Much of the following is taken from Teach Like a Champion 2.0 (Doug Lemov 2015). In Chapter 6 titled Pacing, Lemov talks about the ways in which a lesson can move quickly or drag slowly. Interestingly, either is possible irrespective of the amount of material being covered. A lot of material is not more intrinsically interesting than a little. Of course, we know about the Goldilocks version of teaching – too much challenge and the student gives up; too little challenge and the student is bored; it has to be just right and just right is different for every student.

We all know how important pacing is, if only to acknowledge the importance of finishing everything in the lesson plan before the bell goes! From a student’s point of view, pacing is equally important. And it is, at least in part, connected to different types of activity and the length of time they take and the extent to which they move the lesson objective forward. Lemov suggests that there are five types of activities (p. 203):

  1. Assimilating knowledge directly from sources such as the teacher or a text: a variety of ways to present / introduce new concepts and information.
  2. Participating in guided practice or guided questioning structured by the teacher: use and application of concepts and information.
  3. Executing skills without teacher support, as in independent practice: autonomous use of concepts and information.
  4. Reflecting on a idea – thinking quietly and deeply: a metacognitive process that is often individual but not always.
  5. Discussing and developing ideas with classmates: autonomy and collaboration exercised together.

Using these different kinds of activities, appropriately deciding which is helpful at any given pedagogical moment, responding to where the students are (where each student is), all help to pace the lesson and support maximum student engagement. Note that these types of activity are not ‘novel’ but familiar to the students. They are used intentionally by the teacher to both keep interest but also to keep students thinking in different ways, staying agile and focused.

Here is an example:

Activity Description Activity Type Time Used What it might sound like
Quick quiz 3 4 minutes Let’s check  with this question whether we all understood yesterday’s concept.
Developing the concept 1 4 minutes You have all been able to apply the concept we learned so let’s learn the next level of the same concept.
Understanding the concept 2 8 minutes So now let’s try applying this using a worked example.
Checking for understanding 4 4 minutes Ok, now spend a few moments on your own writing down the questions you want to ask about this.
Application 5

6 minutes

Here’s a new example that is not worked. Get in a group of three and see if you can solve it together. Bring your questions to the process and at the end identify those still not answered.

It’s easy to apply the same teaching practice to other subjects. The order is not important. That depends on the lesson objective. However, it can be important to use at least three of what Lemov calls “muscle groups” (p. 203) in most classes.  And make the process visible to the students so that they know the transitions are happening and that they are engaged in different brain activities. Happy classrooms!!