"The end of a thing is better than its beginning;" -- Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NKJV)
Imagine if a new teacher could grasp the most sophisticated methods of those who are masters of helping youngsters succeed. Wouldn't that be great? Instead of having lots of youngsters discouraged, misbehaving, and dropping out, every student could be engaged. What a delight for everyone!
Not realizing that this book is aimed at K-12 teachers, I ordered the book hoping to gain some insights into how I could improve as an adult education instructor. Like many such people, I have never taken an education course and never expected to have a classroom to lead. Although parts of what is described aren't appropriate for adults, I was impressed to see how many of the techniques would allow me to accomplish more, the students to be more engaged, and more learning to take place. I dearly wish I had read this book ten years ago!
If you know a young teacher (or an older one who wants to improve), this book would make a great gift. With it, a teacher can check her or his methods to see how they stack up with other ways to accomplish the same or similar tasks. The DVD is a great blessing for turning the concepts into live examples. I don't know of another book that provides so much hands-on, best practice advice for the kinds of challenges that all classroom teachers encounter.
I liked the book so much that I intend to use it as a model for some of my future books for instructing people in advanced practices of all sorts. Don't miss it!
Doug Lemov has a nice style of explaining how a technique can go wrong . . . as well as explaining how to make it go right.Read more ›
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572 of 605 people found the following review helpful
The Good, the Bad, and the UglyJuly 16 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
I bought TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION despite its admittedly cheesy title and without knowing that it was featured by the NY TIMES (which I gather from a sampling of other reviews). Before finishing Doug Lemov's introduction, I realized I was reading a book from "the charter camp" or the "standardized tests slash data is everything" camp. OK. Not having a closed mind (last I checked), I took a deep breath and dove in. Coming out the other end of the rabbit hole, I see that Lemov's Wonderland is not for everybody, but there's something in it for everybody. I said someTHING (or things). Others may find it far too elementary (literally -- given the age groups covered -- and figuratively). And though all of Lemov's teachers and examples come from private and charter schools and most of them are from the Uncommon Schools he himself is a part of, public school teachers can glean something from this mixed bag, too.
Let's start with the good: TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION is a practical book with strategies that can be used immediately in the classroom. You can use all, some, or a few if you wish. Why do I mention this first? Many teachers who invest in professional development books complain that their purchases are too much on theory and not enough on practical ideas. That won't be the case here. Satisfied?
Next: this is about as basic a nuts and bolts text as you can buy. Lemov names things experienced teachers might not even bother to, such as "No Opt Out" (meaning: it's bad to let a kid say, "I don't know") and "Right Is Right" (meaning: you have to answer the question fully and accurately). Still, what looks obvious to teachers already in the trenches might not be to newbies and interested parents. Also, if you're a new teacher who feels like you're being fed to the lions with only platitudes from the veterans for assistance, you'd do well to hang your hat on this book's techniques before you review your notes from college education courses or repeat the mantra "Don't smile until Easter." The Uncommon Schools are mostly inner city ones proving that socio-economic factors can be negated if a school develops a business-like attitude with predictable structures and techniques. So even if you're in a public school, many of these ideas -- if used consistently and rigorously -- might help.
Now for the bad (if it strikes you as ugly, so be it): Veteran teachers will mostly shrug because little if anything is new. Also, many of the approaches -- and this is confirmed by the accompanying DVD in the book's sleeve -- seem hopelessly regimented. Even fun is planned, boxed, and labeled -- in this case, into something called "Vegas" (performing for the kids or kids performing for you -- briefly now!) and the "J-Factor" ("J" stands for -- surprise! -- "Joy" and includes competitive games, dance, and song, but only briefly now!). The brief jokes are only half in jest. Lemov is constantly reminding you that time is of the essence, that you own the classroom, that you'd best get back on task ASAP or the kids' standardized scores and chances for going to college will plummet. To which I can only say, "Good grief." Spontaneity and tangents in the classroom can often lead to wonderful places where learning and enrichment DO occur (even if it wasn't planned and even if it has no silly name).
