RTT/Teach Like A Champion

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  • Title: Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College
  • Author: Doug Lemov
  • Publication info: Jossey-Bass, April 22, 2010
  • Preview/purchase on Amazon

RTT relevance

This is not a guide on how to teach teachers, it is a specific set of instructions and guiding stories that helps trainees learn each of the 49 specific techniques outlined in the book. Programs who want to build the general teaching or tutoring capacity of trainees should use this book, selecting the techniques that seem most relevant to your program. The largest drawback is the lack of good practice scenarios beyond the book for people to practice with in role plays.

About the author

From his bio at Uncommon Schools: Doug Lemov is the Founder of School Performance, an Albany-based non-profit that provides diagnostic assessments, performance data analysis, and academic consulting to high performing charter schools. He is a founder and the former principal of the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School in Boston, regarded as one of the highest performing urban charter schools in the country. After leaving Academy of the Pacific Rim, Mr. Lemov served as the Vice President for Accountability at the State University of New York Charter Schools Institute, the leading authorizer of charters in New York, where he designed and implemented a rigorous school accountability system. He has since served as a consultant to such organizations as KIPP, New Leaders for New Schools, and Building Excellent Schools. Mr. Lemov is a Trustee of the New York Charter Schools Association and of KIPP Tech Valley Charter School. He has a B.A. from Hamilton College, an M.A. from Indiana University, and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

Book summary

Lemov was working at Uncommon when he began a project to discover the techniques that the best teachers used. Some people are born with a natural tendency to teach well, but Lemov believes that teaching is a skill that can be learned by almost anyone who uses the right techniques and applies the effort to improve. After many hours of classroom observation, he created a short list of specific techniques. For about five years, he tested his techniques with the teachers in the Uncommon Schools network and refined his book before he published in March 2010.

Most of the book is composed of 1-8 page sections that cover a single technique. The format usually begins with an explanation of the technique and why it is important to use it. After this, there are many examples of how to use it. Often, the cover multiple cases or variations of the same example to show that there is more than one way to use it. Many sections also have a corresponding video clip on the included DVD with transcripts for most of the clips (with notes from Doug) in the book.

The first two weeks of the example RTT program are heavily dependent on this book. I chose techniques 2 and 3 because I thought they were most appropriate for tutoring small groups. Technique 2, "right is right", is the idea that teachers should not cheat their students by accepting partially right answers in front of the class. Instead, they should push for clear and complete answers before using the words "right", "yes", "correct", or anything that implies that the student can stop listening and assume what they answered was in fact correct. Nice people (typically the ones most interested in teaching) have a tendency to make a student feel good by praising partly correct answers. This section challenges this idea and gives examples of how to respectfully probe for 100% correct answers. Technique 3, "stretch it", tells teachers to go one step beyond a correct answer to show solid understanding. Many times, students pick up on the patterns of correct answers and simply fill in the gap without actually understanding the question. By stretching an answer, students show that they understand the problem using different words, using it in another context, or explaining why it matters. Like the previous section, this technique includes specific examples broken into a number of variations. Both sections include videos from actual classroom teachers on the DVD.

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