Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

03.07.13A Great Clip, but of What?? (video)

uchs_homepage2_0Over at TLaC Towers we hold a weekly cutting log meeting (CLM) where we watch video clips of high performing teachers. We use the clips to learn and reflect and also to design workshops and training activities.


At last week’s CLM we screened this clip of Uncommon High School’s Kameelah Rasheed teaching Ancient Civ., and every one of us loved it—the rigor of her questioning and the strength of her high standards jumped off the screen.  We knew we wanted to show it in our next Engaging Academics workshop, but we couldn’t decide whether it was an example of Right is Right or Stretch It.  Rather than introduce a divisive struggle among the TLaC staff. We figured we’d crowd source the answer.


I asked two of our team members, John Costello and Joaquin Hernandez, to summarize the arguments on each side.


John’s Case for Stretch It:


I tend to think of Right is Right as a technique which helps teachers make sure students have fully met their expectations, and Stretch It as the moment when teachers reward students with a rigorous follow-up question after their expectations have been met. In this clip, I believe the first student fully answered the initial question.


Q: What type of government did they establish, and why?

A: They developed a Republic, so the Romans had some power to choose officials.


Kameelah Rasheed acknowledges that this answer is correct, but doesn’t stop there. She asks for another reason why the Romans would have developed a Republic.


Then, after establishing two different correct answers she dives into the Roman motivation for why they wanted to elect officials and impose term limits in the first place. I see this as a deeper extension of the question she initially framed.



Joaquin’s Case for Right is Right:

In this clip, I think Kameelah Rasheed uses Right is Right because she holds students to a high standard of correctness. Although a student answers her first question correctly (“What type of government did they establish/develop?”), Kameelah follows up because she doesn’t think students are fully answering her second (“why”) question.

Like John, I see Stretch It as a technique that teachers use to reward correct responses with more rigorous follow-up questions. Although Kameelah responds to students’ answers with more questions, she doesn’t ask them new or more rigorous Stretch It questions—she asks them different versions of the same “why” question. When she doesn’t get the response she wants, she probes students to uncover the underlying motivation or most powerful “why” behind the formation of a Republic. Teachers who Stretch It push students to apply what they’ve learned in new ways, but in this case Kameelah helps students recall information they learned for review purposes.

Rather than view her follow-up questions as reward for what she sees as correct responses, I saw them as evidence that:

1. She’s looking for a more “complete” answer: Each student shares just one of the set of correct responses to her “why” question. Kameelah might be following up with students because she’s looking for a complete set of responses to the “why” question.  She holds out for all the way right until the class pieces together a complete answer.


2. She’s looking for a specific answer: Even though her students’ responses are technically correct, she sticks with the class and probes further because they aren’t providing the correct answer that she’s looking for. In that sense, their “correct” answers aren’t really correct because they aren’t the best answer to her question.

However you interpret it, I think Kameelah uses Right is Right to probe for a “better” and “more correct” as opposed to rewarding students’ correct answers with novel questions.

So.   Who’s right? How do you categorize this clip?


PS This is not a purely academic discussion. At our next Engaging Academics workshop on April 11 and 12… we’re going to show the clip so we want to make sure we get it right.  Hope to hear from you now and see you on the 11th.



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10 Responses to “A Great Clip, but of What?? (video)”

  1. Mike Nilon
    March 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    This seems like “stretch it” it to me because the teacher is
    pushing the students to move beyond a recitation of the obvious causes of the
    rise of the Roman Republic in terms of representation of all citizens towards
    the real motivation behind the choice of a republic which was a fear of the
    corrupting influence of power. When she arrived at the underlying motivation
    behind adopting a republic as a form of government, she stopped pushing. Along
    the way, her pushing encouraged many scholars to ponder how and why the
    historical process and moment led to the rise of the Roman Republic in a deeper
    and more integrated way.

