Practice Perfect

Practice Perfect Book Cover Practice Perfect
Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, Katie Yezzi,
Business & Economics
John Wiley & Sons
September 19, 2012

This book looks at adjusting how we teach and learn. It leads off by talking about John Wooden. So ... they had me at hello. Lots of notes on this one. As I make my way towards wanting to teach, I will be re-visiting this book. It explores the idea that practice--not games--makes champions, presents "how to" rules for improvement in virtually every performance of life, covering such topics as rethinking practice, using feedback, and making new skills stick. Not just for educators.

And yet the great majority of students of his work fail to replicate Wooden-like results. Why? Our answer, based on what we—Doug, Erica, and Katie—discovered in our efforts to help promising teachers become great teachers, is that most people fail to realize the power of the one thing that is arguably the secret of Wooden’s success: old-fashioned practice, efficiently run, well-planned, and intentionally executed.

Unlike many coaches, he focused not on scrimmaging—playing in a way that replicated the game—but on drilling, that is playing in ways that intentionally distorted the game to emphasize and isolate specific concepts and skills.

socks-first mentality.

One of the first things we noticed was something we now call the “get it/do it gap.

Like Wooden, we’d have to do fewer things better.

practice should involve people practicing success, even if it means, as it did in this case, simplifying the activity. We

A scrimmage replicates the game, and a drill distorts it for a purpose. Most people assume that the higher you go on the competency scale, the less drilling you need to do and the more scrimmaging. In fact, we argue, the opposite is true.

John Wooden seems to concur, offering would-be coaches this singular advice: “Never mistake activity for achievement.

A critical goal of practice, then, should be ensuring that participants encode success—that they practice getting it right—whatever “it” might be. While that may sound obvious, practice that encodes failure is common.

While failure may build character and tenacity, it’s not as good at building skills.

running effective practice requires a systematic attentiveness to participants’ rate of success. “You haven’t taught it until they’ve learned it,” Wooden liked to say, and the best teachers test to see how much students have learned—a process called “checking for understanding”—every few seconds.

Another source of encoded failure is the tendency of coaches to double down on difficulty in the hope that this will steepen the learning curve.

people learn fastest when the problem solving they are asked to do requires them to make small and steady leaps, when problems are challenging but not sink-or-swim-ish. If the task is accelerated too much, learning slows down.

While we want participants to experience primarily success during practice, the ideal success rate still isn’t 100 percent—if that’s the case, then the activity isn’t hard enough. You want a success rate that’s high enough to be reliable: most of the participants get it right most of the time. If you start a process with a significant amount of error, don’t stop until your participants have begun to encode success. If the error is persistent and prevalent, ask yourself whether there needs to be so much of it. Why not redesign the process instead, eliminating complexity or variables to make the task temporarily simpler, breaking a chain of skills down to focus on just one, or slowing things down so there’s time to process the complexity and then speeding it up later on? As a rule of thumb, we use the following goal for practice: you want your participants to complete the fastest possible right version of the activity. If they aren’t able to do it right, slow down and work back up to the original task. A corollary of this is to do the most complex possible right version your participants are able to sustain with consistent—if imperfect—success. If they aren’t able to do it right, eliminate complexity until you start to see mastery. Then build back up from there.

Encode Success Engineer practice activities so that the success rate is reliably high; if the activities are especially challenging, ensure that they end with a period of reliable success so your participants practice getting it right. Check for mastery constantly. If activities don’t result in reliable success, simplify temporarily so that participants start successful; then add complexity. Focus participants on the “fastest possible correct version” or the “most complex right version possible” for any activity.

With practice you’ll get stronger results if you spend your time practicing the most important things.

One of the most counterintuitive but valuable things we’ve realized about practice is that the value of practicing something increases once you’ve mastered it.

Your goal with these 20 percent skills is excellence, not mere proficiency. Keep going so that what you develop is automaticity, fluidity, and even, as we’ll discuss later, creativity. Being great at the most important things is more important than being good at more things that are merely useful.

aggregating the opinions of multiple people often yields an accurate analysis of a challenging situation—even if none of the people is an “

if you don’t know what the five most important things for a budding saxophonist to practice are—assemble a group of relatively informed people and ask them to name their top five.

It’s worth noting that the 20 percent will change over time and thus require periodic reassessment.

