Apparent Acquiescence

TECHNIQUE # 52:  Make Compliance Visible

norman_rockwell_school_teacher_classroomExpecting students to comply with requests, immediately and in a visible way upholds the teachers standards of behavioral expectations.  Instead of narrating to students, “Ok, in 3 seconds we’re going to stop writing and discuss what you’ve written”; delineate the physical tasks you expect them to demonstrate; “In 4, 3, 2, 1, everyone, pencils down, eyes on me”.  Give clear, strong physical direction to students, use Radar and Be Seen Looking, ascertain that you have 100% compliance, (that’s right, TLAC® demands nothing less than 100%!).   Now, give instruction for the next task to 100% of the students.  Here’s a great short clip that demonstrates the potential effectiveness of Make Compliance Visible:


The “Visible Reset“, demonstrated in this video, brings student attention, intentionally and fully back to the teacher.  It’s recommended to do this, on average, three times during a lesson.  Here are the basic guidelines:wholebodylisteningtpt

  • Give an observable direction
  • Use Radar #51
  • Stand in Perch (corner of the classroom while scanning)/Be Seen Looking #51
  • Narrate/Praise the follow through of at least two students who’ve done, right away and successfully, what the teacher has asked.  Fix or improve at least one student if compliance is even slightly questionable.  This sets expectations higher, engendering more masterful behavioral management. 

Assigning commendations to students who comply right away is genius teacher advice.  Everyone wants praise; ideally, everyone wants to be a part of the group.   Increasing the amount and type of accountability implicitly makes the ones who would test the boundaries of compliance or the non-conformers more likely to comply.  Make Compliance Visible helps increases the normalcy of following explicit directions in the classroom.  The more visible and specific  you can make the act of compliance the better; cartoon kids in classhere are examples from the text, (p.394)¹.:

  • “Pencils in the tray”, instead of, “Pencils down”
  • “Books open in front of you”, instead of, “Books out”
  • “I want to see pencils moving”, instead of, “You should be writing”

I like the permission to not be hesitant in keep behavioral standards high. “If you don’t enforce marginal compliance, you risk undercutting the veracity of your expectations more broadly.”¹.  Here’s one final video; interesting to watch, in that it features two Uncommon Schools teachers are practicing potential Make Compliance Visible situations…




Eyes on the Prize

TECHNIQUE # 51:  Radar/Be Seen Looking

operatattlerMoving into the final chapters of Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹, there is a shift into the “nitty-gritty” of what needs to happen in classrooms; behavior management, otherwise all the aspirations of high academic rigor and productively cannot exist.  Chapter 11: High Behavioral Expectations, describes the physical signals, spaces, routines and posturing, that teachers can put into place, in order to let the High Academic Expectations (Chp.3), thrive.  My question, (and again its an editorial query), is why are the “essential” techniques, placed at the end of the text, entering the race in 51st place?   “…none of those moments of academic rigor happen without a foundation of high behavioral expectations…Students rely on teachers to to create such environments if they are to aspire to academic greatness.”,(p.384)¹.   I’ll address this at the conclusion of the chapter.   In the interim, here is a Uncommon Schools video clip of Patrick Pastore performing the art of technique #51:

#51: Radar/Been Seen Looking:  ‘Prevent nonproductive behavior by developing your ability to see it when it happens and by subtly reminding students that you are looking.’  Not only might #51 require you to “dust off some dance moves”, but students in the various video clips I’ve observed, seem to have fun participating and being behaviorally accountable.

Radar dictates that the teacher should establish a habit of deliberately scanning the room, often in an exaggerated manner; “…disciplining themselves to look as a matter of habit.”¹.  This would have been a ideal place to insert the “mini chapter/technique”, ‘Drawglassesopt the Map: Floors’ (see The Missing Link? page in the blog side bar menu).  TLAC classrooms, as a rule, align student desks in rows.  This topic could become another entire blog… Assuming that students desks are in rows, there are two Radar positions.  ‘Swivel‘ and ‘Perch‘.

‘Swivel’ places the teacher in the center of the front of the room, and slowly, in a 150° arch, left to right, right to left, standing still,survey the entire sweep of the classroom.

‘Perch’ places the teacher in the far L or R corner, at the front of the room.  The gives the teacher even more radar power as the sweeping search (head and eyes) is only an 80° arch. Moving off to the side gives the teacher a better, different perspective; more defense against blind spots.

Here’s another Uncommon Schools video clip, which includes the ‘Perch’ and a lot of being seen and tracking:


Be Seen Looking is “the yin to Radar‘s yang”.  In addition to disciplining to observe students well, you want to “…contrive ways to subtly remind students that you see.”¹  This is radar with intentionality, and occasionally, inviting the students to join in the tracking and/or demonstrate their attentions and ability to follow direction.  Certainly, this can be done with nonchalance and, unnarrated.  However, where’s the fun in that!  Over time, Lemov has accumulated other, “…subtle iterations that cleverly communicate awareness of keen observation back to students.”¹.  I imagine, if pulled off correctly, they might be Solid Gold.

dancmvs.jpgBe Seen Looking Dance Moves: 

