Lemov, Part II

So the last time I discussed Teach Like a Champion, I included 5 methods that are more about pedagogy and academic expectations. This time I want to focus more on classroom management, since it’s something that a lot of novice teachers struggle to figure out.

#32: SLANT

This one actually comes from Houston’s own KIPP schools. It’s a quick way to reinforce behavior expectations to students with a simple acronym (perfect for posters)

  • Sit up straight
  • Listen
  • Ask and Answer questions
  • Nod your head
  • Track the speaker (look at whoever is talking, especially to the teacher)

What variations could you invent?

  • Sit in your seat
  • Pay attention
  • Offer ideas
  • Take care of the classroom


#38: Strong Voice

Teachers with strong voice have command of their classrooms. Lemov recommends several approaches to being the kind of teacher whose mere presence causes students to quiet down and pay attention.

  1. Be brief and to the point. “Take out your workbook” is better than “OK, if everyone can settle down now, it’s about time for our reading lesson. Please take out your workbook so we can get started.”
  2. Wait for silence before you say anything. It shows students that you have something worth hearing.
  3. Don’t get involved in students’ arguments. If you have to tell a student to take our her workbook and she starts complaining that the lesson is stupid and look, Marcus doesn’t have HIS workbook out and why are you always picking on HER, simply reiterate your request: take out your workbook. Acknowledge her cooperation with a simple “thanks.” Otherwise you’re just killing valuable class time with drama. Don’t engage!
  4. Have body language that matches your strong vocal presence. Lemov talks about formal pose: square shoulders, firmly planted feet, hands behind the back. Have you ever seen a military captain in front of his soldiers? That’s the idea. The stance also is called “alpha male position” because it demands attention.

Arms crossed in front of you? Looks defensive. Is your balance weighted on one foot rather than both? Looks casual and perhaps too friendly. Tendency to play with your hair? Could signal insecurity. Personally, I lean against a wall corner a lot when I’m teaching, but I try to do so only in upper-level courses where I want to encourage that sort of “we’re all learners here” environment. With high school students and freshman comp, I try to be either moving around or surveying the troops.

Image from The Washington Post slide show “What We Say Without Words” by Peter Arkle (June 23, 2008): http://wapo.st/AuJUv

What if a student is out of control or needed in the principal’s office? Don’t make a big production out of it. Walk calmly up to the student, tap his/her shoulder gently, make eye contact, and in a low, steady voice (the kind that can be heard by the child but not by the rest of the class), explain what needs to happen.

Did you ever have the experience growing up where your mom or dad or grandfather suddenly got very, very quiet? Didn’t that get your attention more than yelling?

Basically, when you need to be the boss, be calm, controlled, and in command, from your word choice to your vocal level to your body language. Don’t let students run the show.

Check out around 70 different Teach Like a Champion videos at http://www.facebook.com/video/?id=372449641676 ! You won’t be sorry.


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