Thursday, November 13, 2008

The First Ten Minutes of Class

By Yolonda Body, Mentor Teacher

Art teacher Shertonne Whiting (l) helps senior T'Keyah Lyde
with an assignment.

How you begin your class helps you manage the rest of your lesson. Without clear expectations, you might notice students taking over your learning environment by 1. beginning warm up assignments when they feel like it, 2. engaging in conversations that don't pertain to your class, or 3. constantly moving throughout your room for no apparent reason. If any of these descriptions fit your circumstances, it's time to revisit your management strategies to regain the respect your learning environment deserves without losing your voice from the repeated mandate, "Stop talking and do your work!"

"Throughout the year evaluate how things are going. If you notice any chaos, chances are that there is not a procedure for that activity. Create one right away," elementary teacher Laurie Patsalides said in a blog on

Successful classroom management can be achieved when students understand the "house rules" for the environment. Following the rules shouldn't be a chore, but an expectation for everyone, including the teacher.

Shertonne Whiting, art teacher at Friendship Collegiate Academy, believes that consistency is the key to giving students a great start and helps them to remain on task throughout a lesson. Not only does she make it a point to maintain the routines and procedures in her class, her students are well aware of their importance as well.

"We need consistency simply because we need to get things done. Students don’t learn anything when teachers aren’t consistent. Teachers have to keep a regular pattern or students will begin to easily give up. If a teacher is consistent in encouraging students to do their work, they will work hard,” Collegiate senior T’Keyah Lyde said.

It's never too late to start anew. During your planning, look at what's in place and implement new ways to help you manage the day. Your students will thank you later.

Click on the video below to see some of Ms. Whiting's established policies. For additional tips and resources check out the online links below.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quality Management for your Classroom

By Yolonda D. Coleman (c) 2008

Many novice teachers request assistance with classroom management. Is effective management in the classroom determined by how well students behave in class? Is classroom management determined by 100% compliance to every directive given by an authority figure? Is classroom management an opportunity for both teachers and students to govern themselves in a environment that maximizes learning? No matter your definition of classroom management, one thing is for sure:


"Before they misbehave, most students will wait to see how you act and respond to various situations. Make your expectations and procedures very clear and consistent from Day 1." -Lynn F. Howard, author of Ready for Anything: Supporting New Teachers for Success

Now that we're into the sixth week of school, we must consider strategies beyond first day expectations. By now, you should be pretty familiar with your students: the leaders, those who get distracted easily, Chatty Catherines and Rude Reggies. Lynn Howard spells out Teacher-Directed Student foci to help you get your students on task without disrupting the learning environment. Use as many as you can to gain the quality control you need to get our students to stay on course in class.


Close proximity to students lets them know that you are watching and aware of their behavior. Continue with the lesson as you walk toward a student and stand next to his or her seat. Glance down at the student and smile.

Ask a question, survey the classroom, pause, and say a student's name. This allows students time for individual thought and prevents the same student from answering every time.


Create a list of procedures for your classroom. Write each on a card or craft stick (depending on your grade level). Make another set of cards or sticks with student names. At the end of the teaching block, pull a procedure card and a name card. If the student has met the expectation, call the student's home or send a note with positive comments. It works well to do this for three or four students per day or block of time.


Give a direction and look for a student who is following the direction. Say the student's name and restate the direction, then add a "thank you" for the student's behavior.


Find a student who is following your direction. Say, "I like the way [student's name] is [repeat the direction]." Follow up with a positive phrase such as "Good job," "Thank you," or "Good work."


Incorporate the name of a student who is off-task while you are teaching. Use the name in a word problem, statement, or question to redirect his or her attention.


Constantly circulate through the room while students are working and look for opportunities to provide positive acknowledgements. This individual, personalized recognition lets students know that you are aware of their progress.


Practice your "teacher look" by standing in front of a mirror. Learn to make direct eye contact with a student in a way that says: "I know you are (are not) doing what you should be doing." This is a nondisruptive strategy for refocusing off-task behavior.


Create a list of classroom procedures that you expect to be followed in your room. Use a digital camera to take photos of exemplary behavior, and share the behavior through transparencies or a bulletin board with the procedure and class names.


