Orienting Strategies

What is an orienting strategy?

An orienting strategy directs student's learning to a task. The student's attention is drawn to a task through teacher input such as a cue, material that is highlighted, and/or student self-regulation.

How can orienting strategies help your students?

Orienting strategies are helpful to students because they direct attention to important information. As students learn to use their own orienting strategies, they become more independent in their learning.

Who can you implement orienting strategies to effectively meet the diverse learning needs of students?

Orienting strategies are basic to teaching and learning. As you point out significant information to students, and then teach the students to determine what information is significant, you address their basic learning question, "Do I need to remember this?"

Using the words, "Listen carefully…" is a good example. This verbal cue alerts the learner that the information that follows needs to be remembered.

What are the different types of orienting strategies?

There are basically three approaches to orienting information, reflecting who or what is doing the orienting: the teacher, the material, and/or the student.

When the teacher orients the student to something important, he/she cues the student that the information that follows is important and should be remembered. Verbal cues such as "Pay attention to this" or "This is on the test" orients the student to key information. Visual cues such the teacher writing certain information on the board and/or pointing to information also orient the learner.

The material can have orienting characteristics that draw attention to certain points. Italics, boldface, and text set apart (such as definitions) are orienting characteristics.

Finally, as the student learns to self-orient to information, he/she grows in his/her independence as a learner. In the case of printed information, the student self-orients by scanning information to determine what is important to remember, and then taking some action such as highlighting, underlining, or taking notes to emphasize important information. In the case of verbal information, the student self-orients by listening to determine what is important to remember (including using "cues" given by the speaker), and then taking some action such as taking notes or using verbal rehearsal to remember important information.

How do you decide on what type of orienting strategy to use?

Consider your students' needs for attending to information, and their ability to decide whether or not information is important. The less able they are to discern important information, the more the teacher needs to orient the student.

How do you construct your own orienting strategy?

  • Analyze the information to be attended to and determine how your students will best attend. Do you need to do all the work, or can you guide them to find important information themselves?
  • Determine whether you will use verbal cues, visual cues, other cues, or a combination.
  • Present information to be attended to and learned.
  • Guide students through the orienting process.
  • Reinforce (a) the students' learning of the material as well as (b) their ability to attend based on the cues provided.
  • If students are able to self-orient, monitor and reinforce this process and their learning.