3 Easy Tactics, A Review
by Steve Wallis, Ph.D.


Three Easy Tactics to Use in Your Classroom
By Win Wenger, Ph.D.
ISBN 978-0-557-45547-8
Center for Modern Socratic Innovation, Buffalo, New York
Project Renaissance, Gaithersburg, Maryland 2010


There are many tools available for teachers today. Many of them are good; they help to improve student performance. Most tools, however, require more effort on that part of the teacher in order to get those results. Few tools will both improve student performance AND make the teacher's job easier. Three Easy Tactics To Use In Your Classroom is one that provides such tools.

The author is a former schoolteacher, turned scholar/author, who now pioneers innovative and effective methods for education. In this book, Dr. Wenger contrasts traditional educational philosophy and practice with the benefits of new and more effective methods. The methods presented in this book are not merely theoretical. They were applied recently at St. Andrew's Country Day School in Buffalo, New York, for students in the third through the seventh grade with rather impressive results. The sharp increase in student scores comes as an encouraging contrast to the dismal results around our nation.

Recent tests such as the Progress in International Reading Literature Study (PIRLS) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) have provided new insight into our educational system. They suggest that the more years our children spend in our school system, the less effective they are at learning.

In sharp contrast, using the methods in this book, the students at St. Andrew's were actually accelerating in their enthusiasm and ability to learn. For example, third-grade skills in reading, language arts, and math improved by an average of 2.5 years over the course of a single year. By seventh grade, students improved by 6.8 years over the same one-year period. Clearly, something good is happening here.

Those powerful positive effects spurred my own interest in reviewing this book. Also, the methods developed by Dr. Wenger are similar to those I have used with great success.

In a nutshell, this book presents three tactics (Instant Replay, Highlighter Questions, Planning Questions). The first two tactics are primarily focused on getting students talking, reflecting, and focused on the subject matter. These may be applied at the end of the session to summarize and reinforce the information, or any time in the middle where a teacher might want to refocus the students (and, perhaps, gain a quick respite). The third tactic suggests a more comprehensive template for classroom activities. That approach includes ideas for introducing the topic, developing preliminary understanding, and leading toward deeper and more challenging questions. All of these approaches serve to create a classroom atmosphere that is more conducive to student learning.

There are additional sections that give the reader the opportunity to take these methods to the next level. One approach is the Dynamic Format, which is a useful approach for working with students that have become comfortable with the three easy tactics. The Dynamic Format actually brings students into the learning process in a more conscious and purposeful way by creating a set of rules for small group conversations that serve to further accelerate the learning process.

One important strength of Wenger's book is that the questions posed for students are very clear; and they are designed to generate conversations that are highly relevant to learning, understanding, and appreciating the material. In short, these approaches keep students engaged as active participants in their own educational process, which is what we want as teachers!

One approach, for example, can be simply understood as asking students to turn to one another and respond to a simple question (the question is also written up on the board, so the students don't forget!). From my own experience in education and facilitation, I know that this kind of approach works wonders for energizing students and getting them focused on the topic at hand.

In addition to the straightforward presentation of effective techniques, this book is also a springboard to additional opportunities for improving teaching techniques, with web links and other sources suggested to the reader.

This book could be improved by adding more concrete examples, although the level of abstraction is not so high as to be distracting. Any teacher with a reasonable knowledge of the material should be able to easily "fill in the blanks" with the relevant information from their own topics.

Also, the organization of the book seemed, at first, a little odd. Instead of presenting the three methods in simple order, there are a couple of digressions to other methods and discussions. In retrospect, this does not detract much from the book, as those other topics are interwoven with the methods presented.

Given the proven benefits of these techniques in boosting student scores, while simultaneously easing the burden of our dedicated but overworked teachers, I would have to conclude by saying that I can think of no more cost-effective approach to improving the learning experience of young students than to put this reasonably priced book ($9.95) into the hands of teachers everywhere.

The book thus reviewed, 3 Easy Tactics To Use In Your Classroom —How To Teach Smarter, Not Harder, is obtainable in hardcopy from Project Renaissance or from its publisher, or from its publisher as a downloadable e-book.

Steve Wallis, Ph.D., is co-author of Easy Genius: Awakening Your Whole Brain to Build a More Powerful Memory.