  • Invisible Column:  Move your head exaggeratedly to the side (as if looking around a column) to observe that students are doing what was asked of them.
  • The Tiptoes:  Stand for a moment on your tip toes; looking at some imaginary hard to see spot.
  • The Sprinkler:  Start the ‘Swivel’ with head and neck, but before a full rotation, snap your head back a few degrees, as if “I thought I just saw something there, ah, no”, continue with Swivel.  You can snap back as many times as you like, like a sprinkler.
  • The Disco Finger: Teacher traces the track of their gaze with finger outstretched, pointer style.  This makes the Swivel more obvious; students become more aware you are watching.
  • The Politician:  Teacher channels aspiring political candiadate; pointing to all the familiar and important people in the crowd before speaking; silently, “ah, yes you over there, and I know you back there”.  You can throw in a winning smile.
  • The QB:  Teacher takes an NFL quarter back stance, crouching quickly in the center, gazes quickly out at the “defense”.  The students know the play is coming; teachers make sure they see the playing field.

Not as embarrassing as they sound; here’s a video clip of some teacher’s trying out Be Seen Looking Dance Moves:

Good, Better, Best

TECHNIQUE #50:  Do It Again

‘Practice makes perfect’, although not referring here to content or academic rigor; #50 Do diaowlIt Again relates to classroom routines, systems and procedures.  Chapter 10 Systems and Routines¹ Reflection & Practice questions asks the teacher to itemize and establish the most important classroom routines; which procedures would you add to the list, which might you consider systematizing?  My essential question is, just how many routines can you systematize good, I mean better, actually best?!  Here are my picks from the WHAT TEACHERS SYSTEMATIZE list from the Useful Tools Chp. 10, Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹.  :

  • Enter/Exit Classroom
  • Moving materials (paper shuffling)
  • Asking Questions
  • Answering Quesitons
  • Note taking
  • Turn and Talk
  • Reading interactively/Shared reading
  • Enter/Exit classroom
  • Independent work


Do It Again requires that students practice the systematized routines, as many times as is necessary, until the procedure can be executed automatically, quickly, successfully to the highest standard.  How successfully and efficiently can your students enter a classroom, lineup1pass out worksheets, responsibly participate in a paired discussion?  “…as a simple and low-impact “consequence” for nonproductive behavior, as a tool for inculcating a culture of “always better”…”,(p.373)¹.  There were some salient points and some rather obvious helpful hints.  What is clearly important is that there has to be some dedication and commitment from the teacher herself/himself in order for the systematization of routines to become a reality.  A serious commitment; a lot of this speaks to the beginning of the school year.  Here is an amazing video clip from Uncommon Schools teacher Sarah Ott demonstrating Do It Again:

Building procedures and routines involves a lot of behavioral science; the need to Do It Again, and again, initially is can be effective good, better, best street sign illustration design over a white backgroundwith he following precepts in place:

  • Shorten the Loop:  As soon as you’re aware that the level of execution is not up to a high standard, don’t wait for the routine to end; reset immediately.
  • Set a standard of excellence not just compliance.
  • No administrative follow up:  Attend to routines regularly, practice; correcting the “behavior” immediately, ‘in house’ requires no data entry, calls parents or administrators; set the record and the expectations straight, collectively.
  • Promote group culture and accountability:  Hold the group responsible in a non-punitive way; if one or two people are talking in an otherwise silent line entering a room; simply ask the whole group to try it again.  Peer pressure works wonders.
  • End with success:  A great reason for Do It Again if it doesn’t meet high standards.  If the last thing students do in a sequence of activities is done well it helps to ingrain the perception and memory of what right looks like.

This is a concise, no-nonsense video; it showcases an approach to systematizing procedure in the classroom from the Teaching Channel.

apple.jpgThe online discussion that follows below the video is a very dynamic virtual dialogue on systematizing procedure and teachers’ reactions to its successes and challenges in the classroom.  I’m working toward understanding the level of commitment and investment that standardized routines require.  Yes, implementing routines effectively at the beginning of the school year is very important, but every teacher already, and instintually does a lot of soul searching about the tone they want to set on the First Day of school…. I like that Chapter 10 gives permission to begin again or hit the reset button at any point in the school year to implement new initiatives.  Consistently, Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ offers some practical ready to use and memorize prompts to promote the techniques; here are some great one-liners for Do It Again:

  • “I still think we can do this better.  Let’s give it one more shot!” (add a stop watch to the drill)
  • Oooh, Let’s line up again and prove why we’re the best reading group in the school.”
  • “That was good, but we want great!”
  • “In this class, we’re going to strive to do everything world class; let’s see if we can use more expression when we read”

Established routines in a classroom truly are thing of beauty and save hours of wasted narrated instruction.  Most importantly, I feel that young people need routine and guidelines in order to function well academically and behaviorally in classrooms and in real life.   RES_D



Efficient Ventures

TECHNIQUES #48 & #49:  Engineer Efficiency & Strategic Investment

circus juggle16In 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 habitsold-school-teacher-large_030511092537-1 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:

  • Simplicity
  • 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.

index.jpgIdentify 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.

  1. Simplicity: Handing out worksheets:  Establish a routine where students completegirlwithpapers 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Planned to the Detail:  In your planner, lesson book, the texts you are using, post index(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.
  5. Planned to the DetailPlant 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.

