Takeaways from TLAC 2.0: Ratio Part One

In this blog series, we’re digging into Teach Like a Champion 2.0 and discussing what we feel are the biggest takeaways from the book. Collaborating on the series are Petra Claflin (former teacher and instructional leader turned lead writer for YES Prep’s communications & marketing team), Elisa Gibbs (Middle School Math Specialist & math intervention teacher), and Sarah Murphy Traylor (former teacher and instructional coach & now talent recruiter for YES Prep).

Today’s takeaways are from Sarah Murphy Traylor.

I am someone who appreciates words and speaking, and when I began my teaching career, I assumed that teaching would be just that- primarily me talking.  I thought that teachers should lecture effectively, captivate the audience, um I mean students, from bell to bell with their words and thoughts and insights.  How wrong I was.  To teach well is to provide multiple opportunities for students to process and grapple with new material.  As Doug Lemov wrote in the original Teach Like a Champion, “one of our most important goals as teachers is to cause students to do as much of the cognitive work – the writing, the thinking, the analyzing, the talking – as possible.”

What is ratio?

Ratio – making sure that students do as much of the cognitive work as they can – receives three chapters of coverage and fifteen techniques in Teach Like a Champion 2.0.  It is a big deal.  Every minute in class should be a chance for students to process, and what better way to begin instructional time than by utilizing a ratio strategy at the beginning of class?  Ratio will be the topic of two of our blog entries, and this entry will spotlight ways to inject ratio into the classroom during that most critical time: the moment students enter the room.

Building ratio at the beginning of class

  • Pepper: Pepper is a fast-paced, group activity to review familiar information and foundational skills.  Get the learning started with a fun game centered on material students have already learned!  Have students stand and get ready to ‘Pepper.’  The teacher will call out a question on material previously taught and select a student to answer (keep track of participation on a clipboard sheet or pull popsicle sticks with student names).  Infuse energy and excitement with this quick warm-up to class that allows all students to think of the correct answer.  Keep track of the correct answers provided by each class period and award a prize to the class with the best score at week’s end!


  • Show Call: Start class with a writing response followed by Show Call.  Use a document camera in order to project a student response.  After the response is read aloud, ask the class to first write and then share aloud ways that the student response is strong and could be improved.  Note-This technique requires that a strong classroom culture of respect and trust is present.  Research shows that students learn best from their peers and Show Call is a strategy which encourages peer-to-peer learning.


  • Front the Writing-Writing is one of the most effective ways to process information, but all too often we run out of time for that end-of-class reflection.  Instead, try building in time at the beginning of class for writing.  Following your direct instruction, allow students to write about the objective or concept, and then build in time for students to discuss their written thoughts with one another.  Creating a space for writing at the beginning of the class, as opposed to the tail end of class, allows you to better protect that student processing time as well as providing you a valuable check for understanding.  Pretty great reasons to front that writing!

In my second year of teaching, I remember working with a student on crafting a strong beginning to a written prompt.  At the end of our work time, I asked him, “Are you ready to do this on your own?”  Without missing a beat, he said, “Nope.  You just did all of the work for me.”  And he was right.  I was not teaching, I was doing.  Students learn when they are given a chance to process the information given in a class period.  Students do not learn when their teacher does everything for them.  Utilizing strategies to balance the ratio between teacher and student increases the rigor of that learning.  Transforming our classrooms from teacher-centered to student-centered learning zones enables students to build strong thinking and analysis skills.

Coming up in our Takeaways from TLAC 2.0 series:

  • Checking for Understanding
  • Ratio #2 –building ratio through writing

Miss the beginning of this series? Check them out!

  1. Culture of Error
  2. No Opt Out
  3. Format Matters

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