Irony in its Best Form

Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids Book Talk

Introduction and Chapter 1

How ironic!!! We were given the assignment to imagine we were principals presenting Whole Brain Teaching to our new staff just as I found out I would be getting a new principal at my school next year. This assignment has helped me get my thoughts together as to how I am going to present Whole Brain Teaching to Dr. Reitz.

Today I am going to introduce you to a classroom learning system that is brain friendly, works with students of all ages, and actively involves your students so that they will not have time to exhibit challenging behaviors. Keep in mind that I said “a classroom learning system” not a “classroom behavior management system” or a newly coined name for an “academic program” that has made its way back into the education world. Whole Brain Teaching is exactly what it says…teaching to the whole brain and having the whole brain engaged in the learning process so it does not have time to entertain itself.

I taught for 25 years before I discovered WBT and it changed my teaching life. I always looked forward to summer vacation because I was exhausted from trying to keep my students on task, focused at all times, while also learning all the curriculum that had to be taught. Discovering WBT made each day a vacation…a vacation to teacher heaven. The best part of this vacation is that no matter who you are, no matter how old you are, no matter if you are a boy or a girl, and no matter how long you have taught there is plenty for you to do on this vacation to teacher heaven.

Anyone who wants to go on this vacation with me is welcome….all expenses paid. Please come forward and get your itinerary. Be sure to pick up the one labeled Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids. I look forward to traveling with you.

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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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And the Winner is……..

     The Scoreboard is one of the key components on the road to Teacher Heaven.  When I was introduced to Whole Brain Teaching by my dear friend and colleague, she told me about a few key components….one being the Scoreboard.  She briefly explained to me the concepts of the Scoreboard and off I went on my journey. 
     We went several days of scoring points, one day I won, one day the kids won, another day we tied.  (I had to give them a little taste of all three possibilities.)  The third day happened to be a Friday, so I said to the students, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, this is just level 1 of the game.”  Wow, did that spark their interest into knowing about Level 2.  Of course, I had to let them think and wonder on that one over the weekend and of course, I made them beg a little.  On Monday morning, the students walked in wanting to know more about Level 2.  I continued to build the suspense by telling them, “Just like a video game; once they mastered Level 1 they could see Level 2.”  
     One day I had a substitute an upon returning my students were quick to tell me that she did not play fair and she did not know the rules of the game.  Oh, boy, did that make them appreciate me more as their teacher.  The Scoreboard is a must see and do stop on the trip to Teacher Heaven.
     Now a word of caution.   I was so excited about all I had heard and seen that I could not wait to get Whole Brain Learning started in my classroom.  After watching Video 517, I wish I had watched it prior to introducing it in the classroom.   I started Whole Brain Teaching at the beginning of the 4th 9 weeks of school.  I am the type that I want to try as much as I can as quickly as I can.  I know that next year I will introduce things at a much slower pace, but I want to dabble in as many areas as I can so I can have a taste for it.  The video was very helpful in giving ideas for variety to “the game.”   I especially like and quite often use the ping pong effect.  Some ideas I look forward to trying are the double day and scoring points for specific rules. 
     There is not much left to the school year, but I look forward to continue my journey to Teacher Heaven. As always will continue to teach my students the way I would want my own kids taught.

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On Vacation to Teacher Heaven

Today began my vacation….my vacation to teacher heaven.  A week into Whole Brain teaching and I figured I was ready for a vacation that actually turn into a stay-cation —-a stay-cation to teacher heaven and I didn’t have to pack, hit an ATM, or even make reservations.  My students have so bought into the Whole Brain way of thinking, that they are reminding me when I do something “wrong.”  Trying to make something a habit takes 28 times or 20 days, so like any new thing it just takes practice and persistence.  That is what I am doing, practicing and persisting.