  • inlineNumber 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” toil_fullxfull.492751686_gcht 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:

  • better_late_than_never_card-r93b20583345d4c7db3647641fcb9705d_xvuak_8byvr_324*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 theindex 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.

Sit Like a Champion


sitcolorTECHNIQUE # 47:  SLANT,  or in some classrooms known as (STAR), is an acronym that holds students accountable for their posture, listening, speaking, and eye contact skills.  The premise is that students should be consistently reminded of their physical behaviors in the classroom, in doing so, the teacher is helping them to “concentrate, focus, and learn…Teach students key baseline behaviors for learning, such as sitting up in class and tracking the speaker, by using a memorable acronym…”,(p.360)¹.   In almost every Uncommon Schools/TLAC® video footage I’ve viewed, the acronym SLANT  is posted, in a very visible place at the front of classrooms.  It is, one of the ‘hallmark’ techniques from the Teach Like a Champion¹  school of thought. Here is a classroom poster version of SLANT:



Basically, these are simple physical reminders of appropriate personal and group accountability.  Teachers are encouraged to introduce SLANT at the beginning of the school year or new term;  more importantly, to refer students, on a daily basis, to the practice of SLANT consistently, in order to maximize students’ abilities to pay attention and actively learn and participate.

Here’s a great video montage of how the SLANT acronym is put in place:


sitpostureAccording to the Professional Learning Board, LLC, in a series of blog posts and discussion forums, ‘What is SLANT Strategy and How does it Improve Student Achievement?’; it does so by “…creating a behavior incorporating the conscious use of positive body language.”.  Additionally, it establishes preventative measures against slouching, fidgeting (?!), doodling, etc.  (

Obviously, the students in the video clip above are acculturated to the SLANT acronym and all that it represents in their classroom. SLANT originated in KIPP schools.  STAR (the new 2.0 TLAC® version), hasn’t quite caught on yet.  STAR :  Sit up, Track the Speaker, Ask and answer questions like scholar, Respect those around you.  Apparently, the ‘N‘ for Nod your head in SLANT was Not necessary, and there is always a need to emphasize Respect in the classroom; Aretha Franklin would agree.  The cues and gestures that the teachers demonstrate in the video clip above are professional and effective.   In addition to having a SLANT visual aid present in the classroom, here are some suggested statements to remind students of the expected behaviors:

  • “Move into SLANT”
  • “Show me SLANT”
  • “Check your SLANT”

The acronym is terribly popular in behavior management strategies in classrooms sitb&weverywhere, not just in Uncommon Schools.   I’d never heard of the KIPP Schools, where this behavioral strategy originated, AND fell into a mine field of online research vis a vis KIPP school philosophy.  The criticism concerning the KIPP school philosophy, not necessarily directly related to SLANT is that students are exposed to extremely long school days, the memorization of empowerment/learning slogans; that this methodology,”physiologically sterilizes and behaviorally programs the children of the urban defectives”.  ‘Why Students call KIPP the Kids In Prison Program‘, Schools Matter, Friday, 3/23/2012, Web,

sitstriatnheartThe criticism of charter, independent schools in urban districts runs the gamut of pedagogical scrutiny.  TLAC® techniques are often disparaged and denounced as being to regimental, un-caring or un-feeling, “teaching to the test”, “no-excuses”; it goes on and on.  Certainly there has been a definite movement away from parochial or let’s say, military school methodology over the past four decades; but I do believe that a second look at or a return to direct instruction and high behavioral expectations in the classroom is a positive foot forward in education.  I believe the demographic that few are willing to point out in New England concerning these criticisms is the difference between urban and rural schools.  In moderately rural settings, I’ve worked in a wide variety of public, private and independent institutions, I find that the behavior of students in today’s public classrooms, (at times), to be completely inappropriate, unacceptable, and am grateful to have the resources and training to work in these situations.   TLAC® strategies have been extremely assistive, productive and effective.  That’s my SLANT on this issue. End personal rant;  now I’ll sit up straight, track you, nod and listen attentively.



The Gatekeeper

TECHNIQUE #45:  Threshold

This post shouldn’t take long; neither should this technique when executed properly.  I’vehadart16.jpg found a variety of video clips that differ in execution.  Threshold is the introductory strategy in Chapter 10 Systems and Routines; it is introductory in and of itself.  Systems and Routines require consistency and practice.  Establish the habit; Threshold is easy enough to implement at any point in the school year, although a lot of TLAC® techniques are best begun as practices at the beginning of the school year.  ‘Threshold : Meet your students at the door, setting expectations before they enter the classroom.  Recently, I’ve observed several middle school teachers putting this technique into practice and have done this myself, only as a means to give students a door quiz.

handstatue16The Benefits:

  • A means to begin investing heavily in systematic approaches to discipline
  • Establish a personal connection with students via a brief interpersonal check-in
  • Reinforce expectations as to how students should comport themselves before they enter the classroom.
  • Model professional civility
  • “Leverage the power of ritual to help students see, from the moment they enter your classroom, that it is different from the other places they go. 

Here is a very strong, formal Threshold video clip.  The teacher makes very direct, intentional eye contact with students, collects homework, explains the Do Now that is waiting for them in the classroom and alerts them to their assigned seat.  Very professional demeanor; low on the caring and sharing side of things.  All business; for the secondary level, I like this.


