Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College (K-12) Paperback – Mar 23 2010
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"If school districts are going to demand so much of teachers, then the least superintendents and schools of education can provide is basic tools. There is more power in effective training than there could ever be in threats." (Boston Globe, March 23, 2010)
Praise for Teach Like a Champion
"Doug Lemov knows that teachers can create powerful learning environments that will help all students make dramatic progress. With Teach Like A Champion, teachers across the country will be better prepared to wake up on Monday morning and help their students climb the mountain to college. This book provides more evidence that highly effective teaching is learnable—that many more teachers can draw from the tactics of their most successful colleagues in order to realize educational equity."
—WENDY KOPP, chief executive officer and founder of Teach For America
"Every teacher should own at least two copies of Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion. One for home and one for school, so that they are never far from the roadmap to excellence that lies within. Lemov pulls back the curtain to reveal that the apparent wizardry of the most successful teachers is really a collection of clearly explainable and learnable techniques. This will certainly be one of the most influential and helpful books that any teacher ever owns."
—DAVID LEVIN, co-founder of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program)
"Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion is a breakthrough book that is both visionary and comprehensive. If you are a teacher who wants to increase the academic success of your students, you should read this book. If you are an administrator with the same goal, you must get this book into the hands of your teachers!"
—LEE CANTER, author of Assertive Discipline
"Doug Lemov has captured in one place the specific, practical techniques used by the best teachers in some of our country's best urban schools. Any teacher, principal, or policymaker who is interested in what it takes on a classroom level to close the achievement gap should read this book."
—DACIA TOLL, co-chief executive officer of Achievement First
From the Publisher
The book includes a DVD of 25 video clips of teachers demonstrating the techniques in the classroom.
Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College
'Teach Like a Champion' offers effective teaching techniques to help teachers, especially those in their first few years, become champions in the classroom. These powerful techniques are concrete, specific, and are easy to put into action the very next day. Training activities at the end of each chapter help the reader further their understanding through reflection and application of the ideas to their own practice.
Among the techniques:
- Technique #1: 'No Opt Out.' How to move students from the blank stare or stubborn shrug to giving the right answer every time
- Technique #35: 'Do It Again.' When students fail to successfully complete a basic task from entering the classroom quietly to passing papers around doing it again, doing it right, and doing it perfectly, results in the best consequences
- Technique #38: 'No Warnings.' If you're angry with your students, it usually means you should be angry with yourself. This technique shows how to effectively address misbehaviors in your classroom
Top Five Things Every Teacher Needs to Know (or Do) to Be Successful
Amazon-exclusive content from author Doug Lemov:
1. Simplicity is underrated. A simple idea well-implemented is an incredibly powerful thing.
2. You know your classroom best. Always keep in mind that what’s good is what works in your classroom.
3. Excellent teaching is hard work. Excellent teachers continually strive to learn and to master their craft. No matter how good a teacher is it’s always possible to be better.
4. Every teacher must be a reading teacher. Reading is the skill our students need.
5. Teaching is the most important job in the world. And it’s also the most difficult.
Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Author Doug Lemov
1. 'Great teachers are born, not made' You obviously disagree with this statement please tell us why.
A few teachers may be born with an intuitive gift for teaching but I when I watch a great teacher I see mostly hard work and attention to detail. So believe that great teachers can be made. Every teacher can improve by using proven, concrete techniques in the classroom. This question brings to mind two amazing teachers I know Julie Jackson and Colleen Driggs. Julie and Colleen are always doing things like reviewing their lesson plans on the way to work and talking with peers about how to improve their craft. It’s exciting to me that what we may attribute to natural talent is actually hard work. You can choose to work hard and improve and become exactly the teacher you want to be.
2. What’s the best way for a teacher to start the year with a new class?
It’s important to build systems and routines, as I describe in chapter six, 'Setting and Maintaining High Behavioral Expectations' in Teach Like a Champion. The first day of school should be teaching students the right way to do things and practicing this over and over. Learning and practicing these systems and routines allows a teacher and her students to rely on this foundation for the rest of the year.
I once witnessed Dave Levin (who is a founder of KIPP schools and a fantastic teacher) begin a teacher training workshop in an interesting way. Dave started by handing a mirror to every teacher in the room. He said, 'Your classroom is a mirror. It looks however you make it look. The first step is to believe that your classroom mirrors your decisions. You can control it.' That’s the first step. To accept that as a teacher you decide who you want to be and how you want to create your classroom culture. You own it. Some people do it so you can do it. And that’s a good thing.
3. If you could just change one thing in our nation’s schools, what would you change?
It’s important that we do everything possible to support teachers so that they love their work and can be successful in the classroom. In my opinion, teachers should get paid the same as professional athletes or film stars.