Practice the 20 Identify the 20 percent of things you could practice that will deliver 80 percent of the value. Practice the highest-priority things more than everything else combined. Keep practicing them: the value of practice begins at mastery! Save time by planning better in advance. Engage participants by repeating productive drills with minor variations instead of constantly introducing new ones.

Once you have learned a skill to automaticity, your body executes, and only afterwards does your mind catch up.

Let the Mind Follow the Body Stress learning skills all the way to automaticity so that participants can use them automatically—and before they consciously decide to. Build up layers of related automated skills so that participants can do complex tasks without actively thinking about them. Automate fundamentals, but also look for more complex and subtle skills that may also respond to automation. It’s a false assumption that only simple things can become habits.

Creativity, it turns out, is often practice in disguise, and to get more of it, it often helps to automate other things. If you want to unlock creativity at certain critical moments, you might identify skills required at those moments and automate them in order to free up more processing capacity for creative thinking.

it’s all but impossible to have higher-order thinking without strongly established skills and lots of knowledge of facts. Cognitive leaps, intuition, inspiration—the stuff of vision—are facilitated by expending the smallest possible amount of processing capacity on lower-order aspects of a problem and reapplying it at higher levels. You leap over the more basic work by being able to do it without thinking much about it, not by ignoring it.

Unlock Creativity . . . with Repetition Automate skills to free participants’ cognition to be more creative. Look to automate skills at exactly the moments you need creativity most, to free up processing capacity. Push participants to reflect later, after they’ve practiced enough to better understand what they are doing.

When an objective is measurable it means that at the end of the session you can tell, via observation or a quick assessment, whether you have succeeded at teaching

Second, an objective should be manageable: you should be able to accomplish it in the time available.

In addition to being manageable and measurable, an objective should also come with mastery guidance—one or two things to focus on in doing it right.

Last, an effective objective is made ahead of practice, and this is perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

Replace Your Purpose (with an Objective) Replace the vague idea of a “purpose” with a manageable and measurable objective that is made ahead of practice and gives mastery guidance. Teach skills in a sequence of objectives of increasing complexity. Include objectives that focus on integrating previously mastered skills. Adapt objectives to the rate of participants’ mastery.

When and how much should we drill? When is scrimmage the best choice? Wooden again provides some insight. Given the benefits of twenty players on the court with five balls in an engineered and predictable learning environment as compared to ten players on the court with one ball in an unpredictable series of interactions, the “Wizard of Westwood” consciously chose to drill more—and scrimmage less—than most coaches. He was aware of the discrepancy and thought it was a key factor in his teams’ success. Wooden reserved scrimmaging for evaluating his players. Once he knew where they stood, he preferred to focus on maximizing teaching and learning. This is important. While scrimmaging is often fun, its ease of use makes it easy to rely on and can lead to a practice without a clear objective.

Differentiate Drill from Scrimmage Use drills to distort the game and focus intensively on development of one or several skills. Use scrimmages to evaluate your readiness for performance. Recognize that scrimmaging is generally less efficient as a teaching tool. Recognize that success in scrimmage is the best indicator of true mastery—participants can perform a skill when the time and place of its application is unpredictable. Consider using a sequence of drills that integrate new skills with previously mastered skills before—or in lieu of—scrimmage.

Correct Instead of Critique Strive to ask participants to redo an action differently or better rather than just telling them whether or how it could have been different. Try to shorten the feedback loop and achieve correction as quickly as possible after an action that requires intervention. Always maintain a teaching mentality and focus on the solution (“cut more sharply to the basket”) rather than the problem (“your cut wasn’t sharp”). Seek opportunities to correct privately. When you correct publicly, make it clear that it’s a common error, then make sure to correct, not critique, by asking all participants to repeat the action.

Analyze the Game Use data to pick out the top performers. Observe and analyze performance data to discern what skills top performers have in common. Analyze and describe those skills in terms that provide a clear map to others who want to replicate them.

Isolate the Skill When teaching a technique or skill, practice the skill in isolation until the learner has mastered it. Uncover and retrain when compensatory skills are masking the need for isolated skill development.

Name each skill or technique you have identified as an important building block for outstanding performance. Monitor the use of this shared vocabulary: use the names, ask staff to use them, and then ensure that the names are being used correctly.

Integrate the Skills After teaching discrete skills, create practice that places the skills in situations participants could face in the game. Create practice that helps people learn to match the right skills to the right situations. Consider simulating the performance environment to ensure that successful practice translates to successful performance.

