Teach Like a Champion

by Doug Lemov, 201049 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College

Issue: Daily activities guide your lesson planning without any plan for how they fit together or what students are learning.

Strategy: “Begin With the End” from Teach Like a Champion by Doug LeMov, pp. 57-59

Theory: If you find yourself asking, “What am I going to do with students tomorrow?”, your focus is on student activities instead of student learning. A more effective way to plan is to begin with the end in mind: What do I want my students to understand and be able to do by the end of this lesson? Create your learning objective(s) first, then plan backward to build a lesson that meets those objectives.

Suggested steps are to:
1. Progress from unit planning to lesson planning.
2. Use a well-framed objective to define the goal of each lesson.
3. Determine how you’ll assess student learning of the objective.
4. Decide on your activity.
5. Choose strategies and materials that help students achieve the objective.

Results: Your lessons and units will be more focused, more efficient, and more effective for students.

1. Students answer a question correctly but you’re unsure whether it was luck, coincidence, or true understanding that accounts for it.
2. Students answer a question correctly and then stop listening because they believe that’s all there is.

Strategy: “Stretch It” from Teach Like a Champion by Doug LeMov, pp. 41-47

Theory: When students finally get an answer all the way right, there’s a temptation to respond by saying “good” or “yes” or by repeating the right answer and that’s that. Just as often, the learning can and should continue after a correct answer has been given. This can be done by asking students to answer a different or tougher question or by using questioning to make sure that a right answer is repeatable – the student knows how to get similar right answers again and again.

1. Ask how or why. The best test of whether students can get answers right consistently is whether they can explain how they got the answer.
Example: How did you get that answer? Or How do you know that?

2. Ask for another way to answer. When there are multiple ways to answer a question and a student solves it one way, ask for a different way to confirm understanding.
Example: Is there a simpler way to do that problem? Or What did we learn last week that could solve this problem?

3. Ask for a better word. Students often frame concepts in the simplest possible language. Offer them opportunities to use more specific words as well as new words with which they are gaining familiarlity.
Example: Can you answer with a different word than “cold” , one that shows how cold it actually was? Or Which of our vocabulary words fits your meaning?

4. Ask for evidence. Students learn to defend their conclusions and support their views.
Example: Please read me two sentences from the story that show us that Sam is spiteful.
5. Ask students to integrate a related skill. In the larger world, questions rarely isolate a skill precisely. Respond to mastery of one skill by asking students to integrate it with others recently learned.
Example: After using the word “stride” in a sentence, ask, “Can you add a compound subject to your sentence?” or “Can you put that in past tense?”

6. Ask students to apply the same skill in a new situation. Make the new situation as challenging as the individual student is able to handle.
Example: Yes, that’s the setting for our story today. What was the setting for Animal Farm?

Result: Asking frequent, targeted, rigorous questions of students as they demonstrate mastery is a powerful tool for differentiating instruction.


Need: You want to energize your class lessons, and your content is already sound, rigorous & relevant.

Strategy: “Change the Pace” from Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov (pp. 225-228)

Theory: For this strategy, PACING is defined as “the illusion of speed.” It is not the rate at which material is presented, but the rate at which the lesson makes the material appear to unfold. In the classroom, moments in which the activity shifts, a task is completed, or a new person enters the conversation can serve as reference points. When such reference points appear to pass in rapid succession, they can make it seem like things are moving fast, regardless of actual speed. Students stay more engaged with your content.

It is NOT:
• Frequently changing topics (distracting, confusing, unproductive)
• Lecturing for 55 minutes (with little student engagement)

It IS: Changing the format of the work on a specific topic more frequently.

Example: A 55-minute lesson on topic sentences might include some or all of the following scaffolded activities (depending on student need):
• Bell work asking students to compare different topic sentences on the same idea.
• Mini-lesson in which the teacher defines a topic sentence with examples and non-examples.
• Students identify the topic sentence in paragraphs provided by the teacher.
• Students in small groups create a list of criteria for a good topic sentence. Discuss with whole class.
• Students write a topic sentence for a paragraph provided by the teacher. Analyze what students contribute.
• The teacher or a student summarizes the lesson.

Result: Increased student engagement with and comprehension of your content.


Issue: Your reluctant students avoid answering or contributing in class on a regular basis or they offer incorrect answers to get past having to participate.

Strategy: “No Opt Out” from Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov (pp. 28-34)

Theory: A sequence beginning with a student unable or unwilling to answer a question should end with that student giving the right answer as often as possible, even if it is only to repeat the correct answer.

Students quickly learn that saying, “I don’t know” or offering a shrug when asked a question no longer gets them off the hook.

A. You ask Charlie for the definition of a right angle. Charlie responds with, “I don’t know.” Ask Tom the same question and, assuming he gives the right answer, say to Charlie, “So Charlie, what is the definition of a right angle?” Charlie has to repeat the correct answer. The moment when you circle back and ask Charlie to re-answer the original question, is the No Opt Out.

B. You ask Sue to name the subject of a sentence. She responds, “Happy.” You provide or ask another student to provide a cue for Sue (a scaffold to help her get to the right answer) by offering, “When I ask for the subject of a sentence, I’m asking for who or what the sentence is about. Sue, what is the subject?” If Sue is still unable to respond correctly, go back to Example A.

C. With only an answer to repeat, it’s all but impossible for the student to opt out and maintain the useful illusion that he/she can’t answer. If the student still doesn’t answer, then it’s an act of defiance which you can address with a
consequence that fits your classroom management plan.

Students learn that they cannot opt out of answering in your classroom. You have set the expectation that everyone will participate and learn. When done with a positive tone, it reminds students that you believe in their ability to answer.