Sunday, August 30, 2015

Teach Like a Champion- The Ultimate Tool to Ramp Up Your Teaching

I am exhausted. What a great, but crazy, first week back to school! My feet are aching and I'm hoping the tickle in my throat is just from allergies....... I have a great group of kiddos and I have my work cut out for me this year! It's going to be great!

Tomorrow I am welcoming a student teacher in my classroom for the very first time. I'm a little nervous because I really don't feel like I have much to offer, but I'm hoping she will pick up some knowledge along the way. To ensure that she does, I insisted that she get the book I describe below and we use that as kind of our "textbook" for her student teaching experience. I have been meaning to share about this book for awhile, so now seems like the perfect time!

Several years ago, in the midst of one of the my toughest teaching years to date, I happened to stumble across this book:

Little did I know as I cracked open the first pages, that this book would completely transform my teaching.

People always say that "teaching is an art." Yes, yes, yes. I firmly believe that there is a definite art to teaching, there's a human and affective aspect that must be present along with having a deep understanding of content. However, what author Doug Lemov and his team have done is come up with concrete strategies they have seen highly effective, or who they call "champion teachers," use- strategies that are common between teachers across districts, cities, and states. Essentially, they have pinned down some of the "art" of teaching into directly replicable techniques. Not only does this book give a name to specific techniques, it also creates a common language among teachers so those techniques can be analyzed and discussed.

Sounds too good to be true, right? I thought so at first. But once I started reading, I literally could not put the book down. Remember, when I first found this book I was in my third year of teaching with a tough, tough, tough, group of kiddos. You can read more about that year HERE. :)

One of the first techniques that really hit home with me is called "No Opt Out." In a nutshell, this technique does not allow a student to simply "opt out" of answering a question. If you call on a student and they don't know an answer, Lemov gives you practical classroom examples of how to respond to the student, provide various types of cues, hints, or questions, but always returning to the student to have them answer the question- even if it comes down to them simply repeating what you say.

As a young teacher still feeling slightly intimidated by my class, this technique was hard to follow at first. I had boys that would get upset and and angry when I called on them. But with consistency and persistence, the class got used to knowing that they would be held responsible for answering every question. Slowly but surely the culture of my classroom began to change and I found my confidence.

Another small example he mentions in the book that has stuck with me, and I really don't even think this is its own technique or strategy, but it's the simple concept of standing still when giving directions. Man, I thought I was on fire those first few years. I could walk and talk and pass out papers and give directions, and find the pen I left on my back table, and correct little Johnny's behavior... I was a multi-tasking, let's-get-things-done machine. But inevitably, when I was through giving my directions and thought I would take a well-deserved deep breath, fifteen hands would shoot up in the air because they didn't understand a thing I said. They were too distracted by all of my movement to even think about the words I was saying.

Again, looking back now, it seems so obvious! I should have checked in to see that students were hearing me and understanding my words. But with my sense of urgency and feeling the time crunch, I thought I was making the best use of time.

The examples I gave are just a few of the many. The book is divided into chapters with overarching themes and it's meant to be read on a what-I-need-at-this-moment basis. When I first found the book, my focus was on the classroom management type techniques, as I described above. As I have evolved and grown, my focus is now more on the techniques that promote higher-level thinking. But of course, without strong classroom management, the environment isn't ripe for critical thinking anyway. I have revisited the book with a new lens each year as I get a new group of kiddos and add more tools to my toolbox. This book is a great resource for every teacher, whether you are just starting out, or a twenty-year veteran.

I realized after talking with my student teacher that there is a new and updated version of the book: Teach Like a Champion 2.0!  This version has even more techniques and expanded commentary. I am so excited to dig back in and revisit all the great things this book has to offer!

The new book is divided into four major parts with several techniques subdivided in the chapters within. Below is an outline of just the four parts and included chapters. These are not the specific techniques themselves!

I highly, highly, highly suggest looking into this book. There is always room for improvement and growth, and as a teacher, I never stop growing. In just the little bit I've looked through in the past few days, I already have some goals for myself.  It. Is. Fabulous. 

Have a great week!!


  1. I think it's absurd to think you don't have much to offer a student teacher. I get SO MUCH from just reading your blog posts. She is extremely fortunate to be able to learn from you every day! I have had this book on my Amazon wish list for a while. I think it's time to purchase. Thank you for taking the time to share. Your blog is one of my favorites! Have an amazing year! :)

    1. You are too sweet. This just seriously made my day! I am so glad you can find something of use on this little ol' blog. It's hard to know what others may find useful or just unnecessary. So, thank you, thank you, thank you! And yes, I think it's time you buy! You won't be disappointed!! I hope YOU have an amazing year!!!!!

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  2. I have also found this book very valuable. I was not aware of a 2.0 version. I am definitely going to go out and purchase this as soon as possible. Can't wait to see what's been added.


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