Books You, and We, Love
On Your Lists
• Learn Like a Pirate: Empower Your Students to Collaborate, Lead, and Succeed By Paul Solarz
—Stephanie Laird, @SLaird2
• The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing By Ruth Culham
“This will help me learn new strategies to support my students’ writing with mentor texts.”
—teacher adviser Theresa Quitshaw
• In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom
By Kelly Gallagher
“It’s practical, thought provoking, and always well articulated.” —Tricia Ebarvia, @triciaebarvia
New, and on Our Radar
• The Flipped Reading Block: Making It Work By Gina Pasisis
• Teaching Students to Conduct Short Research Projects By Ryan Gilpin
• About Teaching Mathematics (fourth ed.) By Marilyn Burns
Best of the EdU Blogs
Teach Mentor Texts. Jen Vincent, a former hearing-itinerant teacher and teacher leader in School District U-46, north of Chicago, says she started her content-rich and lively blog “because I read too many books not to share them!” Vincent, who is now an instructional technology coordinator in the district, has enthusiasm to spare—it shines through in topics that range from the campaign for diverse books to the Slice of Life challenge for young writers to the joys of teacher Nerd Camp.
Eliterate Librarian. A self-proclaimed “ed-tech geek” with perhaps the best blog name ever, Palmetto (SC) Middle School librarian Tamara Cox writes about how to share apps with the school board, student activities for tech rollout days, her district’s latest PD in action, and much more. She also loves to collaborate with teachers on technology-infused lessons, which can range from teaching sixth graders about propaganda to editing infographics with gifted students.
Imagination Soup. Former teacher and literacy trainer and current blogger Melissa Taylor has more than a million readers who check in at her Imagination Soup blog (she’s a PBS Kids VIP blogger) for ideas on everything from math and science games and experiments to reading and writing ideas and tech recommendations.
Interview with Doug Lemov
In Teach Like a Champion 2.0, the follow-up to his enormously popular first book, Doug Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools, provides even more techniques “champion” teachers use—all based on hours of observing and videotaping teachers in their classrooms. The result is an engaging narrative that suggests how educators everywhere can adapt these techniques.
Q | Is there a philosophy or attitude that helps someone “teach like a champion”?
A | You have to want results for your teaching to be about student outcomes. And you have to be the kind of person who likes thinking about refining your craft. That’s the mind-set of any effective teacher. But it’s important to view Teach Like a Champion as a set of tools, not a “system.” Any teacher who wants to get better should be able to find a way to use or adapt some of the tools. There’s synergy among them, but they are designed to serve teachers in becoming the best versions of themselves they can be.
Q | Why should elementary teachers read a book about helping to “put students on the path to college”? Is that premature? And where do teachers start?
A | You might also ask if it’s too late. There’s pretty compelling evidence that the achievement gap already exists by the time kids enroll in kindergarten. In terms of vocabulary and reading and other skills, the path to college is being blazed from day one.
As to where to start, I would suggest teachers or schools choose a few things and implement them well—trying to do 10 things at once is a recipe for doing nothing well. Many are tempted to start with the behavioral techniques exclusively. There’s logic to that—you want to shape the classroom culture right away. But if you focus exclusively on behavioral aspects, it’s easy to distort what classrooms are about and to tacitly encourage people to forget the connection between classroom behavior or culture and rigor. Strong classroom culture ultimately serves academic rigor. If it doesn’t, it is an empty exercise.
Q | In the Plan for Error technique, one of the questions a teacher can ask a student is “Which of these options do you think is my favorite wrong answer?” What’s a “culture of error,” and why is it so important?
A | The most important skill of a great teacher is the ability to differentiate “They learned it” from “I taught it.”
The process of understanding what students know is 10 times harder if they are trying to hide their errors. As we watched great teachers at work, we saw they were constantly socializing students to be unafraid to reveal their errors to their teachers and classmates. Good schools make it safe for teachers to reveal errors by treating them as a normal part of the growth process, and by studying unsuccessful lessons rather than punishing them.
Q | What are the hallmarks of the best professional development for teachers, and what are some PD pitfalls?
A | The best professional development addresses real challenges teachers are facing in their classrooms. It solves problems or seizes opportunities. It also draws on the knowledge of successful teachers to frame the solutions. And it involves practice and reflection. A common pitfall is trying to make PD “one and done.” We know from teaching students that it takes time to master skills. You have to study and practice and get feedback and reflect and apply your skills in new ways. You have to discuss what works and what doesn’t with others. So good PD should happen over multiple sessions and be tied to the other conversations about teaching.
Q | Do you envision a Teach Like a Champion 3.0 with, say, 120 techniques?
A | I’ve already started on 3.0. Honestly. About two days after the manuscript was final and my editors told me I could not under any circumstances make any more changes, I was watching classes and I had two or three really useful insights. So 3.0 is under way. In the meantime, I try to blog as I learn (teachlikeachampion.com/blog). But as for 120 techniques, no way. One of the big challenges is keeping the number of techniques small enough to manage.