Specifically, we are perpetually astonished at just how much it pays off to do three things: (1) plan with data-driven objectives in mind; (2) plan down to the last minute; and (3) rehearse and revise the plan. This may seem obvious.

The Heart of the Game

the best coaches constantly adapt their practice in response to what they learn about the needs of their team from on-the-job performance and from the results of practice itself. As people succeed at tasks, you add complexity; as they struggle, you reduce it. This data-driven process works alongside the set of skills you have worked so hard to identify. You develop your list of skills that lead to top performance in your “scope and sequence,” a generic document that captures the order in which you would logically roll out each skill, and the amount of time you would expect to spend on each skill. That document is invaluable in reminding you what your team needs to learn. But any document has to be flexible to accept revisions once the data tell you what your team really needs.

Coaches who care about results don’t just plan to the last detail; they actually go so far as to try out the plan, rehearse it, and revise it to make sure that the practice will be perfect.

The time you make to practice training activities in advance always results in a better practice because it leads to better plans.

Make a Plan Plan with data-driven objectives in mind, and plan to adapt. Plan down to the last minute. Rehearse and revise the plan. Videotape and reflect on practice sessions.

(We’ve started putting an online timer up on the projection screen showing people how much of a 10-minute break remains so that our 10-minute breaks don’t become 20-minute breaks.)

Make Each Minute Matter Get a whistle—real or metaphorical—to conserve the resource of time. Identify the ways you inadvertently waste time and create remedies as soon as possible. Turn those remedies into routines.

Model and Describe Use modeling to help learners replicate, and use description to help them understand. Using modeling and description together ensures that learners can flexibly apply what they have learned.

But shadowing can be one of the least effective ways of modeling what you want new recruits to learn.

Call Your Shots Before you model, tell those for whom you are modeling what to look for.

Make Models Believable Model in a context that is as similar as possible to the one in which the learner must perform. In-person modeling is often more believable than models that are prepared on video.

Similarly, every staff meeting or professional development workshop is an opportunity to create an immersion experience—to model the best practices you want your staff to use even when (and particularly when) those practices are not the objective of the workshop.

the more practitioners hear and see the language and conventions of success, the more they will become ingrained and habitual for them.

Try Supermodeling Model in the way you want learners to perform. Model the skill you are teaching, but use teaching time also to model any other skills that you expect people to eventually learn.

Insist They “Walk This Way” When asking people to follow a model, a useful first step is for them to imitate the model exactly.

Model Skinny Parts Model complex skills one step at a time and repeat when necessary. Play a game of “Copy Cat” with learners to model small skills until mastery and then build on that.

Model the Path Model the process as well as the product to ensure that people have a clear picture of how to get to the end goal.

Get Ready for Your Close-up Use video as an easy way for you or others to capture models that you can analyze, use, and reuse.

Practice Using Feedback (Not Just Getting It) Using feedback is a different skill from accepting it. Build a culture where people get better at using feedback by doing it a lot. Cause people to practice putting their feedback to use as quickly as possible—by sending them back to the front of the line, for example. Observing the use of feedback right away helps managers and coaches see whether their advice works.

Apply First, Then Reflect Reflection, while often worthwhile, can become a barrier to further practice. Ask people to apply feedback first, then reflect on it. When participants apply feedback and then reflect, they have more data to use in reflecting on the value of the feedback. Try using the phrase “Whose turn is it?” to respond to an excess of discussion when more practice would be preferable.

Shorten the Feedback Loop Speed of consequence beats strength of consequence pretty much every time. Give feedback right away, even if it’s imperfect. Remember that a simple and small change, implemented right away, can be more effective than a complex rewiring of a skill.

Author and consultant Marcus Buckingham, whose book First Break All the Rules has consistently been ranked among top business books since its publication in 1999, has been widely influential in messaging that organizations get further managing strengths than weaknesses. The assumption that “each person’s greatest room for growth is his or her areas of greatest weakness” is often not correct, he observes. In fact people tend to improve most and fastest at things they are good at or by applying their existing talents in new settings. Focusing feedback on strengths can be at least as productive as focusing it on weaknesses. If you do it right

Use the Power of Positive What people do right is as important in practice as what they do wrong. Help people use their successes in three ways: With a statement of identification to help participants see what they did right more clearly With a statement of replication to help them do it again With a statement of application to help them see new settings in which to apply their skill

One of the keys to coaching, then, is to develop the self-discipline to focus on fewer things.