3 Easy Tactics
A review by Kathy Carroll, Educator

    Win Wenger's latest book, 3 Easy Tactics, demonstrates three simple ways to transform any classroom into a true learning community. Through these tactics, the focus on the individual student's associations reaches into what matters to the student instead of what the student thinks will please the teacher (right-answer fixation).

    The strategies respect the learner for what matters to him or her, whatever it is. Applying these tactics engenders a habit of digging down for authentic answers and the habit of providing a safe space for those insights to be voiced. As every student's deliberation enjoys the respect of the teacher, students increase their respect for each other. As students experience their own deep knowing, they also grow in self respect and respect for and interest in the subject they are learning. This happens when students ask themselves, "What matters to ME here?" and "How does this connect with my life?"

    In this way, the classroom becomes a center for collaboration of thinking and feeling individuals rather than a single thinking person (the teacher) and a bunch of mindless receivers of the thinking person's wisdom (the students). It raises the bar of expectations for students. "You matter! What you think, feel, need, and how you see this matters! You are expected to pull your weight in this classroom by contributing your insights and brilliance to the rest of us! You can help us see what we are learning in a new light! YOU MATTER!" This creates a context and paradigm of respect, self-connection, and a love of knowledge—prime ingredients for lasting learning. No wonder the test scores at Saint Andrew's are soaring!

An educator of students from pre-school through graduate school for over 30 years, Kathleen Carroll is an international presenter and author of educational books and CDs. See www.kathleencarroll.com.

3 Easy Tactics
A review by Emily Millett

Once again Win Wenger has written a book that is easy to read and implement if you are willing to think differently. He encourages creativity and innovative thinking and most of all challenges you to be a genius. His information is certainly not "cookie cutter advice"—so be prepared to be your own Einstein as you read this small book.

I first met Win at the International Alliance for Learning in 1986. He did a session on Learning like Einstein. For me it was very different, but soon I realized how much we need to foster creativity and new ways of thinking and learning in our education system. 3 Easy Tactics carries on that tradition in a very concrete format. Teachers and learners of all ages should treat themselves to this book.

Emily Millett is a schoolboard member. She can be reached by email at millett_e@popmail.firn.edu

3 Easy Tactics
A review by John H. Langer, Ed.D.

    Three Easy Tactics to use in your classroom, by Win Wenger (Center for Modern Socratic Innovation, 2010), is a deceptively seductive supplementary text for teachers. This brief but very practical book can be almost immediately useful to teachers in many subject-matter areas.

    Why do I say "deceptively seductive"? The "tactics" are indeed easy. They can be used in either routine classroom practice or limited to specific activities. Though the tactics are much easier for students than for teachers, nevertheless, whether you are an enthusiastic beginning teacher or an experienced one at the top of your game, these tactics have the potential to greatly increase your students' immediate retention of your classroom instruction.

    The processes are simple: The first tactic, INSTANT REPLAY, is a focused review procedure that simplifies getting and keeping the attention of every student. The second tactic, THE HIGHLIGHTER QUESTION, makes the "takeaway" concept in a teacher's presentation almost impossible for students to ignore. Finally, if used at the end of a class, THE PLANNED QUESTION involves a way to raise once again the main points of the day's class.

    These questions do require planning and use classroom time. However, they are much more than repetition— that is, a version of the old "tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em, tell 'em, and then tell 'em what you told 'em. The question format requires students rather than the teacher to formulate their version of what they have just learned and use it.

    A major value of these tactics is their flexibility. They can be adjusted to the needs of both the class and individuals within it. In addition, once students learn to "use" the process, they will work more and more independently. This 56-page book can be a stepping-off point for a significant change in a teacher's way of interacting and helping students interact with each other and with the course materials.

    A significant bonus is the inclusion of Win Wenger's
website, which includes hundreds of pages of material related to learning and which can be downloaded by teachers and students.

    There are a few minor caveats: being able to USE effectively the Three Easy Tactics assumes what is obvious—that a teacher is prepared, the material is a presentation of a topic of value, and that he/she understands the value of student involvement. In addition, the question format may need flexible seating arrangements to gain the best efforts of some students.

    Though the question format may appear to be merely an interruption, data are cited that these tactics have shown significant results in learning. Measurement of their impact can be developed. On page 40 is listed a series of objectives, but teachers, in these days of over-testing of fact retention, can identify their own ways of evaluating the effects of these tactics.

