The Multiples of Jublilation


joy16.jpgSay it isn’t so, #62!  Happy trails to you, and to me, as you embark on your summer vacation.  It seems fitting that the final technique from Teach Like a Champion 2.0 is labeled: Joy Factor, and the synchronicity of completing this final blog post on the last day of school.  Within all the standardization, admonitions to be prepared in advance, and insistent, mindful behavior management there is so much room for joy in the day to day lives of students.  One of the shining hallmarks of high achieving classrooms is the presence of and an aptitude for “energy, passion, enthusiasm, fun, and humor.  Hold that thought; Joy Factor recommends that fun should certainly have it place, but that its goal is to support the day’s objective.  Additionally, Champion® teachers should be able to regulate Joy Factor; being able to turn it “on and off” is a skill in and of itself.  “There’s nothing worse than a Joy Factor that ends with a lecture because students couldn’t handle the fun without coming off the rails (or more precisely, because the teacher didn’t teach the kids how to have fun without coming off the rails).  A champion teacher recognizes that his job is not only to share joy but also to teach students how to manage the joy.”,(p.443)¹.   Many adults struggle with their inability to harness the “joy” appropriately.

I think it’s interesting to note that some classrooms are completely devoid of Joy Factor; J-Factor-wordcloud-300x257.pngpedagogical preferences, content area (how do you make Math fun?!), or a lack of motivation or energy to initiate “games” or humor, can leave students searching for some spark in what they are learning about.  Lemov¹ does not purport to have a clearly defined recipe for Joy Factor, but provides the parameters and includes a few examples.

Fun & Games:  Students love challenges; many classroom activities or tasks can be converted into a game. As frequently as possible, try to have the game aligned with the day’s learning objective.

  • Apply the label:  To any task, denote it as a challenge or game.
  • Redirect:  Move the activity to a different location in the classroom or the school.
  • Add a Twist:  Using a typical daily task add a stopwatch, half the classroom into teams, pick your favorite color to write or correct, start a tally of points, etc.
  • Go easy on Rewards:  Hand out prizes, scholar dollars, passes, special passes sparingly.
  • Make the connection:  Refer to the learning objective before and/or after the fun is done.

tumblr_lsh5lcIlU41qzms0qo1_500Us (and Them):  Develop routines, nicknames, “secret” songs, shared stories (true or fictional) that make your class, homeroom, groupings genuinely unique.  Create an environment where  “We are an us, …a vibrant and recognizable entity. Through unique language, names, rituals, traditions, songs and the like cultures establish “us”ness.”¹.


Drama, Song and Dance:  Have you got the energy for this!?  Its important to note that the use of cultural materials and artifacts is a great way to build character in up and coming global citizens.

  • Globalize your plan: Every content has some wiggle room for Culture; it makes a lesson plan unique and memorable.
  • Songs make memories:  Not in a sentimental fashion, but literally.  You Tube provides a plethora of educational songs, jingles, raps based on any content area. Asimage.axd a World Language teacher, I know that song is a powerful tool toward enhancing memorization and moves information from the short term memory into long term.
  • Drama?!:  Add a foreign accent to whatever it is that you are reading aloud; instructions with a British accent, reading a poem with a southern accent, times tables a la France…
  • Dance?!:  Not terribly comfortable with this one? Provide students with opportunities to stand up and move.  Remember, a lot of children are chair bound throughout the day.  Why do a typical activity standing to the right of your desks, or disperse to the four corners of the room for a relay activity?

Suspense and Surprise:  “Routines are powerful drivers of efficiency and predictability.  They also make occasional variations all the more fun, silly, surprising, and inspiring.  If harnessed judiciously, the unexpected can be powerful.”, (p. 445)¹.  The key is to have a clear, well defined task ready for implementation immediately following any “flash mob” sort of activity.   Know precisely what you are going to do next and transition into the next task calmly, in a quieter yet very firm voice.

  • Wrap: artifacts, examples, model projects etc in a box.  This renders authenticDavid-London learning materials even more special.
  • Pack items to distribute in small suitcase/briefcase:  worksheets, magazines, books, etc.  Make an exaggerated gesture of opening the case.
  • Use sealed envelops:  Place vocabulary cards, instructions, pictures, etc in a seal envelop for individual students or for group activities.  Every one has to wait to unseal the envelop.
  • Randomly Play Music:  Classical, Latino, New Age Ambient, etc.  At a low volume, when students are working well on a task they are comfortable with, play music for the students occasionally.  You are the DJ and rarely take requests.

happy-kid-clipart-kid_rowIn conclusion, Joy Factor is a huge factor towards establishing a successful, productive classroom.  Happy learners are engaged learners.  It is good to inspire joy in young people; an integral yet subtle part of the responsibility of fostering healthy social expectations.   I was looking for more concrete examples for this technique, but then realized: Every classroom dynamic is unique, from classroom to classroom, from year to year.  Every teacher is very capable of developing his or her creativity and sense of joy; the KEY is to remember to include this component into your day or week, and to not get so caught up in the Routine Factor that you forget.

Consistent Humors

TECHNIQUE #61:  Emotional Constancy

temp4#61, Emotional Constancy reads:  Manage your emotions to consistently promote student learning and achievement¹.  Would that we couldn’t all achieve this, in and outside of the classroom.  Doug Lemov refers to the classroom as a ‘social laboratory’, a place for trial and error for students.  Social trial and error, but building off of that, a school’s true purpose, academic trial and error.  Part of behavioral expectations includes academic behaviors as well; I feel as though Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ consistently returns to this fundamental premise.   That all teachers should insistently return and refer to scholarly attitudes and high academic expectations as the basis for all consequences and rewards.