Limit Yourself Limit the amount of feedback you give; people can focus on and use only a few things at a time. When people get feedback from multiple sources, use a tracker to ensure that what people hear is consistent and not overwhelming.

Make It an Everyday Thing The more consistently you give and get feedback, the more normal it is. Start giving feedback right away when you begin practicing. If you wait until something negative requires it, feedback will be linked to the idea of a mistake. Use sentence starters to help everyone give both positive and constructive feedback.

Describe the Solution (Not the Problem) Try to move from “don’t” statements that tell participants what not to do to “what to do” statements that tell them how to succeed. Make sure your guidance is specific and actionable. Look for ways to abbreviate commonly given guidance to make it easier and faster to use.

Lock It In Don’t assume that because you gave feedback, people interpreted it as you intended. Confirm their understanding in at least three ways: Ask recipients to summarize what they heard you say. Ask recipients to prioritize the most important parts of the feedback you gave. Ask recipients to identify the next action they’ll take to implement the feedback.

When you punish your people for making a mistake or falling short of a goal, you create an environment of extreme caution, even fearfulness. In sports it’s similar to playing “not to lose”—a formula that often brings on defeat. – JOHN WOODEN

The challenge for organizations is to find appropriate ways to normalize error in the context of learning and practicing.

Champion teachers will be relentless in ensuring that errors don’t go unaddressed and become more inscribed. They correct warmly and firmly. They prefer the rigor that self-corrections provide (as by having a student reread a challenging passage and fix her own mistake) but are direct when necessary (“That word is pronounced ‘

When you effectively normalize error, what starts with failure reliably ends in success. The process of encoding success is what makes failure safe. Normalize Error Encourage people to challenge themselves and push beyond their performance plateaus by taking calculated risks in practice. Don’t minimize or ignore errors, or they will become too ingrained and people won’t learn from them. Help performers identify their own errors so that they can improve them independently. Practice responding to errors in an effort to prepare for and normalize mistakes.

Break Down the Barriers to Practice Anticipate that some people in your organization will resist practice. Identify and name the barriers to entry that you observe. Overcome the barriers by diving into practice.

Make It Fun to Practice Utilize friendly and positive competition (for individuals or between individuals). While striving to make practice fun, always maintain the objective of the practice. Encourage your players to cheer for each other in practice (not just in the game). Incorporate elements of surprise. Keep people on their toes by asking all participants to plan and by surprising the next person to be called to practice. (It’s also a useful accountability tool!)

Being thoughtful and intentional about your language can support a culture of practice. For example, asking, “Are there any volunteers to try this out?” can be a real culture killer. Subtly changing the request by asking, “Who’s going to try first?” or “Here’s a great chance to practice and get better—Who wants it?” can make the difference between no one and several people being willing to take the risk. This shift in language can overcome barriers to entry and ensure that all members of your team take a risk required in practice.

Everybody Does It As the leader, be willing to model and engage in practice yourself. Ask for feedback on your practice in order to model getting past nice. Use language that is inviting and assumes everybody will practice.

Leverage Peer-to-Peer Accountability Allow your team to self-identify particular skills and areas of growth they want to focus on (based on consistent feedback). Encourage team members to make mutual commitments to each other.

Hire for Practice Before hiring your team, thoughtfully consider the practice task you want potential employees to demonstrate. When potential hires practice, use the opportunity to gauge their openness to practice and feedback. Ask them to repeat a portion of the practice task. Evaluate their ability to actively incorporate your feedback.

Whether it is your middle school soccer team or Six Sigma Black Belts at General Electric, people respond to praise. But it is all too easy for recognition to become a meaningless exercise. When awards are given away to everyone, when praise is distributed freely and disingenuously, or when praise focuses on traits rather than actions, it can be useless at best and at worst can be destructive.

Praising traits leads students to believe either “I’m smart” or “I’m not,” whereas praising actions leads them to believe they can change their behavior to influence outcomes.

Praise the actions that you want to see from your players, your children, or your employees, and these actions will multiply.

Teach Like a Champion

Acknowledging your students, your children, your players, or your employees is important.

Praise, however, should be reserved for when people go above and beyond the call of duty or when they truly demonstrate excellence.

