Are you rounding up student answers? Teach like a Champion.

“Deep in thought” by RPatts on Flickr

An essential part of being a better teacher, manager, student or leader is the ability to review and refine your practice and to be open to new ideas.  I am currently reading a book “Teach Like a Champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college” by Doug Lemov.  Lemov is managing director of a group of ‘Uncommon Schools’ who are independently run charter schools aiming to be high performing regardless of social profile of the students.

Some may consider the advice in the teaching manual to be for new and inexperienced teachers but there is something there for everyone who is keen to refine their craft and improve the performance of their students.

Lemov has sought out and observed high performing teachers, especially those from schools whose level of social deprivation is preventing students from achieving. He has identified common themes and techniques that can be applied in your classroom now and will improve performance.  These have been organised into areas:

  1. Setting High Academic Expectations
  2. Planning that Ensures Academic Achievement
  3. Structuring and Delivering Your Lessons
  4. Engaging Students in Your Lessons
  5. Creating a Strong Classroom Culture
  6. Setting and Maintaining High Behaviour Expectations
  7. Building Character and Trust

Within these seven areas are 49 techniques, each with catchy names (Precise Praise, Sweat the Details, Right is Right), simple explanations and successful case studies. I am part way through the book but a technique that grabbed me in Setting High Academic Expectations is Right is Right.  This is my summary of that section.

Right is Right

This section is about having high expectations for ‘correctness’ in the classroom.  A partially correct answer is not good enough in the high achieving classroom.  There are a number of ways that teachers can ensure that students are always fully correct and are achieving the highest standards. 

1. Hold out for all the way

Teachers try to encourage students and stay positive but their rounding up of answers lulls students into a false sense of security.  Consider the situation

Teacher: Katie, how will the introduction of computers into the factory affect the workers?

Katie: Well, they won’t be very happy!

Teacher: Right, they won’t be very happy as the new technology could mean that they would lose their jobs.

The teacher has ‘rounded up’ Katie’s answer here and set a low standard of ‘correctness’.  Katie may feel happier and more confident but this confidence is misplaced as she would not get the marks in an exam situation.  This situation is all too familiar in the classroom; it’s important that Katie is told that she is ‘almost there’ but that she is not completely correct.  The teacher can improve Katie’s performance in the final exam by using simple techniques.

The teacher should praise the student but prompt them and assist them in expanding their answer to be fully correct.  They can do this by using phrases such as

“You’re getting there.  Can you expand that answer?”
“That’s part of the solution.  Can you complete it?”
“Can you develop that answer further?”
“Okay, but there’s a bit more to this answer than that”

2. Answer the question

Students can often answer the question they WANT to answer rather than the question that is being asked.  Quite often they can get away with that as the teacher is delighted that they have learned something and can recall it, but the teacher should stick to their guns and insist that the question asked should be answered.


Teacher: Who can tell me what a high-level language is?

Tim: C++ is a high-level language.

Teacher: Thank you Tim but C++ is an example.  I am looking for a definition of what a high-level language is.

3. Right answer, right time

We’ve all had the keen student who want to demonstrate their understanding by jumping ahead of the question that you asked.  This is fine for that student but it doesn’t help the other students in the class who need the process to be broken down into the manageable chunks that you originally planned.  It also creates the impression that the pace of understanding is much faster than it really is.  

Effective teachers should tactfully but forcefully ask the student to explain the NEXT step, not the whole process. They should then carry on as they originally planned the delivery of the material.  This is not to say that if you should not move ahead if the whole class has genuinely understood the concept faster than you expected.

4. Use of technical vocabulary

This final point is about getting teachers to not only use technical vocabulary in the classroom but to expect it back from students and not ‘round up’ the vocabulary.  Great teachers should insist on precise technical vocabulary.  

In Lemov’s book he illustrates this with video clips, one of which shows a maths teacher asking a student about how ordered pairs of co-ordinates work.  The student answers that “the x-axis comes first and then the y-axis”.  Many teachers would accept this answer as it is or ‘round up’ and say “That’s right, the x co-ordinate comes first and then the y co-ordinate”.  In this scenario the student probably wouldn’t even realise that their technical vocabulary was wrong.   The teacher in the video clip questions the student to coax the correct vocabulary out of them and then insists on them answering the question in full using the correct technical vocabulary. 