And the video. Well, each clip is designed to show a strategy (though not all are shown -- not by a long shot). The trouble is, you might see a teacher showing one strategy while not observing another. For instance, a teacher could be showing the "Right Is Right" technique while students in the clip are not observing the SLANT (Sit Up/ Listen/ Ask and Answer Questions/ Nod/ Track the Speaker) one. They're slouched in their seats or doodling and certainly not looking at the speaker. And one clip demonstrates a means of "Tight Transitions" by showing a teacher instructing kids on how to pass out papers quickly and to a timer (lots of timers in these clips -- remember, "regimented"). The object is to pass papers across by row so kids don't "waste time" twisting around while passing it back. And yet SLANT demands that kids "track" the speaker -- and because of the traditional seating arrangements favored by Lemov et. al. (it has a name, of course -- "Draw the Map"), kids have no choice but to "waste time" by twisting in their seats to look at classmates in back. You also see gimmicks like one or two claps, a brief cheer, all timed and clipped neatly, much like military instructions and echoes.
OK, my next technique I'm going to name "Wrap Up." Here goes: I'd recommend TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION to new teachers, struggling teachers, and teachers in need of classroom management help. Veterans -- especially of the public schools -- might get a bit indignant at the way the obvious is gussied up here. They also might take issue with some of Lemov's opinions. For instance, he dismisses silent reading for enjoyment in class as wasteful chiefly because it is not "measurable" and you cannot guarantee that every child is actually reading. But what if even 19 out of 25 ARE reading, and what if they get hooked and finish the book at home (especially if the wise English teacher assigns 30 minutes of independent reading for homework)? What if constant reading time improves fluency, widens the students' interests in books (especially as they hear their classmates talk about THEIR books)? Lemov seems to be losing a lot of baby with this bathwater.
Oddly, while he condemns SSR, Lemov advocates the ancient practice of reading aloud popcorn-style (which can be torturous and brutally boring, even while applying Uncommon strategies... sorry). Isn't it possible that the non-reading kids are also not reading along or paying attention, just as with SSR? Lemov believes random picking of non-volunteering students (technique label: "cold-calling") will cure this, but you'd have to cold-call frequently (a problem unto itself) to keep EVERYbody on his or her toes.
Is the book food for thought? Some. Is it grist for the argument mill? That, too. How about worth your money? Check your demographic. And politics. Then give it a name, will you? < clap, clap -- track the reviewer! >
103 of 121 people found the following review helpful
Mapping the Teaching GenomeApril 3 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
You simply won't find a more usable, clear-headed break down of the moves that great teachers use everyday to drive academic achievement in schools that serve low-income kids. I've been training and coaching teachers for the past 10 years, and there's nothing out there that holds a candle to Doug Lemov's work. The key is that Lemov's stuff is highly observable and practiceable. As a teacher or a teacher coach, you can put your finger on specific actions that were or were not taken -- and then you can practice those actions -- literally out loud, in the mirror, with a partner -- to make measurable improvements in the next lesson you teach. Most teacher education deals in the realm of the abstract or the long-term. Lemov's material has tremendous long-term benefits and a powerful, cohesive philosophical underpinning -- just like some of the things you learn in a traditional Ed School setting. But he makes these abstract ideas actionable and repeatable. And it's the combination of "get better now" while working toward a long-term vision of great teaching that makes this book absolutely indispensible. Essential.
66 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Wish I'd had this sooner!April 1 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
This book spells out in detail so many things that you've been told, heard, sort of know or have stumbled onto in teaching. But, instead of just suggesting a broad strategy (ask a question before choosing who will answer it, for instance), it really drills down into all the different ways to ask questions, how to plan ahead so that students know whether you want a class response or an individual response, how to decide if you want hands up or down, and the pros and cons of each.
These are the specifics I realized I needed once I had my own classroom -- and by then it's harder to observe other teachers and harder to get ideas. Observations are wasted on student teachers! It's the new teachers that really know what they need to look for and the questions they want answered. So far (I'm about halfway, because it definitely requires that you stop, think and process some of the distinctions and differences he makes between techniques), this book is exactly that resource.
333 of 431 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing Lack of SubstanceApril 2 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
I purchased this book after reading the glowing feature article in the New York Times praising Mr. Lemov and his work. The article in the Times suggested that Mr. Lemov had visited a diverse array of schools "across the country", that Mr. Lemov had methodically determined which teachers were unusually effective, and that he had then thoroughly catalogued strategies used by those effective teachers.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. It turns out that for the New York Times, "across the country" means "from Rochester New York, to Newark New Jersey - with an occasional side trip to Washington DC or to Boston." Mr. Lemov's schools are a very narrow selection of charter schools, mostly the fourteen schools in the "Uncommon Schools" network for which he is managing director. Of his 14 schools: * Nine are in Brooklyn; * Three are in Newark, New Jersey; * One is in Rochester, New York; * One is in Troy, New York (near Albany). That's it.
