Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

07.29.13Tip of the Day: Turn and Task

excellence girlsOver at Taxonomy Towers we’ve been working on some materials on Turn and Talks, the oft-used classroom method where a teacher asks students to talk through an idea in pairs.  Our materials–coming soon to a workshop near you, not to mention the revised Teach Like a Champion (ie “TLAC 2.0”) which I’m hoping will be out in June–are designed to help teachers make them efficient, accountable and rigorous.

In the course of watching video of great teachers using Turn and Talks with our merry band of analysts, however, we realized that one of our favorite teachers–we were watching older footage of Hilary Lewis, who’s since become Dean of Students at Uncommon’s Excellence Girls–wasn’t doing a Turn and Talk at all.  She was doing a Turn and Task… That is, rather than saying, “What is a line of symmetry?  Take 30 seconds to discuss with your partner,” she asked each student to draw a regular polygon on a white board and then trade with their partner. The second partner’s job was to draw the line of symmetry on the original partner’s shape. Then afterwards she asked students to share their shape and their line of symmetry and explain why they’d drawn it where they had to make sure everyone was “getting it.”

We thought this was a great idea with lots of applications at different grade levels and in different subjects. For example.

  • In pairs, please choose a challenging paragraph from the text, then trade with a partner and paraphrase your partner’s paragraph.
  • Partners first choose a line of dialogue from Charlotte’s Web. Then trade papers. Then try to identify the speaker of the line of dialogue your partner gave you and describe what character trait it demonstrates.
  • First partner sketches a cell; second partner adds the requisite organelles, based on whether it’s a plant or animal cell, etc.




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