Balance sincere praise with candor and constructive criticism, and your praise will be valued. Use genuine praise in practice and in performance, and use it publicly. Praise is often most powerful when it is made publicly because it gives the recipient the attention that she deserves and, further, it informs others of the actions that your team or organization values.

Look for the Right Things After isolating skills during practice, observe people during the actual performance in order to provide feedback on the discrete skills that were practiced. Create an observation tool to use during performance that is aligned to the skills you have practiced. Allow leaders to practice observing for discrete skills during the performance. If you are going to evaluate a particular skill in performance, allow performers to practice the skill first. Post-practice, ask performers to set their own discrete goals for performance, and then observe them for the skills required to achieve those goals.

Coach During the Game (Don’t Teach) You can’t teach new things during a game or a performance. It only confuses performers. During the performance (post-practice) you should only coach on those skills that have already been taught during practice. Coaching during the game should only cue and remind people to use what they have learned.

“Transaction cost” is the amount of resources that it takes to execute an exchange, be it economic, verbal, or something else.

In a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has led the Duke Men’s Basketball team to four NCAA championships and eleven Final Fours (tying for the second most in college basketball history), writes: “I believe that my work is as much about words as it is about basketball. Choosing the right words is no less important to the outcome of a game than choosing the right players and strategies for the court.”5 He discusses the importance of motivating his players through “vivid stories” to help them believe in themselves. Coach K frequently draws on the experiences of friends, family, and former team members who showed willpower, dependability, and courage. These stories are invaluable in helping to connect with and inspire his players. “When an audience makes these associations,” Krzyzewski continues, “we have found common ground. We are no longer merely exchanging words; we are being mutually motivated by their meaning.

Keep Talking Name the discrete skills and drills that you practice. Use these names to discuss skills and their application post-practice in order to keep them alive in your organization.

Walk the Line (Between Support and Demand) When the game (post-practice) has begun, be transparent about your role as evaluator. Reward hard work and communicate a sense of urgency when improvement is necessary. Post-practice, frame feedback not as helpful advice but as something required to improve performance.

But to determine what it is that you should be practicing, you should look at games (or lessons, surgeries, or sales pitches) as a series of data points. Instead of subjectively evaluating how your team played, look for specific data that reflect the skills you have practiced.

Measure Success Use performance as a series of data points to evaluate the effectiveness of practice and to drive what is practiced in the future. Use multiple methods to gather this data (self-reporting, observation and evaluation, performance metrics).

TECHNIQUE: STRONG VOICE Strong Voice is a technique that allows teachers (and coaches) to replicate the skill of teachers who can “command a room.” These teachers can enter a loud and unruly venue, which others would struggle to bring order to, and instantly get people to do as they ask or engage people who aren’t listening (or don’t want to listen) and get them focused. Strong Voice teachers use five principles to signal their authority. Economy of Language. Fewer words are usually stronger than more.

Do Not Talk Over. Make a habit of showing that your words matter by waiting until there is no other talking before you begin. By ensuring that your voice doesn’t compete for attention, you demonstrate that the decision to listen isn’t situational. To achieve this goal you will probably need to use a “self-interrupt”; that is, start a sentence and break it at some obvious and awkward point to show that you will not go on until you have full attention.

Do Not Engage. Once you have set the topic of conversation, avoid engaging in other topics until you have satisfactorily resolved the topic you initiated. This is especially important when the topic is behavioral follow-through.

Square Up/Stand Still. In every comment you make, you speak nonverbally as well as with words. Your body can show that you expect people to follow your request. When you want to express the seriousness of your directions, turn with two feet and two shoulders to face the object of your words directly. Make sure your eye contact is direct. Stand up straight or lean in close (this shows your level of control by demonstrating that you are not shy or afraid; you don’t crouch down to a dog you fear will bite you). If the student to whom you are speaking is distant, move towards him.

Quiet Power. When you get nervous, when you are worried that students might not follow your directions, when you sense that your control may be slipping away, your first instinct is often to talk louder and faster. When you get loud and talk fast, you show that you are nervous, scared, out of control. You send a message to students that if they can control you and your emotions, then they can make you put on a show that’s much more entertaining than revising a paper or nailing coordinate geometry, say. When you get loud, you also, ironically, make the room louder and thus make it easier for students to successfully talk under their breath. Though it runs against all your instincts, get slower and quieter when you want control. Drop your voice. Make students strain to listen. Exude poise and calm.

