Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teach Like a Champion?

Sometimes it just takes awhile to get a blog finished! Today I am going to talk about Teach Like a Champion: 49 Strategies that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov. I was given this book last summer from a friend who isn't a teacher but had heard the author interviewed and thought it sounded interesting. I began with some skepticism as many of the "master teachers" cited seemed to be at charter schools and philosophical I have a bit of trouble with charter schools but I tried to remain open. In the end I decided that this is a good book especially for beginning teachers.

Teaching has become more and more complex through the years. I began my career for instance as a special class teacher. These classes were challenging and you certainly have the danger of children or young adults feeling "stupid" but the classes were small and generally manageable. These classes also meant that the regular teacher didn't have to generally deal with as many difficult students. Also curriculum was more set and there wasn't as much of an expectation of differentiation of instruction etc.

Now there are very few special education classes and most students are in the regular classroom. Initially there was good support but that support has lessoned as well. Also students with English as an additional language are also in your class. Once upon a time there were smaller separate classes for reception level students as well. Now I am all for integration but this all means you have a very wide range of learners with a wide range of needs and the expectations for the classroom teacher have increased as well. For instance, we are now expected to be computer savvy. Currently with the diminished funding there is less and less help from every angle.

Beginning teachers have a difficult time finding positions and are often subbing for several years. They also may find themselves if they do get a job making several assignment changes in a single year.

All this is to say that we may have long holidays, but we need them!!! We also find ourselves reluctant to say how difficult the classroom situation can be because in this city more and more parents who can afford to are choosing private schools thinking that their child will get more attention.

As I was reading this book I tried several strategies that were new to me with the children and actually found them quite effective. Having taught a long time and having access to a great deal of professional development as a consultant, other strategies were not new but I found them well presented in this book.

For those who need to see, there is also a dvd with sample lessons.

When our staff was considering a book club this year, I suggested this book, and since I had demonstrated and talked about some of the philosophy and methods, teachers were interested. Also previously, we had split into primary and intermediate book clubs so that it will be nice to all do the same book.

I think my favourite little strategy is SLANT, one with which many students at our school are now familiar. This acronym stands for sit up, listen, ask and answer questions, nod your head when appropriate, and track the speaker. Students are very good now in many of are classrooms at "slanting".

The following are a few more examples and they aren't exactly rocket science but good reminders to us all.

  • 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.

  • I think this book is well worth reading as it is a good summation of how to set up an effective classroom. There is an art to teaching that can't be really though totally ever be made into a science. I am reminded of hearing of someone who would only go to places in Europe, even for a cold drink, that were recommended by Frommer in his guidebook. But this book is full of methods and ideas that are worth giving a try. And I think we may have some interesting discussions and anything to help the dedicated teachers at my school is valuable.

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