Emotional Constancy requires “-lessening  the intensity of strong emotion, especially6a00d8341c692c53ef0134832ac2b2970c-800wi frustration and disappointment…students need to be able to figure out how to interact and even make mistakes without being judged too heavily and without seeing you explode.”,(p.440)¹.  Intense emotions have averse effects on individual students, but also larger alter the classroom environment.  Strong emotion should be converted into feedback, nothing more, nothing less.  Here are some TLAC® tips toward toward the emotionally constant path:

The-Composure-Stay-the-Course-ArtworkEmotional Constancy and Behavior:

  • Walk Slowly:  Great idea.  When in the course of academic events it becomes necessary to approach a student whose behavior is out of alignment, move slowly, in a composed manner.  This gives you time to breath and adjust and also removes the apprehension that a swiftly moving adult might trigger.
  • Criticize Behaviors Not People This framework for delivering consequences/correction has come up time and time again; however, it has been a powerful effective phrase that has helped me to phrase my language when addressing inappropriate/off-task behavior.  Here’s another keeper: “This behavior is not in line with what we’re learning today.  Throwing paper is a discourtesy to the classroom activity.”  In stead of “You’re being rude”.
  • Take Your Relationship Out of It:  Whenever possible, try to keep “I” or “me” from20150424_sang-froid becoming the object pronoun in when giving consequential feedback to a student or a group.  Focus your statements on the classroom expectations.  Frame things impersonally.
  • Avoid Globalizing:  Don’t refer to past infractions; avoid statements like: “You’re always shouting when you come into the classroom” or “Why are you always doing X”.  A correction shouldn’t feel like a “gotcha!”.  Try not to refer to repeated infractions, especially those that were not specifically addressed: “This is the third time I’ve seen you texting in class today”.  Keep the event singular and in the present; nothing is chronic unless diagnosed by a larger team of educators, administrators and parents.

images.jpgEmotional Constancy and Academics:

I am very glad that this segment was highlighted.  Emotionally Constant teachers may very well manage behavior effectively and productive but infuse academic impatience and disappointment when it comes to students as scholars.  Some of the best behaved students chose to turn in poor quality work or no work at all.  Quiet students quickly become some teachers’ Kryptonite when they refuse to participate in group discussions.  Mild mannered, productive students stumble and fail when attempting to solve algebraic equations.  Likewise, save your pity and try not to make excuses for students’ inaccuracies.  A wrong answer is a wrong answer whether you are a quiet or a boisterous student.   Here are some tips toward providing academic Emotional Constancy:

  • Wrong Answers:  Don’t Chasten/Don’t Excuse1*5TXKfVXuwUdRTGtJAa-ZXg
  • Strive to avoid highlighting wrong answers: “We’ve reviewed this one hundred times; you should have this memorized by now”.
  • Avoid blaming the rigor:  “That’s OK, Charlie, that was a really tough problem.”
  • Wrong answers don’t need a lot of narration.  Don’t feel obliged to label every response as right or wrong.  Instead discuss the process.  Instead of say, “Oops, sorry that’s incorrect”, reset the question/problem with: “What’s the first thing we have to do to solve #4?”.  Ambiguous right or wrong answers elicit higher order thinking skills, “Jane, how did we begin to answer to this question; what’s our starting point?”
  • Right Answers:  Don’t Flatter/Don’t Fuss
  • Avoid Exclamatory Narration: A big Hooray! over a correct answer can make a student feel as if you didn’t have confidence that they were capable of answering correctly.
  • Establish praise regarding the over all percentage of correct answers; emphasize the thoughts behind the correct answers.  Save the number of rights and wrongs for tests and quizzes when there is a little more anonymity involved in the accuracy.



The Thermostat

TECHNIQUE #60:  Warm/Strict

hotcold1Hot or Cold; warmer, warmer, freezing!  Striving to seek the perfect pitch with interpersonal interactions with students is a challenging balance to strike.  Some teachers want to be the funny, personable teacher that makes students laugh and everyone in the building gravitates towards.  Others play the automaton role because running a tight ship is the way things “used to be” and the only way to maintain complete control over the classroom.  I cringe at “transparent” teaching; my goal is not be friends with students; I find that truly inappropriate. But I also cringe at the teachers who publicly berate students with character assassination.   The ‘Hands Off’ policy is quickly becoming the norm in many schools, and rightly so.  If you want the students to keep their hands off each other, so should the teaching staff.  Likewise, hugs and arms around the shoulder between teacher and student puts everyone in a precarious position and rarely has anything to do with academics.  That is why everyone is at school, to educate and to learn.  Warm/Strict asks the teacher to examine their tone and actions, and to be mindful of finding that balance between disciplinarian vs. the ‘Fun’ teacher.

Inevitably, I get stuck between a Warm and a Strict (policy) place when an endearing 11 yr. Gabe-Kotter-best-teachers-ftrold girl has “I’m so happy to see you!” written all over her face and comes in for a hug!?!  I do feel like a jerk, in a sense, rejecting the hug.  Here’s the reaction I’ve developed with genuine, reciprocal joy on my face, but stepping back: “Oh my goodness.  That is so sweet, (not you are so sweet), Give me a fist bump”.  Conversely, when the student who is typically so well behaved and productive gets caught “pulling a fast one”, I have to resist the urge to exaggerate surprise and make a funny joke about it.  This student, too, must examine the consequence, “pay the fine”.

0409-you-anchorWord choice, intonation, inflection, gesture, eye contact, all of these things can deliver a message of concern, understanding and care.  Warm/Strict highlights a few helpful hints, while at the same time, conveying the underlying message; you are not in the classroom to make friends with young people who are not your peers; you have a civic and professional duty to foster healthy, confident learners.

The tenable concepts in Warm/Strict point out strategies to avoid resentment and confusion when the need to deliver a consequence arises.  It is certainly recommended that you communicate concern and genuine care; it’s very OK to be funny and nurturing, hocld2.jpgbut at the same time: stick to your guns!

  • Explain to students why you’re doing what you’re doing:  Describe that the consequence for off-task behavior is a means toward the student’s advancement academically.  “Paul, we don’t throw paper at each other because it keeps us from making the most of our learning time.”  Describe the infraction, emphasize the detraction from academics, NOT the students’ shortcomings.
  • Distinguish between people and behavior:  Again, indicate the action, not the person.  “Throwing paper is inconsiderate”, NOT “You’re being inconsiderate”. Reinforce that you believe that students are capable of on-task behavior.
  • Demonstrate that consequences are temporary:  This is the most salient point in Warm/Strict.  For young people, I find it critical to point out the temporariness of what needs to happen next and that it is not a fixed state.   Here’s a great line from the text¹:  “After you take a time out/tab out, I can’t wait to have you come back and show us your best”.   Your looking to shorten the length of the consequence as well, in order to avoid developing grudges.  But that goes both ways; DO deliver the consequence so that you, as the teacher, do not develop a grudge as well.   Smile and greet students matter of factly after they have served a consequence.  Let them know that they are starting over with a clean slate.  You make even integrate the phrase ‘Clean Slate’ with students, followed by a fist bump!  Integrate the student as quickly as possible into the current activity.

