.  When children don’t use materials with care, it is usually because teachers have not taken the time to carefully unpack the steps, purposes, or interactions.  Then we fall into the trap of having to police behaviors we don’t want to see rather than introducing behaviors we do want to see.

There are many applications for explicit presentation but we offer three general opportunities:

  1. To introduce a new material and demonstrate the care and properties of the material and how to use it.

  2. To introduce a specific activity and its objective, process from beginning to end.

  3. To introduce a social norm or interaction.


Some general guidelines for all aspects of explicit presentation:

Things to try:

  • Show children how to be purposeful with all materials: use a small workmat at meeting to define your space as you carefully show materials. Demonstrate how to carry, setup, and do specific activities.  Practice before you have the children in front of you.

  • Go into different areas to demonstrate - Gather in the block area - “This is the block area.  This how we carry the longest blocks.  Who would like to try?” Or, in the art area -  “This is collage, I will have a turn first and then you can try.”  Keep the language minimal, specific, and include key vocabulary.

  • Slow down your movements - children will imitate you and if you move fast and carelessly, their imitation of it will be even sloppier.

  • Step by step instruction and then release and check in  - this is scaffolding! Not simply free play and intervention. After presenting: “Now, when you go to the table for (collage, making books, sorting, etc.) remember to…..” Then check back with children periodically to see what supports or scaffolds they might benefit from.

  • Look around your room and do a explicit presentation inventory - what do you need so show them?  For example, look at your art area:  Have you presented how to use markers, how to place the caps back on, and how to use a glue stick?

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