Cold Call

Positive Cold Call Culture

Invest students in Cold Call by ensuring that it is warm, regular, and universal.

Cold Call has the potential to get more students doing more of the cognitive work. It's a truly powerful technique. But it's only effective if it's positive. In this training, you'll learn about how to ensure the culture of Cold Call in your classroom is a positive one.

Positive Culture in Two Classrooms

Get started by watching two short clips featuring Cold Call: one from Najee Carter's second-grade classroom and one from Jon Bogard's ninth-grade classroom. As you watch, consider: How do Najee and Jon ensure the culture of Cold Call in their classrooms is positive?

Continue on below to learn how to make your Cold Call positive and upbeat like Najee’s and Jon’s.

Three Recommendations

Follow this advice to build a positive Cold Call culture in your classroom.

1. Warm & Welcoming Tone

This attribute of positive Cold Call culture really stands out in Najee's and Jon's rooms.

When you Cold Call, use a warm tone, and smile. Make eye contact. Express your sincere interest in how students will answer your questions. Celebrate both the risks they take and the good thinking they do. This communicates to students that you believe in their potential and that you want them to be successful.

2. Cold Call Regularly

Cold Call should be a regular part of your daily practice. The more accustomed students are to being Cold Called, the more they will anticipate it and engage comfortably.

(Note that in Teach Like a Champion 2.0, we call this Cold Calling "predictably," not regularly. There’s probably a bit more to predictability than just regular use but it’s definitely the best place to start!)

3. Make It Universal

Make sure you're spreading Cold Call around. After all, few things erode positive culture and impede learning faster than a student's sensation that she is being "picked on" (or ignored) by her teacher.

Here are a few tips for ensuring you Cold Call universally:

  • Ask a series of Cold Call questions of different students in a batch. That ensures that no student feels singled out
  • Call on students from all around the room in rapid succession. This keeps everyone engaged and makes it clear you’re not just Cold Calling the same subset of students repeatedly

See It In Action

Now, you'll have the opportunity to watch Najee's and Jon's clips once more, with commentary from Doug and also from Erica Woolway, Chief Academic Officer at Teach Like a Champion. Finally, hear Doug's analysis of a third Cold Call clip from Beth Verrilli's twelfth-grade English classroom.

As you watch, look for:

  • Each teacher's warm tone and smile
  • Evidence that Cold Call is a regular part of each teacher's daily practice
  • Universality: The teacher Cold Calls several different students

Pitfalls and What-Ifs

Here are two pieces of advice we give teachers who worry about establishing positive Cold Call culture:

  1. Never use Cold Call as a “gotcha” for an off-task student
  2. Help an anxious student to rehearse success by starting with a foundational question to establish comfort before following on with a more challenging question. Alternatively, give him a private "heads up" that you'll be calling on him next (we call this "pre-calling")

And you probably recall Beth Verrilli from the video you just watched of her Cold Calling her students about Othello. Check out the interview Doug did with her, below. In it, Beth gives advice for how to keep Cold Call culture positive when a student responds incorrectly.


Now you'll have the opportunity to practice planning and delivering Cold Call questions.

Scenario: Plan three to five questions to Cold Call during an upcoming lesson. Then practice delivering them.

Get started by watching Colleen Driggs, Director of Professional Development at Teach Like a Champion, model practice:

Draft Your Cold Call Questions

On your own (e.g., on a separate piece of paper or in a fresh document), script three to five Cold Call questions based on the content of an upcoming lesson you intend to teach. The sheer act of practicing planning should set you up to begin Cold Calling regularly. Be sure to script in the names of the students you intend to Cold Call, too. This element of your planning helps to ensure universality.

Once you've scripted your questions, continue on.

Practice Cold Calling

Now, you'll practice delivering Cold Call with a focus on using a warm and welcoming tone.

This practice is iterative. In other words, each round will focus on a very specific element of the technique, and the rounds will increase in complexity as you apply the skill in each setting. To get the most out of each round, stand up in front of your camera, like you would when you're teaching.

Round 1:

Just try it out: Practice your three to five Cold Call questions.

Click "Record" when you're ready. Feel free to re-record until you're satisfied.

Round 2:

Practice again. This time, focus on using a warm tone.

Click "Record" when you're ready.

Round 3:

For your final round of practice, focus on smiling in addition to using a warm tone.

Click "Record" when you're ready.


Congratulations! You've completed this training on establishing a Positive Cold Call Culture.

Below, watch all three videos from your practice. As you watch, look for the following key execution points:

  • Round 1: Just try it
  • Round 2: Cold Call with a warm tone
  • Final Round: Cold Call with a warm tone and a smile

Then, click the button below to share your final video practice.