Intentionally, I am not including Chapter 4, Planning for Success and the four techniques within, from Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹, on the main blog page for many reasons. My focus in reviewing this book is on initiatives happening in the classroom. Please, read on if your interested in my critique of the editing of this book. I’ve blogged consistently on advanced teacher preparation and the classroom successes it provides. I’m looking for more “pro-active” strategies to explore, as opposed to a lot of behind the scenes lesson planning theory. Primarily, because I just don’t feel that Chapter 4 has a solid place in this book; the techniques deal essentially with planning and lesson mapping/curriculum. There seems to be some poor editing choices here, in my opinion. The text’s liveliness and practicality stem from the actual teaching strategies in most of the other techniques presented. The huge success of the original version was largely based on it’s “how to’s” in the classroom. Perhaps the initial success of TLAC (2013) enabled the editors to go against better editing judgement; lesson planning is another topic on its own and doesn’t seem to belong here, in the middle of the text. As a concluding chapter or addendum, maybe. Chapter 4’s placement in the text is awkward, the content is vague and ambitious and outright poorly edited, (there are bold type inserts, within Chp. 4 that are glaringly out of context; I’d say random)! Excess text, bigger is better, apples & oranges. I actually wish I hadn’t been distracted by this chapter. Doug Lemov, isn’t even the author of some of the following techniques! Superman just got Superbad; in a sense it diminishes some of his credibility. Below I’ve synthesized a review of the techniques found in Chapter 4 Planning For Success.
TECHNIQUE #16: Begin With The End
This sounds and reads like ‘Backward Design’; Doug Lemov thinks he’s re-reinvented the wheel. Let’s just go ahead and label it Backward Design. Essentially: define your objectives, clearly develop or select your unit assessment and then build your lesson plans around this testing goal. I’ll save my “it’s a no-brainer” comments; but then again this could open up conversations about “teaching to the test”. Uncommon Schools, (the author is employed by these charter schools) primary objective is to get students into college. In fact, the subtitle of the book, ‘62 TECHNIQUES THAT PUT STUDENTS ON THE PATH TO COLLEGE‘ does not conceal this goal. Here’s a great article from Forbes Magazine on line, 10/28/2013, ‘Are Successful Charter Schools Just Teaching To the Test? : http://www.forbes.com/sites/modeledbehavior/2013/10/28/are-charter-schools-just-teaching-to-the-test/#7528819ce0e6
TECHNIQUE #17: 4M’S
And now, onto the 4M’s…even the technique titles are getting less witty. No, unfortunately, not M&M’s. When writing your lesson plans, please keep the following alliterative goals in mind: Manageable, Measurable, Made First?, and Most Important. As I noted above, this isn’t really Lemov material, literally. “My colleague, Todd Mckee artfully designed four criteria for effective objectives, the 4M’s, and if you’re able to ensure that your objectives meet these criteria, your chances of starting with an effective one are high.” (p. 137)¹.
- Manageable: Be aware that the lesson scope and content fit within the time parameters of a single lesson/period.
- Measurable: Develop a means to explicit achievement by the end of the class period. (In this section there are no recommendations/definitions of explicit.)
- Made First: This criterion is some what confusing, yet fun, as it “tattle-tales” on other teachers. Essentially, the objective comes first, don’t retrofit the objective to fit the learning standard. This is a What-Not-To-Do strategy. “You can often identify these teachers because their objectives look like learning standards (which are different and far broader) and are frequently written on the board undigested from state documents“(p.139)¹.
- Most Important: “An objective should focus on what’s most important on the path to college, and nothing else. It describes the next step straight up the mountain.”,(p.139). This one is fun(ny). Unclear sentence structure and grammar and I feel like I should be quoting MLK Jr.
I can’t believe that no one, especially the editors at Jossey-Bass did not notice this huge random editing snafu. Smack dab in the middle of TECHNIQUE #18 is a random insert titled “Draw the Map:Floors“. This directive, which carries on for a page and a half, explains the importance of the seating arrangement in classrooms. It delineates the pros and cons of rows vs. small desk groupings, where aisles should appear, how “alleys” should be aligned. And then, awkward as you please, this section ends and #18 Post It picks up like nothing, editorially, ever happened.
TECHNIQUE #18: Post It
Post It reads: Display your lesson objective where everyone can see it and identify your purpose; many people visit the classroom, administrators, faculty & staff members, visitors, as well as your students. This objective, should not be verbatim state issued content standard, rather written in “plain English”. The objective should be updated frequently and referred to frequently. Perhaps ask students to write or discuss the nature of the objective and how they might achieve its goal; ask students to put the objective in context. If the lesson objective is not updated frequently to match the corresponding, current lesson, or, if it is infrequently referred to it just becomes writing on the wall.
