Classroom Instruction That Works®

Learn ways to develop challenging, consistent, engaging, and intentional instruction that ensures success for every student in every classroom in every community!

Translate research into classroom success with books, workshops, customized onsite professional development, and training materials. Our Framework for Instructional Planning helps teachers be more intentional when selecting classroom strategies.

Contact Us

by phone
by email

by web form

The best instructional strategies for student learning!

Improving instruction for better student learning is about science, not guesswork. McREL’s research and analysis of hundreds of instructional strategies used in thousands of classrooms and, most importantly, their impact on student achievement, reveals which ones work best. Together, these nine best categories of instructional strategies form the heart of McREL’s Classroom Instruction That Works (CITW) books, resources, and professional learning services for teachers, instructional coaches, and school leaders worldwide.

CITW gives educators a clear, consistent approach to instruction, providing recommendations and tools for developing stronger lesson plans, effective classroom delivery, and a common vocabulary for teaching and sharing of best practices across schools and districts. In addition, we help teachers use the nine strategies most effectively within a three-part instructional planning guide designed to: create the environment for learning; help students develop understanding; and help students extend and apply knowledge.

Classroom Instruction That Works Framework for Instructional Planning


CITW Consulting & Professional Learning

McREL works with schools and districts to collaboratively examine their current pedagogy and practices, identify areas of strength and need, deliver training and coaching needed for professional growth, and create a sustainable plan for ensuring our PD makes a lasting difference where it matters most—in the classroom and in students’ lives.

Following are just a few examples of the resources and PD workshops we offer. Knowing that every school is different, we’ll contextualize our sessions to meet your specific needs and goals, and we’ll create a scope of work that matches your team’s availability and budget. In addition to onsite professional learning sessions, our experts can also deliver online check-ins and coaching to sustain momentum and ensure quality implementation that supports your team’s continued growth.

teacher and student reading

Classroom Instruction That Works

1–4 days of onsite professional learning at your school or district for teachers, instructional coaches, teacher mentors, principals and assistant principals, and central office PD leaders

We will help your school or district develop challenging, engaging, and intentional instruction in every classroom, with PD and coaching that helps teachers apply proven strategies in the classroom that have a positive influence on student achievement. We make it easier for teachers to know when and why to use each strategy to support specific learning goals and situations, and we demonstrate what good instruction looks like in the classroom. Participants will learn:

  • Nine categories of instructional strategies that research shows have the strongest connections to higher levels of student learning and success.
  • Activities that are aligned to and supported by each of the nine instructional strategies.
  • Specific strategies and tools that create a classroom environment primed for engaged learning.
  • Specific strategies and tools that help students develop deeper understanding of new content and concepts, and then extend and apply their knowledge.
  • How to use a strong instructional planning framework.
  • How the strategies should look, feel, and sound in all classrooms.

Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works

1–2 days of onsite professional learning at your school or district for teachers, instructional coaches, teacher mentors, principals and assistant principals, and central office PD leaders

This practical, hands-on, activity based workshop gives educators dozens of dynamic, ready-to-use classroom learning activities that are aligned with CITW strategies. Participants will gain valuable insights and tips for delivering engaging instruction that makes a difference in students’ learning. Participants will learn:

  • The nine CITW categories of instructional strategies that have the strongest connections to student learning.
  • Practical classroom tools and activities that are supported by CITW strategies.
  • Specific strategies and tools that create a classroom environment for learning that helps students flourish.
  • Specific strategies and tools that help students develop deeper understanding of new content and concepts.
  • Specific strategies and tools that help students extend and apply their new knowledge to other learning situations, projects, and problems.
  • Tech tools participants can use in the classroom to promote engaging and meaningful learning.

Group of educators in school & system improvement

Classroom Instruction That Works
Authorized Facilitator Training

1–4 days of onsite professional learning at your school or district for instructional coaches, principals, regional trainers, teacher mentors, and central office PD leaders

Deepen your understanding of CITW and demonstrate best practices and structures for delivering high-quality CITW workshops on your own.