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 9.02.23 AM.pngEye contact, crouching at eye-level with seated students is a mode of communication that I have deliberated utilized over the past months in the classroom as a substitute.  As a new technique in my repertoire, I’ve found it incredibly useful and effective.  I’m not talking down at students.  Here are some character and trust phrases, rather sentiments, from Warm/Strict that teachers implicitly or subtly should be trying to communicate to students:  “You can be hip and successful; you can have fun and work hard; you can be happy and say no to self-indulgence”.  These, quite frankly, are mini-mantras that the adults could stand to process, too.


Selective Applause

TECHNIQUE #59:  Precise Praise

accolade_edmundblairleightonPrecise Praise, in a nutshell is a teacher’s ability to deliver mindful positive feedback.  “Make your positive reinforcement strategic.  Differentiate between acknowledgement and praise.  Processing the dichotomy between exceeding the standard and meeting the standard is a critical mind shift when metering out praise.  Precise Praise also emphasizes the difference between affirming actions and not traits.   In my personal life I’m a big fan of ‘There’s no such thing as too much affection’; professionally, I admire a methodology that awards commendations critically, or rather, when they are truly earned.  In actual practice, I do tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and depending on the age or ability level of some students, I know that I tend to hand out compliments more often than I should.  There is a fine line between holding back praise intentionally; rendering your congratulations rare, desperately sought after, a too valuable commodity seems harsh or professionally cold.  All human beings seek praise; the psychology behind verbal rewards certainly affects behavior. To wield your accolades wisely, as Precise Praise recommends, can become a strong instrument towards shaping the quality of student work and behavior.

Precise Praise differs from Positive Framing, in that instead of issuing positive corrective images.jpgcontent, the teacher is managing positive feedback.   There are three deterrents to successful Positive Praise:  Sarcasm, Disingenuous/Empty comments, and Overuse.  I struggle to avoid using sarcasm in the classroom; not as a means to be verbally cruel towards students, rather, I happen to think that sarcasm is terribly funny.  Below are the four fundamentals toward implementing Precise Praise:

Reinforce Actions, Not Traits When the teacher deems something praiseworthy, they should use language that celebrates the task at hand, not framing the student characteristics.  For example:  Resist: “Melanie, you are such an intelligent student” rather, “Melanie, this writing demonstrates excellent use of adverbial clauses”.   The key is to impart: “Smart isn’t what you are, it’s what you do.”, (p.434)¹.   Another example:  Avoid: “John, you are so clever!”, rather say, “John, do you see those cross-outs and rewrites; that’s why your final draft is so strong”.

praise2.jpgOffer Objective-Aligned Praise:  Many students are very capable of being productive and diligent produce work that fulfills a task or assignment.  What specific skill, however, are you looking for your students to demonstrate and master?  Target student work that exceeds and truly replicates the lesson or task Objective.  Praise the student work that highlights the learning objective.  This is a great instance for the use of a Show Call.  Privately offer Precise Praise to the student, and then use the work to show to the class.  Using praise in this manner highlights the work and the objective, on a secondary level it acknowledges the student.  In terms of face value, it raises the stakes for other students to produce higher quality work and puts less emphasis on being a shining star student of teacher favored renown.

praise1Differentiate Acknowledgement from Praise:  I like this one because it truly gives more meaning to Exceeds the Standard vs. Meets the standard.  Acknowledgement is given more frequently.  Praise is mindfully reserved.  Acknowledgement is better used to label behavior.  Praise is the accolade for skills and final products.  Acknowledgement is for routine behavior that Meets the Standard.  Praise is saved for student work that clearly Exceeds the Standard.  If Praise is given regularly for everyday tasks, as in, being seated with pencils ready, then compliance with the every day tasks becomes less of a norm.  Devaluing expected behavior through the use of excessive praise can become a pitfall in the classroom.   Here are some differentiated phrases from the text¹:

praise3.jpgAcknowledgement:  “Marcus is ready!”  vs.  Praise: “Great job, Marcus.  This thesis statement clearly uses the target vocabulary.”

Acknowledgement: “Thanks for being ready Marcus” vs. Praise: “Fantastic insight, Marcus!”

Acknowledgement: “I see everyone’s pencils moving”, vs. Praise: (reading student work aloud, “Now this is how a strong verb can give muscles to a sentence.  Excellent revision, Shanice”.

Conserve exclamatory phrases like, super, great, excellent, outstanding for Praise.  Acknowledgment is simply acknowledgement, stick to “Thank you.”.  This conservation of language deters the devolution of your praise; it’s less likely to become “cheap” if student work, (not the student) has truly earned it by exceeding the standard.  Here’s a great video clip demonstrating these differences, narrated by the book’s author, Doug Lemov:


Modulate and Vary Your Delivery:  When you deliver Precise Praise, consider the following:  Public vs. Private, Loud vs. Quiet.  This is almost like a personality inventory; I 1465212479792know that I lean more toward Loud and Public, so it stands to reason that as a teacher I ought to develop Private and Quiet.  This may be as simple as anonymously reading or using a Show Call to showcase student work that exceeds the standard.  Students may or many not see whose paper was picked up and read aloud.  Then ask students begin working again, in a crouched whisper, offer genuine Precise Praise to the student in question.  Again, this sort of transaction emphasizes to the group that the task, objective and work is of estimable value, not necessarily the person.  As discussed in technique # 53, Least Invasive Intervention, modulating the purpose of mini “private conversations” creates sense of open mindedness around private interactions.  Students are less defensive about being approached as an individual in the classroom because the nature of the 1:1 conversation could very well be positive feedback or positive correction.  Either way if students are occasionally selected for a tete-a-tete with their teacher, the quality of the interaction becomes more genuine and memorable if this is done so privately and mindfully.

