Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: "Teach Like a Champion," by Doug Lemov

On the Monday of Teacher Appreciation Week, my principal gave each of us a book called “Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College,” by Doug Lemov. I actually enjoy reading books about teaching, whether they are about classroom management, curriculum, or just how we tick. I happened to be between books, so the timing was just right to crack it open. I became hooked right away.  

The gist of this book is that kids of any age want to learn and want to be successful, but that they often do not know the language and behavior of success. As teachers, it is our responsibility to teach them in a way that creates a pathway to college and beyond. Lemov and his partners watched hours of videos of teachers in the classroom and broke the best teachers’ skills into specific techniques that any teacher can learn to use.

The techniques are divided by topic so that a teacher can think through every aspect of their day. From planning, delivery, and setting and maintaining high expectations to creating a classroom culture, building character, and using humor (and music!), Lemov encourages us to think concretely about all we say, all we do, and all our students do in each class. Each chapter ends with a “Reflection and Practice” to assist the teacher in applying the techniques to their own classroom and curriculum. I am not a fan of highlighting or making notes in my books, but I found myself jotting down ideas in the margins so that I could go back and review certain concepts and determine ways to bring them into my teaching.

To be clear, this is not a book designed specifically for music teachers, but it contains many lessons that we can apply to our classrooms. For example, one of the main tenets is that we never have enough time. Given how little time we as music teachers have with our students, any strategies that can tighten up our use of time is not only useful but essential.
I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of “Teach Like a Champion” for summer reading. Even better, try to find a teaching partner with whom you can discuss the material over coffee. No matter your level of experience or how effective you are in the classroom, there is always room for improvement.


Mari Schay teaches K–5 general music, choir, beginning band, and marimba band at Earl Boyles Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. She has also taught middle school general music and band as well as private percussion lessons. Mari received her B.M. in percussion performance and her M.A. in teaching from Willamette University. She also holds a M.M. in percussion performance, which she earned at the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music. While at the conservatory, she worked with Percussion Group Cincinnati. Mari has performed and recorded with a variety of orchestras, new music ensembles, and pop music groups, and is a former member of Boka Marimba, a Zimbabwean-style band in Portland.

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