Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

06.14.13Guest Video Analysis: Joaquin Hernandez on “Rounding Up”

king solomonThe best part of my job is this: On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, I get to sit a the big table on the 30th floor of TLAC Towers, far above the madding crowd… Just kidding.  Our office looks out on a creek, a vegetable patch and a cemetery. We do have a second floor but it gets hot up there in the summer…

Anyway, I get to sit at the table and watch video of great teachers with a merry band of super smart people who like to geek out on teaching.

On Tuesdasy last the teacher in question was Joanna O’Byrne of King Solomon Academy in London.  In the merry band was Joaquin Hernandez, formerly of TFA and unrepentant fan of LA Laker basketball.  His analysis of how Joanna “wins” the battle all teachers face to make the kids do the work insted of doing it themselves was insightful, so I asked him to write it up .  If you’re working on avoiding “Rounding Up” and “Tipping” read on.

Joaquin Hernandez on “Rounding Up” etc.

One of the biggest challenges that teachers face is ensuring students do as much of the cognitive work as possible when they respond to error. It’s so natural to want to “round up” students’ responses by turning their “good” answer into a “great” one to to give them too much of a hint to by asking a leading question. We call that “tipping” (e.g., “Is that an adverb or is it an adjective?”). As our team is keenly aware from leading workshops, it’s hard to avoid these tendencies even when you’re trying to.

But of course there aren’t many problems a great teacher can’t solve and we learned a lot about avoiding the tendency to “round up” watching a video of Joanna O’Byrne at ARK Schools’ King Solomon Academy in London. (ARK is a network of 18 charter-like schools in the U.K.). In one of our favorite clips, Joanna progresses through a sequence of questions to help her students identify the adverb in the sentence: “Elvis kicked the ball so aggressively that he smashed Ruskin’s bathroom window.”

We noticed approximately five times when Joanna might have rounded up but didn’t. We are sure there are more, but we thought it’d be useful to point out the ones that jumped out to us to get the conversation started.


Video Transcript

Ways she could’ve rounded up

What she does instead

Joanna: “What is an adverb? Let’s remind ourselves. Bailey, you told me there. What is an adverb?”Bailey: “A describing word.”

Joanna: “It describes what though?”

  • “Yes. That’s right. An adverb is a describing word. It describes the verb.”
  • When the student provides half of the definition, she prompts him (very neutrally) to provide a more specific and complete definition.
Bailey: “…what they’re doing.”Joanna. “Yeah. What they’re doing is the…”

Bailey: “Verb.”

  • Given the definition of “verb” away (e.g., “Yes. And we call that a verb.”).
  • Accepted “…what they’re doing” as an appropriate response (even though it’s not specific).
  • Prompts the student to respond with the full answer in a complete sentence.
Joanna: “The verb, OK. The verb is the ‘doing’ word. So an adverb describes the verb.” (Joanna points to Bailey to repeat) Bailey: “An adverb describes a verb.” 

Joanna: “An adverb describes a verb.” (Points to class to repeat)

Class: “An adverb describes a verb!”

Joanna: “So which is the adverb in this sentence…Amran?”

Amran: “The adverb of the sentence is ‘aggressively.’”

Joanna: “Well done, Amran. Because “aggressively” describes the verb. Which is the verb, Aisha?”

Aisha: “The verb is ‘aggressively.’”

Joanna: “Hmmm. We said that the adverb is aggressively because that describes the verb. What is a verb, Aisha?”

  • Glossed over the error and assumed that she misheard or that the student misspoke (e.g., “I think you meant ‘kicked.’ We just said ‘aggressively’ was the verb, right?”)
  • Joanna rolls back the definition of adverb that the class just practiced. This helps Aisha infer that aggressively can’t be the adverb. She then asks Aisha to define a verb once she detects that this might be the underlying misunderstanding.
 Aisha: “The verb is the doing word.”Joanna: “So what is he doing in that sentence?” 
  • Moved on to another student (assuming that Aisha knows how to identify the verb since she can define what a verb is).
  •  She asks a follow-up question to make sure that Aisha can do more than just repeat the definition of a verb, but that she can also identify it in the sentence.
Aisha: “He kicked the ball.”Joanna: “So what is the verb in the sentence?”

Aisha: “The verb in the sentence is ‘kicked.’”

Joanna: “Exactly!”


  • Accepted the student’s response (i.e. “He kicked the ball”) since it is technically correct (e.g., “Right, Aisha! The verb in the sentence is ‘kicked.’”)
  • She holds out for all the way right by prompting the student to identify the exact verb (“kicked”).


Do you see any other ways she could have rounded up? What does she do instead? What else do you see her do that’s effective?


Leave a Reply