TECHNIQUE 24: Circulate
The ingenuity of Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ is hidden behind over-simplified labels; initially appearing ridiculously obvious ,when in effect the “labels” represent new tactics, different angles on an old teaching strategy, or magnificent tricks if you’re a new teacher. Circulate; seriously, Doug Lemov gets credit for this? Meaning: ‘Move strategically around the room during all parts of the lesson.’ But wait, that’s not entirely it! This section cracks me up, and also, gave me one or two, “Hey, wait a minute; I’m trying THAT” ideas. Hopefully, we’ve all processed that teachers really should not be sitting at their desks all day… And I can’t help but laugh some more; the section Circulate, takes transparent, hand-holding, creating comfy student-oriented environment practices and thrashes it to the ground. A great deal of proprietary and territorial vocabulary, (e.g., owning the room, ceding ownership, not asking permission, interrupting your teaching, leveraging students’ blind spots, you control, and pervasive control of the classroom environment).¹ Take that. Sounds especially great on a Friday afternoon. Here’s a blog post from Doug Lemov’s Field Notes vis a vis Circulate: http://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/notes-circulating-break-plane-engage-circulate/
Here are the major selling points; below, I’ll point out my favorite and describe/combine the other categories.
- Break the Plane
- Full Access Required
- Engage When You Circulate
- Basic Read/Pick Up Read
- Dot Round
- Systematic Position for Power
This video clip is a combination of two Uncommon Schools teachers, Ms. Dickinson and Mr. Ratray using some of the basic tenets of Circulate in their classrooms.
I like Ms. Dickison’s treatment of Pick Up Read/Engage When You Circulate; she takes the students work, right off their desk and walks away with it, reads for a few minutes and then returns the student work. Take their work, make it yours, make them accountable. Many of these concepts are well-ingrained, and easily interchangeable (in terms of nomenclature). They do, however, all make a very salient point about classroom management, in that, behavior management is simpler, if the teacher has more ownership of the classroom space.
Break the Plane: Get an early start; don’t wait too long to get in between and around the students, circulating. The “plane”, if you think of a guest speaker, in front of the room and the 3 or 4 feet between speaker and the audience.
“…getting near to students plays such a critical role in managing behavioral situations; if you move out in to the classroom to establish proximity only when you need to (getting at bad behavior), this action will be highly visible. In essence, you tell students that things aren’t going well and that you’ve got you off your game. It also calls heightened attention to your actions when you do break the plane, making it almost impossible to exercise the subtlety necessary to make corrections that don’t interrupt instruction.”(p.184)¹.
Systematic Position for Power/Full Access Required: Essentially, are the same as Break the Plane. This refers to maintaining consistent movement throughout the class period; occasionally using a student’s blind spot, looking over their shoulder from behind where they are seated to gain leverage or, sheesh, “power”. Additionally, thrown in here, is the very solid expectation that students’ back packs, books, personal belongs, including legs and feet should never block the pass of egress. That the teacher is able to move freely around the room without having to ask for permission to pass through or for an individual to move. Look at these nifty chairs, ⇑.
Dot Round is the one new take away, for me, from Technique 24, Circulate. Doug Lemov attributes this tactic to a visiting Champion teacher from the Netherlands, Carla van Doornen. When students are assigned individual work, as they are writing, Circulate and place a dot with a marker or use a dot sticker to indicate anything that you want the students to review, improve or correct. Without talking or interrupting other students work, this silent symbol lets the students know that you are Engaging When You Circulate and reading their work. This seamless, non-verbal gesture directs the students attention and also allows the teacher to check for understanding. It is suggested that you might use a color coded set of dots; red dot=incorrect/make corrections, blue dot=make this response All the Way Right, yellow dot=good work!