Hand shaking is one recommendation, if your hands aren’t full of papers to hand out or handplaymbl.jpgcollect, as mine frequently are.   Posture, comportment and eye contact are stressed throughout this section.  Reminding students to have a “firm handshake”, encourages self esteem and professionalism.  You can also build in some interspersed personal comments, “nice hair” or “thanks for tucking in your shirt”.  Here is a video clip of a very informal use of Threshold; I feel like the number of students in this classroom is alarming; as well, I’m not sure how to interpret the fist and elbow bumping.   The momentum is there however, the teacher greeting students at the door is always a symbol of formality.



  • Set the tone, “warm but industrious”
  • If a students, tone, appearance or actions are not up to code, quietly direct them to the end of the line, try again.
  • Threshold should not take away too many instruction minutes; ideally, have a Do Now waiting for students as they enter the classroom
  • Teacher should have a view to the students entering and also to the students that are in the classroom.
  • “Make it a habit of getting it right at the start of each day.“, (p.353)¹.

Here’s one final video clip; it demonstrates an entry routine that includes Threshold and a Do Now, and Every Minute Matters (timed activity).  You’ll notice the teacher does send a student to the back of the line, you’ll also notice that some of the students are hamming it up for the camera; whether or not the teacher notices this or not is hard to tell.  Very little down time is evident; this seems to be a very productive start to the class albeit formal.


Minus the qualifier “Manly”; the general idea is the goal.  If feel that it is in the students best interest to learn to give quick, professional handshakes and I love the idea of setting a formal, respectful examples for young people as they enter your classroom.  TECHNIQUE #46: Strong Start, which follows is simply a reiteration of Threshold and Do Now, and a few other techniques that have already been described in detail.  The key is ensure that class work starts immediately and effectively.  Editorially speaking, #46 Strong Start seems incredibly redundant and self-explanatory.   Although it’s placement in the text, conceptually makes sense, there is no new material or strategies presented.


Two Heads Are Better Than One

TECHNIQUE # 43:  Turn and Talk

tatjcc1666.jpgThis is a tried and true, “old school” Teach Like a Champion® technique.  It is what it proclaims and implemented effectively, promotes great discussion and writing activity in the classroom.  ‘Turn and Talk: ‘Encourage students to better formulate their thoughts by including short, contained pair discussions.’¹.  Used consistently, the task is a great kinesthetic change from traditional, direct instruction and it’s purpose is generative.  Well designed pairings and careful “un-packing” can generate great discussions and writing prompts.  The pitfalls of asking a group to discuss a given topic with a neighbor common:  “They could be talking about anything. They could be silly; they could be off task.  One student could do all the talking while the other doesn’t talk at all…Other times, the information and ideas that pass between students are wrong-misinformation that doesn’t go corrected…or [discussions] steadily peter out.”,(p.324)¹.  Here’s a solid video clip from the Teacher Toolkit, featuring public school Science teacher, Michael Sandu, (YES!  TLAC® strategies are not just for use in private/charter schools) that shows the efficacy with which Turn and Talk can be used in the classroom:

Turn and Talk Efficiency Tips:

  • Setting Pairs:  I’m always thrilled to hear other educators recommend the seatingttchild chart or assigned seats.  Natural selection seating (students picking their own seating) is NOT a responsibility that they can objectively handle.  Choosing your own seat at a basketball game, in the cafeteria, or the movie theater; this is the appropriate time to let personal choice for young folks enter, sometimes.   Prearranged partners should be unmistakable, sitting side by side so conversations can begin with out shuffling chairs, moving around the room or discussion.  At the very least, partners remain partners throughout the class period; ideally, maintaining consistent pairs through out a unit or grading period.


  • The In-Cue:  Here is yet another instance for the need to Brighten Lines #28, as you transition to this activity.  The discussion prompt should be stated with enthusiasm, tt1puzzlement,suspense, etc.  Teachers should make students aware of the stopwatch/timer and state:  “Ok, now Turn and Talk.  Go!”.  Marking the beginning of this task with “GO!” always adds import and expectation.   To ensure that both students are engaged, at the midway point, insert and “OK, Switch” to signal the pair that whomever started speaking is now going to the listener.  Some teachers use a clapping or snapping cue to manage the switch.   Students should perceive the Turn and Talk to be relevant, rigorous not just obligatory.


  • The Out-Cue:  Again the omnipotence of the stopwatch!  Ending a Turn and Talk withimages as much efficiency as it began is critical as well.  The end of a Turn and Talk should be signaled with a timer, you may insert a very short verbal countdown and immediately delve into unpacking the paired sessions.  “…Your use of specific [time] increments shows that your time allocation is careful, specific, and intentional.  It tells students that time and its careful use matter to you, and should matter to them.”,(p.329)¹.  I don’t care for the contradictory section ‘Crest of the Wave’ that the editors poorly decided to insert.  This “relevatory” piece of evidence encourages the teacher to instinctively time your Out-Cue “so that the Turn and Talk “…ends at the crest of interest and energy, not as it peters out.”¹.  Replete with a curved line graph and image of a tsunami-like cresting wave.  What is the point of the timer!?  Should the teacher renegotiate when the stopwatch goes of when he or she gets the feeling that the conversation is waning?!  I’m confused.  I will most certainly stick with the stopwatch and appear consistent toward the parameters I’ve given the class to Turn and Talk.