Salient components of Post It:
- Plain English
- Current/Frequently Updated
- Regular part of classroom discussion/Referred to frequently
And again, we interrupt your regularly scheduled program, to bring you ‘Draw the Map: Walls’. Technique #19: Double Plan will return next week. Not unlike, ‘Draw the Map: Floors‘, here we encounter a little unexpected editorial intermezzo that has nothing to do with the Chapter topic, Unit/Lesson Planning. There are some interesting comments on how walls within classrooms should be dressed; Less is More seems to be the over all suggestion. Use positive slogan posters, catchy acrostic mnemonic visuals, and change things up frequently.
TECHNIQUE #19: Double Plan
#19 states: As you plan a lesson, plan what students will be doing at each point in the class. Optimally and ideally, all teachers would like to be able to do this. I believe the inarticulated point in this section advises teachers to be prepared for differentiation, intervention and enrichment throughout each lesson/unit. The overstated in this this section is advocacy for the “super packet”. Packets, packets, packets. “Over-planning”, or having a contingency plan, is never a bad thing in any classroom. Having the “packet” as the central, go-to task is recommended here; because once a student finishes a task, depending on individual rates of completion, there’s always another page in a packet to go to. Add a varying degree of complexity to the worksheets in the packet and voila! you have differentiation. Include worksheets related to the unit that review basic fundamentals, varied response formats, and increasingly higher level thinking/problem solving skills. I do feel that these “packets” would be ideal for emergency, substitute plans or used in lieu of text book, workbooks, or course aligned ancillary materials. Designer packets include, rubrics, graphs, charts, maps, primary sources, and many practice worksheets. Is this replacing a textbook or a revival of old school planning by photocopying everything in site?
Here are the design factors/goals for a great Double Plan packet:
- Goal 1: Everything in One Place: This is essentially Standardize the Format (#3); direct all student written responses to be in same location on the page for easy CFU.
- Goal 2: Synergy with Pacing: “A well-designed packet supports airtight pacing because it minimizes transaction costs involved with switching between tasks, formats, and activities.
And, yet again, the Rogue Editor strikes again! Between Goal #2 and #3, there is a two and half page rant, titled ‘Shortest Path‘, printed in a larger, different font it is a short treatise on how best to instruct students!? “The goal in teaching is to take the shortest path from A (lack of knowledge and understanding) to B (durable long-term knowledge and understanding, so the primary criterion for evaluating a lesson should be “How quickly does it get me there?”,”(p. 147)¹. This section almost completely reduces the ‘Guide on the Side’ theory and strongly advocates for ‘Sage on the Stage’. Shortest Path campaigns for Direct Instruction as the best means to teach students effectively; “…Somehow, teachers have been convinced that “teacher talk” is the ultimate pejorative…”¹. I found this bold and thought provoking. However, from a critical standpoint this inserted section flops; what were Lemov’s editors thinking?! Where were we…Oh, yes, Technique #19: Double Plan.
- Goal 3: Engineered for Accountability: Provide students spaces to do actual written work and attempt to script essential questions into the packet. Students should be required to refer to and use the packet frequently.
- Goal 4: Synergy with Checking for Understanding: Use packets to collect data on student progress and to track student misunderstanding.
- Goal 5: Success Oriented: Systematically add supports (towards exceeding the standard) or remove obstacles (so that students can meet the standard); essentially individualize packets as you move through the lesson. Not all students will complete all of the tasks in place in the packet.
- Goal 6: Embedded Adaptability: “…lesson packets are living, breathing documents that should help them respond to the evolving needs of their students. An example teacher divides the packet in to sections, ‘Mild’, ‘Medium’, and ‘Spicy’. Independent practice first, then additional enrichment, followed by deep thinking or Challenge questions. Wholesale individualization and differentiation all in one.
I do like some of the concepts suggested in Double Plan; I’ve always used many, many ancillary materials, from a wide variety of sources and worksheets. Requiring myself, as a teacher to Standardize the Form of these worksheets, into packets would be a streamlining initiative of sorts. However, being a huge supporter of technology integration and Learning Management Systems, such as Moodle; Double Plan seems a step backwards in terms of technology use in the 21st century classroom. The farther we move into the Digital Native’s classrooms, the more we examine our carbon footprint on the planet, the more attractive the paper less classroom becomes. And that is a significant conversation that educators everywhere should be engaging in on a regular basis.