Friday, July 31, 2015

Back to School {Whole Brain Teaching Style}

I get a lot of slack about getting such a long, luxurious, and relaxing 2 months off....when many think all teachers do is hang out by the pool, sleep, and catch-up on countless hours of crap t.v.  But honestly, our teacher brains are NEVER OFF!  I will admit I am guilty of the spending many hours next to some form of water...but I definitely was thinking about teaching the ENTIRE time.  To control my obsession with everything teaching and school related I vow to not do anything of the like during the entire month of June.  July I start easing my way back in and then by the end of July/early August....back to school is in full force!

With tomorrow being August 1st my classroom is almost ready for the big reveal and I wanted to share with you some things I will be upgrading this year in my classroom.  I have always used a handful of Whole Brain Teaching techniques, but never actually read any of the professional books.  Around Christmas last year I said good-bye to my behavior clip-chart and become much more reliant on natural consequences.  I also dabbled in the WBT scoreboard.  Knowing I wanted to know more WBT techniques and improve upon the ones I had already tried I got my hands on this book:
If you are interested in trying WBT or if you have already been using WBT, this book has something for everyone!  It first outlines the foundational games of the WBT program and then gives you countless games in a variety of subject areas to manage student behavior and increase engagement during your lessons.

Here are some of my favorite things from the book:

  • Class Yes - To get student attention the teacher states, "Class!" and the students respond, "Yes?"  There can be any variation such as "Class, Class, Class" and "Yes, Yes, Yes" or "Classy, Classy, Classy" and "Yessy, Yessy, Yessy."  You can play around with this one using different voices and versions.
  • Name Yes - This is another version to the Class Yes, except you train students to respond "Yes?" when their name is called.
  • Hands and Eyes - This is a simple three word command.  Students are expected to fold their hands and have both eyes looking at you.  Sometimes I use this one after the Class Yes to be sure my students are 100% focused on me.  I DO NOT move forward until I see all hands and eyes.
  • Mirror Words - Have you ever needed to remember something so you started to say it out loud?  This is based on that same premise that speaking something increases understanding.  The teacher will hold up both hands and say "Mirror Words" and then begin to make a key point; 3-4 sentences.  The teacher will also add gestures to important vocabulary within those sentences.  For Example:  "A proper noun (put hands on hips) has a capital letter (make a point for the capital A) and names one (hold up 1 finger) specific person, place, or thing (giving that 1 finger a wiggle with each word).  This approach is not only stimulating the visual part of the brain, but also the oral and motor.
  • Three-Peat - This is similar to mirror words except there are no gestures and it is usually used more with transitions or quick directions.  Teacher may say "Three-peat....word work notebook, word work notebook, word work notebook" students respond while starting to complete the direction, "word work notebook, word work notebook, word work notebook" and the direction is completed within the repeat.
  • Rule Introduction - One of the most profound things that I loved in this book was their approaching to introducing the rules.  The author suggests introducing one rule at a time (for about 2-3 days)...of course your rules will start with the most important or at least most essential to running a smooth class.  You be sure to teach the rule with the gestures and then practice the rule at a minimum of 5 times a day until the kids have it memorized!  Gradually add each rule and continue to review the previous ones.
  • Wrong Way/Right Way - This is a technique used to remind students when they are breaking a rule and also a way to be sure each rule has been modeling correctly and incorrectly.  If you are working on rule: follow directions quickly, you will want one student to be the actor to portray what it looks like when breaking this rule.  You may give the kids a simple direction and be sure the actor doesn't comply.  As you notice this actor, you say "Rule 1" and the class repeats "follow directions quickly" along with the gestures.  You should be sure this technique is used before there is a problem.
  • Long Talk, Short Talk, Plan Together - I have NO IDEA why I haven't thought of this before!!  After getting rid of my clip-chart last year I found myself spending a lot more time actually talking with the kids about their problems and helping them with conflict resolution...which is a major benefit to ditching the clip-chart.  This technique helps give the child a choice, helps them learn to self-monitor, and be active in making plan for change.  The long talk is simply the teacher lectures the child on what he/she did and what he/she should have done and drills it in till the child wants to rip his/her ears off :)  The child may not speak.  The short talk is the teacher stating what he/she did, what he/she should have done and quickly moving on to a consequence if necessary.  The child may not speak.  Or the child may choose plan together.  Where both the teacher and the child have a voice and identify the problem and possibly solutions.  If applicable, you could also write down the solutions.
  • Growth Talk - This was more of a principle of WBT, rather than a technique, in my opinion.  In a WBT classroom all the academics are focused on improvement and growth rather than obtaining a certain level of achievement.  Therefore, as a teacher you should be complimenting students on their efforts and persistence....not ability.  This levels the playing field between high and low are rewarded on effort...not grades!
  • SCOREBOARD - One of the most critical pieces to the WBT classroom is the scoreboard.  Introduce this classroom management technique to your students as a game.  Tell them they are going to get the chance to play a game every single day and all day long in your classroom.  The best part is it is all up to them if they WANT to win!  The scoreboard begins with smileys and frownys on a t-chart.  Whenever 1 or more students displays appropriate behavior the entire class earns a smiley.  The entire class celebrates with an "OH YEAH!"  On the flip side, frownys can only be earned by more than 1 child....1 child's behavior should not affect the classroom as a whole.  The entire class mourns with an "OH NO!"  As in any game there are levels and it gets harder and harder to reach the next level, but the prizes also get sweeter!  You may choose what prizes the students may win.  Maybe it is something each day they have more smileys than frownys.  Maybe it is a class reward once they reach a certain number of wins.  It is suggested in the book to start with 10 wins to level up and then eventually move to 15 wins to level up.  Some variations include boys vs. girls, teacher vs. students, and left vs. right.    
These are only a few of the 122 Amazing Games that are explained in the book.  

I am so excited to really jump in full force with Whole Brain Teaching this year and hope it has a positive effect on my students engagement and behavior!  Check back in a month or so once school gets rolling and I will be sure to give an update on how our WBT classroom is coming along!