TECHNIQUES #48 & #49: Engineer Efficiency & Strategic Investment
In the name of efficiency, literally & ironically, referring to the “techniques”, Engineer Efficiency & Strategic Investment, are ambitious and encompass the scope and sequence of an entire working system throughout the school year. A lot of the content, between the two, has been discussed in previous chapters and techniques. What’s always refreshing about Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ ,is that Doug Lemov continues to reveal a few very meaningful, practical tactics in each section; worth their weight in the classroom when put into practice. There is some really interesting teacher psychoanalysis in this post too; be thee fairly warned. As well, I’ll examine the expostulatory excesses concerning #48 & #49 toward the end of the post.
Engineer Efficiency #48: Truly this is an over-arching classroom management strategy; the general idea is to model and practice efficient modes of executing simple classroom procedures. Keeping in mind that conserving minutes for actual instruction and learning are the ultimate goal. I like this goal; no one teacher likes to admit the habits they develop under the guise of assuming command and comfort of tasks that take up time on the clock, (especially if you are dealing with a particularly difficult group). These are hard, yet, real truths:
“…it’s natural for teachers to feel tempted to design elaborate, ornate procedures because teaching and executing them can be fun…gratifying because it makes things feel orderly and confirms that you control your room. But in the end, these are perverse incentives. You want order so that you can get to learning. Period.”,(p.362)¹.
I’m not sure that any educator likes getting called out onto the carpet for, let’s say, taking 3-4 minutes to take attendance, 3minutes to write out the days lesson goals on the board while students are waiting, taking 3-5 more minutes to personally hand back student work, etc. The theory behind some of the practices of Engineer Efficiency are:
- Quick is King
- Little Narration Required
- Planned to the Detail
Right away I know I like & practice Planned to the Detail & Quick is King; Little Narration Required & Simplicity are ideas I’ll always be working harder at.
Identify tasks that should be simple and are not directly connected to instruction and learning. Here’s the moment in the blog post where you evaluate just how much time do you waste conducting “Housekeeping” tasks. “Simplicity” tasks should not keep students waiting and in fact can be done by the students themselves; this quickly gets everyone on the road to instruction and learning. All of these tasks will need to be introduced, modeled and practiced, routinely; eventually they become second nature and class is left with many minutes/hours over the course of the year in earned learning time.
- Simplicity: Handing out worksheets: Establish a routine where students complete this task. Starting in the immediate left hand corner of the room; select one student to distribute paper by handing out enough material for their row or group and passing on the remainder to a student in the next row or group. Encourage students (per seating arrangements) to remain seated.
- Simplicity: Passing back corrected student work while they are engaged in a learning task: This should be done quietly and discreetly while students are working on a learning task. Students will need to be habituated into the practice of not interrupting the work they are doing to look at the returned work. Ideally; having a folder for returned work is best practice. The idea is to reduce the time spent making the class wait while you hand back student work.
- Quick is King: Use a stopwatch! For almost any housekeeping task, reduce wasted minutes and keep everyone, (including your self), on target. “Use the stopwatch to measure and celebrate progress while continuously challenging kids to execute the procedures a little faster. “We did this is 16 seconds yesterday; let’s shoot for 12 today!”,”(p.363)¹.
- Planned to the Detail: In your planner, lesson book, the texts you are using, post (literally post-its) key phrases for yourself that you want to implement into lesson. Promts for writing, Sentence starter ideas, the amount of time to use on a particular activity, etc.
- Planned to the Detail: Plant your props in advance around the room. Put the classroom book you are reading under neath your chair, plant the magazine article for students underneath their seats (they’ll love the surprise), plant timers around the room to use at a moments notice, plant sharpened pencil stations in strategic areas, cue up any online videos or images, have tabs open and ready to view, and most importantly, whenever possible, write on the board any target lists, notes, equations, in ADVANCE. I really like all of these suggestions.
Strategic Investment #49: From Procedure to Routine. This “technique” is about establishing classroom routines, transitions and practices consistently, daily practice in order to bring about automatic responses and ideally saving hours of classroom instruction time. I feel as though, while not being pedantic, the ideology behind this section is something that quality teachers are trained and certified to know and establish.
- Number the Steps: Here, literally suggesting that housekeeping or transition tasks be numerated verbally, “One”, “Two, second step”, “Three, finally…”. Eventually, you drop the numeration and students know the drill.
- Model and Describe: Show students explicitly how you want routines or housekeeping tasks to be accomplished on a daily basis until it becomes habit.
- Pretend Practice: Quiz student on how specific tasks in the classroom should be carried out. Create “faux errors”, “What do you do if everyone is going to the left but you go to the right”.
- Transfer Ownership: Eventually, you hope to develop student autonomy with all classroom tasks. Moving away from over-narrating the steps and expectations and moving toward students independently completing day to day routines, over time becomes rewarding.
What is truly refreshing about this section is the concluding section: Better Late Than Never: Tips for Resetting Procedures and Routines. (p.371)¹. I often find with methodology texts and teacher self-help resources that there is always the “road block” to practicality with the curse and the excuse to put it off until the next school year: “At the beginning of the school year….or…during the first few weeks of school”. Bullocks. You can begin again at any moment and Teach Like a Champion 2.0 is always full of permission and encouragement educationally speaking. There a million reasons why new procedures should be put into place, why student behaviors and attitudes wane, and plenty of natural pauses in the school year to begin again. Here are a few welcome suggestions to try something new or start a new routine:
- *Reset after an extended break/vacation
- The installment of a new student teacher/intern/paraeducator
- Introduction of a new unit/lesson
- Be transparent: Explain why everyone is learning a new method of doing things, “Sometimes when we do things over and over we get a little sloppy; here’s how we’ll clean it up!”, or “We’re losing important learning time and you need to get ready for (ex. the next unit test, college, moving onto the next grade).”
- Invent a “News peg”: Connect the reset to an “inspiring, headline-grabbing goal”. Ex: “We only have 65 more days left to master this text book, There’s only 45 days until you become 7th graders, Learning how to solve for inequalities in Alegbra is critical and we only have 4 weeks to do that, so here’s how we’ll get it done well!”
Editorially, speaking of efficiency and investment, the inclusion of #48 and #49 into the text, labeled as such, seems incredibly redundant and somewhat pedantic. Both of these “techniques”, (and not really techniques, but rather, generalized practices in methodology). This is where formal pedagogy breaks down and certainly, the novice teacher becomes overwhelmed. Or, in terms of professional development, how veteran attentions waver and dissipate when the “topic” or source loses sight of practical application. What a colossal task to develop a cohesive, articulate, concise “technique” that efficiently describes how to “engineer efficiency” and one to provide an overview of how to strategically implement systems over the course of a school year!?! In a single “technique”; ambitiously labeled?!? Contents best left interspersed throughout the chapters with practical tips and examples.