Students should select three other students to help with the question of the moment. If after a predetermined amount of time the group cannot answer the question, the students should signal the teacher for help.


If positive behavior stategies are failing, talk with the student in an individual, private conference. Take time to listen and determine the underlying reasons for the inappropriate behavior before determining consequences.

Friday, August 29, 2008


by Yolonda D. Coleman

It's the fifth week of school in Washington, D.C. For new and veteran teachers, the honeymoon is coming to a close as students are ready for engaging instruction. Help your students increase learning by making those reading, writing, and math lessons come to life without saying a word. Create a learning environment that inspires students as well as teachers.

Angela Piccoli of Friendship Southeast Elementary Academy turned her classroom into a pirate's cove. Each student workstation is named after a pirate ship to include The Black Pearl, and The Flying Dutchman, both from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. The theme for Ms. Piccoli's room was inspired by her college alma mater, Seton Hall, where the mascot is the pirate.

Kemi Husbands, also a Southeast teacher, believes her thematic classrooms are as much for the students as they are for her. "I needed to make this environment as enriching as possible," Ms. Husbands said as she began to detail a concept behind her one of her past themes centered around a castle complete with trowns for students to sit in. Ms. Husbands has implemented themes in her classrooms for over three years. This year, her classroom offers students an opportunity to explore space (see the video below).

For more great ideas on classroom themes and organizations, visit


Here are a few tips from Katherine L. Hall, author of Reading Stories for Comprehension Success, to help you create a learning environment:

1. Keep a few plants in the room. They add beauty and act as living air filters.

2. Use natural light whenever possible; students seem more at ease without fluorescent lights.

3. Play soft music as students enter the room or while they are doing seat work. The music masks such random noises such as dropped pencils and squeaky chairs.

4. Hang the same color bulletin board paper throughout the room. White paper does not fade, so the same paper will last all year.

5. Use bulletin board borders that are not busy. Even plain borders can be attractive.

Happy Decorating!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spring Up...

Despite the snow and sleet that February brings, spring up your lessons plans with the arts. Teachers like Otis Ware (social students), Derrick Moore (science), and Sarah Shauger (math) at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, D.C., have implimented arts-based curriculum and have found them to be very helpful to engage their students.

"I brought out my drums to introduce a lesson," Mr. Moore said. He wanted to students to get excited about a new science concept and tapped into his music background to get things started.

Using the arts allows students to become involved beyond their textbooks. The arts help to bring text alive in every subject area. Students create geometric mobiles, create songs to help students comprehend history lesson, illustrate stories in language arts, or create an infomercial about the periodic table of elements.

In a professional development session at Friendship Collegiate Academy, science teacher Anthony Sessom asked for ways to introduce his lesson about Mars. His colleagues suggested that students go on a scavenger hunt for items that are associated with Mars or have the word mars in them. For instance, students might bring in a Mars bar, or a moon pie for every moon around Mars. Mr. Sesssoms was even challenged to wear red the week he taught the lesson as a symbolic color of Mars.

The classroom can become a stage or a music, dance, or art studio where learning can take place. Teachers, step outside of the textbook box to discover new ways to reach our children.

For additional arts-integrated lesson plans, visit or or read about the movement of arts-based learning through


Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Heckard. She will be traveling to Germany as a Fulbright Fellow!

Friday, February 1, 2008


Many teachers have come to truly see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Implementation of strategies that worked are still working. Welcome to second semester of the school year. You are on your way to the finish line!


· N.T.A. Session 8 – Thursday, February 28, 2008
· N.T.A. Session 9 – Thursday, March 6, 2008
· N.T.A. Session 10 – Thursday, March 13, 2008
· N.T.A. Session 11 – Thursday, April 3, 2008
· N.T.A. Session 12 – Thursday, April 10, 2008
· N.T.A. Session 13 – Thursday, May 1, 2008
· N.T.A. Session 14 - Thursday, May 8, 2008
N.T.A. Session 15 - Thursday, May 15, 2008
N.T.A. Session 16 - Thursday, May 22, 2008


Monday, January 21, 2008

Show Them The World!

by Yolonda D. Coleman (c) 2008

"When you have hope, you have determination. You have something that pushes you," Tanya Walters said in an Oprah Winfrey special.

