Connect, Grow, Thrive

Teach like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College (K-12)

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 32 No. 3 Summer 2015

Doug Lemov

Jossey-Bass (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-47-055047-2

352 pages

This book is aimed at school teachers in the USA. However, I believe it would be useful for any teachers of groups, especially those teaching young learners and teens. I often hear YL and Teens teachers asking for advice on classroom management, especially those in private classes where none of the traditional ‘school sanctions’ such as detentions are in place. This book is packed with practical ideas that are easy to put into place, ideas which ask the best of each student all the time, as well as offer effective solutions to common classroom problems.

It is split into 49 simple but effective techniques. Here are some of my favourites:

1. No Opt Out'dunno' is not an acceptable answer, get the pupil to find the correct answer, get another pupil to tell him, you tell him, tattoo on your forehead, whatever it takes, but don't leave it at 'dunno'. Get the pupil to give you the correct answer themselves, even if they're repeating what their friend said. I also ask them to do it again in our end of lesson review.

6. Begin with the end – start by planning the long-term objectives, then the assessment, then the lesson, then the activities.

12. Find the hook – what is the unique selling point of your lesson? How will you hook the students' attention the minute they walk into class?

15. Circulate – as a teacher, aim to break into the back half of the classroom territory within the first 10 minutes of class; let them know you can and will be everywhere.

20. Exit ticket – make each pupil answer a question, recall a new lexical item or explain something, before they can leave at the end of the class.

25. Wait time – give pupils enough time to answer, let them know how much time they've got; if they need more, tell them you will ask someone else but will be coming back to them later.

29. Do it now – have a short activity on the board waiting for them when they arrive in class, so they always have something to do.

37. What to do – tell pupils what they should be doing, not what you don't want them to do. Be specific.

40. Sweat the details – if they're not lining up correctly, wasting time handing out worksheets, not putting work away in the right place, do it again and again and again; time ‘wasted’ in the first few lessons is saved 100-fold during the rest of the year.

Each idea is introduced and simply described, examples are given, and the rationale behind each technique is effectively explained. The book also has a DVD where you can see these techniques in practice in the classroom. Unfortunately, the Kindle version doesn't have it.

While this is not the only task/activity-based book on the market, it should not be confused with the many ‘warmers and fillers’ type resource available. The ideas in this book are not topic-based: they encourage good behaviour and effective learning in the classroom but do not offer any content for lesson plans or materials. The chapters include setting high academic expectations, planning and structuring lessons, engaging students, maintaining high behavioural expectations, and creating a strong classroom culture.

While not every technique will be relevant to your teaching, this book – at approximately CHF 17.- ( – is very good value for money, and probably one of the books that has most changed my way of teaching.

Rachael Harris