Skip to main content

Book review: Teach Like a Champion 2.0

Let me sum up this review in two points right from the start:

1. All teachers would benefit from reading this outstanding book about how to run successful classrooms.
2. Language teachers will find some of the recommended classroom techniques less relevant.

If you don't already know of him, Doug Lemov is a leading expert in the field of describing successful classroom management. He is the Managing Director of the US group of urban Charter Schools Uncommon Schools’ "Teach Like a Champion" team. His book Teach Like a Champion 1.0, has sold nearly 1,000,000 copies and been translated into eight languages. This revised and upgraded Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College is the subject of this review. The book can be read in association with videos of teachers in action (referenced in the text) and a dedicated website.

When I began teaching in 1980, I wish there'd been a book like this. I would have made far fewer mistakes! Doug's book gives the lie to the notion that you cannot teach teachers to teach. Whilst he acknowledges in Part 4 that some teachers seem to have a natural poise and presence, this very detailed and readable book, punctuated here and there with personal anecdote, demonstrates that there is a whole host of specific techniques which teachers can apply to improve their craft. All of these are described with admirable clarity by referring to a considerable number of teachers Doug has carefully observed and recorded.

Let me pick out a few of his techniques and reflect on them from a language teacher's perspective.

His "Do Now" technique is to always have a 3-5 minute task as pupils enter with no need for teacher support. This is part of his "Strong Start" technique which he correctly claims is vital for effective lessons. Do Now aims to build habit of independence and make sure "Every Minute Counts". Pen and paper should be used to show evidence and the task needs to be corrected quickly. Many language teachers adopt this technique, although I find it a little too prescriptive and preferred my flying starts to be oral warm-ups (drills and the like).

His Technique 33 "Cold Call" is a key one, in Doug's opinion. It's what many of us know as "no hands-up" or even "hands-down". Doug considers this to be the single most transformative technique for involving all pupils and raising standards. I'm glad he doesn't argue that it should be the sole way of running question-answer sessions. Typically he describes in the variations on hands-up, hands-down and mixtures thereof. What's great about this book is how forensically he analyses every detail and consequence of teacher-student interaction. For instance, he mentions how, when you cold call a question, you should not name the student before the question in order that all students give thought to an answer.

Technique 43 "Turn and Talk" is one which is very familiar to language teachers. After some teacher-led work/interaction you get pupils to turn to. a partner and work orally to a very specific time limit. Doug puts this in the context of discussion (e.g. in an English lesson) whereas we language teachers would use it usually for more structured pair-work tasks with a focus on a structure or area of vocabulary.

One point he makes which I have seen elsewhere and used myself is that you should give very specific time limits, say four minutes, rather than rounded numbers like five or ten. This adds urgency and sends the message that you are precise in your time management. In fact, managing time and pace through effective transitions and mileposts during lessons to make every second count is a significant theme of the book. His Technique 27 "Change the Pace" includes advice on when to excite a class and when to calm them. Old hands know this well.

Doug argues quite strongly for forward-facing seating which has long made sense to me. How else can you effectively scan and track what pupils are doing and insist that they track you? On this point, I like his STAR/SLANT acronyms from Chapter 10. STAR: Sit up, Track the Speaker, Ask and answer questions like a scholar, Respect those around you. SLANT: Sit up, Listen, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head, Track the speaker. He recommends using the acronyms as useful, time-saving shorthand.

Part 4 of the book focuses on behaviour management. These are Techniques 51-57 - how to best manage behaviour through vigilance, calm finesse, the least invasive interventions, "art of the consequence", a strong voice and positive instructions - telling students what to do, not what not to do. Doug stresses how pupils need to be trained into good procedures and routines. He writes: "the more natural and routinised your classroom systems become, the less they feel like restrictions". This is partly in response to potential critics who may argue that his recommendations come across as repressive or undemocratic. Doug is unapologetic about teachers needing to exercise authority effectively.

On the value of quick interventions to manage behaviour Doug writes "if you're mad you've waited too long". He cites this as a useful piece of advice for teachers and he's right. He says that interventions should be quick, incremental, consistent and depersonalised, e.g. when when a class enters too boisterously, get them to do it again immediately. I cannot emphasise enough how much good detailed guidance there is in this book!

Observations of language teaching are absent, which is a slight pity. Some of Doug's analysis does not match so well with the practice of MFL/WL teachers who work within the communicative or TPRS paradigm where question-answer has a specific purpose in developing proficiency rather than developing concepts. Some of the recommended interactions would relate well to discussion of grammar or the teaching of topics, film or literature at advanced level, but less well with younger classes. "Call and Response", however, is widely used by language teachers who tend to refer to one type of it as choral repetition.

Technique 38 "Art of the Sentence" is interesting, since we language teachers often insist on whole sentences to help develop control of syntax. Doug's focus is however more on developing rich vocabulary, complex ideas and clarity of academic discourse, speaking in a scholarly way, if you like.

I could add a good deal more from the notes I took, but I hope you've got my drift by now! Doug Lemov and his colleagues who have contributed through their ideas and classroom practice have done teachers a great service by writing this new edition of Teach Like a Champion. Every department, whatever the school, would do well to get hold of a copy.

Teach Like a Champion 2.0 costs about £17 and is published by Jossey Bass.









- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Comments

  1. 'How else can you effectively scan and track what pupils ate'? Yes, this is important advice. You must control their eating. Haha, only joking! :) Thanks for the review. Regarding your Language Teacher Toolkit, I've been reading through it. I see that it seems to lean heavily in favour of the communicative approach in some places: i.e. in the number and kind of games you recommend. Some of these games, like bingo, are very ineffective in my experience, however. Bingo tends to take up a lot of time, students all look for 'stars' for completing a line and they learn very little (a handful of words in a class). There are some other questionable games, such as murder mystery, where students may well have 'fun' but don't actually learn that much. I'm wondering if you designed the book in such a manner as to straddle the line between the traditional and progressive approaches, trying to appeal to both camps?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi. I don't agree with you about bingo and the murder mystery game. They both provide great input and practice so I can't fault them. I am pragmatic on approaches, bekieving that input is key, but practice and some analysis help a lot. I don't see it in terms of progressive versus trafitional. These terms refer to different things in language teaching, depending on the era. Thanks for commenting. Always appreciated.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.

Attitudes16





An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at dolanguages.com, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

Learning strategies (3)

This is the third in the mini-series of blogs about learning strategies. So far, we have looked at some (rather scant) research evidence for the effectiveness of strategies. Bear in mind that a lack of research evidence does not mean strategies do not work; if there is any consensus, it is that they are probably useful and probably best used when integrated into a normal teaching sequence. We then looked at a classification of different types of strategies.

In this blog Gianfanco and I look at how you might integrate strategies into your teaching. There is nothing revolutionary about this stuff! You may do a good deal of this type of thing already, but you may also be new to the concepts and applications of learning strategies.


Let's look at how you might use strategies, particularly with regard to the teaching of listening and reading. Remember: this is just about how you help students to use strategies to become better listeners and readers.

How to teach strategies 

The research …