A few years ago my school bought every teacher and leader a copy of the book Teach Like a Champion and initiated a professional development cycle based on some of the techniques it touts. Teach Like a Champion consists of 49 discrete classroom management and instructional strategies with concrete steps for implementation.

I remember watching videos of second graders executing “tight transitions,” which meant that they stood up, pushed in their chairs, and marched over to their reading carpet in unison while the teacher gave them hand signals and a count down to guide the process.

I remember rolling my eyes.


(photo credit: http://www.duetsblog.com/)

I remember thinking this was about young, inexperienced teachers learning to control young urban students.

I remember thinking this was a waste of my time.

But I guess that’s what happens when you learn strategies without understanding the principles behind them.

Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion, explains that, “People sometimes think ‘efficient’ is a dirty word when used to describe a classroom- as if the teacher was a corporate acolyte shooting for some questionable goal.  But really what being efficient means is being productive (more time spent doing the things that result in learning) and predictable (so kids know how things are supposed to work and can anticipate that and focus their cognition on learning content not adapting to shifting expectations).”

Principle: Efficient classrooms are productive and predictable, which maximizes time for intellectual work.

Ahha! Suddenly the rows of students marching to the carpet looked less like robots and more like learners. “Tight transitions” don’t happen for the appearance of order and control, “tight transitions” happen to ensure more time for reading.

When implemented in the service of our learning goals (not for their own sake), the following strategies are very useful in creating predictable and productive classrooms that make more time for the deep thinking that our learning goals require. Is it essential to execute them exactly as Lemov describes them? Probably not. Do they, alone, lead to student learning? Certainly not. Should administrators focus their attention and feedback on teachers implementing these strategies with fidelity? We say no. Can they provide a helpful starting point for achieving a predictable and productive classroom with more space for sustained intellectual work? Yes.

Routines and procedures:

What other routines and structures have you used to live this principle? Share with us the strategies that work for you.