Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 1 Analysis:

(This is the first of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In the first chapter, Lemov described five strategies designed for teachers to help promote atmosphere of high expectations in the classroom. These strategies are described below:

#1. No Opt Out
Come back to any student who answers a question wrong or with “I don’t know” and have them respond to the same question correctly, after you or another student provides the answer or a meaningful cue.

#2. Right Is Right
Be sure that whatever you say is “correct” is 100% correct.

  • Be sure an answer is complete
  • Answer the question asked
  • Right answer at the right time
  • Use technical vocabulary

#3. Stretch It
Don’t simply end with a right answer. Push the student with more questions that extend knowledge or test for reliability.

  • Ask how or why
  • Ask for another way to answer
  • Ask for a better word
  • Ask for evidence
  • Ask to integrate a related skill
  • Ask to apply the skill in a different setting

#4. Format Matters
It’s not just what students say, but how they say it that matters. Be sure to demand complete sentences and correct mechanics whenever possible.

  • Demand complete sentences.
  • Correct grammatical errors
  • Require an audible format “voice”
  • Require correct units

#5. Without Apology
Do not apologize for “boring” or “difficult” content. Instead, find a way to make content engaging and exciting for all students

My first reaction was that Right is Right and Format Matters seemed to be especially picky. The idea of nitpicking my student responses is not something I think I would enjoy doing, although I definitely hear the mistakes. I know I find myself often giving more credit than is due, because of two reasons: the desire to keep moving, and the desire to be seen as a positive, encouraging teacher. I see these sorts of corrections as things my stepmother or grandmother would do, that I used to hate as a child.

It never occurred to me however, that these sorts of corrections are exactly what is needed to promote an atmosphere of high expectations. If we expect excellence from our students, we need to expect it even in the little things. Lemov described one teacher who trained his students to pass back papers in as little time as possible, making even the most mundane activity an area of excellence. As a coach, I spend time looking for and correcting the most minor of flaws in an athlete’s backhand, and my players still see me as encouraging and helpful. Why would they think any differently in the classroom?

Still, I think I would have to be aware of a balance between too picky and not enough. I think Lemov describes it best when reminding that we keep the objectives close in mind. If correction is required to bring students closer to the objective of the day, then proceed with detail. If not, I should quickly add the correction (no more accepting not right answers!) and move on.

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