Ms. Walters started Godparents Youth Organization (G.Y.O.) in California as a single mother and school bus driver in Los Angeles, California ( G.Y.O. affords students an opportunity to see the country outside of the classroom. Walters, along with other bus drivers in her district, help drive student achievement simply by exposing them to a world beyond their neighborhood.

To that end, if a simple act of kindness can turn into a community organization that helps our students achieve, why shouldn't your daily interaction with our children matter?

There comes a time when we must educate our children beyond the pages. With so many intelligence levels, let them hear, taste, smell, touch, and see your lessons. Yes, there are administrative duties to complete, curriculum mapping that has to be done, grades that need to be entered, attendance books that need updating, phone calls that need to be made, and professional development meetings to attend, but it only takes a few moments to change a life. Baby steps turn into giant leaps. Build a moment in your lesson planning schedule to open the doors of the world to your students.


1. What seeds have I planted to help a student grow outside their neighborhood?
2. Explain how your life outside the classroom can inspire a student to explore the wonders of education.
3. Where do I want to take my students to help them apply what I've taught in class? Who do I need to assist me to make this happen? What resources do I need to make the field trip a reality? What is my target date? Budget?

FOR FRIENDSHIP M.O.N.A.R.C.H. Teachers Only:

N.T.A. Session 5
S.E. Academy
615 Milwaukee Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C.
(202) 562-1986
Facilitator: Bianca Mitchell and Zola Donovan

N.T.A. Session 6
Collegiate Academy
4095 Minnesota Avenue, N.E.
Washington, D.C.
(202) 396-5500
Facilitator: Yolonda D. Coleman

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Even a Fire Needs a Starter.

by Yolonda D. Coleman (c) 2008


Blue chairs stood tall on three work stations. The classroom was quiet but soon filled with children anxious to start their day. One by one, the chairs met the floor with the help of tiny hands. There was some chatting among the children who entered classroom 101, but they were inaudible beyond 6 inch voices.

"The children know there should only be three people in the closet at one time," Beverly Epps said watching her students get prepared to sit at their workstations.

"Children, how many people should be in the closet at one time?" she asked.

"Three!" Evan replied. "There are three already in there," Evan continued as he took off his jacket.

The students were routinely engaged in their morning responsibility of taking off their coats, waiting for space to be available in the closet, and taking down their chairs. There was no correction and no opposition from the students. The only responsibility Mrs. Epps had for the first ten minutes of class was to smile and greet the children with a hearty, "Good morning!"

Does this sound like a dream? Does this only happen in a classroom where the teacher rules with an iron fist and speaks with fury? If you answered yes to both, you missed the mark by 100%. This is the reality at Turner Elementary School in S.E. Washington, D.C. It can be your reality as well.

Established and practiced policies and procedures are essential to having a well managed classroom. In order for learning to take place, in an elementary class or even a collegiate classroom, students must fully understand the expectations you have for them and their responsibilities as a student.

Over the next few weeks, you will hear several stories about Mrs. Epps' class that will help you with effective teacher language, modeling appropriate behavior, and differentiating instruction. There are several teaching methods that are timeless regardless of the grade level. In speaking with Mrs. Epps, there are some strategies she continues to use since the beginning of her teaching career some 37 years ago. You will also learn how to train your students to be responsible for a classroom that is both yours and theirs for the time they occupy it.

Mrs. Epps has a proven track record of not only educating her students, but also providing them with leadership roles which builds their confidence.

Let's reflect on the following (get your paper and pen out):

1. How do students enter your classroom?
2. How do you expect your students to walk into your classroom?
3. How do you and your students greet each other at the start of class?
4. What system is in place for homework collection?
5. What is the responsibility of the student once they are seated for the first 10 minutes of class? Is your warm up prepared on the board or chart paper.

If any of your responses point back to the drawing board, I remind you a piece of advice I received from my grandpa: When you point the finger at someone, there are three pointing back at you. Let's work on what's in our control and come up with some solutions.

Let's work it out. Post your specific anonymous concerns or needs by clicking COMMENTS on Suggestions will be offered in the same manner for the general public.


Thursday, January 24, 2008
4:30pm - 6:30pm
Room B242 Ms. Higgins' classroom.