Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

08.28.13First Week Advice: Verbal and Non-Verbal Feedback with Do It Again

AFFor many of us it’s the first week of school, a time when we focus on building healthy and positive routines for “how we do things” in school–from coming into the classroom to raising hands to supporting peers positively and respectfully to building off their ideas with classroom comments.

One of the tools that’s most useful when installing systems and routines like these is Do It Again (DIA). It’s a pretty simple technique–not rocket science–that, done well, offers immense value.  That said, I’m always struck by the insight great teachers and leaders bring even to the simplest thing, and last night my friend and colleague Doug McCurry, co-CEO of Achievement First, wrote to share a great example.

His note focused on how one of his colleagues at AF used a key idea from 100%–combining positive verbal feedback for those who are on-task and positive with non-verbal feedback that stresses indiivudal accountability for those who aren’t.  In a nutshell, you say, “Thank you, scholars. We’ve got just about everybody looking college-ready. I know we’ll all get there soon,” with direct and sustained eye contact with any non-compliers during the “I know we’ll all get there soon.”  Message:  I am aware of your slowness to get with us; I’m not going to reward you with attention. Doug’s colleague, Miri Wexler, former dean of students at Uncommon now leading AF’s leadership development efforts focused on school culture issues, applied this idea to DIA with outstanding results.  He wrote:

“[Miri and I] were observing today, and she gave great, take-it-to-the-next-level feedback to a teacher who doing a very good job in week 2 of school. She was making the class Do It Again in pretty rapid-fire and positive ways, but she was “missing” a kid or two each time; the kids were not quite doing it right, and they knew it – and she knew it. But she couldn’t quite figure out what to do in a non-invasive way. Miri’s advice was to [verbally] keep all about the DIA that was working but to [non-verbally] focus in on the two non-compliant kids in the DIA by varying her face look smiley and enthusiastic with the whole class … and more serious when looking at the two students. Given it’s rapid fire nature, it sent an upbeat, positive message to the class (“we can do better”) while letting the two kids know that I see you and I demand that you do this too. I thought it was subtle but brilliant.”

Seemed like such an immensely applicable and useful but of first week feedback that i had to share.

PS I especially like this part:  That Doug recalls this as useful guidance given to a teacher who’s doing a very good job.  Feedback is so powerful when it’s couched as a reward for success–“You’re doing great. Now here’s something to make you even better.”  That too is great and actionable first week advice.


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