Engagement and Accountability:  In order to establish engagement between partners, there are a few helpful tasks that can be prescribed during and after the Talk and Turn. “…think about Turn and Talk as a prelude, a catalyst to some other activity.”,(p.333).¹

  • Notify students that they will be accountable for summarizing their partner’s key dissss16.pngtalking points.  You can designate whether this will be verbal report out or if students are able to jot down some notes while listening.
  • Students sit “Knee to Knee“; perpendicular to their partners knees, facing each other; as opposed to a half twist, slightly facing forward.
  • Cold Call #33 students after paired discussion to summarize in one sentence what their partner communicated.
  • Assign an Art of the Sentence #38 task immediately after paired discussion.  Students must synthesize in one written statement the overall idea or opinion that their partner expressed.
  • To reduce the “spread of low-quality ideas – or erroneous ones”, initiate a charting and comparison of ideas that were generated.
  • Whole class analysis or discussion.  “Let’s test a few of our ideas to see if they were accurate” or “Let’s put a couple of these on the board and list the evidence that seems to support or does not support our ideas.”
  • Whole class note taking.  This can be used in tandem with Standardize the Format #3, once statements are universally accepted as true or meaningful, everyone writes down these synthesized ideas in the allotted place.
  • Assign synthesized discussion ideas as a Build Stamina #40 task.  Allow individuals 5-8 minutes of non-stop writing about the ideas discussed in pairs.

I like concept of Turn and Talk; it would be an ideal addition into the rotation of in class1952craw_216 activities in any World Languages classroom; like wise in any content area.   I would most like use smaller chunks of time if student were attempting to discuss in the target language or new material.  Peer to peer communication, truly needs to be regulated and have tons of structure in order for it to be done responsibly and not digress.  The one major, critical piece of methodology advice best gleaned from here is assigned seating, assigned seating, and again, assigned seating.  But here, I digress.


Habitually Socratic

TECHNIQUE #42: Habits of Discussion

discuss16Habits of Discussion #42 Essentially, is a means to standardize discussion activities in the classroom by “…normalizing a set of ground rules or “habits” that allow discussion to be more efficiently cohesive and connected.”¹.

Chapter 9, ‘Building Ratio Through Discussion‘, delves into the participation ratio of lesson activities.  I love the fact that coincidentally, I just watched the film ‘The Paper Chase‘, (1973), staring John Houseman, as the quintessential Harvard Law professor hammering his students, not with lectures, instead mercilessly leading his classroom with the Socratic Method.  In a less strict and pedantic mode, Teach Like a Champion® methodology, regarding discussion, replicates the structure and expectations of a Socratic pedagogy.  Moving away from disconnected verbal interactions, rather, “…developing and expanding ideas through a series of connected comments…sometimes requires keeping a discussion “inside the box”…participants who make discussions effective will often tacitly reference preceding ideas in their own comments, offering a bit of implicit context for them.”,(p.319,321)¹.

Well, not this regimental and punishing….Habits of Discussion requires that students learn to regularly validate and build off of the preceding statements made by classmates, using the names of and making eye contact with classmates, speaking loudly enough to be heard well, and framing comments articulately.  Students benefit from establish the following Habits of Discussion:

  • Discussion fundamentals: voice, tracking, names
  • Follow-on, and follow-on prompting
  • Sentence starters
  • Managing the meta


Discussion Fundamentals: Voice, Tracking, Names

speakThe simple and yes, fundamental, skill of speaking loudly, I feel, is an essential skill that all students should be encouraged to develop.  Time and time again, in the video clips available to view through the Teach Like a Champion® website, teachers consistently and unemotionally ask students to “speak up”; of import, they do NOT say “speak up”.  Simply by stating “Voice” or “So we can hear you”; the practice is unapologetic and in my opinion a critical life skill.

seeThrough the consistent use of Habits of Discussion, students are redirected to look at the student they are responding or reacting to; again, in the sample video clips, the teacher consistently say, “Tracking” and or use the hand signal of using the fore finger and the second finger to point to the eyes and out toward the person to whom the speaker should make eye contact.

Encourage students, not only to pick up on the trailhello16 of the student that spoke before them, but also to use their name.  I like this; is gives discussion more eloquence, it’s very Socratic, and it disciplines the students to “lock in” on the people they should be listening to and acknowledging.  “…an often overlooked detail that improves discussions is the practice of of expecting (and reminding) students to use one another’s names.  Subtle interruptions, steering students toward this habit, “Great; turn to Michael” or “OK, turn to Susan and repeat”. 

Follow-on, and Follow-on Prompting

 images.jpg Follow-on prompting is a means to train students in discussions to listen and pick up on the previous speakers statements.  Habits of Discussion asks the teacher to use simple phrases before calling on the next student, such as: “Develop“, “Evidence, please” “Add on, Michelle” or even “Follow-on” are effective and, after a while, about as directive as you need to be; the goal is to eventually move toward an discussion un-narrated by the teacher.  Promotion of peer-to-peer listening is a key component when the expectation is that the students respond and build upon each others comments.  This critical habit, “”Always listening”…teachers promote to help build a culture of peer listening and discussion. “,(p.319).

