Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

06.23.17Three Lessons from Alex Timoll’s Cold Call

One of our most useful clips of the Cold Call technique is this short-but-super clip of Alex Timoll at Excellence Boys Charter School in Bed Stuy Brooklyn.  There are a ton of things you could take away from it, and from Alex’s teaching generally, but there are three especially useful lessons i think that every teacher can use.  First the video:

EA.TurnAndTalk.GR4.Timoll.’Lets fold up.’Clip2626 from TLAC Blog on Vimeo.

Key Points:

  1. Alex uses her Cold Call to ‘backstop’ her Turn and Talk. Students are both engaged in and accountable for the Turn and Talk because, they have come to realize, they may be Cold Called coming out of it.  There’s a backstop-an incentive for students to do their best work, to be ready.  Cold Call, as Alex shows, is great for bringing that extra layer of incentive to independent activities like writing or small group conversation.
  2. Alex is positive and inclusive. All of her teaching is positive and that makes the mood positive in the room positive- but notice how genuine her Cold Call is. “Let’s go to you, Tyriek,” she says, without a lot of fuss and over-the-top pandering. Just the message that I am asking you to start because I care about what you have to say and your opinion is important to me. A Cold Call, in Alex’s class, is a good thing- a gesture of the teacher’s respect for and interest in her student’s thinking.  “Let’s go to you, Tyriek” sounds like something you might hear on Meet the Press.  It assumes that Tyriek has something valuable to say.
  3. Alex uses Cold Call in a small group setting. Think about it for a minute.  Why are there only six kids in the lesson? Because the school has decided that reading is so important that it is going to reduce five fold the student/teacher ratio during literacy instruction. This is a massive allocation of resources.  But ironically when we go to small group we often throw out all of our systems for accountability, engagement and efficiency.  We go super casual. No more Cold Calling. And this of curse undercuts the massive investment we are making in this moment.  Being in a small group should tell us that what we are doing right now is especially important.  So Alex wisely brings all of her get the most out of every second tools to bear.

Great stuff, Alex. Thanks for the lesson!

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2 Responses to “Three Lessons from Alex Timoll’s Cold Call”

  1. Tina Kelly
    July 1, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Thank you for the chance to witness the “cold call!” I have been using the “turn and talk” in my classroom but have wanted to make it more meaningful and accountable for student engagement, understanding, comprehension, and learning opportunities. This small group technique provides more chances for students to fully engage, their voices heard, and their ideas shared, accepted or challenged in a deeper meaningful way. Loved it!

    • Doug Lemov
      July 5, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks, Tina. Simple and elegant, right? We loved the clip too and are glad it’s useful to you.

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