Jurisdiction Over the Story

TECHNIQUE 23:  Control the Game

control1The ‘game’ in question here is asking students to read aloud.  How do you make reading public in your classroom?   In order to maximize the benefits of reading aloud, Control the Game is a technique intended to gather more data on student progress, emphasize the importance and pleasure of reading, and strengthen literacy and proficiency skills.  It reads: ‘Ask students to read aloud frequently, but manage the process to ensure expressiveness, accountability, and engagement.’  I love reading aloud, to myself, (in order to practice Spanish, French or Italian), to my partner while we’re on a road trip (even though this annoys him), and most certainly to students in the classroom.  At the end of this post I’ll share some alternative resources to spicing up reading in the classroom.

After reading through this section on Control the Game and watched several video clips from UnCommon Schools classrooms, I’ve determined that I do some of these things very well, I need to make some significant adjustments in other areas, and have just completely not gone about reading aloud correctly from time to time.  indexTeach Like a Champion 2.0¹ teachers execute this technique to varying degrees as well.  I’ll post some down right parochial uses of Control the Game and some slightly less TLAC uses of the technique too.  In a nutshell, here are the major points associated with #23:

  • Model Expressive Reading
  • Keep Durations Unpredictable
  • Keep Durations Short
  • Keep the Identity of the Next Reader Unpredictable
  • Spot Check, a.k.a Oral Cloze
  • Use a Placeholder
  • Teacher Takes a Turn

I REALLY like the framework behind Keep Durations Unpredictable, Short, and Next Reader Unpredictable.  How many times, do I call on students to read and request; “When I call on you, please read until the next paragraph,”followed by, “…and we’ll go around the room from left to right”.   Clear instructions, right?   Thank you Doug Lemov for pointing out that, knowing in advance where they will start and stop and what order they will read allows students the opportunity to drift, lose interest.   Also, potentially generates anxiety about the up coming paragraph, counting the number of ¶’s until it’s their turn to read, and conveniently losing their place in the interim.   Keep the duration of the reading short allows for more student opportunity to practice and “when in the course of human events” a low lever reader, by sheer fate, lands a very long paragraph and everyone endures the slow slog toward the never-ending end of the paragraph.  It creates stress for everyone.   When the teacher is in control of who reads next, paragraphs can be chopped up or assigned to readers of differing ability.  Imagine stopping a student in the middle of a paragraph?!!!  This is certainly infringing on my comfort zone as a teacher and a reader; that the ¶ provides a  natural stopping ground and should never be violated.   This is something that I am going to attempt to practice.  Enough banter, here’s an example of some Uncommon Schools “champion” teachers using Control the Game in their classrooms:

That was pretty moderate use of Control the Game at the Middle School level.  Watch Ms. Lewis below, employ the technique with elementary school level students.  It seems really stringent and directive, how ever, this is the first read-through.  It’s meant to be very clinical; unfortunately, the “expressive” reading is cut off in this video.

Here’s a solid example of Control the Game at work in a high school classroom.  The students are reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’; she has a very solid rapport and connection with her students; they seem confident reading aloud in her classroom.

Here is the blog post from 2/4/16, from Doug Lemov’s blog ‘Doug Lemov’s Field Notes’, where this video is explained in detail, found at :  http://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/control-game-culture-reading/

The Expressive Model!   Two of the bulleted selling points listed above are, in effect, one and the same.  Modeling expressive reading is truly effective if the teacher begins by reading aloud first.  This, I love doing and really need to watch out for “hogging” too much of the reading aloud time; any excuse to put on a foreign or regional accent!  If attention is waning and more than one student has lost their place in the reading, the teacher should by all means, take a turn, and then resume “cold calling” on students.  This, inevitably, (especially if I’m reading) resuscitates momentum.  Oh yes, and the teacher must NOT be seated!  Circulate!images

Use a Placeholder:  This requires that teacher and students have a pre-determined prompt to bring them back to the text, if the reading is interrupted for questions or suggestions.  “Hold your place“, called out by the teacher, or “Finger in the Book“, followed by “Pick Up, Sarah“.  The key is to have these prompts used consistently, quickly, and in a sharp voice.

Spot-Check, a.k.a Oral Cloze:  It wasn’t until recently that I’ve actually seen Oral Cloze being used in the classroom.  A lot of intentional, formative, deliberate reading skills are developed at the Middle School level; I’m fortunate to have been privy to many Reading classes as of late.  Students, whole group reading, follow and track the teacher reading aloud; when the teacher signals the students with a shift in voice, indicating a pause, where, the students orally supply the missing word.  Clever.  I’d really like to try this technique in the World Language classroom.

I gleaned some interesting strategies from reading this section.  Along the way I also found some really interesting ideas about Reading in the classroom that are not related to Teach Like a Champion 2.0.  However, reading is the most critical skill a life long learner can establish; a love of reading should be conferred to children enthusiastically and consistently.  “Champion teachers integrate prodigious amounts of reading into their classes, {it}…is one of the most salient characteristics.  No matter what {content] they teach, these teachers reinforce-with their actions as much as their words-that reading is indispensable to study and learning.”,(p.174)¹.

Reading Resources:

  • Creating a Children’s Book Club.  This sounds like a fun classroom idea!




http://www.theeducatorsspinonit.com/2013/10/how-to-run-kids-book-club-through.html (Not a sponsored post but suggests the use of Scholastic).


  • 5funwaysFun Ways to Get Students to Read Aloud


  • Edutopia: “Round Robin” and “Popcorn” reading alternativesindex.png






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