“Praise always walks the line between the benefit of allowing others to overhear what’sparents use of descriptive praise praiseworthy and thus encouraging them to seek to emulate it, and the benefit of the genuine sincerity of its just being about the recipient…although socializing and influencing others through praise are beneficial, they’re less critical than the long-term benefit of maintaining the credibility and genuineness of praise.”, (p.437).¹


Through the Optimist’s Lens

TECHNIQUE # 58:  Positive Framing

NewYearPositive Framing introduces the final chapter of the text¹, Building Character and Trust.  The overwhelming tone of the strategies presented in this teacher’s manual are promote positive language and optimistic strategies toward productive learning environments and academic relationships.  This sections includes lots of specific examples and teacher-speak language.  The promotion of positive, forward thinking interactions and phraseology requires mindful, consistent practice.  “People are motivated by the positive far more than by the negative.  Seeking success and happiness will spur stronger action than seeking to to avoid punishment.”, (p. 426)¹.  Time and time again, teachers and classrooms that make a deliberate effort to move forward, with positive instruction and redirection are the most productive classrooms.  Harping, accusatory adults foster mistrust; aversion to adults whoangry-teacher-pointing address students faults in a defamatory, public manner garner suspicion and avoidance in the scholars they attempt to regulate and control.  In a world where there are, indeed, consequences for poor behavior, there is also a place for communities that inspire autonomous redirection and optimistic venues to adapt and learn.


Positive Framing reads: ‘Guide students to do better work while motivating and inspiring them by using a positive tone to deliver constructive feedback.’  Constructive criticism?  Perhaps.  Here are some of the finer examples of how to employ Positive Framing in the classroom:

635946939424314525-218159995_Start-Living-In-The-NowLive In the Now:  Avoid narrating the things that can no longer be addressed; skip the urge to bring yesterday’s misdirection to the attention of the class, again.  Corrective interaction should pertain to the moment’s activity.

  • “Class, show me you can track me, silently.  Let’s try it from this corner of the room.
  • “David, show me your best!”
  • “LMS Tigers, We’re tackling problems #3 and #4, Do that now.”
  • “I appreciate your enthusiasm to get to Math class, but, we walk in quietly.  Let’s see you go back and do it the right way.”

Assume the Best:  Initially, when addressing off task behavior, avoid language that confusedindicates the student/s as being , selfish, deliberate, disrespectful, or lazy.   Attempt to avoid implications of ill intention.    Instead, direct students toward focusing their energy on doing the task right instead of leading them into a defensive stance.  Build trust by acting like you assume they want to do the right thing.   Here are a couple of solid examples that might show your faith and bolster a students decision to self-correct.

  • Use the word FORGOT.  “Just a moment, some of us seem to have forgotten how to line up quietly”,  “In case we forget, let’s remind ourselves that individual work doesn’t require turning and talking.”
  • Use the word CONFUSED.  I really do like this one too.  It quickly gives the student/s a tiny window of opportunity to self-correct while saving face, to demonstrate that, yes, they do understand the instruction being given.    “Some people appear to be confused about the directions, to clarify, this is what we’re doing now.  Track me.”

Allow Plausible Anonymity:  If a few students find themselves in a position to be off-task,anonymity instead of enumerated particular names, let them know they have the opportunity to make a “good-faith effort” toward self correction; unless of course the “laggards are deliberately flouting your authority.”   Without using names try these on for size:

  • “Wait a minute 5th graders, I hear calling out.  Let’s see you quiet and ready to go”
  • “Some of you didn’t manage to follow directions the whole way, let’s try that again”
  • “100% effort requires everyone in the room to follow through”

indexNarrate the Positive and Build Momentum:  Always putting a positive spin on classroom directives does mean that should avoid making specific corrections.  Avoid too much “circum-narration”, praising a ring around those students who are in compliance in order to target the guilty party.  This devalues your authority and let’s others believe that mediocre compliance is praiseworthy; don’t confuse what is expected with doing “great”.   It’s ok to let alleged perpetrators of off-taskery know that the normality of on-task behavior is what every one else is doing.

  • “I still need three people, Tracking.  Thank you for fixing that David.  Now we can get started”, instead of (“Thank you for not wasting our time David or Lucas, Mike and David, are the three of you moving towards a detention?”
  • “I see many pencils moving!  pause.  Those ideas are rolling out.  staged whisper, movie to off task pencil.  Roberto, can’t wait to read your ideas.
  • “Show me your best problem solving, Susan keep your notebook open.  Think about how much we’ll accomplish today!”

surechamp-healthycompetition-featured-jan2016Challenge:  Some schools of methodology are very much against competition, but I believe, in healthy doses, a challenge is just the right boost some students need and, more often than not, want.  Here are some examples:

  • Against other groups in the class or other homerooms
  • Against an impersonal foe: the clock, their age, “That was acceptable 7th grade work, let’s see if we can kick it up to an 8th grade notch!”
  • “Let’s see if you guys have what it takes”
  • “Let’s see if we can write for 8min straight (a new record), without stopping, Ready?!”

2v3361eTalk Expectations and Aspirations:  This is truly a ‘moveable feast’ for excellence, self-esteem and character-building.  Asking students to perceive the work they do in the classroom in a new context for application; invoking the broader goals in their academic careers and life.

  • When asking for revisions: “Write as though you’re in college already”
  • “Really use the words of a scientist, (or historian, mathematician, poet, etc.)
  • Tell them you’d like them to speak to each other as if they were Congressmen, politicians, or U.S Ambassadors.
  • Whatever grade they are in ask them to look as sharp as the next grade ahead.
  • “We’re going to read this play as we would auditioning for a Broadway part!”
  • “I want you to listen to each other as if you were a Supreme Court Justice.  Expert ears!
  • “Let’s graph these inequalities like MIT graduates!”



Stating the Obvious

TECHNIQUE # 57:  What To Do

Stating-the-obvious-2Now this might be misconstrued as ironic, however, so many of the techniques presented in Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹, at face value, seem to be stating the obvious, when in fact they are truly critical, fundamental building blocks toward building a Champion® classroom.  What To Do, without being pedantic to the veteran teacher states: “Use specific, concrete, sequential, and observable directions to tell students what to do, as opposed to what not to do.”  There are components within #57 that are subtle reiterations of other strategies, however, when realigning student behavior, avoiding narration of what NOT to do is critical and difficult to put into practice.  Additionally, What To Do, recommends that the teacher should assess and differentiate between the various types of off-task behavior.  What is obvious to Susan may not be obvious to Michael; or is that what they want you to think?

