Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

03.13.13How CFU 2.0 is Different

rearview mirorAt our Engaging Academics workshop on April 11 and 12, we’ll be presenting and training on Check for Understanding (CFU) and about 9 more techniques.  Except that what we’ll be presenting is really CFU version 2.0–it’s informed by everything we’ve learned since we let teachers loose with version 1.0… the version described in Teach Like a Champion.

How’s the 2.0 different?  Well, 1.0 is a little like me, honestly–pretty analytical, generally practical but with some blind spots, especially on the social side.  And as soon as we started to watch (and video) great teachers using CFU we noticed that in their hands it was a highly cultural phenomena.  Here’s what I mean:

The fundamental premise of CFU is that you must systematically wire your classroom so you are alert to learning failures (“error”) as soon as it begins occurring. Like a driver using a rearview mirror–good drivers check them every five seconds–you constantly test for reliable mastery, you see error when it happens, and you act on it quickly.  But of course as we now realize–duh!–the process of spotting error is a relationship and students have a role in it.  They can seek to hide their errors from their teacher, in which case they are much harder to see, or they can willingly expose their errors. They can want their teacher to see the errors in the faith that he/she will fix them.  And the best teachers at CFU build what we now call a “Culture of Error”–a classroom where they socialize students to treat errors as normal, even good and where they embrace error as a learning opportunity.  In one great video we’ll be showing for example, Bob Zimmerli tells his class, “I’m so glad you made that mistake. It’s going to help me ot help you.”  In another, Jason Armstrong begins a math problem saying, “I expect there will be some disagreement here [as to what the right answer is] so let’s hear all your answers.” He doesn’t just want to hear the right answer. He doesn’t just want to hear one alternative answer. He wants them all!

Anyway we found all this to be fascinating and CFU 2.0 digs deep. We’ll analyze our “tells”–the unintentional cues we give that indicate to students that we think they’re wrong–and practice “exposing error.”

Here’s the best part–our Engaging Academics Workshop is increasingly full of 2.0 guidance… what we’ve learned fromt eachers about taking Cold Call and Everybody Writes and Stretch It, and No Opt Out to the next level.

The other good news is that all of this kind of makes me wonder how long I can hold off on writing Teach Like a Champion 2.0.  But if you can’t wait for the new book, come join us in April!

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