One of the best teaching books I’ve ever read is Doug Lemov’s Teach Like A Champion. Lemov directs a network of charter schools in the New York area, schools that focus on areas of extreme poverty. In the book, he codifies thousands and thousands of hours watching expert teachers into about 50 techniques that any teacher can use at any level for any subject.
I love the ethos of the book: Observing great teachers in action will make you a better teacher. Amen!
My experience teaching WL echoes this truth. My greatest leaps forward have come after watching expert teachers at national CI conferences teaching live students (not teacher attendees, actual language learners), such as Grant Boulanger at iFLT 2016 and Tina Hargaden at the Express Fluency conference in Vermont of 2017, as well as local teachers in the Richmond area: Erin García, my co-blogger here on this site, Kelly Parker, Julia Perrow, JoAna Smith, and Susan Medina. In fact, I try to observe at least 5 classes a year of other teachers in action during my planning periods just to keep the influx of new ideas trickling in.
The Teach Like A Champion email newsletter is another great way to watch expert teachers and expert analyzers of teaching on a regular basis from the comfort of your own laptop. Go subscribe using the link below! And every time I read one of these newsletters, I think to myself, I should write a blog about how this applies to world language teacher. So here’s my first one:
OMG, it’s a thing of BEAUTY!!! I am always head-over-heals impressed with everything about these videos. The classrooms are soooooo on task. There’s never a single distraction or off-task behavior. The teachers radiate calm control. The conversations are sooooooooooooo rigorous. I pride myself on running a tight ship when it comes to behavior management, but these videos completely break the curve!!!! There’s always room to improve!
- I like how much the teacher moves. One of the consequences of going deskless is that I should have more room to move around. But I realize in watching this video that my normal moving around the room is really just moving around in the front of the class, not throughout the student area. I need to increase my circulation. I’m not sure how, yet. I need 32 chairs and also tables against all the walls for the non-deskless other teachers who use the room. Arranging them in two rows of half-circles doesn’t actually leave much room between seats or behind the back row. I need to think on it and come up with an adjustment for next year’s seat formation.
- I like Lemov’s highlighting of the teacher saying, “I’ll take hands now.” I try to stress to my students when I want hands raised and when I want the whole class to shout out, but sometimes I let up and accept a shoutout when I had requested hands. Seeing this classroom in action reminds me that every time I let a shout-out instead of a hand raise pass without redirection, the less disciplined my class will be and the more times the high flyers will rob precious thinking time away from the others.
- I like Lemov’s analysis of the “Cold Call” after the “Turn and Talk.” When I do “Turn and Talk” in my class, it’s usually during a reading activity when we are translating to English. Only about 50% of the students are actually on task, if I were to venture a guess. Lemov writes, “The Turn and Talk involves everyone but the Cold Call afterwards adds a bit of gentle accountability for making good use of it.” I need to target some of the students who aren’t on task during the “Turn and Talk” as a way of providing some motivation and accountability.
- Finally, this video encourages me to speed my pacing up. Lemov writes, “It’s an illusion–“the illusion of speed” that you get. It feels fast and engaging because Ben is able to shift the format of their engagement with the content easily and frequently, but what you also get is sustained intellectual focus.” In my own practice, I know I drag activities on too long. Even really interesting activities get boring because I try to squeeze every minute out of it. I need to learn that students can only take so much L1 without a break, without a transition, without a change of format. In response, recently I’ve been relying on my timekeeper a lot more frequently to help me pace better. I’ve been requesting the number of minutes we should stay in a particular mode during class before changing the experience somehow. And I think it’s been working. Watching this video encourages me to keep following this path, to keep pushing my pacing to make it snappier!
That’s what I got from the latest Teach Like A Champion Field Note. But what did you learn? Write it in the comments below!!!