TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Know any aspiring teachers? Send them a copy of this book ASAP

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When I was in college, several of my courses required the purchase of what the professors indicated were canonical texts. Calculus required Apostol's Calculus Volumes 1 and 2. Electricity and magnetism used Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics. Computer science used Sedgewick's Algorithms

In the field of teacher pre-service training, Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that put Students on the Path to College (TLAC) should have similar stature.

Lemov and his team have built a taxonomy of champion classroom practices by carefully observing (and recording) real teachers who regularly achieve outstanding results for their students. A significant update to the first edition (which we reviewed in 2010), TLAC 2.0's revisions and organization—grouping the techniques into four main classroom focus areas—challenge the (uncharitable) opinion that it represents nothing more than a "bag of tricks." It's true that Lemov has a bias to action: he introduces the text stating he "(has) tried to describe the techniques of champion teachers in a concrete, specific, and actionable way" with a focus on next-day implementation.  And it's true that 62 techniques are detailed in the text. But these techniques represent an early, on-going effort to define, illustrate and develop the fundamentals of effective classroom instruction. Rather than a "bag of tricks," these are foundational skills, much like arithmetic is a necessary precursor to algebra. 

An example is illustrative. Check for understanding was a single technique in the first edition; it's now a critical area encompassing two chapters of the book (collecting data on mastery and acting on the data/establishing a culture of error) and ten separate techniques. One of those techniques—plan for error—outlines specific planning a teacher can undertake in anticipating and correcting student misunderstandings during instruction and practice. For example, in planning for a lesson on the slope-intercept form of equations, a teacher (in this case, Bryan Belanger from Troy Prep Middle School) included more than 50 practice problems of increasing complexity: more than any class could get through in a period. However, the expectation was not that any single class would be able to get through them; rather, after teaching, Bryan would give problems to the class as practice and decide to skip ahead or loop back in the list of problems depending on his observations of his students.

Lemov's description of planning for error includes two more ways of doing so: planning for specific errors (that is, thinking through the most obvious misapprehensions for the most important points of a lesson and specifically figuring out, beforehand, how you would respond) and planning re-teach time (that is, setting aside blocks of time to loop back to areas where your students are struggling or, happily, move ahead if there are no such barriers to understanding).

The book also clearly mirrors the respect and admiration Lemov has for the teachers he has observed and with whom he has collaborated. This is not the work of an academic isolated from practice; this is the work of someone with a deep respect of practice and practitioners, a work written about, by and for them.

It is telling that we found the first edition of Teach Like a Champion in the classroom management courses in 7 of 122 programs in our 2013 report on classroom management .  To be clear — that's not a commentary on the text; rather, it's an indictment of a field that avoids the creation of a coherent theory of instruction, favoring instead the idea that each teacher must find her own way with her particular students.