TECHNIQUE: 100% There is one acceptable percentage of students following a direction given in your classroom: 100%.

1. Use the least invasive form of intervention.

Here are six forms of intervention, in order of invasiveness. Try to use the first ones as much as you can: a. Nonverbal correction: Gesture to or establish eye contact with off-task students while doing something else, preferably teaching the others. As an example, you might gesture to a student asking him to put his hand down while you are talking. b. Positive group correction: Make a quick verbal reminder to the group about what students should be doing (not what they shouldn’t be doing). For example: “We’re following along in our books”; “You should be tracking the speaker.” Use this just as student attention appears on the brink of wandering. Earlier is better. c. Anonymous individual correction: Make a quick verbal reminder to the group, similar to positive group correction above except that the anonymous individual correction makes it explicit that not everyone is where he or she needs to be. Examples: “We need two people.” “Fifth grade, please check yourselves to make sure you’ve got your eyes on the speaker.” d. Private individual correction: When and if you have to name names, correct privately and quietly. Walk by the off-task student’s desk. Lean down and, using a voice that preserves as much privacy as possible, tell the student quickly and calmly what to do. Then talk about something else. Example: “Quentin, I’ve asked everyone to track me, and I need to see you doing it too.” e. Lightning-quick public correction: Private correction is not always possible. Your goals in making a public correction should be (1) to limit the amount of time a student is “on stage” for something negative, and (2) to focus on telling the student what to do right rather than scolding or explicating what he did wrong. Example: “Quentin, I need your eyes. Looking sharp, back row!” f. Consequence: If a situation cannot be addressed quickly and successfully without a consequence, the consequence must be given so that instruction is not interrupted. As with other interventions, consequences should be delivered quickly and in the least invasive, least emotional manner. Ideally, a teacher has a scaled series of consequences from which to choose so that she can both match the significance of the response to the disruption and ensure her own ability to administer it quickly, decisively, and without wavering.

2. Rely on firm, calm finesse. Catch it early: Champion teachers catch off-task behavior early, as eyes begin to wander and before they’ve locked in on and begun to engage a distraction, for example. “Thank you” is the strongest phrase: Saying “thank you” after a student has done what you asked not only underscores civility but emphasizes for the rest of the class that the student in question did what you asked. (Why else would you thank the student?) This normalizes compliance and makes you seem calm, civil, and in control. Purpose, not power: Achieving compliance is an exercise in purpose, not power. Students need to follow directions so that they can be assured of having the best chance to succeed. Responsiveness is the means, not the end. “I need your eyes on me so you can learn” is a more effective statement than “I asked for your eyes on me. When I ask you to do something, I expect you to do it.” Universal language: Champion 100% teachers stress the universality of expectations. Their language reinforces this: “I need everyone sitting up,” or even better, “We need everyone sitting up,” which stresses universality better than “I need your eyes, Trevor.

3. Emphasize compliance you can see. Invent ways to maximize visibility: Find ways to make it easier to see who’s followed your directions by asking students to do things that you can see. Asking for eyes on you is better than asking for attention because you can see it when you have it;

Be seen looking: When you ask for compliance, make sure to look for it and to be seen looking for it. Every few minutes you should scan the room with a calm smile on your face to ensure that everything is as it should be.

Avoid marginal compliance: It’s not just whether your students do what you’ve asked but whether they do it right.


To Cold Call is to call on students regardless of whether they have raised their hand. You ask a question and then you call the name of the student you want to answer it. When students see you frequently and reliably calling on students who don’t have their hand raised, they come to expect it and prepare for it. Calling on whomever you choose regardless of whether a hand is up brings several critical benefits to your classroom.


It’s critical to be able to check what any student’s level of mastery is at any time, regardless of whether he or she is offering to tell you.


Second, Cold Call increases speed, in terms of your pacing and in terms of the rate at which you can cover material; both are critical issues.

Third, Cold Call allows you to distribute work more broadly around the room and signal to students not only that they are likely to be called on to participate, and therefore that they should engage in the work of the classroom, but that you want to know what they have to say. You care about their opinion.

The success of the technique relies on the application of a few key principles: Cold Call should be predictable. The behavior you want (attentiveness) comes before you call on students, so the more predictable it is—students know it is likely to happen—the more effective it will be. Cold Call frequently and regularly. It’s fine to let students know it’s coming.