The text classifies off-task behavior into three categories:

  • Defiance
  • Incompetence
  • Opportunism

Surprisingly, when I took a moment to sift through these categories (on the spot), whileconfused.jpg dealing with an off task student this week, I found this process to be extremely important. Within the topic of Immigration, the 5minute writing task asked of the students was: Imagine yourself from the point of view of your great-grandparents (the assumption was that they were immigrants coming to a new country?!) what were your experiences, how did you feel, etc.  Many students did not jump into the writing; I narrated a few suggestions, asked students to focus on pencils moving, no need to erase or fixate on the title (evasive tactics that were an obvious function of the challenging nature of the prompt), and explained to all students “I should see pencils moving”.  One student in particular, had not been productive throughout the class.  Crouching, I asked to her to pick up her pencil, and write about the topic, she consistently replied “I’m confused”.   My first assumption was that she was exhibiting Defiance and/or Avoidance, and then, I shuffled through the three categories listed above and realized that her off task behavior was truly a function of Incompetence; meaning genuine lack of understanding not a moral judgment.  Immediately, I adjusted the language and direction I took to attempt to get her back on task.

indexTeach Like a Champion 2.0¹ enumerates several strategies and modes of interpretation of off task behaviors.

  • Make commands/instruction specific enough that they can’t be deliberately misinterpreted.  For example, telling a student “Stop That”, even if it is communicated calmly, leaves the door open to gray area/inaccurate interpretation.
  • Distinguish between incompetence and defiance.
  • Ask yourself if the student Cannot or Will Not.
  • Give tangible directions
  • Standardize the language of your instructions

‘What To Do 2.0’, a sub-section within this technique offers up the results of Doug Lemov’sc6ed32cdf1f6b2dd80aba69b96cf39e2.jpg observations of Champion® teachers over the past four years.

Consistent What To Do:  Use the same instruction using the same words/phrases in a very streamlined capacity.  Instead of saying, “Please put your pencils down.  I want everyone to put them in their trays”, say  “Pencils, trays.  Or, instead of “Close your books, take your worksheet and make sure it goes into your writing folder”, say, “Papers, folders”.

aid31487-728px-Mime-Step-7Adding a Gesture: Pantomime the action that your instruction describes.  I think this one adds a super dimension of clarification to the process.  While implementing a standardized routine to your consistent phrases, have the worksheet ready and a sample folder ready, demonstrate the require action.  Flourish an imaginary pencil and place it in an exaggerated manner onto and imaginary desk tray.

What To Do with Checking for Understanding:  Before allowing students to move forward autonomously, verify if the student/s understand the instruction given.  Cold Call a student to explain to you, in their own words, what it is you would like them to accomplish.  Or, ask a particular student who seems to be moving toward off-task behavior to demonstrate what the next step is; “Point to where you are going to put your binder” or “Show me where the writing prompt is that you are going to write about”.

Simplified What To Do:  Remove words and simply the steps, calmly and with pausesman drawing maze between each step if you feel that the instruction should be reiterated.  Break down the task and provide opportunities for compliance.  A student may fixate on getting the second part of your instruction correct while forgetting what the first step was.

What To Do Out Front:  “Giving a What To Do direction in advance of a cue to begin a routine behavior is a great way to build facility and autonomy in that routine.”, (p.420)¹.  This allows them the opportunity to process the expectation and practice following through with instruction on their own.  I admire this sort of life-skill building and practice.

assuming-1-370x248.jpgAssuming the Best:  If the root of a students non compliance or off-task behavior is not immediately obvious, approach the student with the assumption (feigned or genuine!) that they are very capable of being compliant.  “Oh, let’s clarify our next task”, “Hmm, I may not have been clear enough, when I said  _____, this is how we follow through”.  “I did mean ______, I know that you can do this”.   This really is a valuable skill for any teacher to practice, although trying at times.  Learners really do want to believe that the adults in their academic lives have confidence in their abilities.


Do You Hear What I Hear?


e7190aa58b1a009db33bcb034ff514e9Strong Voice, or as it might be more aptly named, The Trained Voice earns an A+ in content.  The concluding techniques in Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ are some of the most effective, powerful classroom management strategies I’ve ever review, read or practiced.    A teachers ability to control their voice, it’s tone and volume, as well as the the ability to be mindful of their posture and gestures, makes a loud impact on classroom management.  Strong Voice delineates fundamental prescriptions for successful behavioral control of learners and the classroom environment; “Affirm your authority through intentional verbal and nonverbal habits, especially when you need control.”,(p.412).¹, (Heaven forbid you should ever lose it!).  Lot’s of great advice, that really sticks to the ribs; habits for teachers worth processing or practicing.  Strong Voice presents a plethora of wisdom and has almost nothing to with shouting; although the strategies them selves are worth shouting about!

Six Principles of Strong Voice: 

  • Use a Formal Register
  • Square Up/Stand Still
  • Exude Quiet Power
  • Use Economy of Language
  • Do Not Talk Over
  • Do Not Engage

The Formal Register:  This is controlled, precise, “no-nonsense” voice you should cultivate when addressing students.  This should not register anywhere near a loud or shouting tone.   Conversely, you should not be trying to sound overtly casually, like nothing’s going on, “come on now, time for joking’s done”.images.jpg

  • Avoid:  The’ Urgent Register’ should be reserved for very urgent situations
  • Do:  Make changes in your “register”; save your more passionate, casual register for actual instruction.  Demonstrate, via your voice, enthusiasm when speaking of content; now is the time for loud inflection.
  • Do:  Make changes in your “register obvious”; this will trigger students responses behaviorally or academically.

Square Up/Stand Still:  I love this one and have been trying to mindfully put this into practice for several years.  If you are attempting to multitask as you are giving instruction 212-attention_stance.jpgyou are sending the message that you your instruction can’t be that important;  your movement is primary, what you are saying becomes secondary to the student.

  • Stand Still:  Cease your movement in classroom when giving instruction.  It’s a simple as talking at students while you are passing out papers; STOP!  Give instruction or correction, then hand out the papers.
  • Square Up:  Check your posture before giving out correction or instruction.  Shoulders back, tilt chin up slightly; this makes you a seemingly larger, taller, confident figure in the room.


Exude Quiet Power:  Or silence.  Squaring up and simply looking from student to studentimages in silence is an extremely powerful mode of communication.