Regardless of whether you are new to teaching or have been teaching for a number of years, “Teach like a champion” allows you to identify the little things that make a big difference in the classroom.  I have already used some of the points in my classroom and will be using some of these suggestions for staff when observing lessons for professional development and mentoring. 

Teach Like A Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students On The Path To College (Doug Lemov) is available from 

RRP: £18.99
Sale Price (at time of publishing): £13.67

Amazon also have a live preview where you can read a sample of the book before you purchase.





Why I’m an Amazon Prime member

I signed up for Amazon Prime two years ago but I didn’t mean to.  I signed up for the free trial and didn’t cancel in time but now it’s one of the best things and I wouldn’t be without it. 

For those of you who don’t know what it is, Amazon Prime gives you

  • unlimited FREE One-Day Delivery on millions of eligible items sold by
  • free shipping with no minimum purchase
  • the ability to share your account with four other members of your household

… all for the low cost of £49 for a year. 

I tend to find that Amazon prices are normally excellent on most items and you can order quite late in the afternoon and still receive it next day.   I use it with the Amazon iPhone app to order on the go.  It makes the whole process a doddle!

Amazon Prime has saved me so much on shipping over the last two years and it means that using Amazon is a no-brainer as you only need to think about the cost of the item and it is couriered to you for the next day.

There is a one month FREE TRIAL available so sign-up today and take my word for it … it’s completely worth it!

Paid for checking in? Quidco goes social.

A number of people enjoy checking in with apps like Foursquare and Gowalla but after you’ve been riding high at the top of the leader board for a couple of weeks it gets boring pretty quickly.

Foursquare has specials if you are the mayor of nominated places but these have never been useful or relevant.  The only one I could possibly imagine using is Domino’s but it takes time to earn the mayorship.

I recently came across Quidco when my father in law purchased an iPhone and we earned £109 for buying through Quidco.  Quidco have now released an iPhone app but the interesting part is that they make payments for checking in to different stores.  This puts a whole new perspective on the foursquare system … why would you check in for free when you could be earning money?

They are only small payments but they will build up quickly. Examples of check in payments include

  • check in to Debenhams = £0.25
  • check in to GAP = £0.25
  • check in to Halfords = £0.20
  • check in to New Look = £0.10
  • check in to the Cutting Room (a small hairdresser near me) = £0.25

Of course you can also earn payments for buying things online – e.g.

What are you waiting for?
Sign up now and start earning on your check-ins!

Inspire magazine

A few months ago I saw the excellent C Magazine from Jamie Portman at Campsmount and was incredibly impressed so when I started at my new school I wanted to start our own learning magazine.   I worked on this with a colleague (Jay Davenport) and initially this was published internally only but we are now pleased to publish this far and wide on the Internet!

We have now completed our third issue and the next one is in progress.   Inspire magazine is the learning magazine from Ousedale School.   The first issue was generic but subsequent issues have had a focus including teaching gifted students and the post 16 issue. 

The response from staff has been incredible and they are starting to have more conversations about learning.   It is certainly creating the buzz that we were looking to produce.   I hope you enjoy them and pass them on to staff at your school.

You can read all the three issues by visiting

Watch this space for Issue 4 … coming soon!


One of the ICT crimes in schools is buying technology but not using it. One of the most common technologies that suffer from this is the interactive whiteboard.

Rather than buying new stuff, we are focusing on making the best of what we have got. Our school has lots of Promethean Activboards but many of the staff do not know how to use the ActivInspire software or are stuck on the older ActivStudio software.

We recently ran a whole school training session on use of interactive whiteboards. We had three classifications: beginners, intermediate and advanced, but with a lot of staff split across two campuses how do we achieve a consistent training experience?

We wanted to train in ICT suites and had ActivInspire installed on all the computers so staff could practise during the session instead of sitting and watching. We ran one advanced session, four intermediate sessions and two beginner sessions simultaneously.

We made a number of mini training videos available and training flipcharts for the trainers.

You can access all the training videos and the trainer flipcharts at our new learning platform that we are currently developing. Visit for all the files.

Can you afford Office365 for Education?

Earlier this week Microsoft announced the pricing plans for Office365 for Education, the successor to the free live@edu.  Anyone who manages ICT services or is a budget holder will always we filled with dread when they read “pricing plan” as this often means expensive tiers and reduction of features.

So is Microsoft pulling a “bait-and-switch” on our schools with Office365?