Sentence Starters

Encourage students to begin their reflections in a discussion, agreeing or disagreeing with pean16the previous speaker by framing or linking their comment with the following Habits of Discussion example sentence starters:

  • “I understand why you say that, Julia, but…”
  • “I was thinking so something similar, Mike…”
  • “There was another example of that Susan…”
  • “I want to add to what you just said John…”
  • “That makes sense Lily, however…”

These opening phrases lets the students’ classmates know that the speaker was listening, validates previous comments and establishes a “linked” discussion, creates flow.  The text¹ suggests that teachers post these example discussion sentence starters on the wall or board at the beginning of planned discussion activities.

Managing the Meta

group16Habits of Discussion is really designed to emulate the principals of Socratic discussion. “…developing and expanding ideas through a series of connected comments…sometimes requires keeping a discussion “inside the box”….We tend to valorize “thinking outside the box”: it smacks of creativity, cognitive leaps, and the raw stuff of insight.  In classroom discussion, however, keeping it inside the box-staying focused on a specific topic; maintaining steady, deep reflection on one idea-is often more valuable.”,(p.321).  The teachers goal is to frame the expectations of the discussion and set brief, strong parameters within which the students elaborate.

wisegrasshopper216It is interesting to note that of all the “Ratio” chapters: Building Ratio Through Questioning, Building Ratio Through Writing, and now, Building Ratio Through Discussion, Doug Lemov communicates that ‘Questioning’ and ‘Writing’ are far more important and should take prevalence over discussion activities in the classroom.  “Minutes in a classroom are finite, and there is always opportunity cost to any activity…the power is in the equilibrium between writing, questioning, and discussion rather than in the choice of one.  But, if I had to choose just one, I would choose writing. Hammering an idea into precise words and syntax…”, (p.314)¹.  One might argue that in a Modern Language classroom, the need for discussion, actual use of the target language is perhaps the predominant skill to develop; shifting the focus from writing to conversation.  However, post-secondary oriented training and goals, more often than not, lead to the college bound student to aim more toward perfecting writing skills.



A Strong Front

TECHNIQUES #40 & 41:  Build Stamina & Front the Writing

mind166Two great writing strategies that could almost be integrated as one.  As I’ve stated in previous posts, writing in the World Language classroom, sustained, complex writing, is typically, not high on the hierarchy of skills executed during class.  The level and quantity of writing that students are capable of producing, say in a Spanish I or II class differs dramatically from what the same students are capable of writing in their English, Social Studies or Science classes.  The same argument might be put forth for Math classrooms; the instances of sustained writing tasks decreases, simply because of the content area.

Build Stamina, #40 asks the teacher to: ‘Gradually increase writing time to develop in your students the habit of writing productively, and the ability to do it for sustained periods of time.’,(p299)¹.    The sustained writing, productively, should fill the space of approximately 6-8minutes; “intentionally and diligently, all the way through to the end”.   These independent writing blocks are not intended as tasks that will be formally evaluated; the purpose is to consistently provide time, in class, that is dedicated to thoughtful, rigorous writing.  Essentially, build mini-writing workshops frequently into your lesson plans.  However, it’s not a flowery, open imagery, progressive-y type of ‘Writers Workshop’.  This is pencils raised, timer set, and a well emphasized “Go!” from the teacher to begin.

what (259x624)In Advance:  In order to avoid large spaces of unproductive writing time, teachers can do the following to Build Stamina:

  • Offer students a wide variety of prompts; perhaps a central, key theme phrases in several different ways.  Or, a choice of topics, based on one particular piece of reading or lesson theme.
  • Add a layer of accountability.  Let the students know before they being writing that you look forward to reading their work later.  Or, notify them of a Show Call; student work on display usually drives them to be more rigorous and thoughtful in their work.
  • Ask students to recall what they should do if they get stuck.  This lets students know that they are expected to be writing from the word go until the timer beeps.


  • Here are some tactics that students should become familiar with and be able to recall hourglassfor the teacher prior to a Build Stamina mini writing workshop; it might be helpful to have a poster or image with these tools for sustained writing around for this pre-game writing prep talk:
  • Prime the Pump: “Ok, lightening-quick brain storm.  Let’s hear 3 things you might write about. “Go!”
  • Show images related to the topic.  Provide a silent visual brain storm. “GO!”
  • Reword the previous statement using Appositive word choices, Describe what it is NOT.”Go!”
  • Find a new voice.  Reword your idea as your grandmother might phrase it, as a person from a foreign country might view the idea. “Go!”
  • Think of a noun that represents your topic; define that noun. “Go!”


The following tactics are woven into Build Stamina over the course of the school year and with every attempt to ask students to write in class.