4. This book is largely based on your experience with the group of charter schools you help lead on the east coast, called Uncommon Schools. Please tell us more about Uncommon Schools.
Uncommon Schools is a group of schools that serve low-income populations in urban centers in New York and New Jersey. Across our 16 schools 98 percent of our students scored proficient in math and just below 90 percent in English. This means that our schools usually outperform more privileged suburban districts.
We’ve been using the 49 techniques in my book for 5 years, with our teachers constantly refining and adding to them. Our experience has proven not only that that these techniques work and they can work in every school and in every classroom but that great teachers make them better and more sophisticated over time. And best of all the teachers who practice using them find themselves in control of a happy, rigorous classroom that reflects the motivations that brought them to teaching in the first place. Successful teachers are happy teachers.
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Top Customer Reviews
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 ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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! >
First, I will show you the weaknesses conceptually and then I will give my personal experience as a teacher to back it up. The main problem of this book is very simple, it lacks generalizability. This means you can not take the words from this situation and then inductively assume that it follows these are "49 techniques that put students on the path to college." It is very pathetic, sad and disappointing that thousands of college-educated adults (student teachers and teacher) could not see this. This line of "research" is known as process-product research, and it basically looks back from a result (student achievement) to the techniques that teachers performed in their classrooms. Even in the most well-designed, objective studies conducted by actual scientists and researchers they are the first to acknowledge that their results in those PARTICULAR classrooms may not transfer to ALL teachers everywhere.
However, Lemov (A Harvard Business school MBA) can not see, or more likely purposefully deceives his readers, of this fact. But Lemov actually takes this problem of generalizability to an extreme, nearly absurd, level. Because he chooses a very specific context, a network of charter schools in North East Cities with a high African-American population, and then generalizes his "findings" (which have no transparent method or discussion of results or data for the reader to review) to ALL teachers, ALL students and ALL classrooms his ideas lack any thing resembling generalizability. This is nonsense! The fact that college professors would actually assign this book is mind-blowing, since it has these obvious faults. How can one not see the problems inherent in the leap of faith that his techniques actually apply to YOU?
His conditions do not reflect the real classrooms teachers teach in, unless you teach in one of Lemov's uncommon schools charter schools! There are all sorts of school populations and he looked at a very specific population. maybe, just maybe, students with involved parents that seek out charter schools, schools with administrations that know they can expel a student right back to public school if anything out of line occurs, have a much different "climate" than other schools.
Now to the techniques themselves, some are clearly supported by research like circulating around the room or "cold-calling" students when participation is low. But he offers the same intellectually-insulting ideas to the techniques, ZERO critical thinking. such as: when should I use this? Under what circumstance? With which sort of students?
Lemov is no moron, because his great snake-oil salesmanship and massive financial success speak to his business smarts, but he presents a view lacking in any depth, critical thinking or interpretation. Basically, he seems to believe teachers need "techniques" rather than being educated, capable professionals. Ironically, with teachers gobbling up his writings, and worse yet, schools of education and school districts using this text to "teach" teachers, he may be right!
Personally, having to use these techniques during my student teaching and during my first year, I realized just how little they actually helped. His idea that teachers can just apply techniques rather than develop through practice and reflection and collaboration (like every other professional) is just simply insulting.
Finally, I would like to take issue with the theory (unstated as it may be) that Lemov subscribes to and my issues with it. He is capitalizing on the myth of our time, which is embodied in institutions like TFA or KIPP charter schools, and developed from the ideas of greater teacher accountability that people like Michellle Rhee endorse. The myth is as follows, "regular teachers are doing a horrible job teaching, as reflected in the achievement gap, particularly in Iow-income schools. This is because teachers do not hold high expectations for these students and that these students must be 'saved' by a miracle-worker teacher who closes the achievement gap through special techniques that raise standardized test scores. Massive childhood poverty, racial segregation and inequality, poor parenting practices, lack of parental education, teen parents, single-parent households, lack of access to books and reading materials and unequal schools are no match to a 'champion' teacher who will overcome all of this. The real enemy are not those aforementioned social problems, but teacher unions and the lazy, tenured, ineffective teachers they create. If teachers were just more effective this would all change."
If someone can not see the absolutely extreme views behind this, they need to examine their own beliefs. Teachers did not create these conditions and they can only do so much to change the world, as Krashen, professor Emeriuts from USC, said when asked what the cause of the achievement gap in reading was he replied, "poverty, poverty, poverty." Once we all put aside our magical thinking and realize teachers are a group of professionals, and should be treated as such, and should not be responsible for outside inequalities, then teachers can work together to become better for the actual students in their classrooms. If you would actually like to learn about classroom management look up the extensive research base, use practical judgment and experience to guide you and critically reflect on your own mistakes and successes.
Thank you for reading.
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.
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).
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.