In October last year I was looking to migrate my school to the free live@edu service that lots of people were raving about.  We investigated the service, signed up for a trial and were enthusiastic to move our provision across.  Then Microsoft announced Office365 for business and said ”availability and pricing for Office 365 will be announced at a future date.” 
This set off alarm bells for us so we slammed on the brakes and stopped our plans until pricing was announced.  Our main concern was that we would be offered free hosted email, 25GB SkyDrive and access to Office Web Apps today but will be charged tomorrow. 

Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened!

What was free for our school before email, SkyDrive and Office Web Apps is now only available in the Plan A2 in the diagram above.  This has been justified by adding additional features into the pricing tier including SharePoint and Lync, but the basic offer in live@edu has been reduced.

So how much would this cost our school?  We are a large secondary school with around 2000 students.  We have 285 staff with email addresses who would need to be migrated across.  These are not just teachers but our associate staff base who are essential to the running of the school. 

$10 per month = $120 per annum each
$120 x 285 staff members = $34200 per school

What makes matters worse is that the UK pricing has not been released yet.  We know that US pricing rarely equates to the equivalent UK price according to the exchange rate. 

Assuming direct exchange conversion this gives us a total cost of £21,500 at today’s exchange rates.   This is too much for any school to afford.

Four months ago I wrote an article “Has everyone gone gaga for Google?” about schools migrating to Google Apps for Education.  It now seems like these schools were ahead of the game!

It’s no secret that UK Schools are going to be suffering financially over the coming years and that budget cuts are looming.  If it was a choice between saving jobs or paying for extra services I’m sure very few schools would choose the latter. 

Making a successful start

From Ousedale School Blog – Friday 15th October 2010

Change is always a difficult part of life and changing jobs is a stressful exercise. This is my first year at Ousedale School as an Assistant Headteacher having moved from a local secondary school. I’m sure many of us remember the nerves of starting at a new workplace and all those questions that went through our head before the first day … “Are the staff going to be friendly?”, “Will I be able to cope with the work?” and “Who can I ask questions to if I don’t understand?”

These are the same kind of questions and worries that must have been going through our Year 7 students’ heads the night before they started with us in September. It is easy to forget how stressful it is to start at a new school but I think our Year 7 students have coped incredibly well. I was lucky enough to talk with parents of our new Year 7 students at the recent Parent/Tutor evening and was pleased to receive such a positive insight into how they are getting on after their first month.

“I haven’t heard the word ‘bored’ once since he started” was the most significant quote I heard during the evening and it’s exciting to know that they are enjoying their learning every day. It is obviously a “step up” in terms of the workload and we know that some students find it more difficult than others to adjust to homework but we’re confident that they will adjust quickly to these new routines. This was one of the many positive comments we received from parents and students on the evening and it’s good to know that our students and their families have had such a positive experience in their first few weeks.

As I walk around school I see Year 7 students who are enthusiastic about school and learning. I was in a French lesson recently where students were singing a song to help them learn the names of the months. It was wonderful to see the energy and enjoyment from the group. I only wish I had a video camera with me to showcase this lesson to other members of staff.

This level of success doesn’t come easily and I’m sure that our students’ success is down to the hard work of their tutors, subject teachers and the pastoral team. Our older students have made our new arrivals welcome and have been helping them out by ensuring they know where to go and that they are able to move around the school confidently.

None of this would have happened without the hard work from the students themselves. They have ensured they are punctual, have all the necessary equipment and putting the maximum effort into their lessons. After such a great start, I am looking forward to seeing how they progress throughout the year. Well done Year 7!

Stuart Ridout
Assistant Headteacher

Errrrm security HBSC?

I was in the bank today with my wife at the counter service section. A girl goes to the next counter, hands over a card to withdraw money. The member of staff asks why she doesn’t use the machine but the girl says she’s exceeded her daily limit.

The member of staff asks for her to sign a withdrawal slip. The signature doesn’t match.

The member of staff asks if she has any other ID. She doesn’t.

The member of staff asks her to fill out her date of birth and memorable name. She gets the name wrong and goes through a few but still doesn’t get it right.

The girl then says to leave it as she’ll borrow the money from a friend at which point the member of staff says that she’ll authorise the withdrawal.

Errrm. What’s the point of all those questions and systems if you don’t stick to them?

Has everyone gone ga-ga for Google?

