Withitness Is Not a Word! NOT!!

Posted on November 5th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Withitness is such an important word in education.  We see teachers and administrators that have withitness and those that do not.  Although withitness is not an official word, anyone that has been in a classroom knows what it is, right?  The teacher is prepared, they know what is going to happen, they have a timeline and understand their role in the classroom.  These teachers are ready for disruption that may occur and know exactly how they will deal with that disruption.  They have “eyes in the back of their head” and can call out a student for positive or negative behavior quickly and effectively.  The classroom is constantly supervised and engaged in learning.  Now do you understand what withitness is?

Withitness in an administrator is essential to a school that is achieving at high levels.  Administrators know each teacher and have a positive relationship with their staff.  They know the students, parents and the community.  Principals would be said to” have their finger on the pulse of their school.”  In order to have withitness as a principal every class is visited often, you are seen everywhere and at anytime in the school.

Although withitness is a skill most educators are born with, we have some great short tasks you can do!  These tasks will make you more aware of your withitness.  Email me at pamela@keyclassrooms.com if you are interested in trying some tasks.

Are you a teacher or principal with withitness?  Share your best secrets with us at www.keyclassrooms.com


Salt and Pepper Shakers: Differentiation

Posted on October 10th, 2013 in Latest Podcast, Podcast Archives | No Comments

Coffee Shops and Differentiation

Posted on October 9th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments


This is such a lovely coffee shop and I just had to share with you a picture of what I was taking in while creating this post, the newsletter and the pod cast.  In our newsletter this week we talk a little about coffee shops, if you don’t get our newsletters, sign up now at www.keyclassrooms.com.

Our fifth component of Sit Down vs. Drive Through Classroom Management and Engagement are the salt and pepper shakers.  Our table is almost completely set.  We have our recipe (rigorous curriculum), plates (lessons and activities), silverware (uniqueness of our students), and trivets (angry students).  Now we are adding the salt and pepper shakers to make sure our table is almost complete.  The salt and pepper shakers represent differentiation in our classroom.  Differentiation comes down to how much we respect the children in our classrooms.  Do we respect our children enough to know them, know how they learn best, challenge them, vary our instructional methods, know the best practices in teaching, and creatively reach each student where they are?  Or do we assume everyone will learn one way and are all at one place in their learning?  Key Classrooms loves differentiation because it is based on planning which is the foundation for Sit Down vs. Drive Through Classroom Management and Engagement.  Differentiation values children by looking at how we teach, what we teach and the way we teach it.  So, in other words when we look at the product (what they produce), content (what they learn) and process (how they learn) we are differentiating.  In our newsletter and podcast we are covering many more aspects to differentiation.  If you are not a part of our Key Classroom Community, come to our website and sign up for our free weekly newsletters, please.  www.keyclassrooms.com

Say WHAT????

Posted on October 2nd, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Five Trivets for Your Angry Students.

What do you say to a student that enters the classroom visibly
angry?  Are you prepared for that situation?  Or do you ask them
“What’s wrong?” and how does that work for you?  One of two things
happens when you ask an angry student “What’s wrong?” One, they
say “nothing” when obviously there is OR they will tell you in front
of the entire class while yelling.  Neither response solves the
problem or provides you with an environment for teaching.
Asking “What’s wrong?” is a gut response and it is the question
we ask when we are not prepared.  Be prepared by planning a few
options based on the student and the situation.

“I can see you are very angry, let’s step out in the hall for a
minute while the class works on the warm-up.”

“Here is a pass; Mrs. Nurth said you could stop by if you wanted to
talk.”  This would need to be set up beforehand.

“I can see that you are very angry, I’m going to get the class
started then we can talk.”

“It’s not ok to come into the class this angry, I’m going to
need you to wait outside while I call for Mrs.Nurth”

“I can see you are angry, your journal is in the back of the room.
Sit down and write about what is going on then we can talk in a
little while if we need to.”

All of these will require some planning, that is the magic
of Sit-Down Classroom Management.
When you take the time to personalize situations student
will learn more and in a more productive environment.

Angry Students: Placing a Trivet on the Table Oct. 1, 2013

Posted on October 1st, 2013 in Podcast Archives | No Comments

This podcast provides teachers with five strategies to deal with angry students in their classroom.

Forks, Spoons or Knives???

Posted on September 25th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Julie Catsum is a fourth year teacher, great at content, loves collaborating with her colleagues and always makes time for her own professional development.  The one thing that is missing is building her skills to meet the needs and talents of her students.  She isn’t sure what next steps to take but can tell other teachers seem to be much better at building rapport with their students.  We shared these tips with her and she saw a dramatic improvement in her student’s engagement in class and performance on assessments.  Taking the time to develop your skills as a teacher is so important to building student rapport.  Some unique skills that may not come naturally…

  • Teaching students how to read.  If you are a teacher in grades 3-12 and you have a non-reader or a below grade-level reader, do you know how to help them with the basics?  (And we don’t mean “Sound it out”)
  • Using creativity in your subject area or grade level?  Creativity goes beyond allowing a student to draw a poster or make a volcano.  Building your skills in creative problem solving, fine arts and performing arts will provide you with the needed platform and resources for reaching creative students.
  • MOOC, I would tell you what it means but then that defeats the purpose.  Google it and let your skills and the skills of your advanced, at-risk, tech savvy, and creative students soar!
  • Culturally relevant information that is at a high interest to your students.  Examples of this are:  Sports, Music, TV, Nail Polish, Skateboarding, Geo caching, and Camping.  Have an understanding of what your student’s interests are in their daily lives.  One great way to do this is to have your students teach you.
  • MATH!!!!  Know how to complete basic algebraic expressions and have a deep understanding for how math works in your content area.
  • Depending on your students have a keen understanding of their socioeconomic needs and strengths?  An example might be if you work in an affluent district understand the importance of networking and the pressure of attending the correct college.  If you work in a high poverty district know how to use a bus, laundry mat, and where the shelters and food pantries are located.  These are just examples, but in the end bump up your skills in the socioeconomic needs and talents of your students.

