Imagine someone visiting and videotaping teachers who make a huge difference with youngsters – producing very positive, orderly classrooms with large gains in student skills, knowledge and test scores. That’s what New York educator Doug Lemov did – producing a remarkable book and accompanying CD. The book is called Teach Like a Champion, and it’s winning raves all over the nation. Recently 60 Minnesota educators, including people from Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools, as well as a number of local charter public schools became Lemov fans.
These educators came together to learn about and practice some of the strategies described in the book. They watched examples of teachers appying these strategies, discussed and then practiced some themselves. Here are a few of the comments:
“Fantastic presentation – organized, purposeful and engaging. I am so excited to try these techniques at my school.”
“Thank you for this wonderful workshop. It’s very inspiring.”
“Really great ideas. I read the book but this presentation helped clarify things and solidify actions.”
“Lots of good, practical ideas that can be immediately incorporated into the classroom.”
These came from the Minnesota district and charter public school educators who met for a day with Eli Kramer, a former district and charter public school educator who worked with Lemov in New York. Response to this day-long workshop,convened by the Center where I work, was some of the most stirring I’ve seen in 40 years work with public schools.
Teach Like a Champion (Jossey Boss) is not about educational theory. It’s about how teachers can maintain a well disciplined, positive classroom through specific praise of students who are doing what the teacher wants, and quiet, non-disruptive actions for students are not behaving. It’s about not just setting theoretical expectations that “all students will succeed,” but about developing teacher skills so that this does happen. As one workshop participant wrote, the book and workshop focus “on teaching strategies, both classroom management as well as academic.”
Here are a handful of many examples that the book describes, Kramer demonstrated, and workshop participants practiced:
“No opt out” – if the student gives an incorrect answer, the teacher finds someone who has the correct answer, and then goes back to the student who was wrong. That youngster repeats the right answer, and receives praise for this. Students learn that everyone is expected to learn, and that correct answers receive praise and recognition.
“Cold-calling,” which means that the teacher does not just call on students who with their hands up. Students learn that the teacher expects each of them to be attention and involved.
“Joy Factor. Through humor, drama, song, dance, suspense and surprise, teachers can help produce a real joy in learning.
It didn’t matter whether the educators came from district or charter public schools. They agreed about the book, CD and Kramer’s presentation.
Overall, on a 1-5 scale – with five being terrific, Kramer earned a 4.6 average. That is extremely high, especially given that he was working with teachers and administrators from vastly differently schools. The educators also ranged from those working with elementary to those in secondary schools.
Teach Like a Champion is an immensely practical book on terrific teaching. One educator wrote that the book and CD are “superbly done, a model of instructional techniques that should not be a mystery but an integral part of every teacher’s repertoire.”
Joe Nathan, a former Minnesota public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. Reactions welcome, firstname.lastname@example.org