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Friday, January 22, 2016

Teach Like a Champion Author Tackles Reading in New Book

Liana Heitin, assistant editor for Education Week inform, "With his co-authors, Doug Lemov seeks to blend best practice and research in a new book on teaching reading in a common-core era."

Colleen Driggs, Erica Woolway, and Doug Lemov take a break during a conference last week. The trio distill practical advice and research on teaching reading in a forthcoming book, Reading Reconsidered.
—John O’Boyle for Education Week

Common-core frame could prove divisive
About five years ago, the chief executive officer of the Uncommon Schools charter network offered up a lofty charge during a routine staff meeting: "Figure out" reading instruction.

Doug Lemov, a managing director for the network of 44 urban schools, was quickly gaining fame nationally as an instructional guru, having recently published a popular, practical teaching guide called Teach Like a Champion. So he and two colleagues—the chief academic officer of the charter network’s professional development arm, Erica Woolway, and its director of professional development, Colleen Driggs—set out to determine what the best reading teachers in their schools were doing.

As the project got going, the rubber also hit the road on a major education policy change. The Common Core State Standards were officially released, and nearly all states rapidly adopted them. The standards, which the three educators support wholeheartedly, became a frame for Reading Reconsidered, the book that would come out of their half-decade of work.

Scheduled for a February release by publisher Jossey-Bass, the book is aimed mainly at middle and high school English teachers and reading specialists, though the authors emphasize there's something in there for anyone teaching literacy. The nearly 500-page manuscript is divided into eight major reading topics, including text selection, close reading, nonfiction, and vocabulary.

"Our philosophy about guidance to teachers is tools, not programs or systems," said co-author Lemov. "It's really hard to change everything you do. ... We're happy if [teachers] take 10 ideas and throw away the rest."

Potential for Controversy 
Many of the ideas in the book seem to be inarguably good practice—for example, the notion that students should read both silently and aloud, as well as hear text read to them. But there's a good chance at least some parts of it, such as a call for schools to resurrect literary canons, will prove polarizing. Teach Like a Champion also received criticism, with some educators claiming it was too reductive about what makes for good teaching. Nonetheless, the book became a long-running best-seller, with many districts opting to purchase it in bulk.

The new book hinges on the common-core standards, which are a subject of controversy in and of themselves. And some of the authors' recommendations, including an appeal for students to spend time reading archaic texts, may seem like a threat to teachers' autonomy.

In writing the book, the team took a similar approach to the one Lemov had taken with Teach Like a Champion—visiting high-performing teachers across the Uncommon Schools, observing their classrooms, interviewing them, and piloting the tactics they saw those teachers using.

While general classroom management techniques are often visible and quantifiable, reading instruction, the authors note, is a beast of its own. Teachers could conceivably take a tip from Teach Like a Champion—for example, the technique of "cold calling" on students who don't have their hands raised—and "look at the video and process it several times and be ready to turnkey it in the classroom," said Woolway. 
"But teaching reading, it's just so much more complex."

The new book, Lemov said, bridges the middle ground between the general teaching tactics in Teach Like a Champion and the content-specific teaching knowledge that English teachers get, for instance, by having read thousands of novels on their own.

Additional resources

Teach Like a Champion 2.0:
62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College
Teach Like a Champion 2.0 is a complete update to the international bestseller. This teaching guide is a must-have for new and experienced teachers alike. Over 700,000 teachers around the world already know how the techniques in this book turn educators into classroom champions.

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