Cold Calling should be systematic; that is, it should apply to everyone regardless of behavior or other factors. Call on multiple students. Distribute Cold Calls around the room, and eschew language that makes it seem like they happen because of something a student did or said. Keep Cold Calls positive. Make sure a Cold Call isn’t a “gotcha” but an invitation to a real question. And make sure your goal is for students to get it right. Unbundle your Cold Calls by breaking up large questions into smaller ones and distributing them around the room. Why ask one question of one student—“What do you think was the most important cause of the Civil War, and why? David?

TECHNIQUE: RIGHT IS RIGHT When responding to answers in class, the job of the teacher is to set a high standard for correctness, to hold out for 100%. There’s a strong likelihood that students will stop striving when they hear the word “right” (or “yes” or some other proxy), so you should only name as “right” that which is truly and completely right.

Hold Out for All the Way. Great teachers praise students for their effort but never confuse effort with mastery. A right answer includes the negative sign if a negative sign is warranted.

Answer My Question. As a student you learn quickly in school that when you don’t know the right answer to a question, you can usually get by if you answer a different one or if you say something true and heartfelt about the wider world.

Teaching a repeatable process is more important than teaching the answer to a problem. It cheats the class if you respond favorably to one student’s desire to move ahead to the end.

As teachers, one of our primary jobs is to tell students what to do and how to do it. Telling students what to do rather than what not to do is far more efficient and effective, and it refocuses us—even in moments that are about behavior—on teaching. It expresses the belief that teaching can solve problems. However, just telling kids “what to do” is not quite enough. To really be effective, directions should be specific, concrete, sequential, and observable.

Students need to rehearse success, and you need an approach that establishes accountability for effort.

People are motivated by the positive far more than the negative. Seeking success and happiness will spur stronger action than seeking to avoid punishment.

SUMMARY OF RULES 1. Encode Success Practice getting it right. Take the time to check for understanding and work for mastery before adding complexity. Remember, failure builds character better than it builds skills.
2. Practice the 20 Be great at the things that matter most. Spend 80% of your time practicing the 20% of skills that are most important.
3. Let the Mind Follow the Body Get skills going on autopilot. Build up automated skills to master more complex situations.
4. Unlock Creativity . . . with Repetition You can’t do higher level work if you are wasting brain power on the basics. Drill the fundamentals to free your mind to be creative when it matters most.
5. Replace Your Purpose (with an Objective) Purpose is not enough. Focus practice on measurable and manageable objectives.
6. Practice “Bright Spots” Tap into the power of what works. Find your strengths and use practice to make them stronger.
7. Differentiate Drill from Scrimmage To develop skills, use drills. Reserve scrimmage for evaluating performance readiness and mastery.
8. Correct Instead of Critique Help people repeat a task in a concretely different way rather than simply telling them what was wrong.
9. Analyze the Game The skills needed to deliver a winning performance are not always obvious. Watch, gather data, analyze, and let yourself be surprised.
10. Isolate the Skill New skills are best taught and practiced in isolation. Challenge yourself to define small, specific skills and to craft precise drills for each.
11. Name It Give skills a name and create a shared vocabulary for practice in order to focus people’s discussion and reflection.
12. Integrate the Skills After initial mastery, weave together multiple skills in increasingly complex environments and situations.
13. Make a Plan Great practices depend on great planning. Create plans with data-driven objectives, detail activities down to the last minute, then rehearse and revise. 14. Make Each Minute Matter Every moment is precious. Find efficiencies and make them a routine part of practice.
15. Model and Describe Good teaching requires both showing and explaining to ensure understanding.
16. Call Your Shots When modeling—whether it may be a specific technique or how to run a meeting—alert observers to what you’re trying to demonstrate so they see it happen. Help them watch strategically and with intention.
17. Make Models Believable Flawless modeling in ideal settings can be easy to dismiss. Ensure that modeling occurs in conditions that are true to life and credible.
18. Try Supermodeling Directly modeling a skill in context is an opportunity to show how other skills can be applied.
19. Insist They “Walk This Way” Many people resist imitating others, thinking it’s cheating or uncreative. But sometimes this is the best way to learn. Make “copying” a good word and tell people what they should strive to copy.
20. Model Skinny Parts Break down complex skills into narrow steps, modeling each part separately.