    My personal method is to give regular brief quizzes that question what was taught earlier, with no more than a handful of questions. Then I tally and record the results. These may or may not be used for student grades. However, it provides almost immediate feedback on student attention, progress and need for additional help. There are other, very different ways implied or suggested in the book, not involving quizzes or paperwork. Evaluation and measurement of progress should be an on-going process. These three easy tactics, because they require teachers to focus on what is most important in what they teach, take much of the guesswork out of evaluation.

    Finally, I said that the book can be seductive. It opens new pathways to helping students learn without requiring curriculum revision or an entirely new approach. Teachers can use as much of, or as little of, what they find useful; they can adjust the process to student needs, time constraints and the requirements of the curriculum. The Dynamic Format (p.19) is the general method behind these three tactics. A gradual incorporation of the format will happen even though a teacher uses only a portion of the processes. I am sure, as their proficiency increases and their value becomes clear, these tactics will become a part of the repertoire of any teacher who will take the time to try them.

John H. Langer, Ph.B., M.A., J.D., Ed.D, retired from Federal service where he held a number of management positions. He was Associate Professor of Education at Indiana University and also taught at Oakland University, Wayne State University, and the University of Detroit. He was a public school administrator and principal and worked in private industry for IBM, and as a consultant. He has numerous publications in professional journals and other media on education, substance abuse, social science and law enforcement.

3 Easy Tactics
A review by Brian M. Morrissey, Educational Consultant

    The cultural inhibitor of optimal learning and creativity in the classroom today is the same as what has been limiting educational achievement for the past 500 years:  our obsession with the idea that the factory production model emerging with the Industrial Age applies equally to mass education. It's true that the factory production model has freed many of us from material need — from food growing to time saving and energy production. But that success in the physical world doesn't automatically translate over to the abstract, mental world:  the arena for education and learning.


    In the Industrial Era view, the school was conventionally thought to be best designed analogous to an assembly line in which students, with their heads open (like so many lids on jars) pass under a huge dispenser of knowledge (the teacher, textbook publishers, and educational system) to have their brains filled with facts and concepts of every description, some how-to's, etc., before passing out the other end of this learning factory at graduation time. The more information you put in those heads during the course of their educational process, the more will be retained and eventually applied in the real world.


    When it comes to the learning and teaching, however, this model has the education process backwards and out-of-balance. As 3 Easy Tactics points out, the art and science of the educational process for the new, Internet and computer-driven 21st century needs to put the emphasis not on the input side of the learning cycle, but on its output side:  how information and knowledge is used and assimilated to allow the students to make it their own.


    There is no better method for restoring the balance in the education system than the Socratic Method from the Ancient Greeks. Nowhere in all of human civilization have there appeared more world-class geniuses than in Ancient Greece. 3 Easy Tactics provides teachers in our schools the means to begin employing the Socratic Method to produce a much-needed crop of geniuses today.


    3 Easy Tactics puts into the hands of the teacher the necessary first step in a simple, ready-made manner that will begin the reversal of classroom emphasis from input to output. The computer and Internet have made a tremendous databank of information and knowledge widely available; as a consequence, providing a quantity of educational input to produce a quality of educational achievement no longer applies.

In today's world, the most important part of education is giving students the opportunity to reflect on, articulate and synthesize knowledge they discover and/or to which they are exposed, for themselves. The word educate itself derives from the Greek term, "to draw forth". The Socratic Method of developing genius by giving students this opportunity prior to 3 Easy Tactics has not been feasible simply because if a teacher started doing this with a few of the students, the rest would easily become bored and have their attention turned away. Classroom disruption easily resulted. Time and numbers in mass education limited the applicability of a Socratic approach. But 3 Easy Tactics synthesizes a cooperative learning approach with a Socratic line of questioning and review, and the result is to liberate the mental state in the classroom from the stifling effects of continuous "one size fits all" inputting. Furthermore, 3 Easy Tactics points out how conventional teaching takes a big toll— energy-wise and psychically—from the teacher; whereas his or her use of 3 Easy Tactics, when mastered sufficiently, actually gives instructors a much-needed opportunity to recharge their batteries in the process of producing genius levels of creativity and thought as their students'"output".

Brian Morrissey is an educational consultant, brain wave researcher, and originator of Brain States Mastery. He has served in the U.S. Office of Education, as well as in the Lozanov Learning Institute. As consultant, instructor and/or director, he has served in a number of different colleges, universities and educational programs, both in the Washington, DC, area and abroad. He has researched and authored two published books on the topic of brainwave states that are conducive to learning.
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