Academic Ethos – 5 Strategies for the Classroom

[by John Smith]

One consistent finding of academic research is that High Expectations among teachers are the most reliable driver of high achievement among students, even students who do not have a history of strong achievement.                                                                           [Lemov, 2014]

Here are 5 strategies for building Academic Ethos into everyday interactions with students – they are all taken from the work of Doug Lemov. They were shared with NQTs in a session before Half Term.

1. Reject Self -Report

By Self-Report , Lemov means students reporting on their own understanding. How many of us habitually use the phrases on his ‘Don’t’ list? The following are unlikely to provide a true picture of student understanding:

Don’t say…

– have we all got that? 

– all ok? 

– are we ready to move on?

–  are we all happy with that?


– TARGET questions – Sarah, can you explain…?    

– PLAN hinge questions      

– WAIT TIME after questions   

– MINI-WHITEBAORDS of specific summary questions       

– CIRCULATE to track rather than watch

Here is a Planning Template for constructing Hinge Questions and pre-empting common misconceptions:

Joint Planning 1. Check for Understanding

Hinge Qns

2. Right is Right


Avoid ‘rounding up’ student answers:  “I know what you are trying to say, I think you mean…”

-Don’t allow a student to jump in and finish someone else’s answer

-Don’t let students answer a related question


-Hold out for 100% right rather than partially right

-No Opt Out: go back to the original targeted student

-Hold out for the level of answer that you want, don’t skip ahead.

-Right answer, right time – don’t let students skip ahead ro a related question

-Insist on correct terminology and vocabulary

3. Stretch It

Once students have gained a right answer, stretch it.

-“the reward for right answers is harder questions”

-allows for differentiation to stretch the top end.


correct answer, how did you get/know that?

can you think of a simpler/better way?

can you give me any evidence/examples of that?

what if…?

tell me more…

can you develop that idea?

keep going…

make stretch questions so routine that a non-verbal queue can be used.

4. Format of Response matters

Prompt students towards academic ‘essay’ / ‘technical’ language.

“Say it how you might write it in an essay”

“Let’s try that again in University language”

5. Without Apology

Don’t say…

I know this is dull but…

This is on the test so we have to do it

THEY say we have to read this so…


I know you will get this eventually, so we are going to stick with it…

Most people can’t get this, but we are going to crack it

Wait til you impress your parents with this…

Observing these strategies in practice:  Pupil Response


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