Ideas from Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion, Part I

At the recent Chancellor’s Summit on Teacher Education, one of the speakers mentioned Doug Lemov’s great book Teach Like a Champion, and just in case you haven’t read it (you really should if you’re planning to enter a classroom someday), I wanted to devote a few blog entries to some of his 49 tips.

A lot of them are kind of obvious, but as teachers, sometimes we forget about the obvious in our push for excellence, passing test scores, and student engagement. Some of them come more from the “tough love” school of thought. This entry will cover 5 of Lemov’s strategies. Let me know what you think!

#2: Right Is Right

Don’t give credit for partially correct answers. This doesn’t happen on standardized tests, and it doesn’t happen in the real work world.

How many math teachers do you know, even at the college level, who award points even when the final answer is wrong?

#4: Format Matters

Make students use complete, grammatical sentences, since they are “the battering ram that knocks down the door to college.”

Lemov goes so far as to suggest that students always answer discussion questions in complete sentences. For example, if he asked, “What do we call the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution?” he would want someone to say, “The first ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights,” not simply, “The Bill of Rights.”

How much would this change the way you approach discussions? Don’t we often just want the answer, regardless of the format?

#8: Post It

Write the day’s objectives on the board. Simple, straightforward, easy to do—and it lets students know what to expect. I always do this especially in ENGL1123 and 1133, using a pseudo-outline format (stars for the main topics, dashes for the subtopics). I go over it briefly at the beginning of the class period and then stick to that order.

#15: Circulate

Move around the room. Make space between desks and tables if needed; set-ups like the one we have in a lot of PV classrooms, with the long narrow tables and bolted-down swivel chairs, are terrible for teachers to maneuver unless they’re supermodel-skinny!

You know this is a good strategy, but how often do you see it used? Teachers can get stuck at the board, with students asking for more examples and needing more re-teaching, or linger at the table with the struggling learners.

We’re no longer in an educational environment where the teacher stands at the chalkboard, never crossing the invisible line right before the first row of desks! The 1973 photo below, however, may still be quite familiar from your education…

teacher in a classroom circa 1973, standing at the blackboardimage from Judy Baxter’s Flickr stream at

#24: Pepper

Bombard your class with rapid-fire questions, calling on one student, offering praise for correct answers or good attempts, and then quickly moving to the next. Lemov doesn’t believe that any kid should be able to say “pass” or “I don’t know”—everyone has to try.


“What part of speech is the word ‘tiger’? Jasmine? It’s a noun—right. What part of speech is the word ‘dirty’? Tomas? It’s an adjective, a noun describer. Great. Salvador: what part of speech is the word ‘study’? Yes, it is a verb. Nice job. Amy, what else could ‘study’ be?”

Keep it moving. If you want to engage the more kinesthetic learners, you could even use a soft Nerf ball and toss it back and forth to the students (no jokes about the students who can’t catch, of course!).


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