Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

03.08.23“Are We in Class?” A Glimpse Into Implementation of The Dean of Students Curriculum 

New Studies Suggest Choice of Curriculum and Textbooks Can Make a Big Difference for Students – The 74

                                      Virtues & character also deserve a curriculum


We are excited to share a recent video featuring Tyler Moomaw, math teacher and grade team leader at Breakthrough Schools in Cleveland, Ohio, a pilot partner for our Dean of Students Curriculum. In this video, Tyler is supporting a group of students who have not completed their homework assignments for the week. While there are a number of ways schools can respond when students fall short of meeting expectations or fail to follow through on actions that help them succeed, Breakthrough Schools choose to respond with teaching. Tyler’s goal is to help his students recognize the benefits of routinely completing homework, so this important task becomes habit. His lesson, “The Benefits of Doing Homework,” provides a window into how we might use reading, writing, discussion, and student reflection to teach replacement behaviors for unproductive actions.

It is evident that Tyler has put a lot of effort into preparing for this lesson. He has reviewed the material beforehand and planned for how students will engage during each section of the lesson. It feels like a class–that is a sequence of time dedicated to making students more knowledgeable and successful. In fact, the after school lesson is so well-structured that a student even asks “are we in class?” Students are familiar with consequences in such settings but not with the idea of being taught–really taught, as in caused to think about and understand knowledge that can help them–in such settings. 

Tyler demonstrates a range of effective teaching techniques to enhance his students’ learning experience. For example, he uses active observation to gather information and assess students’ understanding. He uses cold call to engage students in sharing their thinking after they have had time to think in writing. Finally, Tyler offers opportunities for his students to revise their initial thinking after they discuss their answers as a group. These strategies help Tyler to keep students engaged and to ensure that they are walking away with a better understanding about the benefits of doing homework. 

At TLAC, we believe that teaching virtues and values to support student character development is essential and our Dean of Students Curriculum is designed to do just that. It’s built on the idea that when students struggle to do what helps them succeed, teaching is our first tool. Our curriculum includes carefully curated lessons and activities organized by virtue. Their purpose is to develop students’ understanding of virtue and character through critical thinking, reflection and writing. The curriculum helps students understand the consequences of their actions and learn replacement behaviors for counterproductive actions.

The Dean of Students Curriculum is available for purchase or for piloting. For more information, visit our website: We are also excited to announce that a high school version of our curriculum will be coming soon, so stay tuned for that announcement!

–Brittany Hargrove

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