“It shouldn’t take a dozen years of brutal trial and error, suffering, and fatigue” for teachers to solve problems which are ‘endemic’ in schools. At some point all teachers answer “What do you do when a student gives up and simply won’t try? How do you know what the student who hides silently in the corner is learning?” The 2010 edition of Teach Like a Champion shared solutions; revised and reorganised, Version 2.0 is published this month.
(This post summarises a more detailed analysis, here).
The book has been redesigned around:
- Check for Understanding (what have students learned?)
- Academic Ethos (how can I make my teaching rigorous?)
- Ratio (how can I ensure students are doing as much working and thinking as possible?)
- Behaviour and culture (how can I create a climate which promotes learning?)
Each part is divided into techniques, 62 in all; each technique is explained and exemplified with concrete advice, like “Show your directions matter. Stand still.”
One aspect of the redesign has been developing ‘Check for Understanding’ from one technique to ten. More fundamentally, the book redresses an imbalance: some teachers focused on classroom culture to the exclusion of learning; Version 2.0 develops its answer to a question posed by a principal quoted by Elizabeth Green in Building a Better Teacher: “What are you asking kids to actually do?” So Lemov makes strong, nuanced arguments for demanding tasks, challenging reading and deep knowledge of topics, offering new techniques like ‘Show Me’ (think hinge questions) to achieve this.
As an example, a new technique which made me think was ‘Show Call:’ “Create a strong incentive to complete writing with quality and thoughtfulness by publicly showcasing and revising student writing.” Lemov identifies a problem – great discussion followed by relatively mediocre student writing – and a possible solution: projecting and evaluating a student’s work. Lemov considers prerequisite questions: what kind of work? When in the lesson? How many students’ work? He offers several ways students might use the insights they gain through revision of their work, and phrases to smooth the process. Two videos support this explanation (some techniques also offer example resources).
Specific examples make it easier to put techniques to use; another strength is Lemov’s close observation of classroom psychology. Explaining why teachers should ‘Reject Self Report’ (of student understanding), for example, he highlights: “Everyone got that?” and outlines why it’s unhelpful: it’s incredibly hard to 1) identify a knowledge gap and 2) concisely describe it 3) in front of peers in a couple of seconds. Such analysis of the minutiae of effective approaches is central to improving teaching.
Objection 1: This creates passive students. Lemov seems paternalist, not authoritarian: teachers often make decisions in pursuit of students’ best interests, not their immediate preferences. He is trying to help teachers choose wisely and execute choices effectively. Control is a means, not an end: “Students must be silent so that a classmate may speak in a climate of respect.” The relaxed reading shown below is used to exemplify the freedom confident classroom management enables.
Objection 2: This rulebook deskills teachers. This is neither a straitjacket, nor deskilling: Lemov notes great teachers come “in every stripe and style” and “adjust and adapt” techniques. The route towards mastery Lemov promotes depends on the “discretionary application of the techniques.”
Objection 3: The videos and names are too American! American names and examples can be inhibiting, but as Lemov explained in Practice Perfect, naming skills creates a vital shared language. My reluctance to use them evaporated because no one has offered better names (or videos); if we want to do so, we must create them (and get organisations in the UK which have done so to start sharing).
I would like to see future editions focus on techniques enabling good teaching, like maintaining wellbeing and managing time. Perhaps there’s scope for a follow-up project: what’s it actually like being a ‘champion’ teacher? How do they keep going, year after year? And these techniques must be based upon excellent subject knowledge, which I’d like to see cover more explicitly.
Teaching is the best and most important work in our society. Those who do it deserve to experience constant growth and learning.”
When I began reading, I was weeks away from a role outside the classroom; nonetheless, as I read the book, it made me adapt my teaching. Teach Like a Champion 2.0 breaks down great teaching for new teachers, it offers experienced practitioners new insight into what they’re doing and how they might improve: it’s masterpiece.
(My full review discusses these questions in much more depth).
Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College,(released 7th January in the USA, 27th January in the UK).
Elizabeth Green, Building a Better Teacher, an interesting book which explains Lemov’s work thoroughly and discusses a range of other approaches to improving teaching in depth.
Next week, I will write about a technique from the Teach Like a Champion 2.0 I’ve been trying to implement for a while – ‘The Art of the Consequence.’
Trying to put 100% into practice.
Using Uncommon’s ‘leverage observations.’