The Instructional Coach’s Corner

The school bell has rung and class is now in session!

I plan to offer some techniques from Lemov, Hernandez and Kim’s Teach Like Champion Field Guide 2.0

The field guide covers 62 techniques that the authors’ encouraged to make our own. My plan is to share one technique a week, in hopes that it will schoolspire you to Teach Like a Champion!

Technique #1 in the new Teach Like a Champion 2.0 is “Reject Self Report.”  The idea being that after having just taught something or explained a task, we ask students questions like:  “Everybody understand?” or “Everyone got it?”

These questions, we should realize, are functionally rhetorical. There is only one way for students  to respond to such questions: silent assent.  (Read more about why that’s true from Teach Like a Champion 2.0 here). We are acknowledging to ourselves that it would really make sense to pause and check to make sure everyone understands, but we are failing to do so (usually because we’re so busy).

I watched a lesson today that gave me two insights into Reject Self Report, specifically when it’s most important to use it.

In the lesson, the teacher had just assigned the class 10 minutes of independent reading with a very challenging text: Martin Luther King’s Eulogy For the Martyred Children, delivered at the funeral of three of the four girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing.

The teacher wanted their students to read an excerpt from the Eulogy and mark up the text in specific ways—to note when King used phrases and phrasings that were (deliberately) repetitive and to track shifts in who King’s implicit audience was.

Before the teacher gave them ten full minutes to read silently and mark up the text, the teacher decided to make sure they understood the task first. Instead of using self-report which is asking, “Everybody understand what we’re reading for? Good. Go get ‘em.”

The teacher instead asked three students to summarize what they were supposed to do. It only took 14 seconds using the Cold Call technique. The Cold Call technique allows you to call on students specifically instead of letting the ones who know raise their hands to answer.

Teacher: “Nelson, tell me the two things I want you to look for while you’re reading this text?”

Nelson: “Repetition and shifts in audience.”

Teacher: “Good and Tina, What should you do when you see examples of repetition?”

Tina: “Box them in the text.”

Teacher: “And Gary, What should you do when you think there’s a shift in audience?”

Gary: “Note it in the margin and describe who the new audience is.”

I just want to observe how important this small move was. Ten minutes is a large amount of learning time. It would be incredibly easy to have 20% or 40% or 60% of the class set off earnestly to do the wrong task. Honestly, how many times have you begun a discussion at the end of a period of independent work to find out that some of your students did the task wrong? It’s smart to invest 14 seconds in testing to make sure your students understand.

Can this teacher now say for certain that everyone understood? Of course not. But they have a decent indication that their directions were clear enough and the class was attentive enough that 3 of 3 randomly selected kids could tell exactly what they were supposed to do. At 14 seconds, that’s good insurance on a 10 minute investment.

The more time you invest in a task and the more autonomous your students will be in executing it, the more important it is to check for understanding (CFU) before you start.  Though this task wasn’t especially complex, the level of complexity is a third factor I’d consider in deciding on the urgency of CFU before I began. (A corollary is that the more complex and autonomous the task, the more disruptive it will be to stop and fix it if in fact some students don’t understand what to do.)

A final aside (that’s not really an aside but actually critically important):  I re-read King’s Eulogy in writing this post. Breathtaking. If you can read it without tearing up and/or feeling chills, well, I don’t know how. It’s a reminder of how important it is to read challenging and important texts. Why spend students’ time reading anything but the best that’s been written and from our greatest thinkers?

If you have any questions or need coaching advice, I can be reached on my contact page or you can leave a comment below. Either way, send me a message :0)

The school bell has rung, class dismissed!