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Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

07.31.13Thoughts on TLAC 2.0… plus Format Matters 2.0

a papersAs many of you know, I’m starting work on a major revision to Teach Like a Champion.  With a little luck it’ll be in stores by June.  The idea is to take the original book and revise it in two ways: 1) Add what my team and I have learned about the existing techniques since original publication.  The amount of new knowledge we have to share is daunting… not surprisingly… what else but great insight would you expect from giving decent ideas to great teachers and then watching them adapt and improve… in some cases the “2.0” techniques will eclipse the 1.0 versions in scope; in almost all cases they will eclipse them in rigor. 2) Re-organize the book–prioritizing some things over others; adding some new techniques and dropping some less critical ones (or, well, moving them to an appendix, at least.) As it happens, I am ALSO writing a new book–on Reading–at exactly the same time.  Yikes. Anyway, over the coming months I’m going to rehearse and pre-share some ideas from the new books in this blog.  In fact as some of you have recognized I’ve been doing so for a while. For example on No Opt Out 2.0 here , on Check for Understanding 2.0 here and here. On a new aspect of Everybody Writes called Art of the Sentence here and on a new aspect of 100%, The Art of the Consequence here.  From the reading book you can preview non-fiction embedding here and here.  Later this week I’m going to post on what is to me a really big topic from the reading book: text complexity and text rigor.  In the meantime here’s a short reflection on one aspect of text complexity. In the meantime here’s some really good and practical material on our 2.0 version of Format Matters, which you will recall is a small but powerful technique from 1.0 that describes how champion teachers manage the medium of the message… they recognize that “the complete sentence is the battering ram that knocks down the door to college” and so they ask students to speak in complete and grammatically correct sentences whenever possible. We still see that (as well as audible format and unit format) in great classrooms.  But what we’ve notice in the best of the best is a focus on what we call “Collegiate Format”… not just getting students to use complete grammatically correct sentences but getting them to practice speaking in the implicit language of the university–including fact and specifics in their sentences; using complex syntax to capture ideas.  My colleague Joaquin Hernandez put together some slides to summarize what a “Collegiate Format” sentence might look like and what a teacher might ask for to get a student there.  He uses an example from a discussion of Animal Farm wherein a seventh grade student observed, correctly, re George Orwell, that “He’s giving them roles like the people in Russia.”  The idea is right here, and the sentence is complete and grammatical.  That said the sentence is insufficient and in the most rigorous and implicitly college prep settings, it would never fly.  So Joaquin lays out a taxonomy of how to make the sentence more pre-college worthy:

Original sentence:  “He’s giving them roles like the people in Russia.”
Add specific references replace pronouns and vague nouns: Orwell is giving the pigs roles like the leaders in the Russian Revolution.
Add more rigorous syntax: Orwell gives the pigs roles like those of the leaders of the Russian Revolution.
Add key details, facts and evidence: Orwell gives the pigs roles like those of Lenin, Trotsky, and other leaders of the Russian Revolution.
Upgrade to precise academic vocabulary: Orwell uses pigs to personify Lenin, Trotsky, and other leaders of the Russian Revolution.
Collegiate Format Sentence: Orwell uses pigs to personify Lenin, Trotsky and other leaders of the Russian Revolution.

I’m imagining the questions that could get our student there: “Thank you, David.  Would you clarify: Who is  giving the pigs roles?”  “Thank you. And is it just “people in Russia” whom the pigs roles represent? Can you be more precise?”  “Good.  Can you be historically accurate though and put names to some of those leaders?” “Excellent. David, are you able to the technical term for giving animals or non-living things the attributes of people?” This form of rigor–refining an answer til the core of an idea is refined and clarified in collegiate format–is a critical and sometimes overlooked technique of many of our top teachers.  And of course it goes well beyond what I wrote about in TLAC 1.0. If you want to see them, Joaquin’s slides are here: FM2.0.Collegiate Format And here’s a link to an amazing video of Beth Verilli of Northstar Academy taking a student’s answer about Macbeth and taking it to Collegiate Format in inspiring fashion.

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