  • Avoid:  Getting louder and talking faster
  • Drop your voice, makes students strain to listen from time to time
  • Exude poise and calm

Use Economy of Language:  Again and again, the messages get lost in the words.  This sub Leader.jpgcategory also has “social” implications as well as “less is more”.  Verbal familiarity with students undermines the behavioral quality of the classroom.

  • Avoid initiating distractions:  I struggle with this one.  “Chatting it up” with students is not your purpose in the classroom; especially at the secondary level.
  • Make your words valuable:  Using excessive words, over explaining instruction or corrections erodes the value of what you are saying.
  • Don’t Dilute:  Don’t change the subject or introduce topics frequently that are not part of the lesson.  Does this sound impersonal, perhaps; but some of the best teachers I know, the best, are all business with their students.  They understand that banter with students IS unprofessional; students are NOT your peers.  Idle conversation with students leads to social and behavioral expectations; you were hired to educate them with enthusiasm and accuracy.

Do Not Talk Over:  This is great!   “If what you’re saying is truly worth attention, then every student has the right and the responsibility to hear it.”,(p.415)¹.  Changing the register of your voice frequently develops a keener sense of listening in your students.

  • Wait until there is not talking or rustling before giving instruction
  • The Self-Interrupt:  Start a directive, then stop mid-way to sure of 100% listener compliance.  This is effective to do occasionally, even if there isn’t any extraneous talking or behavior.
  • Add very formal posture to the Self-Interrupt for emphasis, or consider freezing/holding your pose.
  • Drop your Voice:  Emphasize that you will not shout over classroom noise level; begin instruction quietly, then Self-Interrupt, continue with your lower register.

Do Not Engage:  This, as an adult, as a teacher, as member of society horrifies me; that students believe it is perfectly acceptable, to verbal engage defensively with an adult, when asked to do something.  Here’s the text book example:

Teacher:  James, Talking, please move your card to yellow.  Thank you.
James:  It wasn’t me!  (Freeze right here; this is disrespect. Period).
Teacher:  James, please move your card to yellow.
James:  Shanice was talking!  Not me!  (Now we’re bordering on belligerent).
Teacher:  Please get up and move your card to yellowimages
  • Establish will all students that they are not allowed to change the subject
  • Correction/Consequence conversations do not happen until all other students are on task with an activity
  • Liability/Blame conversations do happen; the focus is for the student to complete with the initial instruction given.  Until he/she has obeyed the initial request, there is no other conversation.
  • Do not engage when students call out answers.  Remind the entire group that hands must be raised if you would like to speak; “We raise our hands when we want to speak”; great phrase to deploy when a student blurts out a comment, suggestion, joke or quasi-related content statement.

voiceThe ability developing and employ a multiple “registers” is a quality that teachers who exceed the standard posses. There is a plethora of wisdom in Strong Voice; and I love the irony of the techniques title.  Managing behavior in the classroom has very little to with should, or loud angry voices.  In fact, shouting at scholars in today’s world is unacceptable in my opinion.   I do admit to shouting when I get excited about the content I’m teaching; “Oh boy, irregular verbs int he Future Tense, I love this stuff!”. The chronology of the text does not exactly meet the standard in my opinion.  The nature of this 2.0 edition is slowly coming to light; I still believe that these culminating techniques, which are, quite simply the fundamentals of superior classroom management, should be forwarded to the introductory chapters of the book.  However, the ‘2.0’ of this text is shining it’s spotlight on how to develop more academic rigor and higher order activity in the classroom.   Without explicit, consistent behavioral expectations, the academia gets duller and duller.

The Skillful Tariff

TECHNIQUE #55:  Art of the Consequence

piratesdisney16.jpgWe’ve all, as teachers, hit the Rewind button again and again, trying to replicate in our minds how much better we might have handled a disruptive situation in our classrooms.  Oh, if only there were a Pause button in real life!   Art of the Consequence delves into the subtle variations of how educators might meter out correction and consequence.   The “Art” here in #55, is that we’re counseled to leave reprimand & “punishment” out of the alternatives and seriously asked to consider Correction vs. Consequence.  Do we skillfully ask students to readjust their behavior or is pertinent to apply a tax to the disruption.  The mindful educator should minimize the minutes that consume active learning; artfully being able to forge ahead and maintaining composure with enthusiasm is the goal of the following behavior management suggestions.

Art of the Consequence: “Ensure that consequences, when needed, are more effective by making them quick, incremental, consistent, and depersonalized.  It also helps to make a bounce-back statement, showing students that they can quickly get back in the game.”, (p.406)¹.

plankPrinciples of the Effective Consequence:

  • Quick: Immediate association of the action (NOT the person) to the consequence.
  • Incremental:  Giving a smaller consequence in the moment.  Let students learn from mistakes at “manageable cost”.  First response:  Issue a disincentive.  “Save your nuclear bombs for nuclear moments”.¹
  • Consistent:  Use the same language and approach to sub-par behaviors.  Reduce the guess work for students about what issuing a consequence results in.  Consequences apply for any activity or location!  Playground, hallway, math lesson, reading time on the carpet; all restrictions/expectations apply!
  • Depersonalized:  Emotions distract students from reflecting on the behaviors.  Focus on privacy during redirection or metering out consequence; briefly highlight the action not the person.

There are several examples in the text¹ of reward/tax systems in place in observed bb65f7dec349d8d06783919d79655e4d.jpgclassrooms.  Traffic light: Green, Yellow, Red, “Scholar Dollars”, Three Strikes etc.  I’ve never implemented the “rewards tickets/dollars” scheme in my classroom and often wonder how cumbersome and time consuming this strategy can become.  I do admire the crisp, clipped, unemotional sample statements provided in this section.  Examples of simple narrated teacher reactions for consequences from Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹.:

  • “David, hands, check”
  • “Micheal, tracking, talking, two dollars”
  • “Susan, off task, Yellow”
  • “Gentlemen, go back to the door, enter the room again like scholars” avoiding (“Gentlemen, I will see you here after school for your ridiculous entrance”.)

