Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

05.23.14Our First Video #TBT (Throw Back Thursday): Jen Kim Dusts Off An Original Jamey Verrilli Clip! (Video)

jamey vJen Kim is the Cruise Director of Team TLaC. She drags us all out onto the (often metaphorical, but sometimes literal) dance floor and encourages us until we think we’re cool, hip, a little bit with it.  She talked us into being all hip by posting some “Throwback Thursday” videos, even though many of use weren’t really sure how to go all … [ahem, here it comes, Jen]… #TBT….when we are (or I am) so far behind the times already.  Anyway, Jen dusted off something lively and wrote up this snazzy #TBT post:




It’s Throwback Thursday, and since it’s our first #TBT blog post, I thought it would be appropriate to dig deep into the vaults of TLAC video…so deep that we had to blow some dust off this DVD, and convert it into digital form. Well, it’s a good thing we dug so hard because we found a gem!  A clip of Relay GSE Managing Director Jamey Verrilli way back in his teaching days demonstrating No Opt Out…. not to mention the old school approach of calling the students “Mr.” for the slightly formal air of college.  Note the grainy old-school cinematography and everything! We didn’t even use an Instagram filter, but I digress… Actually it’s possible that this is one of the first times we ever saw No Opt Out… if not, the very first.

For the unfamiliar, No Opt Out is when you ask a question, call on a student, and expect the correct response, but instead get the wrong answer or a blank stare. A remedy can often times be to use No Opt Out–going to another student to answer and then having the original scholar review.  It’s a little black dress of a technique–versatile and always useful for raising academic expectations.

As a member of the TLAC team, I’ve seen multiple variations of NOO, and have been blown away by how teachers adapt and modify its usage.  However, like the black dress, if it’s not well constructed or at its core executed poorly…it’s not going to be a good situation.

In this clip, Jamey Verrilli asks his student (Mr. Levant) to spell the word “bound.” When Jamey first asks the question, the student misspells the word (“bownd”). He then calls on another student to cue, so that the original student can answer. Notice the steps Jamey takes:

  • Responding warmly and in a way that assumes the best in his student while clearly explaining why the answer incorrect. Jamey says, “Ok, I can see why you have that because it has the w sound in there but we need to correct that, that’s not phonetically correct.” He has clearly created a Culture of Error in his classroom that lets his students take risks.
  • Calling on a classmate to provide the correct answer. While the classmate answers, Jamey reemphasizes that the purpose of this moment is to be learning from one another.
  • Insisting that both students maintain good habits of discussion: looking at the person speaking to you, and speaking clearly.
  • Returns to the original student to spell the word “bound” correctly.

Kind of cool to dust off a classic like this, both the celebrate the origins of the technique and to think about all the amazing adaptations others have brought to it.  Thanks, Jamey!


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