For teachers who are looking for teaching techniques to be part of their New Year’s Resolutions to improve their teaching, Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion” offers some good advice.
Lemov’s book is based on years of observing outstanding teachers and analyzing the techniques they use to promote student learning and achievement. The book is targeted to K-12 teachers who are working with traditionally low-performing students, but many of the techniques will work in college classrooms, too.
Looking Forward – That’s the technique of getting students to think of what they will accomplish in class: “By the end of class today….” That technique helps promote anticipation on the part of the students and also can help them be more attuned to the parts of the lesson as those parts move toward the outcome. Looking Forward also can be used effectively in that first lecture of the semester, helping the students see what they will be accomplishing by the end of the course. I have used Looking Forward on the first day in Writing for Mass Communication, the introductory writing course I teach. This semester, I’ll take to class portfolios of students from last semester to illustrate what the new students will be working toward.
Without Apology – Lemov says that too often teachers apologize for what students are expected to learn. “I know this will be boring,” the teacher says. Lemov calls that an apology for the material being taught and says teachers should avoid that, as it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lemov says, “There is no such thing as boring content.” The key is in effective and enthusiastic teaching. In Writing for Mass Communication, grammar instruction is a component of the course, but sometimes lab instructors apologize to their students for having to teach grammar. Instead, we need to present grammar as “tricky” but important and teach with enthusiasm. I need to remember that myself and remind the lab instructors.
Precise Praise – Lemov encourages teachers to be specific rather than general in their praise of individual students or the class. “Good” written on a student’s paper isn’t as helpful as “Good use of attribution.”
Wait Time – This is a challenge particularly for new teachers: Asking a question and then giving the students adequate time to think of an answer. Five seconds isn’t a lot of time for students to determine the answer for a complex question, but five seconds can seem like a long time of silence when you are at the front of the room waiting. Wait Time allows more students to get engaged in thinking of the answer, rather than letting the first one to raise a hand to respond and let everyone else off the hook. Also, Lemov reminds us that the first answer won’t always be the best answer. If you allow for more thinking time, then you can call of students who aren’t raising their hands, as they, too, have had time to consider a response to the question.