We know these tips will help, but if there are others you would like to share please do so! www.keyclassrooms.com

The Secret to Building Relationships

Posted on September 24th, 2013 in Podcast Archives | No Comments

Four Keys to Improving your Lessons and Activities!

Posted on September 18th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Sit Down vs. Drive Through Classroom Management and Engagement has seven components.  Today we are talking about “The Plates” for our Sit Down meal, or what we refer to as Lessons and Activities.  The basis of SD vs. DT is planning, so how does that pertain to lessons and activities.

What does a lesson include to ensure student engagement?

  1.  Reasonable–Lessons and activities must be reasonable to the student, in order for them to become engaged.  They need to see the reason behind the lesson and the connection to their world, their learning and their future.  Make note, teachers must know and understand the connection to the student’s world, learning and future too.  If the teacher cannot articulate the “reasonable” part of student engagement then they need to understand their content more in-depth.
  2. Interesting – When students are being introduced to the lesson/activity there needs to be a hook to peak their curiosity.  It is our curiosity that drives our engagement.  When someone is no longer curious about a topic matter their engagement in the topic lessens.  Deciding how you will introduce the topic and then continue to keep their curiosity throughout the lesson is critical.  The activities need to be novel to the student.   It is insulting to students that teacher after teacher asks them to do the same activity on a different topic year after year.  They started making posters in second grade so unless you have a unique and rigorous idea then don’t continue using posters.  There are so many outstanding and new ideas for activities on the internet, get out of your comfort zone and explore, become engaged yourself.
  3. Well Prepared – The basis of Sit Down vs. Drive Through Classroom Management and Engagement is planning.  Therefore, it is important that we describe planning in the context of lessons and activities.  What does that look like?
  • There is a true introduction and hook that grabs the student’s attention at the beginning and throughout the lesson.
  •  The directions that the teacher uses are well thought out and anticipate the questions that could be asked by students.
  • Models and examples are provided and easy to see by students.
  •  Any handouts or supplies are out, adequate, accessible, and labeled.
  •  Students have a well written rubric and understand each aspect of the rubric. Or they are clear on the assessment that will be used.
  •  If students are working in small groups or partners those are predetermined and posted so students can see.  Procedures are in place and practiced for group work, getting supplies, moving stations, handing in work, using classroom folders, and other classroom needs.
  • Timing is accurate for classroom work, group work, independent work and teacher facilitated work.
  • The teacher has spent time on differentiation for the materials and choices that will be offered.  The teacher also understands and plans for each students individual needs.  Jack needs to sit on the right corner of the table, because he is left-handed.  Yulissa will need a copy of the notes to highlight and a highlighter.
  • Your lesson has a defined introduction, activities and conclusion.  Research is showing us that students that are anticipating a presentation or performance at the end of a lesson are more engaged throughout the lesson.

4.  Engagement – Now we are talking about teacher engagement.  Teachers are the true leaders and models in their classroom.  Your engagement helps to determine your student’s engagement.  Rotate around, help students, praise students, correct students, engage students, talk to students, clarify directions with students, and be up and moving.  Be completely engaged in the learning with your students.  Help them look things up “Google It” with them or for them.  Do not allow students to complete work the wrong way.  Be engaged in their learning.  A teacher is well aware of the student’s progress and quality of work if they are engaged in the student’s learning.  The more engaged the teacher is the better the work will be of all students.  When the students quality of work is low the first thing to check is how engaged the teacher is in the daily work and learning of the class.

Plates – Lessons and Activities September 17, 2013

Posted on September 17th, 2013 in Podcast Archives | No Comments

Let Me Do It!!!!! Using a Recipe! September 11, 2013

Posted on September 11th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments

The seven components of Sit Down vs. Drive Through Classroom Management and Engagement starts with a good recipe, or what educators refer to as rigorous curriculum.  However, it is not just the expectations of memorization it is also the anticipation of application.

What is it about DOING things that excites us?  Our senses are stimulated, our nervous system is engaged and the amount of excitement and anxiety (in a good way) that surges through us is intoxicating.

Think about it:

Watching Dancing With the Stars vs. Dancing

Seeing a Disney commercial vs. Visiting Disney

Listening to a lecture on the mechanics of running vs. running

Measuring the perimeter of a two dimensional box vs. measuring an actual box

Drawing the plans for a house vs. building a house

Watching a sky diving video vs. sky diving

Reading about social injustice vs. solving social injustice

The essence of rigorous curriculum  is the application of knowledge. When teachers create true learning experiences where students can truly apply what they have learned then classroom engagement will never be a problem again.  The trick is to tell them how they are going to apply the information prior to the teaching, then they will want to learn the information.  The struggle must be worth the end result and must outweigh the obstacles that occur while learning. Those distractions to engagement could be from friends or family, sleepiness, boredom, lack of relationship with the teacher or any outside influence.

We have an excellent article on our Resource page on the website www.keyclassrooms.com, take a look.  Middle and High School teachers will love it!!

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