Profile Littky

The Busy Person’s Guide to

Dennis Littky and School Reform


Dennis Littky describes what happens at his schools:

Until we find the child’s passion, it’s just school.  When the child finds his passion, we teach to that passion.  We can find internships for high school students: Kids say, “I love this internship!” and teachers can teach to that interest.



His 200-page book, The Big Picture, can be summarized as "helping kids find their passions."




Littky's focus on "the child's passion" has been the central concern of many educational pioneers:


Educators should personalize education and work to individualize instruction.  Thomas Hoerr, Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School


Try listening to your students for a day or two.  We do not mean reacting to what they say.  We mean listening.  Any questions you ask or remarks you make would not be designed to instruct or judge.  They would be attempts to clarify what someone has said.  If you are like most teachers, your training has probably not included learning how to listen.  … The principal reason for you learning how to listen to students is that you may increase your understand of what the students perceive as relevant. The only way to know where a kid is “at” is to listen to what he is saying.  You can’t do this if you are talking.   Neil Postman, Teaching as a Subversive Activity.


Why is Littky’s book important?

Bill Gates used the phrase “The New Three Rs: Rigor, Relevance and Relationships” in his speech to the National High School Summit, Feb. 2005.  The phrase comes from The Big Picture by Dennis Littky (page 116).
Learn more about Littky
Talk at TEDxNewYork  Kids who drop out of school
(10 minutes)
PopTech presentation (24 minutes) 
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Learn more about Littky (and other educational pioneers) -- come to one of our Free Meetings ( hosts discussion groups)
The workshop “That’s Edu-tainment” aims to expose teachers to a selection of quotes that might provide that moment when the teacher says, “I know what I need to do and I’m going to do it.”   Some teachers know what they want to see in the classroom, but have avoided implementing those changes because


n     “change is difficult”

n     “the administration won’t accept it”

n     “I can’t because I don’t have the time”

n     “the students wouldn’t do the work.”

n    “I get paid to teach the curriculum, so that’s what I’m doing.  I don’t have time to find out each kid’s goals.”

 I once gave each of those reasons to myself.  Something clicked for me when I heard Littky’s interview on National Public Radio.  The phrase “What is that student’s passion?” is now embedded in every lesson plan, in every moment when I’m teaching.


You are invited to learn more about the aims of the workshop by visiting  If you have a pivotal quote that inspires you, please send it to  The quote that motivated you to become an agent of change could inspire other teachers and parents. 


A Presentation at PopTech