Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

07.24.15Hunting versus Fishing

Fishing Reel 1

Had a great day Monday talking Check for Understanding with school leaders at RELAY GSE’s National Principal’s Academy.  We were talking about observing carefully during student independent work, and particularly the topics of Standardize the Format and Tracking Not Watching–techniques 3 and 4 in TLaC 2.0. If you combine these with Everybody Writes (technique 37) and Cold Call (technique 33), you get the power, one of the participants* pointed out in a highly memorable phrase, to choose “hunting over fishing.”

The idea is that when you call on students and have no idea what they will say, that’s fishing.  You hope you get a useful answer for discussion or analysis, but you don’t know what you’ll get.  Nothing wrong with fishing–sometimes it’s nice to be surprised–but sometimes it can be better to hunt–to assign written reflection before discussion and to circulate during the discussion to choose specific students to call on to share because their answers will be most productive to discuss (often because they developed a key idea or made a common mistake everyone can learn from).  It brings a whole new level of intentionality to discussions. I believe Paul Bambrick talks about this idea in is his forthcoming book.  Anyway, I thought it was a very catchy phrase with useful implications. It describes an important shift: from hoping for useful answers in-the-moment to seeking them out beforehand.

*Please forgive me, NPAF colleagues, for not being able to recall who said this, especially if it was you; a full day workshop with 100+ brilliant leaders means I can’t keep everything straight in my head.

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