Recently I have seen increasing mention of Google Apps and its use in schools in my Twitter feed from my personal learning network.  More and more educators are looking to switch their whole school across to using Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office, GMail instead of Outlook and Google Apps with single sign-on instead of multiple login accounts for the various services. 

Why have we suddenly gone Google mad and is it really better than the alternative? 

A major advantage for Google Apps is that it is free … ish.  It will still cost money in terms of people’s time to switch over and it will take time to administer the Google Apps set up, to create user passwords and to reset those passwords when they are forgotten.  It is important to remember that free does not always mean free because of the ‘on-costs’ associated with it.  However, it is significantly less than the licensing costs for Microsoft Office and the relevant upgrade fees. 

Another aspect of Google Apps is its collaborative nature.  We seem to see more schools getting students to work collaboratively and indeed working collaboratively across different schools.  This certainly fits in the Google model much better and sharing is easily accomplished using Google Apps.  Historically this has not been the case with the Microsoft Office suite which has been much more single-user centric.

Much more than Office

It would be easy to make a direct comparison between Google Docs and Microsoft Office but Google Apps is much more than just Docs.   Schools can benefit from free email (with a large storage capacity!), free calendars, Google Groups, creation of websites using Google Sites and hosting of video. 

All of this is backed up by the power of Google and they value your privacy and the privacy of the users.  Use of Google Apps also means less work for technical staff in schools so they can concentrate on the hardware side of things.  It also means you don’t need to implement a costly home-access solution to give students access to their files.

Offline access?

Google Docs’ strength is also its biggest weakness.  You can access your documents from any Internet enabled computer, but if you have no Internet then you have no access to your documents.  As a business tool this could be disastrous as you could have an office of staff twiddling their thumbs as you would have no access to software to even create new documents.  Google have phased out their offline access to Docs so you could be left with nothing.  This could equally happen using Microsoft Office if your network goes down but you would still be able to create new documents and it would not matter if the Internet was down.  With the Google solution you would be scuppered either way and often the lack of Internet is out of your control, as was the case of a colleague who lost school Internet due to a workman cutting through a cable.

Solution: You can export key documents from Google Docs to work offline.

Mail Merge Missing

Although Google Docs has a wide range of features available it does seem to lack some of the more advanced features of its desktop counterparts.  Although I could find mention of mail merge features on the Internet I couldn’t find anything related to mail merge on Google Docs when I searched.  This is a big problem for schools where mail merged letters are commonplace.  

Google Spreadsheet is a feature rich application and has all features that most basic spreadsheet users would need.  It does lack PivotTables which I use quite frequently and I couldn’t find a way to change the zoom percentage to view large spreadsheets at a glance.  The formula list on Google Docs is way beyond anything I would need and the graphing tools are simple enough for most basic users.  

Am you ready to make the change?

Some wouldn’t be comfortable making the change to cloud based Office applications on a large scale across a school.  The main reason for this is that some schools do not have the stability or bandwidth in their Internet connections, especially large schools or those in remote locations.  

A better way would be to make a gradual transition from Microsoft Office to Google Apps.  It is important to make sure that students are aware of, and can use Google Docs as I think it provides excellent facilities for those who don’t have Microsoft Office at home.  I also think it is important that students learn to use a range of tools so they are not slaves to Microsoft and are aware of a range of applications so they are able to select the most appropriate ones for their needs.

#newleaders appeal – Please help!

So a while back we asked the wonderful people of Twitter to post their #newleaders tweets to help people who are taking on a new leadership role.  The tweets came flooding in and since this time I have been working to strip out RTs, decipher meaning where people are limited to 140 chars and categorise the tweets to organise into an eBook. 

There is a problem though, the #newleaders tweets are very different from the #movemeon tweets which could be summarised quite neatly in 140 chars.  Whilst there are loads of #newleaders tweets there is a lack of depth in the book.  So I am appealing for some short stories/anecdotes to use in the book.

I would love it if a few people could write a short passage (around 250 words) talking about a particular leadership experience they have had.  We can anonymise them and we don’t want tales that would personally identify anyone.

We have split the tweets into these areas that might give you ideas

  • Making Changes/Change Management
  • Communication
  • Decision Making
  • Delegation
  • General Tips
  • Meetings
  • New role (advice for the first term of a new role)
  • Perceptions of others
  • Professional Development
  • School improvement

To contribute your story please email and please tweet and RT this!

Thank you in advance!