(Classroom Management) Book Club

This is not a post about my book club, although my Wednesday lunchtime all boys book club (we are currently reading the Pulitzer Prize deserving Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli)  is frequently a high point for entertainment during the week.   Instead I wanted to get out a couple of quick reflections on our current PD work in Lynn and draw connections to some recent reading.

I grabbed Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion as soon as it came out.   I haven’t had the privilege of learning from Lemov in person but he garners raves from a host of smart teachers and leaders.  The book is remarkable for its specificity and clarity.  New and newish teachers must read it and more skilled teachers should read to add to their repertoire or to experience a wonderful I do that feeling.

Amazon’s timing couldn’t have been better as many of our teachers were experiencing an eruption of pre-spring break management struggles.

We planned a session around Lemov’s 100% technique.  The technique lays out a series of discrete ways to ensure that 100% of students are following directions.  With that in mind we developed the aim below…

Aim: We will develop or refine the skills and mindsets necessary to get 100% of students following our directions and rising towards our expectations.

We started by tackling some common misconceptions about demanding 100% from our kids.

  • It’s spring, the year’s almost over.
  • Waiting for 100% means I won’t get through my lesson.
  • Demanding 100% will lead to a mean and cruel classroom.
  • 100% of my kids can’t follow every direction.
  • Good teachers don’t need to manage this far into the year.

After refuting those head on we examined the principles behind the 100% technique (all of this is described much more thoroughly and thoughtfully in the book).

1. Use the least invasive form of intervention. We looked the continuum of interventions on a scale from feather (nonverbals) to mallet (consequence). Then we defined examples of effective and ineffective application of the intervention.

For example: Lemov defines effective anonymous individual correction as a quick verbal reminder to the group that makes it explicit that everyone is not where they need to be: “We need two people to start tracking.” “Homeroom Morehouse, please check yourself to make sure you’ve got your eyes on the speaker.”

I asked: What makes an anonymous individual correction go wrong?  The teachers generated answers like: Using anonymous individual correction when a student is being loudly defiant can convince the class you are unwilling to discipline certain kids.  Anonymous individual correction flops when the tone sounds like nagging.

As a quick meta-aside: teachers have listed the use of quality video and clear examples/non-examples of techniques as the most effective parts of PD throughout the year.  This feedback has made me somewhat religious about crafting non-examples as intentionally as examples for any lesson I teach.

2. Make compliance visible. The second principle of 100% captures one of the most common mistakes we make as teachers-giving a direction without it being clear to the students (and sometimes us) what following the direction actually looks like.  Don’t ask for focus and effort.  Ask for eyes on the page and the first five questions attempted.

3. Avoid marginal compliance. If you allow kids to follow directions halfway then you are headed for a self made hell of passive aggressive behavior.

I over-planned and we didn’t spend a ton of time on the last two principles or engage in effective guided and independent practice. However the feedback was extremely positive, mainly due to what people said was the timeliness and concreteness of the material.  In other words the best PD always uses other people’s smarter ideas.

A few follow-up thoughts:

One thing I do more of as an observer than I used to is spend time naming what effective teachers do and telling them about it.  The belief that effective teaching is magic or a function of hours spent is a deeply held misconception, even in some of our strongest teachers.

If you are teaching 100% or a similar technique go into the classroom of an effective teacher and tally how often they used the techniques.  Backwardly I did this after rather than before.  The tally chart wound up being a great argument against the idea that great teachers don’t manage. These tallies came from observing a Kinder award winning teacher’s class for thirty minutes.

100% Techniques Tally
Positive Group Correction 111111111111111
Nonverbal Correction 111
Anonymous Group Correction 11
Private Individual Correction 11
Lightning Quick Public Correction 1111
Consequence 1

Buy the book. http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Like-Champion-Techniques-Students/dp/0470550473/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271775309&sr=8-1.  This is worth well more than $15.  The quality and practicality of the work is invaluable and Lemov radiates deep respect for teaching as an art and science.

I’d love to hear how you tackle two of the challenges I describe above:

Schools fray near breaks.  How do you end on a high note rather than an exhausted stumble?

How do you differentiate PD for the varying skill levels of your staff?


3 Responses to “(Classroom Management) Book Club”

  1. Napleton Says:

    I love reading your blog–I miss working with you. Loved the book club at lunch on Maniac–sounds incredible. Is Tallulah on her first or second read through of that classic yet? 😉

  2. Drake Says:

    So funny!
    i clicked on the comment link to let you know Caleb how much I love reading your blog…it”s like an infusion of GCP in my life every so often. Lo and behold…look who else commented! I realize how much of what you taught me is reflected in what I pass on to my team now and what I bring to the table here at Believe, Thanks. The “butterfly” mention is perfect…that”s one I work on making evident a lot.

  3. Deandre Says:

    I was thinking (along with a lot of other fans) that Cl90#e&ri3a;s mom got Aaron. I think Aaron's story is very significant to the show and will probably be a big part of Season 6.

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