Practice Success Essentially, asking for eight non-stop minutes of sustained writing hasvictoriwrtier to become a reality gradually.  Using Art of the Sentence #38 to begin the school year can eventually evolve into Build Stamina over the course of time.  Start out with smaller chunks of time initially.  3minutes, becomes 4mins, etc.  Lemov prescribes: “I might encourage a teacher I was working with to use an Art of the Sentence prompt in just about every lesson and a stamina-based prompt every couple of days.”,(p.302)¹.

stock-photo-fixing-education-and-school-crisis-concept-as-an-image-of-a-vintage-student-desk-being-erased-by-a-129862631Pencils Moving/Outlawing Erasers:  This one is great; No Erasing Allowed!  This raised my eyebrows at first. (My personal nemesis is pencil sharpening).   However, the argument against erasers is compelling.  Here’s the reality: “Erasing is easier than writing: it doesn’t require students to create or develop any ideas…students can exactingly, laboriously, tediously erase every last bit of graphite from their page…a college of mine calls it “slow play”…Add a word. Nope, erase, Add again.  Look inquisitive.  Nope, erase. Time’s up!”.   Consistently, reinforce, with consistent language: “I need to see all pencils moving” or “All pencils moving”.

Valorize Student Writing:  Using precise praise, reading student work aloud with specially emphasis and tone (Show Call) or asking students to read their work aloud as a reward.  Ascribing value to written student work is an importance piece toward polishing up the outward appearance & less aesthetic characteristics of Build Stamina.

stars (2)Build Stamina is clearly a means toward success in standardized timed writing assessments, such as the SAT.  Again, the subtitle of our text¹ here is:  ’62 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College’.  “As students advance in their educational careers, they will increasingly find themselves in situations where they must makes sense of a text…It is certainly how they will write papers in college…[is]what they’ll have to do on the SAT to get to college at all.”(p.305)¹.

Here is a video clip ‘Writing to Learn‘ from the Teaching Channel.  Teachers from this consortium of public & private schools base some of their professional development and teaching strategies from Teach Like A Champion 2.0¹ techniques.  ‘Writing to Learn‘ is a good off shoot of Build Stamina, has a little more heart and soul, geared more toward thoughtful writing as opposed to the timed, non-stop quality of the TLAC technique.  The difference here is that the teacher, Andrea Culver and her colleagues refer to it as ‘Low Stakes Writing’.

Front the Writing #41 :is a simple technique, yet, if put into place might be very effective.  As it reads, Front the Writing states:  ‘Arrange lessons so that writing comes earlier in the process to ensure that students think rigorously in writing'(p.303)¹.  As I interpret it, Front the Writing is a restructuring of the traditional lesson plan (where/when do writing tasks happen in the class) and as a means to prevent Copy Cats from copying, (referred to in the text as Piggybacking).  “…think rigorously in writing” is a polite way of saying come up with you own ideas; have an original thought.idea

Traditionally, the two most common sequences in the writing process are RDW (read-discuss-write) or ADW (activity-discuss-write).  Frequently, the last task on the list: writing, is easy to scrap when you run out of time.  Writing tasks can easily be assigned as homework; as long as the reading/discussion piece take place, all is well in land of lesson execution.  Front the Writing asks that you arrange the lesson so the the writing comes earlier in the process.  “One of the simplest ways to add rigor to the writing your students do is to shift the cycle from RDW or ADW to: Read-Write-Discuss RWD or to Activity-Write-Discuss AWD.  Using timed writing as a linking task, prior to discussion (students are apt to develop more original thoughts before listening to others discussion their ideas) and not at the end of the class period when, potentially, you run out of time. Placing the discussion after the reading is somewhat word16novel; training students and ourselves to think of discussion “as a tool to revise and amend, ” our original opinions.  After reading, and before discussion, ask students “…to write an opinion or analysis and then listen to the discussion with the understanding that the next step will be to revise their opinion…in writing.”,(p.307)¹.

” Because writing is “the coin of the realm”-the standard currency in which ideas are exchanged in school and in life there after-it’s important (and rigorous) to use a final writing exercise to assess how much your students know or to allow them to process and synthesize ideas.”, (p. 304)¹.


Showcase Showdown

TECHNIQUE #39:  Show Call

showartbestShow Call is another simple, yet masterful way to provide students with incentive to produce high quality written work and provides a vehicle for (the ever meaningful) immediate feedback.  I really like this strategy and the premise behind it.   In the days before document cameras, I feel like implementing Show Call would not be possible; it truly is a 2.0 strategy in terms of available technology;  I’ll address the technology toward end of this post.  As it reads, Show Call’ : Create a strong incentive to complete writing with quality and  thoughtfulness by publicly showcasing and revising student writing-regardless of who volunteers to share.’  I think this is a great means toward making students engage with their and other students’ written work, as well as a strategy toward normalizing the process of constructive criticism and revision.  Students really do like to have their work on display, why not make the writing process more visible as well?   “Socializing students to revise and edit their work is necessary to teaching them to write and think, but quality revision requires text that those who are editing and revising can edit and discuss.”,(p.291)¹.showgrphic

Being a huge fan of utilizing authentic learning materials in the classroom, here is a way to integrate authenticity, (current student work) as opposed to projecting a worksheet from the text book, an anonymous pre-corrected sample of text, or teacher generated notes/answers/responses.  Scripted, generic examples of perfected text will never have the same impact as viewing and discussing your peers’ works-in-progress.