The schools in his book are a very narrow sliver of the American educational experience; they are all almost carbon copies of one another. Lemov shows no interest in, or even any awareness of, how race, ethnicity, immigrant status, or student gender might influence best practice in the classroom.
Lemov's book is based primarily on the fourteen schools in the network he manages, which he has a powerful commercial motive to promote as schools of excellence. He does occasionally mention other schools he has visited - which are almost always charter schools in cities around New York State, such as the Brighter Choice School for Boys, in Albany. EVERY SCHOOL in this book is a charter school. EVERY SCHOOL is located in the urban Northeast.
Now, people in New York and northern New Jersey may see no problem here. Mr. Lemov writes with the breezy arrogance that comes so easily to urban New Yorkers. He shows no awareness that what works for students at charter schools in New York may not work for students in regular public schools in Tulsa or in Toledo or in Chino, California, or for that matter anywhere in the rural South or mountain West. What's striking about the book is the complete lack of interest in even the possibility that what works in Brooklyn might not work in Tulsa or in northwestern Ohio or in southern California.
EVERY STUDENT in the videos is wearing a uniform - in fact, they're all usually wearing the same uniform, because almost all the videos were filmed at the Uncommon Schools network of charter schools. But uniforms are never mentioned in the book. Mr. Lemov seems to assume that all students wear uniforms - or more precisely, he's never considered what it would be like to teach at a school wear students don't wear uniforms. He does not seem to have visited any school where students don't wear uniforms; in fact there's no evidence in the book that he's ever visited any school that isn't a charter or a private school. Has he ever considered whether students who refuse to attend charter schools requiring uniforms might also refuse to learn according to his simple rules?
EVERY STUDENT appears to be in grades 3, 4, 5, and 6. There are certainly no high school students in any of these videos. Again, Mr. Lemov rarely mentions how best practice might vary as a function of age, with one exception: he mentions his "Age plus 2" rule, according to which a student's attention span equals their age plus 2. Thus, according to Lemov, a 12-year-old has an attention span of 14 minutes. Lemov shows no awareness of research demonstrating that girls have a longer attention span than same-age boys, indeed he has no interest in gender differences - which is strange, considering that two of the 14 schools in the Uncommon Schools network are single-sex schools: a girls' charter school and a boys' charter school, both in Brooklyn. But he never considers any of the arguments against single-sex schools, e.g. that the single-sex format teaches students that segregation is OK in public schools. He shows a complete lack of interest or awareness of any gender issues whatsoever.
CLASS SIZES are often quite small in Mr. Lemov's charter schools. Video clip 9 shows just seven children in the entire classroom; clip 22 has just eight children; clip 23 has just 6 children; clip 24, just 7 children; clip 25 has six boys and no girls. It's great that Mr. Lemov's network of charter schools is able to offer such small class sizes. But would these techniques work as well in the real world of public education, where teachers often have to manage a classroom of 28 kids or more? Mr. Lemov offers no evidence on this point. The question doesn't seem to have occurred to him.
The most disappointing aspect of the book, however, is simply its sheer lack of substance. There is simply nothing new here; nothing that most teachers don't already know. Lemov is, to his credit, well aware of this shortcoming. As he states (on p. 5), "Many of the techniques you will read about in this book may at first seem mundane, unremarkable, even disappointing. They are not always especially innovative." Truer words were never written. For example, Technique #1 is "No Opt Out" which means, very simply, that teachers should not allow students to say "I don't know" in answer to a question. The video illustrating technique #1 was filmed at an all-boys charter school in Albany. Would this technique work equally well with girls? We have no way of knowing.
Technique #22 is the "Cold Call". Here it is:
"Call on students regardless of whether they have raised their hand."
Combine Technique #1, No Opt Out, with #22, and you have teachers calling on students who haven't raised their hand, and then insisting that the student answer the question even if the student says "I don't know." Does Lemov recognize how such techniques might feel to some students as though the teacher is bullying or harassing them? Has he considered that these approaches might not work well with, say, Latina girls? My recommendation: put this book aside and instead read Diane Ravitch's outstanding book "Death and Life of the Great American School System." Ravitch's book will teach you, among other things, that one size does not fit all, and that quick-fix teach-by-the-numbers methods are seldom effective in the long run.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Kindle Lacks DVD ClipsApril 9 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
What is the point of buying the Kindle version when it does not come with any of the clips found in the DVD? Now I have to buy the hard-cover just so I can get the stupid DVD! This makes me very upset that the Kindle version lacks this VERY IMPORTANT information. There should be a warning to let you know that you are only buying part of the book.