Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

06.27.23Details of the Turn and Task with Denarius Frazier


You’re probably familiar with Turn and Talk… it’s one of the most popular techniques in Teach Like a Champion and you can delve into some of the details here, here and here.

This is a video of a variation on that idea: Turn and Task. Instead of discussing a relevant question students complete a task-say a math problem-in their pairs.

You can see the always masterful Denarius Frazier do that here:

Some details that make what Denarius does here so effective:

  • You can see how deeply ingrained the routine of Turn and Talk is. Students know just what to do and can find their partner(s) and get to work with no extraneous load on working memory.
  • They even know what to do if their partner is absent. (The student in the front row instantly turns to the students behind her; they all get right to work)
  • Denarius’ language to release them to the task is a combination of What To Do directions–“In pairs. 2 minutes. … Fill in all the blanks that you can. Go.”–and economy of language.
  • Denarius watches carefully as students work. Here, he notices that they need more time.
  • Again, crisp What to Do Directions coming out of the Turn and Task–“Let’s bring it back in 3. Voices off in 2. All eyes up here in 1.” That set of directions is part of the routine—just a reminder really–and you can see that students are familiar with it.
  • Denarius Cold Calls coming out of the Turn and Task. This is an ideal time to Cold Call because 1) everyone is prepared and so likely to be successful and 2) it’s ideal to establish a culture of loving accountability. I will check to see that you were productive with your time.  Denarius’ language when Cold Calling Christian–“Start us off”–is one of my favorite details of effective Cold Calling. It lowers the stakes for Christian. He doesn’t have to be perfect. He’s just starting off the conversation. And his classmates are cued to be attentive. If Christian is “starting us off” they may be asked to follow-up. They are cued to be alert and attentive.


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One Response to “Details of the Turn and Task with Denarius Frazier”

  1. Chris Garrigues
    July 13, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    A little off topic observation:

    I find it interesting to see how Denarius’s physical classroom has evolved over the years of video clips. From TLaC 1, there was lots of stuff on the walls, and up to now (3.0 era) there is very little. Yet – always some Morehouse shwag!

    Another constant is rows but with partner seating. This contrasts to the “Building Thinking Classrooms” recommendation to decentralize seating and even have students standing for instructions and group work, which is based off of Peter Liljedhal’s action research with a few hundred classrooms.

    What has the TLaC video data shown is the best techniques for how to organize the physical space of a classroom?

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