As we have written about in many previous posts, Dixons Kings Academy is a school that has routines at the heart of what we do. Everything exists to allow our teachers to teach – they are the very best experts and our students deserve to learn from their expertise. While much of what goes on in the classroom is ‘in the moment’, there are habits and ways of thinking that can be applied quite routinely and systematically, adapted to context.
One of our favourite sources of clear and actionable approaches in the classroom is Teach Like a Champion 2.0 by Doug Lemov. The book focuses on what the best teachers do and translates it into named techniques that can be studied and practised. Here are some of our favourites:
No opt out: Turn “I don’t know” into success by ensuring that students who won’t try or can’t answer practise getting it right.
When teachers ask questions, we want the expectation to be that anyone can be called on to answer. When this is the expectation, it is more likely that every student thinks about the question. If they don’t think, then we might get an answer of “I don’t know”. “I don’t know” can also mean that they have thought about it and genuinely don’t know. In which case we help them. In each case, we ensure students take responsibility for their learning by ensuring that they get to the correct answer. We can do this in a few ways. Here are those suggested in Teach Like a Champion:
- Other student provides cue; original student provides the answer.
- Other student provides answer; original student repeats.
- Teacher provides cue; original student provides the answer.
- Teacher provides answer; original student repeats.
Right is Right: When you respond to answers in class, hold out for answers that are “all-the-way right” or all the way to your standards of rigour.
We think that right answers should be 100% right, not nearly there. If we accept answers that are nearly there, then we allow misconceptions to creep in and set the message that mediocre and inaccurate answers will do.
This could be a Physics teacher insisting that a student includes the units, or an English teacher seeking further precision on a vague answer like “People were very religious in Elizabethan England.” While there are times when teachers can explain away misconceptions, we want to avoid what they call in TLAC ‘rounding up’ where we bridge the gap to a right answer without making students have to do any thinking. This isn’t the strategy for wrong answers, just those that are almost correct.
100%: This is not one technique but a series with the principal goal of making sure that 100% of students are participating, 100% of the time at 100% of their capacity.
Our questioning techniques above help to ensure that we get closer to the 100% of students thinking. Our clear and fair behaviour system supports teachers to have a climate where students behave well. Sometimes we need more subtle techniques to ensure a productive environment. The two strategies from TLAC below help ensure this.
Radar/ Be Seen Looking: Prevent unproductive behaviour by developing your ability to see it when it happens and by subtly reminding students that you are looking
We all remember the teachers who seemed to have eyes on the back of their heads. This is a simple strategy that means positioning yourself in the class so you can see all students easily, waiting and scanning the room when students are asked to do something. Because this is quite a visible step, students become very clearly aware that you are making sure they are working, so they get on with it! It pre-empts any off-task behaviour without the need for an intervention or a consequence.
The Art of the Consequence: Ensure that consequences, when needed, are more effective by making them quick, incremental, consistent, and depersonalised
We have a system of giving a planner warning before a detention, which is designed to ensure students have a chance to rectify their behaviour. To that end, we can use the planner warning stage as a chance to learn. It doesn’t have to be negative and harsh. It can be a springboard to more positive behaviour. This strategy reminds us to use the planner warning as a helpful step towards making good choices, not just a punitive measure.
All of the strategies above focus on the highest standards of focus, attitude and behaviour, but they need never be used punitively or negatively.