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12.04.15Strategic Investment: A Field Guide 2.0 Excerpt

Thousands of teachers used the Teach Like a Champion Field Guide to help them implement, trouble shoot and refine their application of the techniques in the first version of the book. Now that the first version has been revised and taken out of print and there’s a new improved version, some teachers might feel left in the lurch. Not to worry! Joaquin Hernandez, Jen Kim and I are cranking away at the 2.0 version of the Field Guide.  It’s due out in late summer (just in time for the new school year) and I’m really happy with how it’s coming along.  In fact, i thought I’d try to share some short excerpts here on the blog. The first of them is from the chapter on “Strategic Investment”… how to turn a procedure into a routine.  Joaquin just drafted it and it’s really useful. I chose two segments of it to share below so you can see the kind of things the new Field Guide 2.0 will be full of. (Look for it in Summer 2016!)

Segment 1: Rolling out a Procedure

The rollout is the first and one of the most crucial steps to routinizing any system or procedure. It involves publicly explaining to students what the procedure is, why it matters, and how to do it well before you install it. Nailing your rollouts puts you on your way to building a productive and orderly classroom.

Three principles underlie an effective rollout:

Lead with the “Why.”Explain the rationale for a system or procedure to cultivate student buy-in and show that your intent is to help them learn and succeed (e.g., “Whenever I call on a scholar to share out, we’ll put our eyes on them because it helps us learn from their thinking and shows our teammates that we value what they have to say.)

Break into steps. Chunk the task into a small number of discrete steps; for example, “When you first enter class, we’ll make eye contact, shake hands, and greet each other with a ‘Good morning.’  Number them if you want students to implement them sequentially.

Model and describe. Efficiently teach procedures and systems by describing them at the same time as you show what they look like in action. The description establishes a common language for talking about the procedure.

Here’s the transcript of a strong rollout of Cold Call led by former 5th grade reading teacher and current Teach Like a Champion team member Colleen Driggs. Read it through.  Then go back through it with the principles in mind.

COLLEEN: In some of your classes your teachers do this thing that’s called “Cold Calling.” In fact, I do it. It’s when you don’t raise your hands and a teacher calls on you just to see whether you know. It’s not like a gotcha, it’s really just a way to do a quick review. I don’t call it “cold calling,” though – I call it “hot” calling, because it gives you a chance to shine and to show that you’re on fire. So almost every day when we’re talking about genre, we’re going to do hot calling. It’s a great way to review all of these definitions and terms that we’ve learned.

Here’s the hardest part about hot calling. You’ve got to keep your hands down. Your hands are folded. I will call on a person. When I call on that person, you track just like you normally do. Nod if you understand. Nod if you are ready for hot calling. Beautiful. Keep your hands down…What is the definition of “genre”? William?

In the language of the principles we named above, what’s effective about how Colleen rolls Cold Call out to her students?






Our notes: What’s effective and why: Colleen Leads with the Why when she explains to students that she will Cold Call (or “hot call”) to give them a chance to “shine and to show that [they’re] on fire.” By clarifying her positive intentions for using Cold Call, she not only assuages students’ anxieties about it, she increases their buy-in. She then chunks Cold Call into a sequence of Specific Steps that students can expect to follow every time.

Case studies of rollouts

Read these rollout case studies. Consider what each teacher does that’s effective and what could be improved about each rollout. Record your observations in the “Glows and Grows.”  Identify which principles for effective rollouts the teacher does and does not follow.

[Note I’m skipping case study #1 here]

Case Study 2: Accountable independent reading (AIR) in 8th grade reading

TEACHER: In high school and college, your teachers are going to ask you to do a lot of reading on your own outside of class. And you won’t just be expected to do the reading, but to really dig into it and come prepared to discuss it on a deeper level. To get ready for this kind of rigor, we’re going to practice these skills of being a good independent reader with an activity we’ll call “AIR.” The way it works is that you’re going to read a short chunk of text with a specific focus in mind. We’ll start small, and then as the year progresses, you’ll have the opportunity to read more on your own.

For this first independent reading task, I want you to do the following:

  • Put a box around the first two paragraphs on pg. 35
  • Take 3 minutes to underline words or phrases that convey mood
  • Take 2 minutes to write your response to this focus question: “How does the author use setting to develop mood?”




It was effective when the teacher… Next time, the teacher could try…


Do not proceed until you have responded in writing above.


Possible Glows: The teacher cultivates buy-in by sharing a compelling “why” (preparing students for independent reading of rigorous texts in high school and college). He also provides is highly specific about what AIR will entail and gives clear directions for each step. The teacher is also mindful to “start small,” which sets students up to succeed with AIR on their first attempt.


Possible Grows: Before releasing students to begin reading independently, the teacher could have checked for understanding (Chapters 1 and 2) to make sure students were clear on his directions and expectations.  For example, the teacher could have asked, “Before I release you to do X, tell me: What part of the text are you reading on your own? What will you underline? How much time will you have to read? How much time will you have to write?”

Also, the teacher might be more deliberate about giving students a clear annotation task that prepares them to answer the focus question (e.g., “Take 3 minutes to read this excerpt and underline words or phrases that the author uses to convey mood”).


Segment 2: Rebooting Systems and Procedures

Despite our best efforts to install strong system and routines in August or September, it’s inevitable that some things won’t go according to plan. Come midyear, you may notice that students are no longer performing them at a satisfactory level. Alternatively, you may see the need to install some new routine. In either case, a “reboot” is in order.

Here are some tips for framing this reboot to make your intentions clear and cultivate student buy-in:

Invent a “news peg.” Connect the reboot to an inspiring, headline-grabbing goal (for example, “We have only 68 days left until we rock our state test!”).

Reboot after an extended break. Take advantage of these periods away from class; they provide you with a natural excuse to reintroduce old procedures or to make a clean break from the past. (e.g. “Now that we’ve just come back from our holiday break, it’s the perfect time for a fresh start.”)

Be transparent. Briefly explain why you’re rebooting. If you don’t, you risk confusing students and losing their buy-in. To reboot an old system or procedure, you might say something like: “We’re going to think back to when I taught you X at the beginning of the year—we’ll review what we need to do and practice doing it not just well but perfectly.”

Let students model and describe. Reward outstanding students with an opportunity to model a procedure that you want to reintroduce. This is a great way to reward excellence, boost engagement during modeling, and increase student buy-in.

Reinforce with Technique 59, Precise Praise Acknowledge progress, and praise students who exceed your expectations. If students pick up the procedures with less practice than they did at the beginning of the year, recognize their growth. This shows students that your reboot isn’t a punishment or indictment, but rather an expression of your belief in their ability to meet your high expectations.


Do the following now or when you’ve reached a point at which you plan to reboot. Identify one system or procedure that needs rebooting. It could either be a brand new one or an old one that’s gone awry. Below these two examples rationales, draft two of your own.

  • “In September, we never talked about the right way to do a Turn and Talk. And a result, we’re not getting the most out of our pair discussions. Starting today, we’re going to work together to change that by…”
  • “In the beginning of the year, you guys were coming in and out of your Turn and Talks quickly and crisply. But as the months have gone by, our transitions have been getting rusty, which means our Turn and Talks are taking longer and we’re getting less out of them. To get back on track, let’s refresh ourselves on what it looks like to do an A+ Turn and Talk.”


Rationale 1:


Rationale 2:


If you can, try out your rationales with a partner, and ask for feedback.

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