Principles of Delivering a Consequence:

  • Limited verbiage!  Less is more.
  • Tag the BehaviorAccurately, briefly denote the behavior
  • Reinforce that all students are accountable.  It’s not personal. robin
  • Use a Bounce-Back Statement: convince students of the value moving forward, returning to the task at hand and reinforce the goal of productivity in the room.
  • Socialize students to persevere. “persist in the face of emotional duress”.
  • Maintain the Pace:  Do not respond to behavior by giving a lecture.  Describe, quickly, what all students should be doing.
  • Get Back on Track:  Immediately after delegating consequences, return to the current classroom task with warmth and enthusiasm.  If possible, fold the offending student into the task by asking him or her an encouraging question or asking them to play a roll in the learning task.  Model forgiveness when possible.  Here’s an ideal video clip, the teacher Bridget McElduff, reacts to an instance of “snickering”, laughing at another student’s reading and responds, quickly, privately, after deftly giving the entire class 4 questions to answers, and corrects and interacts with the offending student:

Again, I feel the text¹ offers some invaluable language and examples of do and don’t responses to critical behaviors.  Here is where the Pause and Recall function plays a very mindful place in the teacher’s repertoire of calm, consistent responses:

  • “Michael, we need you listening”, NOT “Michael, for the last time, why can’t you listen along with us?”
  • “Susan that two strikes, pencil moving, thank you”, NOT “You just earned two strikes because you made a bad choice to doodle on your desk instead of completing your worksheet”
  • Touching the student’s desk, “-Two dollars. Pick up your pencil, get back to writing like I know you can”.

choice16The final segment in Art of the Consequence sets up the dichotomy of Consequence Vs. Correction.  Does the behavior in question warrant a Tariff or is this a moment for quick realignment?  I found this to be very helpful.  Recently, as a substitute, I assigned a swift Consequence to two boys = Sent to the Office.  After two attempts to give the classroom instruction on the days assigned tasks, impeded by high volume socializing mostly coming from the two boys in question, I paused, looked several students calmly in the eye, and began again, “Today, you’ll start by reading this….”What, I can’t read!”, “Yeah, I can’t read either”, “But I can’t read!”, loudly shouted the boys, in jest.  I walked over the phone, called the office, sent them to the office.  Is this “passing the buck”, lazy teaching, or justifiable?  I’ll reference and work through this particular situation in the the Reflection and Practice task at the end of this chapter.

actions-and-outcomes.jpgThe Million Dollar Question:  Consequence or Correction?

  • Persistence and repetition.   Consequence YES:  if students that know they shouldn’t, persistently engage in off task behavior.  YES:  if students’ off task behavior has already been addressed with a correction.
  • Degree of disruption Consequence No: If students behavior is not disrupting others’ abilities to be on task.  YES: if off task behavior impedes classroom instruction.
  • Motivation:  Consequence YES: if student is testing your expectations.  Willful defiance that is tolerated corrodes your authority in the classroom.
  • And, nor or:  You can give a correction and a consequence.  Lead with the correction; demonstrate to all students that compliance with behavior X does not have to lead to a consequence and this is how it may be amended in advance.


Fancy Composure


TECHNIQUE #54:  Firm Calm Finesse

cover.jpg#54 Firm Calm Finesse: Take steps to get compliance without conflict by establishing an environment of purpose and respect and by maintaining your own poise.  All classrooms have a right to be managed in a classy, composed fashion.  Here are the finer points of teaching that ironically, just can’t be taught, but should be a staple of the champion teachers’ mantras.  Teachers should, “…act as if they couldn’t imagine a universe is which students wouldn’t follow through, and this, lo and behold, causes students to follow through.”, (p. 403)¹.  The following 15second video clip is a perfect example; the teacher, Laura, doesn’t say a word, rather looks directly at a student, as if saying “I’m sorry, you’re not really thinking of tracking those muddy boots into this house, I didn’t think so, thank you for taking them off…”, and SMILE.

Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ gives the teacher permission, in times of classroom management, to be the stuck-up hostess!  High social expectations and unrelenting resolve to to have high standards of normalized classroom activity.   Here are the seven recommended precepts for Firm Calm Finesse:


  • If you’ve become mad, you’ve waited too long to address a behavior
  • Don’t send a message that you’ll tolerate little disruptions; they won’t cure themselves.
  • Bold or disruptive behaviors, caught early, should feel like an adjustment not a fix




  • The students surrounding the off-task behavior have a right to learn
  • Correction of classroom behavior should lead to achievement and self-discipline, NOT reinforcement of your power over students.
  • Keep corrections tight, crisp, and subtle; avoid fuss, your belabored emotions and excess verbiage.
  • Say: “We learn more when we are sitting like scholars” as opposed to “I need you to sit up straight and pay attention, I want to see you following my instructions”
  • It’s OK to remind students that your high expectations are about learning and the rights of all learners in the room, not about you the teacher.

In this video clip, the teacher says to a student volunteering an answer; “Sorry Precious, we’re waiting on four”.  Meaning, that he’d love to hear what the student is trying to say, but there are four other students who are off task and not listening.  Not “I need everyone’s attention” or “I’m waiting for Susan, Joey, Bill and Ted to stop what they are doing and comply”…



I use this form of politesse frequently in the classroom; at the on set of disruption, simply making firm eye contact with a student, smiling with a pause and saying “Thank you” communicates a multitude of behavioral adjustment suggestions.

  • “Thank You” reinforces expectations and normalizes compliance in the subtlest way possible
  • “It’s useful to signal that civility and thus society are fully intact in your classroom by modeling “please” and “thank you” constantly.


  • Remind students that expectations are universal NOT personal
  • “We need you with us” is much better than, “I need you with me”
  • Let students know that learning is a “team sport”.
  • Remind behaviors that are starting to fray that : The rest of the group is meeting the expectations.
  • Invoke your school mascot or school name:  “Everyone, like outstanding Wildcats!”, or “Thank you, like Lincoln Prep scholars!”  (I love this idea.)


  • Bright face = age appropriate teaching smile
  • A smile is a “self-fulfilling prophecy”
  • Have a confident default smile that says, “I like this work and the people in this classroom”
  • Avoid huge, fake beaming smiles




  • Demonstrate trust in your directed eye-contact.  “Showing trust is self-fulfilling”
  • Ask for modification, confirmation glance, then walk away, confirmation glance back for verification of follow through
  • “Sometimes a student needs just a bit of space to pull it together to decide if he or she wants to do the right thing.”,(p.405)¹.