  • Deepen your understanding of the research-based CITW instructional strategies and associated classroom activities.
  • Learn how to help teachers apply the instructional strategies to their lesson design and delivery.
  • Get best practices for leading effective adult learning and professional development.
  • Practice delivering lessons and participate in quality assurance steps to become an authorized facilitator.

Ideal for PD leaders, instructional coaches, principals, and regional ESA trainers, your successful completion of this training, will authorize you to deliver multiple CITW PD workshops to educators in your own school district or education service agency area (BOCES, ESCs, ESUs, RESAs, etc.) for a period of one year. Annual re-authorization is available.


students in class

Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners

1–3 days of onsite professional learning at your school or district for ELL specialists, classroom teachers, teacher leaders, and instructional coaches

Help your English-language learners (ELLs) excel in general education classrooms and progress through the five critical stages of language development. This session helps educators learn to develop students’ language proficiency while engaging in regular classroom content, so that academic learning can continue even as students develop English fluency. Participants will:

  • Understand how the nine CITW instructional strategies enhance student achievement.
  • Learn the five important stages of second language acquisition and their instructional implications.
  • Learn strategies for engaging ELLs with the academic language used in various content areas.

For specific guidance on bridging the learning gap for ELL students, check out our Deeper Professional Learning Opportunities that explore solutions related to individual problems of practice.

Students and tech

Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works

1–2 days of onsite professional learning at your school or district for educational technology leaders, teachers, teacher leaders, and instructional coaches

Big investments in classroom technology—including interactive whiteboards and one-to-one device initiatives—have had mixed results for student achievement. Our Using Technology workshops begin with a simple premise: The key to successful technology integration is effective teaching. Once teachers see how technology can enhance good instruction and learning, everyone can become more strategic in matching software, multimedia, and other tools with student learning objectives. These workshops can be tailored to focus on specific apps and hardware. Participants will learn:

  • Which technologies best support students’ critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, curiosity, and communication.
  • Which technologies can support each of the CITW instructional strategies.
  • How to match technology tools to a strong instructional planning framework.
  • How the use of technologies, alongside the strategies, should look, feel, and sound in all classrooms.
  • Why a clear understanding of the standards and goals must precede the use of technology.
  • That all technology is not created equal, and the importance of “letting go” of tools that aren’t transforming learning.

Deeper Professional Learning Opportunities

Do you have specific problems of instructional practice you’d like to tackle? We offer several CITW-based workshops that can help your team galvanize around a solution, including:

  • Supporting Social and Emotional Learning Through Instruction
  • Dynamic and Engaging Classrooms—How They Should Look, Feel, and Sound
  • Creating a Classroom Environment for High Levels of Learning
  • Implementation of Project-Based Learning
  • Creating a Productive One-to-One Technology Classroom
  • Effective Instructional Coaching and Peer Coaching
  • Academic Language Learning
  • Reciprocal Teaching with an ELL Lens
  • Engaging the English Language Writer
  • Bridging the Cultural Gap Between Home and School


Maintaining Momentum with Coaching and Ongoing Support

In addition to onsite professional learning sessions, our experts can also deliver online check-ins, multi-day onsite visits, and coaching to sustain momentum and ensure quality implementation that supports your team’s continued growth.


Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd Ed.)

First published in 2001, Classroom Instruction That Works revolutionized teaching by linking nine categories of instructional practices to evidence of increased student learning. This second edition explores each of the nine instructional strategy categories, and delivers expanded evidence-based insights on how to apply them in the classroom. You’ll learn how and why some strategies work more effectively than others. It includes an Instructional Planning Guide that shows you when to emphasize each of the instructional strategies and use them to:

  • Create an environment for learning that ensures an effective backdrop for every lesson.
  • Develop your students’ understanding by using their prior knowledge as scaffolding for new learning.
  • Help students extend and apply knowledge and move beyond “right answer” learning to an expanded understanding and use of concepts and skills.

Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works: Ready-to-Use Techniques for Increasing Student Achievement

When McREL published Classroom Instruction That Works, we encouraged a generation of educators to focus instruction around nine categories of teaching strategies proven to raise student achievement. The challenge for teachers has always been how to build these achievement-boosting strategies into their everyday instruction. This book provides 51 classroom-ready tools that make it easy to implement the strategies across grade levels and content areas. By incorporating these tools into your daily practice, you can turn your classroom into a place where high levels of engagement and deep learning happen every day.

Each of the 51 tools includes a summary of that tool’s research-based benefits, the 3-7 basic steps for using the tool, concrete examples that model how to use the tool in classrooms, and a “Teacher Talk” section that gives tips on lesson planning and implementation.

The final chapter in the book walks educators through a process for combining tools with principles of effective instructional design and knowledge of how student learning works to design focused, learning-driven, effective instructional plans.

A Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works (2nd Ed.)

Use this handbook to learn how to easily apply the various teaching practices described in our best-selling book Classroom Instruction That Works in your classroom, school, or district. Get expert tips for implementation and save time by using the included samples, worksheets, and other tools for planning classroom activities. Check your understanding of the nine teaching strategies with straightforward exercises, and use the supplied rubrics to assess effectiveness and improve your methods. Make your classroom environment the paradigm for CITW!

The authors offer an Instructional Planning Guide, to help you better understand the nine research-based strategies from CITW and make the most effective use of them in your classroom. Bring the strategies, skills, and information from CITW to life in your classroom, school, or districts, by using:

  • Exercises to check your understanding of the strategies.
  • Tips and recommendations for implementing the strategies.
  • Samples, worksheets, and other tools to help plan classroom activities.
  • Rubrics to assess the effectiveness of the strategy with your students.

Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners (2nd Ed.)

English-language learners (ELLs) have specific learning needs and challenges that require a specialized approach. This comprehensive instructional guide for mainstream teachers of ELL students includes teaching tips with each strategy to make it easier to work with all students, no matter what their stage of language proficiency. The nine evidence-based teaching strategies introduced in our best-selling book, Classroom Instruction That Works, are applied to the stages of language acquisition in this comprehensive instructional guide, making it easier to work with all students at any stage of language proficiency or any grade level.

The tools and steps will help you effectively align your instruction of second-language learners to the higher-order thinking skills. Use the provided template to help you select key vocabulary and grammar to design instruction that helps students engage in productive academic discussions.

Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works (2nd Ed.)

Technology is ubiquitous, and its potential to transform learning is immense. This book answers some vital questions about 21st century teaching and learning: What are the best ways to incorporate technology into the curriculum? What kinds of technology will best support particular learning tasks and objectives? How does a teacher ensure that technology use will enhance instruction rather than distract from it?

Get fresh answers to these critical questions, taking into account the enormous technological advances that have occurred since the first edition was published, including the proliferation of social networks, mobile devices, and web-based multimedia tools. Learn about appropriate technology applications and resources for all nine categories of effective instructional strategies in CITW.

Each strategy-focused chapter features examples—across grade levels and subject areas, and drawn from real-life lesson plans and projects—of teachers integrating relevant technology in the classroom in ways that are engaging and inspiring to students.

Free White Paper | Student Learning That Works: How brain science informs a student learning model

Surgeons learn about the body before operating. So why don’t more teachers learn about the brain before educating? In this free white paper, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin makes the case for incorporating brain science into the practice of teaching. Knowing how memory works can suggest classroom tactics that aid the acquisition and recall of information, he says. Furthermore, adopting a model for learning, rather than relying solely on the increasingly common (and increasingly detailed) instructional framework, can help teachers layer innovation upon tradition, in much the same way that models help screenwriters and composers to be creative within the audience’s expectations.