Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

10.23.18Some Sensible TLAC Wisdom From MR WJ

I recently stumbled on a short video that a colleague in the UK, ‘MR WJ’ (aka, Lloyd Williams-Jones) made describing three TLAC techniques he uses: Cold Call, No Opt Out, and  Show Call.

MR WJ TLAC from TLAC Blog on Vimeo.

He’s very gracious with the praise… which I appreciate though I am also a bit loathe to share … but there’s so much down-to-earth-really-sensible wisdom about HOW to use TLAC techiques embedded in the video that I wanted to call some of his insights out.

First I love that he chose just three things to focus on in his teaching. This is a reasonable number of things that a teacher could hope to master in a sustainable way that would yield quality teaching. Chase too many rabbits and you’ll catch none, as they say. And three is also a reasonable enough number to allows a teacher to still be exactly him- or her-self. To not change too suddenly.

I have always thought about TLAC as a tool box. A collection of tools teachers can select from and implement within the approach they already use (and without throwing out most of what they already do, which is probably pretty good). So choosing (just) three things seems really smart.

But there’s more.

About Cold Call, Mr. WJ says:

  • “You really have to work hard and to be honest… Getting this going half way through the year… I’m not sure… Maybe from the start of the term….”

I like the idea right from the outset that a technique like Cold Call can revolutionize your teaching but it won’t come easily. It takes diligence and focus.  And while I think you can start it up mid-year, it’s definitely harder than building it into the culture of your room from that outset. And if you DO try to begin using it mid-year, his advice to come in after a break… after a holiday or half-term is a good idea. You want to plan your implementation and have it feel like a logical time to students for there to be something new afoot.

  • “None of this is rocket science but, as a caveat, none of this is a magic bullet.”

I could not have said this more perfectly. The statement that it’s ‘not rocket science’ actually makes me quiet happy. It’s important that these ideas are known and familiar to many teachers. It would be strange and implausible to have written a book that was useful and full of ideas no other teachers had thought of. The book is about understanding a set of ideas deeply and implementing them with intentionality and insight. Equal truth to ‘it’s not a magic bullet…’–it’s a small but powerful tool to add to and augment what you already do. There’s a lot more to good teaching too.

About No Opt Out

  • “You’ve got to develop this as a culture. With all of these tips I’m giving it has to come from the culture.”

A truer thing was never said…. about TLAC or any other classroom technique. Classrooms are first and foremost cultures–tiny societies in which we build and shape how our pupils think about the world. And it gives me great joy to hear him describe No Opt Out as part of a culture that is “bright… positive… [with a] celebration of mistakes. Children are comfortable sharing…. it takes a lot of effort but the payoffs are huge.”  Themes I hear and love: it takes time to do it right. When you do them right, little things can have huge effects. Accountable cultures are joyful cultures.

  • “It takes a lot of practice. I am practicing this this year. It’s something I am going to continue to be practicing.”


About Show Call

  • [Side note to MR J: you chose my favorite technique]
  • I LOVE this language for what MR WJ calls ‘celebrating their mistakes’: “Absolutely brilliant. Suzy’s made a fantastic mistake here. I’m so glad you made it…”  Everyone should steal that.

Anyway, cheers to you MR WJ and thanks for the good advice.

, , , ,

Leave a Reply