Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

03.05.14Katie McNickle’s Show Call (Video)

Document Camera + Cold Call = Show Call

When you finally get your hands on TLaC 2.0, technique #36 (or thereabouts) will be something you didn’t see in the first edition of the book: Show Call.

The idea was developed by teachers at Uncommon who adapted Cold Call with a view to building incentive for students to do top quality work when writing or doing other independent practice.  In a Show Call, a teacher who has just asked students to work independently for a certain amount of time Cold Calls students by taking their paper and using a document camera to project their work for discussion.

The result has not only been immensely more productive independent work time but a really positive culture where students take pride in their work. And where they learn to analyze their peer’s work with specificity and insight. Gail McGee, the head of our partnerhsip with HoustonIndependent School District, told us that Show Call has become a “staple” in their TLaC classrooms, an instant favorite of teachers and students alike.  “I was in Mr. Cruz’s room watching him use Show Call,” she told us, “And the kids were really playing the role of teacher analyzing their classmates’ work.”

To show you how useful Show Call can be I thought I’d share a new video we cut this morning (!) down at TLac Towers of North Star Academy’s Katie McNickle using Show Call.


Some thoughts:

  • Love that Katie: 1) Show Calls multiple students and 2) makes a point of circulating and making it clear that she’s looking carefully at what students do. These things build in the accountability.  There’s a good chance your work is going up on the projector so you’d better do your best.
  • Love also that the work she chooses is exemplar work.  And that she chooses different ways of solving a problem to highlight different approaches to mathematical thinking.
  • Love that there’s no fuss about taking the papers. She just takes them.  She’s a loving boss.  But she’s still the boss.
  • Love that she “withholds the right answer” until the very end. That plus the time she invests in having classmates explain one another’s thinking makes it really clear that she cares most about the thinking behind the math.



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No Responses to “Katie McNickle’s Show Call (Video)”

  1. Dennise O'Grady
    March 5, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I’ll tell you what I love: I love that the document camera is truly used as a tech tool (a resource that supports the actual teaching) and that what also supports that is the fact that all the students are oriented to the front. I love that she accesses the document camera from various angles too. There is no guesswork as to where the attention should be; to that end, the front of the room (the board) is not covered up. It is open and clear that it is used to demonstrate work each day. Too often I see “flexible seating arrangements and a document camera in the middle of the room that projects only onto a small portion of the board because it’s been taken over with charts, etc.. The students (mostly as a result of the seating) are looking everywhere; the document camera then becomes almost like a “teacher desk” in the middle of the room, and ends up dividing the room in half.

    • Doug_Lemov
      March 5, 2014 at 10:41 pm

      Wow, thanks, Denise. That is one insightful and “down to brass tacks” analysis of both this Show Call and of classrooms generally and how they work. Thanks for posting and please keep commenting on this blog. And just for today you’re the Sheriff of TLaC County. 🙂

      • Doug_Lemov
        March 5, 2014 at 10:46 pm

        P.S. “Dennise”… sorry to misspell.

  2. Matt Wheeland
    March 5, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Great video clip. When I’ve done show call in the past, I’ve usually said to the student, “May I use your paper as an example in a minute?” The students love that. However, a downside is that the student can say no, and that’s counterproductive, ha. So, when she did not ask for permission I assumed that she must’ve made show call part of the culture because it seemed so normal.

    But, I still wonder: is there merit to one or the other? To take or not to take? That is my question.

    • Keenan
      March 6, 2014 at 3:40 am

      You’re right that it takes the “cold” out of show call. I wonder if you could use TLaC technique “No Opt Out” and tell the student that you’ll be coming back to them to provide an answer later?

  3. Guest
    March 6, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Love the concept and video. I like this comment, too, but you’re right that it takes the “cold” out of show call. I wonder if you could use TLaC technique “No Opt Out” and tell the student that you’ll be coming back to them to provide an answer later?

  4. John Trevino
    March 8, 2014 at 3:57 am

    Great video; thanks for posting! Specifically, I really like Ms. McNickle’s strategy of asking “what did they do here?” rather than simply explicating what she saw being done (I’m totally guilty of the latter and it ends up being hollowly celebratory rather than engaging and productive). I’m wondering, though, how you could transfer this same technique and line of questioning to an ELA setting wherein the question “what did they do here?” requires a more complex answer than simply “they divided” or “they subtracted.” I’m thinking a purposeful refocusing of the questioning here could sound something like “what text evidence did they use in order to support their analysis of the theme,” or, “how is this student’s response similar to/different from another student’s response to the same question? Which is more compelling and why?” I’m curious, though, to hear other people’s thoughts on this issue. Thanks!

  5. Brittnee Kennedy
    March 29, 2014 at 1:19 am

    using this MONDAY!!! love it and will fit perfectly with my lesson

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