Ron Clark Academy- Teaching Takeaways

If you missed Part 1 about our RCA experience, click here to go check it out!

My first post was full of training wisdom and a big photo tour of the school.  This post is all about the things I’ve implemented so far, and things I’m planning to implement by Christmas.  Part 3 will be about implementing houses!!

First up for takeaways: call backs and celebrations!  EVERYONE responds then freezes for at least 5 seconds after for a callback or gets back to work right after a chant.  It’s amazing to see in action!

student attention getters

So far the callbacks I’ve implemented are:

“Track Me Now/ Zoom Zoom Pow” (all students in the ready to learn position looking at me)  No matter where the speaker is in the room, their eyes must follow them.

When EVERY student begins sharing with the class, I announce “_______ HAS THE FLOOR” and the students say “OOOOOHH track him(her)!” This has already made a HUGE difference in how our morning meeting runs and through the course of the day.  Students eyes cannot wander around the room and their hands cannot wander to their shoe velcro, etc.  We have REALLY discussed what showing respect to the speaker looks like, sounds like, etc.  We now follow RCA’s rule- Your head should never be down on your desk!  Sit up and show respect “Sit up straight!/ Strait Vertebrae!” There is enough movement throughout the day to compensate!

The only other one I’ve implemented so far is “That answer was hot!”  “Ice is cold but fire is hot.  ______ is on fire!”  (I hope I wrote down those words right in my notes because that’s the way we’re chanting it HA!)

One of the things that stood out to me the most was the student verbiage:


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Since attending RCA, I’ve focused on making our time together in class true discussions in this format instead of just popcorn answers to questions that aren’t building on what the person before them has shared.

Observing Ron Clark, I realized that a very small percentage of my whole-group instruction required EVERY student’s response and had accountability for full attention from everyone unless we were using technology.  Even when pulling number sticks from my jar to make sure everyone had a chance to answer during the lesson, there was a lot of lag time in our lessons that I had not noticed until seeing his dynamic teaching in action.  The first day back in the classroom, I completely gave our math lessons a face lift where every student must answer together when I clap for our daily math wall instead of calling on students.  GAME CHANGER!  They now know my hand signals, motions, and gestures to answer and respond.  It goes along with what he said above– “Even if I’m not looking directly at you, this is your question.  You have to be on it!”  Check out my teacher insta, @katiesurly , to see an example of this in my class!

RCA student photos

There are framed photos EVERYWHERE at RCA.  There are student portraits, staff portraits, family photos, and awesome photos of the teachers and students having moments together!  Ron Clark said “You might walk in and think that this school was created for students.  It was NOT.  It was created for teachers.  There is not a single bulletin board, student work display, or anchor chart hanging in the entire school.  It’s tacky and a fire hazard.  It’s a waste of your time that could be spent planning instruction or engaging with students.”

He continued… “I don’t need to see construction paper leaves floating down the wall to know it’s fall outside.  We all know it’s fall.”    INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE!  How do you feel about this statement??

katie surly class photos

I had parent teacher conferences the week after I went to Ron Clark Academy, so this is one of the first things I switched up.  Instead of creating a fancy student work piece where either the craftivity all looks the same or a writing piece where parents can easily compare their child’s writing to everyone else’s, I’ll be able to switch out pictures in the gallery wall of ‘frames’ outside my room all year.  The photos are laminated separately so I can easily switch them out as the year progresses.  We all take lots of pictures!  I need to do better about printing them out!  The students and parents both loved looking at the pictures while waiting on their conferences.  It makes me smile to see our classroom community portrayed in the pictures on hard days when I don’t necessarily feel it. : )

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Every teacher at RCA has different teaching styles.  They don’t all teach on the tables and they don’t all choreograph dances.  HOWEVER, there are 3 things that they ALL mentioned:

  1.  Never turn your back to students- write on the board standing to the side of it facing the class the whole time.  Your writing will be sloppier but that is okay.
  2. Make eye contact with every student during every lesson.  When you look at them, look at them with hope and belief.  If you say, “Raise your hand if I made eye contact with you during this lesson,” you want every hand in the room raised.
  3. Have urgency!  You want kids to say, “I have to be there!  She can’t teach without me!”  You want them to be in a hurry to get to your class so that they do not miss out!

Hope King quote

We LOVED getting to meet one of our teaching role models, Hope King!  She blogs at Elementary Shenanigans.  She and her husband, Wade King, both teach at RCA.  We had a total fan girl moment and it looks like I’m holding her hand.  Oh well!

She said, “If you were to poll American students… ‘Do you want to go to school or do you have to?’ , what do you think they would say?”   HMMMM That got us thinking!

GAMES:  Hope King’s session on student engagement with games was top notch!  I furiously took notes that I’ll just share some screenshots of because that’s easier ha!  Her rules: NO OUTS AND EVERY STUDENT ANSWERS EVERY QUESTION ALWAYS  (If they are “out” in Twister for example, they can use a frisbee as a whiteboard to write the answer and hold it up to get it checked at the perimeter of the game board.)

RCA games, classroom games, student games

football in the classroom

The two I’m looking forward to implementing are Headbandz and the Jenga content games.  I’ve had some Jenga mini games that are already color coded on my Amazon teacher wishlist for awhile now!  I loved the way she explained how every student is accountable for every question.

Hope King RCA classroom

Here are some snapshots of Hope King’s wonderland classroom.  She thought of every detail! I love the mismatched painted chairs in her classroom.  Check out her Set the Stage 2 Engage resources on Teachers Pay Teachers!  She provides song lyrics and lots of activities to create magic moments for your students.

I know this is information overload.  I’ve chosen a few key elements to focus on introducing and go from there.  Hope said, “If you try to do everything, you will do nothing well.”  We all know that’s true!

Next up: How I’ve Implemented Houses in My Classroom !  I’m so pumped to share the last part in my RCA journey with you.  What questions do you have?  I’ll try to answer them all in my post!


  1. Phyllis says

    Since I can’t actually be a second grader in your room, I have at least got to get there to visit and see and feel the whole experience. Reading this post is energizing and oh so very thought provoking regarding educational practices.

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