Here are three questions based around Show Call, when answered, highlight different tactics and goals when using this technique:showcamera

  • What kind of work do you want to Show Call?  Selecting random students work creates the bold message:  Everyone is accountable.  More teachers tend to select student work intentionally, for three reasons:    1.  To model exemplary work.  2. The work contains a common error.  3.  The work shows a good balance of strength and weaknesses.
  • When do you want to Show Call?  The standard practice lends itself to showing student work immediately after a round of in-class writing.  Or, use Show Call to break up a longer stretch of writing; showcasing works in progress.  Using WOPs is a great tool for leading students back into the writing activity with more refined ideas for revision.
  • How many students do you want to Show Call?  Selecting one piece of student work is suggested to analyze the “totality” of a finished work/paragraph.  Or, “…looking horizontally at the ways multiple students attacked an issue in writing”.

showstudentsWhat is of particular importance, in my opinion is, how, you execute Show Call.  While our goals are Accountable Revision and Normalizing Revision, it is critical to be aware of how you select and introduce student work.  Students, obviously should not feel exposed, overtly criticized; you want students to feel like the collective/public revision process is a means to a positive end and, ideally, that students are left feeling proud of their work.  As delineated by Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹, here are two key moments in using Show Call.

The Take:  Or, the art of picking up students’ work can be point of tension and possible showchalkhandsvert16controversy. There are three basic Take strategies:  Random, Direct, and Private.

  • The Un-Narrated Take:   Walking past a students desk and simply picking up their work to project on the board: It should be done with out fanfare.  Doing so casually and frequently, (although this should be discussed at the beginning of the school year, so that students are aware that it will happen), “…tends to suggest that a take is a part of the daily routine, hardly worthy of comment…”, (p.297)¹.   Here’s an video link:
  • The Finesse Take Or the Nonchalance take; “unemotionally” use student work, “Let’s look Melissa’s work”. Or Frame a positive announcement such as, “I’m looking for some really interesting work to share” or “Let’s see some work that shows us a solid look at what accurate work can look like”.   This is a good transition toward using more un-narrated takes later.  Here’s a video clip of this tactic:
  •   The Ask Take:  Privately in a whisper, ideally in a crouched, eye-level position with the student, genuinely invite the student to volunteer their work to be projected.  Asking the student for permission, empowers the student to share their work and is a great way to build 1 to 1 connections.  “Your work is really interesting, I’d love to share it with the class” or “Can we use this to show the class some important items that I want everyone to pay attention to; it will help everyone out”.   You can point out the neatness of their handwriting, the need for everyone to make corrections, or simply demonstrate that there is trust in the process of accountability.


The Reveal:  Calling students attention to the board, displaying a series of written studentPeerEvaluationReview_header work, not a perfect textbook sample, emphasizes the ongoing importance of revision.  “The way you “reveal” written work to the class frames the way students interpret it and sets the tone for the rest of the Show Call…” additionally, “allow students to simulate the editing process…to identify issues they consider relevant.  Noting what students observe unprompted can also be a useful source of data.”,(p.298)¹.

  • Naming the student Make Show Call an honor or a reward.  This can, eventually, increase incentive for student to produce higher quality written work.  “John has come up with some top quality notes”, “Melinda has been gracious enough to let us look at her excellent ideas”, “Tom has really hit the nail on the head, let’s look at his work”.
  • Anonymous reveal:  Very effective if the teacher is going to project multiple examples of student work.  “Let’s look at some of these responses and suggest revisions”, “Let’s make this good work great”, or “Let’s revise these answers to make them even stronger”.
  • Expression and Appreciation:  Read aloud the student work with careful attention and valuable expression.  Use a clear and supportive tone when asking for students to look for ways to improve/correct the work on display.  Use dynamic emphasis and energy to emphasize great work.  Project sincerity, enthusiasm and appreciation.


showpuzzleSample Show Call Phraseology: 

  • “Let’s find two of the best uses of vocabulary in this paragraph”
  • “Let’s discuss how we can upgrade this answer”
  • “Let’s add some crucial information to this response”
  • “How can we add some more technical vocabulary here?”
  • “Can you identify what most of us find challenging with this problem?”
  • “We all need to fortify this section of our response, let’s build on this example to figure out how to do that”


Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹, truly is a 2.0 text.  Everyone in education is aware of the cliche that technology is evolving at the speed of light.  When I read the original version of the book in 2010, document cameras were, expensive, not widely available in classrooms and were not considered a necessary piece of technology.  Show Call, in effect, did not exist, because the technology wasn’t in place.  In terms of time management and the importance of immediate feedback, as you’ll see below, the document camera is the keystone to making Show Call an effective reality.  “No document camera in your classroom?  So be it. While you’re remonstrating with district higher-ups to provide the single most useful (and pretty cheap) piece of technology in the classroom, here are four ways to do a low-tech Show Call:”¹.

  • Over head projector:  Using samples from yesterday’s class, make a transparencies of students work.
  • Xerox:  Make copies of yesterdays work for all students; ask students to make revision at their desks and discuss/revise as a class.
  • Mini-white boards:  (This one seems largely problematic to me, visibility wise)
  • Transcribe:  Pick a crucial sample to showcase or revise and write it on the board for the class to edit.

Need some evidence, research or a means to bolster your argument to have a document camera in place in your classroom.  Here is an exceptional blog from, ‘In the Classroom, Teachers Using Tech’ , with teacher posts, extolling the virtues of document cameras!!!