Today I continued with the Genius Ladder for writing and got some of the funniest paragraph about a frowning queen.  It is amazing how diverse the reasons were that caused her to frown.  Wow, as much as I love teaching writing, editing and revising basically a class set of the same paper can get, can I say it, BORING.  Well, my students’ writing are far from boring now.  I can’t wait to sit down and read their papers.  Knowing that they have written their papers with voices prior to writing them with a pencils, makes the editing and revising process so much easier.  When ideas are put down on paper in complete thoughts, editing can be more focused on mechanics and not so much on deciphering a bunch of words that are attempting to be a story.  It is music to my ears to see a half page of writing and hearing the kids beg for more time to write.  They can keep on singing that sweet song all day everyday.

Today also brought my class on a field trip to Whole Brain College and the introduction of Coach B.  Making inferences is an area that my students have consistently struggled with on benchmark tests.  I was excited to introduce Coach B and have him help me teach inferences.  They whole idea of Whole Brain College was also super exciting to the students as well.  We did not have time to get very far into the presentation today, so I asked the students if they wanted to continue to go to Whole Brain College tomorrow.  A collective “YES” echoed throughout the room.  I finally found the opportunity I had been waiting for….I got the kids to beg.  It was obvious by the pleading that they want to continue to go to Brain College tomorrow. 

I cannot wait to get back to school tomorrow and continue as always and teach my students the way I would want my own kids taught.

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Ohhhhhh, Class……Ohhhhhhh, Yes

This was a recent post I made on Facebook to share my experience with the “Class-Yes” attention getter.  If you go to www.wholebrainteaching.com and view webcast 514, you can learn more about this class routine.  Also, there are now Facebook pages geared to your grade level.  Check this out:

Kinders: http://www.facebook.com/WbtKinderCertification
1st Gr: http://www.facebook.com/pages/WBT-1st-Grade-Certification/439833272764895
2nd Gr: http://goo.gl/zlB1C
3rd Gr: http://goo.gl/rTjim
4th Gr: http://goo.gl/6hvGA
5th Gr: http://goo.gl/oqJlf
Middle School: http://goo.gl/LTgyU
High School: http://goo.gl/aTVMR

This was my post to the 4th grade page:

It is never to late to start something new…We started our last nine weeks of school this past Monday and boy spring fever has set in.  Before we left for the week, I was introduced to Whole Brain by a 1st grade colleague.  I watched a few videos (before Spring Break)  and the Class-Yes video was one of those few.  I knew this was what my students needed.  Two days before spring break, I started dropping a few hints of Whole Brain Teaching to the students.   Building anticipation was the key for my class to “buy-in.”  I would say things like “I think you may be ready for me to be a whole brain teacher and you may be ready to be a whole brain learner.”  Of course, their response was, “oh yea, what is that?”  The Class-Yes  was the 1st routine I introduced..2 days BEFORE spring break.  At recess, at lunch, and even at dismissal, my students were giving me suggestions on how to say “class.”  My administration walked into speak to my class so I dropped a “class mam” and his eyes widened when a collective “yes mam” was politely bellowed from my room.  I knew at that moment that this was the BEST educational decision I had made in a long time.  All spring break, I sent out emails to my parents to drop hints about whole brain teaching to their children.  This was 2-fold.  One to bring excitement to the students and secondly, to inform the parents of whole brain teaching.  I hope that my own personal children’s teacher watch webcast 514, because as always, I will teach my students the way I would want my own children taught.

PS…I spent spring break watching more webcast.  It just built my excitement to return from spring break. Yea, I guess you figured it out….I am a little geeky, but I just finished my best week of teaching that I have had in a VERY long time.  So if that makes me a geek, I will own it proudly.

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Whole Brain = Whole Lot of Fun

Wow!!! Introducing Whole Brain Learning to my 4th graders turned out to be fun for both them and for me.  I enjoyed watching them get excited to turn and teach a concept to their partners.  I enjoyed them asking me if we could go through the rules again.  I enjoyed watching as a student correct a behavior when a rule was chanted in class.  I enjoyed seeing the excitement in their eyes when they beat their time in Super Speed Math.  I enjoyed hearing and seeing all the dramatic reading that occurred with just a little practice.  So basically, this made me ENJOY my day.  This is what teaching is all about.  This gives me the energy to keep going. 

As always, I will continue to enjoy teaching my kids as I would want my own children taught.

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