kitchen table math, the sequel: Robin on Teach Like a Champion

Friday, August 20, 2010

Robin on Teach Like a Champion

I loved this book. It made a difference in my teaching on day 1 when I implemented it. My students are so much more attentive and well behaved AND they learn more. I keep rereading bits of the book for follow-up.
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Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College


Redkudu said...

School starts Monday, and I'm re-reading it for the umpteenth time this weekend. I got it near the end of last year, started using a few techniques, and saw instant success. I also saw a few techniques that I already use, so that was a nice validation.

One of the most profound lessons I learned from it had to do with re-thinking how I lesson plan. Somewhere in the book the author talks about how teachers need to specify what the *students* will do at each stage of a lesson. This seems obvious, however a lot of lesson planning training talks about what will be taught, how it will be taught, and what the teacher will do to teach it.

Just changing my thinking after reading that bit changed my lesson planning immensely and also changed how I think about what I will be doing in the classroom. Now my lesson plans include a carefully detailed plan of what I should see the students doing at each stage - creating immediately assessable goals that will guide my next move.

And I'll be honest that just this one thing increased the complexity and difficulty of my planning quite a bit. I struggled to wrap my mind around it for a while in some instances. Then, when the light bulb went off, I realized how much it helped me more effectively scaffold my lessons to meet my students' needs - special ed, 504, ESL, etc.

Redkudu said...

I just have to post more thoughts about this book. In my twelve years of teaching I’ve read so many books on effective teaching strategies I’ve lost count. This is by far one of the best I’ve read.

One of the most powerful portions of the book talks about setting and maintaining high behavioral expectations. I’m often perplexed by teachers who get angry at students’ behavior because “they know what they’re supposed to be doing” or “they know better than that” when clearly the student doesn’t – a sort of assumption that all students have been taught or seen modeled at home all the same social rules and norms that the teacher has, or that the student has the ability to be completely focused, prepared, and intuitive during every second of the school day.

On page 177, Technique 37 (What To Do), Lemov sums up exactly what I’ve felt for years : “Some portion of student noncompliance – a larger portion than many teachers ever suppose – is caused not by defiance but by incompetence: by students’ misunderstanding a direction, not knowing how to follow it, or tuning out in a moment of benign distraction.” It’s that concept – “benign distraction” – that makes a difference in the classroom depending on how the teacher handles it. Benign distraction is not defiance or disobedience, but the teacher’s ineffective or inappropriate response to benign distraction may initiate defiance and disobedience – especially if the student feels the response contained an element of unwarranted hostility. I’ve seen it happen; I’ve learned from it happening to me (or because of me, unfortunately).

In What To Do, Version 2, Lemov talks about gathering data to assess whether student non-compliance is due to incompetence (rather than defiance) by reviewing the task given that the student did not complete, then breaking down the task into smaller steps as an intervention strategy. What is most impressive about this book is its constant reminder that the teacher *think* about everything they do. That they look more and more toward problem solving than punishment, that for communication in the classroom to be effective it must be “specific, concrete, sequential, and observable”. This is not just a wonderful book for teachers, it’s a wonderful book for students who will benefit from teachers who take these strategies to heart and into their classrooms.

ChemProf said...

Catherine, just a couple notes on your composition class. For college students, non-compliance usually means missing deadlines, rather than really disruptive behavior (although you do sometimes get whispering or playing with computers, if you allow those). The more you can set clear penalties and stick to them, the better it goes. For example, I've had faculty set a policy that they wouldn't take late work, but then feel bad and back off and behave inconsistently. It's generally better to set, say, a penalty of 10% per day late, and say that you may reduce the penalty in case of emergencies. That gives you flexibility, and lets the student who has a crisis decide whether or not it is worth taking the penalty.

For minor disruptive behavior, like whispering, I often find asking "do you have a question?" is enough to cut it out. Sometimes they do, and the other students usually appreciate having order maintained. One of the worst set of reviews I ever got was in a classroom I wasn't used to, where I couldn't hear whispering in the back of the class. The other students were really irritated, and let me know it (but only after class ended).

In general, with college students, your goal is to make behavioral issues their problem instead of yours. The less you have to be involved in judging their excuses the better.