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Direct teaching lasts no more than 20 minutes at a time

LKSD Best Practice #3

For educators to whittle down their direct instruction to 20 minutes or less, the content of the lesson must be planned and intentional. In other words, it’s important to cut the fluff and prioritize the information students need. Focus on delivering information that is most relevant to the subject matter and meets students where they are in terms of pacing and grade level expectations.   

Focus Friday: October 21, 2o22

At a time...

It doesn’t mean you can’t direct instruct for more than 15 minutes. The key, however, is to break up that instruction with your planned pair activities for the sake of comprehension and application (Bloom’s verbs, BP 4).

For block classes, the teacher can easily have two or three segments of direct instruction in one session.  

Ideas to break up lecture time

  • Provide multiple opportunities to respond which doubles as formative assessment

    • pepper in open-ended questions

    • provide turn & talk opportunities

  • Provide sentence stems as needed to structure and facilitate discussion


Research shows that...
  • Students take fewer notes the longer a lesson is. What’s more, they start to tune out completely

  • Listening to a lecture does not teach students how to think. On the flip side, when direct instruction is supplemented with active learning strategies, including turn & talk opportunities or other formative assessments, students are given the opportunity to interact with the new information which leads to higher order cognitive processing

  • We see heightened student engagement and retention of content when lessons are interactive and meaningful as opposed to the teacher acting as the “sage on the stage” 

  • 20 minutes is the longest amount of time mature humans can focus on one source of information 


Galindo, J.H. Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Whalen, A. (2019). Evolution of the Attention Span. The Current.  

Zauderer, S. (2022). Average human attention span by age (infographic). Cross River Therapy. 

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