  2. Erin Farnes
    March 7, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I think this clip is an example of stretch it. Kameelah asks her initial question and asks why, and the students give the answers. She then pushes the why and stretches the students to answer with other reasons than the one originally stated.

  3. Mike
    March 7, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I think it was Right is right because because throughout the clip it seemed to me like the teacher was pushing the students to a ultimate correct answer. While I do think it could have been stretch it after the initial question was answered I don’t think it was good enough an answer for the teacher to move on.

  4. Janice Smith
    March 7, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    After a lot of thought and discussion with a great group of rookie teachers here in North Carolina, I must admit I agree with Joaquin. While I think by pushing students towards the completely correct answer (fully explaining not only the type of government but also why they chose it) obviously made them think more critically, I would argue that she never strayed from the original question. Stretch It, to me, might have involved deeper connection questions, possibly extending their motivations and comparing to our own in the founding of our country. She didn’t push it there, but remained within the confines of the original question, making sure that all students reached the correct answer.

    The biggest giveaway to me, was that when she felt that they reached it she wrote it on the board for them to include in their notes. Stretch It (in my mind) would involve more conversation, not necessarily seeking an end goal, but instead larger purpose and further connections, possibly outside of that lesson and even that content.

  5. Stephenie Clark
    March 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    The argument for Right is Right and Stretch It can both be seen as valid, but I’d weigh in more with stretch it.

    The question posed was:
    Q: What type of government did they establish, and why?

    The answer given was:
    A: They developed a Republic, so the Romans had some power to choose officials.

    The questions probed for after the response were verification to validate why Romans would want the power to choose officials. That seems to align more with extending the answer and getting to the how/why of the creation of the Roman Republic.

    If it were right is right, the follow up questions would not be to validate that response, but instead guide the class to the correct answer. If the answer was not fully correct on the first response, one would think the instructor would initially allow for students to push back to get that student to the right answer or would immediately let the students know that it is not the correct answer so that others individuals listening to that answer would not assume it to be true.

  6. sc
    March 7, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    I believe this is an example of stretch it. The teacher was quickly affirming each student’s answer but was asking for more at the same time (asking them to stretch the previous answer). This allowed their answers to be built on top of each others’ and in the end, they were able to identify the deeper reason to the initial question- “why”.

  7. James
    March 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    I think it’s a rigorous Right is Right because she’s asking for different answers to her same “why” question. She gets at the deeper motivation, and even though they provide deeper answers, she’s not looking for answers to a different question.

  8. Doug_Lemov
    March 8, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Just want to say thanks to the crew from Maureen Joy Charter School for the great discussion points.

  9. Erica Woolway
    March 8, 2013 at 2:38 am

    This looks like a “hung jury” so far! If I had to weigh in, I think I’d be in the Right is Right camp. I think Ms. Rasheed is prepared with scaffolded Break it Down questions to help students get to “all the way right,” which in Ms. Rasheed’s classroom looks like an answer supported with clear evidence and a detailed explanation. What is most important, isn’t our definitions of each of these techniques, but that Ms. Rasheed has excellent questions scripted and posted for students and that she knows exactly the answer and the thinking that she wants from her students. She is able to get it from students because of her excellent questions and relentless planning. While the types of questions she asks are “how” and “why” questions (usually found within the Stretch It technique), they are asked in the spirit of getting the answer “all the way right.” Thank you Ms.Rasheed!

    • Janice Smith
      March 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      I love this comment for several reasons. Most lesson plan templates push us to fill them out with times, activities (what teachers & students are DOING), & materials, I have yet to find a good one that pushes us to spend the majority of our time thinking out and planning the questions (both type of question, level of thinking required, desired end answer, pieces of the correct answer, potential misconceptions or predicted incorrect answers, follow up questions to help them discover their own misconceptions, and even students you might call on for each). I wonder how teaching would change if the expectation of where we spent the majority of our planning time changed. What if we shifted the focus of lesson plans from what people are DOING to what people are THINKING.

      It seems the Ms. Rasheed is spending her time in the right places 🙂

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