Friday, July 14, 2017

Teaching Like a Champion, Part 2

The Driehaus Museum--the lovely restored Gilded Age mansion in downtown Chicago that we toured this morning
  • I’m going to turn my walkie-talkie off right now because there’s nothing more annoying than being interrupted by bursts of static. Would you please also silence your cell phones?
  • You are more than welcome to take lots of pictures—just no flash photography, please.
  • What parts of this room are you noticing right now?
  • Can anybody guess what this centerpiece was used for? (Silence.) It has something to do with the bunches of grapes in relief around the edge.
  • I have some more information on your question, and I’d be happy to talk to you about it after the tour.

You know you’re a teacher when during summer vacation, at a family reunion, on a group tour of the Driehaus Museum, you keep noticing how the knowledgeable, lively guide employs techniques from your latest professional reading, Teach Like a Champion 2.0. And then you go back to your hotel room and blog about it. (What did the guide do? She clearly articulated, modeled, and gave reasons for her expectations. She framed them positively. She invited participation with questions, wait time, and prompts. She kept the pace moving.)

Two weeks ago I blogged about the first half of the book, and this week I’ll finish it up. Doug Lemov has spent many years observing champion teachers in their classrooms, capturing the moves that make them great, classifying and naming those moves, and then sharing them with other teachers so we, too can teach like champions. There are 62 of these moves or techniques (thus the subtitle: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College), organized into 4 parts:
  1. Check for Understanding: Specific techniques to gather valid and reliable data throughout each lesson in order to modify instruction to boost student understanding.
  2. Academic Ethos: Specific techniques to communicate the high expectations and plan and pace the instruction that maintains rigor.
  3. Ratio: Specific techniques to ensure that all students are frequently and actively engaged in rigorous thinking.
  4. Five Principles of Classroom Culture: Specific techniques for establishing routines, managing behavior, and building relationships that make your classroom a place where vigorous learning can flourish.
Part 3 was my favorite. I've long quoted Harry Wong's line “School should not be a place where young people go to watch old people work.” “Ratio” is Lemov’s shorthand for this idea. As he says, “One of our most important goals as teachers…is to cause students to do as much of the cognitive work—the writing, the thinking, the analyzing, the talking—as possible” (234). This ratio has 2 dimensions: participation (all students as often as possible) and rigor (quality and depth of thinking). The 3 chapters in part 3, elucidate 3 ways to build ratio: through questioning, writing, and discussion. All 3 of which I teach and use a lot, but I’m always on the lookout for how to do it more and better, and here are 3 techniques I’ll be using more intentionally and systematically next year:
  • Cold Calling: Can be misused as a “gotcha,” but can also be an important part of a classroom culture where everyone is expected to be engaged at all times. If this seems threatening to you or to your students, Lemov outlines steps for acclimating students.
  • Everybody Writes: Ask a challenging question, and then give students time—even if just a minute or two—to respond in writing before discussing. This gives students more writing practice (and a purpose for writing), fosters more rigorous discussion, and helps students experience the processing by which thoughts and writing are refined. As far as procedure goes, it prepares students for Turn and Talk or Cold Call. 
  • Art of the Sentence: Lemov points out that we spend a lot of time addressing word choice and paragraph structure, but not so much on sentences. But if we “ask students to synthesize a complex idea, summarize a reading, or distill a discussion in a single, well-crafted sentence…the discipline of having to make one sentence do all the work pushes students to use new grammatical forms” (286). You can increase scaffolding by using sentence starters (“Summarize the data from this graph in one complete, well-written sentence that begins with the phrase ‘Over time…’” [286]) or sentence parameters. Sentence parameters could include using academic vocabulary (“Using the word ‘epiphany,’…”), idea combinations (“Explain the author’s proposal and how you know it’s satire…”), or discipline-specific thinking (in science, begin “To test this hypothesis…”).

It’s not that I’ve never used any of these techniques in my class, but giving them a name and thinking about the benefits of systematically implementing them—not just 3 times a year for a change of pace or because I remembered this cool trick—I think could make a difference. 

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