The Scholarly Classroom

Brain OnAnybody who has been around me in the last 6 months or so knows of my recent fascination with the book Teach Like a Champion. (Lemov, 2010) The book is packed with practical teaching techniques that are markers of a scholarly classroom, with classroom vignettes that illustrate the set-up, variations, and detours any one of the techniques might take. It’s my hunch that the book was written for teachers in the trenches of the nation’s most underachieving schools, but it’s my belief that the ideas in the book are widely applicable to all of America’s classrooms, particularly in light of the college readiness charge the Common Core State Standards demand of us.

I’ve been trying my best to connect the dots between the rich ideas in Teach Like a Champion and the tenets of readiness set forth by Common Core, not only for teachers, but for leaders who are trying to cultivate an instructional culture of college-going. What would that look like? What indicators would be present in a “scholarly” classroom?

Here’s where I’ve landed:

  • High expectations for:
  1. Student participation as true experts of the discipline (thinking like scientists, reading like musicians, speaking like authors, etc.);
  2. Correctness, including use of suitable tone and vocabulary in oral and written communication, adherence to classroom routines and processes, and
  3. Attention to details of personal actions and responses
  • Excellence- best effort, every task, every time
  • Academic Literacy: This would include attention to standards-driven content vocabulary; reading for a variety of authentic purposes with added emphasis on informational text; writing for informal and formal purposes with clear linkages between these two types of writing; and purposeful content talk about critical topics and learning.
  • Targeted attention to levels of rigor, complexity, and “stretch” in service of preparing all students for the demands and challenge of college.
  • Each and every child feeling a sense of belonging and contribution to a community of achievement and college-readiness

It’s my plan in the coming weeks to boil this down even further as I prepare to present at the 2012 Alliance Institute for a College-Going Culture. I’m interested in knowing what you believe are the hallmarks of a “scholarly” classroom. How do you know it when you see it?


  1. I have struggled this past year with a group of unmotivated high achievers. They are only interested in “fun”. While I think all learning can be fun, that is not my main goal as a teacher-to make everything into a game. So…I’ve thought about how to change the mindset of my students to a more scholarly attitude. Your post is very timely for me. I’m quite interested in the classroom climate, that…how do you know it when you see it?

  2. Love Lemov, both fascinated and excited about getting started with CCSS. Important tenets in the scholarly classroom are: students asking deep questions and that they are able to self-start and maintain a growing momentum.

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