Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, Who’s the Best Class of them All?

If imitation is the biggest form of flattery then get ready to be flattered all day every day. Ever watched a child play school? If so, you know exactly what his or her teacher is like. I remember lining my dolls up on my bed and teaching them to sing just like my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Batt taught me to sing by reaching to the roof for high notes and lowering it to the floor for low notes. I remember teaching my dolls how to write just like my second grade teacher, Mrs. Knapp, taught me to write in cursive with big motions on our invisible paper and magic pencils in the air. I remember teaching my dolls, and by now I had a little brother, how to multiply just like my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Olsen, taught me my multiplication facts. It was a good thing that I had a lot of dolls. I could group those dolls so many different ways and wha-la, I even learned about remainders. I guess I got too old for dolls after that because I do not remember much of what my other teachers taught me. I know I learned because I would not be where I am today if they hadn’t, but now I truly understand why Mrs. Batt, Mrs. Knapp, and Mrs. Olsen are permanently ingrained into my brain, even though that has been over 30 years ago.

Even as a child, I was using the concept of “Mirrors” to teach. Chris Biffle outlines in his book, Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids, three types of gestures that can be used while teaching: casual, graphic, and memory.

Casual gestures came easy to me, because even as I type, I am using my hands to help my mind formulate the word that are coming from my mouth. Basically, casual gestures are just the day to day hand motions we use when we speak. These often times are motions we are totally unaware of, but our students could show us exactly what they are at any given time.

Graphic gestures are to me the most powerful. These are the gestures that bring concepts to life for the students. Putting a motion to a concept links it in the mind of a student forever – proof of why I remember how my teachers taught me. These motions may only have a meaning for those students learning the concepts. For example, my 4th graders have a gesture for the word “governor” that only they would recognize. So when anyone in my class makes an “Usain Bolt” gesture, they came up with that on their own, we remember that the governor is the one that carries out the laws in our state.

The last type of gesture is the memory gestures. These gestures more closely represent the concept they are linked to. Crossed arms for multiplication, hand held straight out for stop, and pointer finger to the temple for a thought are just a few examples of memory gestures. These gestures are more universal gesture. While doing tutoring groups with our 4th graders and I am able to use these gestures with them without confusing them on something their teacher may have shown them. However, gestures that are able to be linked into other content areas are also considered memory gestures. The “Because Clapper” is an example of this because (clap) it is used in all content areas and the students learn quickly to clap when saying because (clap), because (clap) it is a very important word.

Thank you Mrs. Batt, Mrs. Knapp, and Mrs. Olsen for being the 1st teachers to teach me how to teach my students they way I would want my own children taught.


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Turn and Tell Your Neighbor, “WBT is Great!!”…Teach…Okay

     One of the sure fire-methods to find out if my students truly have grasps the material I have presented is the “Teach-Okay” method.  As my students are repeating material that I present, I am able to quickly praise them for understanding the material.  On the other hand, I can just as quickly correct any confusion that may have occurred during my presentation.  Also, teaching in short segments and having students in turn teach, not only keeps me from talking too much but keeps them actively engaged in the lesson.  As stated in Chris Biffle’s book, Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids, we must remember the Whole Brain Teaching rule, “The more we talk, the more students we lose.”

     The best feeling that I have had has come at the end of a lesson and doing a “teach-okay” moment for review before the QT, Quick Test, and having the students almost flawlessly review the day’s lesson with each other.  It is also a great feeling to have a student say at the end of a lesson, “I will never forget this.” 

     Like anything, this too takes practice.  There have been times I have told my students to tell each other the concept and have stood back to watch nothing happen.  Then when I give my students that look, you know the one that we give when we are thinking, “Why aren’t you doing what I told you to do?” for them to remind me that I didn’t say “teach.” 

     Coach B also discusses in his book, Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids, how Mrs. Maestra uses the Teach-Okay method for those reluctant students.  For those students who have not completely bought in, who are tired, or who just don’t feel like it, just like Mrs. Maestra, I will tell my students just act like Mrs. Kluck for those few minutes.  If that doesn’t work the scoreboard can also be a GREAT motivator, but that is another blog altogether.

     I was watching my students on the playground the other day and one girl was trying to teach the other girls a dance.  I heard her say, “Girls” for them to reply, “Yes.”  Then she said, “Hands and Eyes,” which they repeated.  Then I heard, “Mirror, Words.”  Next, she showed them a few dance moves and said, “Using big gestures teach your partner the dance I just showed you.”  At that moment, I knew I had made a difference in the life of a child.

     So, turn to your neighbor and tell them, “Until next time, Mrs. Kluck will continue to teach each child they way she would want her own child taught.”  Teach——Okay.

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