  • Don’t suggest to students that you are emotionally distraught by their behavior
  • Return focus to the immediate task at hand!
  • Inserting emotion into behavioral redirection distracts students from reflecting on or adjusting their actions.

indexI’d like to consider here, providing Firm Calm Finesse professional training for para educators and other adults that are present in increasing numbers in classrooms.  Time and time again, I observe very even handed, calm teachers’ hard work to maintain and cultivate civilized classrooms only to have that stable working environment under cut by harsh reprobation, loud accusatory remarks and demoralizing accusations from para educators.  All to frequently, not only myself but the students! are distracted by whispering, texting para educators.   Where in lies the solution to calming the presence of the assisting adults in the classroom with finesse?  High behavioral expectations should be upheld by all persons in the the classroom;  what is the polite way to explain to another adult, you’re behaving badly too!?



The Art of Subtle Arbitration

TECHNIQUE #53:  Least Invasive Intervention

youLeast Invasive Intervention: “Maximize teacher time and minimize drama by using the subtlest and least invasive tactic possible to correct off-task students.   One of the very first gestures I learned in American Sign Language, and the most practical was, ‘Stop it, now.”.  Very effective, required no verbalization;  involved an economy of gesture and effort to communicate a very straight forward, and universal mandate.   Least Invasive Intervention is the stuff that “real” teacher training should be made of; The Meat and Potatoes of behavior management…and I’m finding the need for these types of strategies necessary to navigate my latest endeavors substitute teaching at the middle school level.   Off-task students make their behavior eminently public but should be addressed as privately as possible.  Classroom distractions become a form of theft, in that, the behavior robs students of precious learning time; the counter-productivity of behavior management embezzles hours of valuable content and morale in classrooms throughout the school year.  Behavioral champion teachers “…make the correction as invisibly as possible…while still teaching, and put a premium on privacy…therein lies the secret: if you can manage to correct non-invasively, you are likely to be able to set and reinforce expectations successfully and consistently.”,(p.396)¹.  Here are Six Interventions inspired by champion classroom managers:

NONVERBAL INTERVENTION:the-apprentice_karate-kid-2_5587

  • A hand gesture
  • Intentional modeling, un-narrated, of the corrective action

The challenge here is to seamlessly continue instruction while executing the nonverbal intervention.  If the teaching comes to a halt as you silently make these gestures, everyone becomes off-task, not just the student who is behaviorally off-track.  As close to the off-task student as possible, a raised palm (universal gesture for stop), two fingers up (poised over the desk or within student’s plain of vision) for pause.  If you are looking for a student to be engaged in writing, use the invisible pencil writing in the air gesture, make the L shape and place it up to the ear if the expectation is for students to listen, or laced fingers held at the chest if you are looking for a student to sit still, reset their physical movement.  My idea: What a great opportunity to actually introduce American Sign Language in the classroom!  Generate 4 or 5 hand signs/phrases for students to practice and understand as a classroom.


batmn.jpgIn an effort to keep your “non-compliers off the public stage”, address the aberrant by addressing the entire classroom.  With short, precise economy of language in this non evasive approach, you are not calling a specific student, but the off-taskness is collectively addressed.  You might add a slight non-verbal nod to the student in question.  These are some suggested one-liners:

  • “I need to see everyone writing”
  • “Check your SLANT” (see technique #47)
  • “Everyone’s books, p.72”



Anonymity still in place, with a twist.  Provide a solution and specificity.  How to NOT be off-task and how many people are not in compliance, with out using names.  Although you are addressing the group, quick, eye-contact with the perpetrator/s is recommended; thisugly is kind of like “good cop” behavior in my opinion.  Letting the student know their are off-track, but allowing them the concession of anonymity and the chance to join in the positive group behavior without being called out.

  • “Track me please.  I need two more sets of eyes”
  • “Everybody writes.  Three pencils not in motion”
  • “Books open, thank you.  The left side of the room needs to find p.55”


This tactic is best put into motion when the class as a whole is involved in individual work; problem solving, writing, reading etc.  Without calling out a student’s name, address the duncecapbehavior in a very quiet conference at a the student’s desk; here are the finer points:

  • Crouch down, eye level with seated student
  • Voice dropped
  • Demonstrate that you are not making anything public, neither should they
  • Tell them what they should be doing, describe the solution, not the aberration.
  • Refrain from imperative power statements, “When I ask you to sit up, I expect you to listen”
  • “Robert, now please, show me your best”
  • “Sally, we need you with us so we can learn”
  • “This is important for you to learn, Joe”
  • “Thank you for coming in during recess; at that time, we’ll learn how to do this well”



This move is genius!  This tactic, using the same physical approach, crouch down, eye levelpraise with a seated student, dropped voice, only WHAM, this time you lean in with a compliment!!   This is something that I have always wanted to make sure that I implement on a regular basis, but always falls off my radar.  This would be an extremely valuable behavior management strategy for any educator to implement on a regular basis.   “If students come to expect that a private intervention could be either positive or corrective, they will be more open to you as you approach them.  You also earn trust for your criticism by balancing it with praise.  Most of all you build a defense against the sort of eavesdropping that students do when they are curious about or take delight in the misfortune of others.  “, (p. 401)¹.


Many times the need to move to an “invasive” correction, lesson halts, behavior distractions_webaddressed, is necessary.  Making corrections, with a name attached, should be done as quickly as possible.  The key is economy of language and reference to the normalcy of compliance.  Limiting the amount of time a particular sabotuer has on stage is critical and should be a reflective statement as well on the positive actions of the majority.  Here is some sample Lightening Quick Phraseology:

  • “Quentin, I need your pencil moving, just like those sharp looking scholars in the back row”
  • “Looking good front row, Maria thank you for writing too”
  • “John, I need to see you actively reading, just like Michelle, and John, and thank you too, Melissa”
  • “Excellent problem solving on #’s 4 & 5, Sarah’s getting there now, too”.


As a concluding gesture for Least Invasive Intervention; I do like the fact that Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ points out that while there are increasing levels of non-invasive correction, complex classrooms require complex navigation of behavior management Power-Struggle-Art.pngstrategies.  One may not always be able to start out with the lowest level of non-invasive reproach; situations may require immediate remediation of specific individuals, period.  The most important misconception that Lemov points out is that “… ignoring misbehavior is the most invasive form of intervention, because the behavior becomes more likely to persist and expand.”,(p.402)¹.  This must be a teaching urban legend, because I have worked with many veteran teachers who insist that it’s best just to ignore the problem, it will usually go away…interesting.