Sunday, July 28, 2013

Genius Ladder.... Getting the Classroom Ready!

As I begin the process of setting up my room (our custodians completely empty our rooms every summer, so we have to spend a large portion of time rearranging furniture, but it's TOTALLY worth it because our rooms are SUPER clean!), organizing my materials, and my favorite part - decorating for all the new smiling faces that will enter my room this year, I am getting more and MORE excited about all the WBT aspects of my classroom!  One of my favorite areas this year is the Genius Ladder I've positioned at the front of my room.  I perused some of my favorite blogs and combined ideas from two of my favorite WBT teachers in the blogosphere:  Pinetreelia and Deanna Schuler.  I used Deanna's whiteboard idea, with Pinetreelia's printable Genius Ladder Kit (which you can snag for yourself for FREE on TPT!) to create an AMAZING display in my room!  This completely grabs your attention and focuses the kids on the task at hand.

From Pinetreelia:

From Deanna:

How it looks in my room:

Because I am very techno-oriented in my room, I knew I needed a way to incorporate this display with all of my electronic teaching gadgets.  So, I have made for you several PowerPoint slides, also available in jpeg format, which you can insert into your own PowerPoint, Mimio, Promethean, or Smart presentations.  You can grab your Freebies in my TPT store!

I also included a "graphic organizer" for students to record their genius paragraphs a little later in the year.  We will start out doing the Genius ladder completely orally, then they will have the worksheet printed out on cardstock and housed in a page protector so they can record their ideas with a partner in a wipe-off format, and finally the will be used for formal and informal assessments periodically throughout the year.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Activating the WHOLE BRAIN in a Single Lesson!

The following narrative illustrates how the brain is activated in a typical WBT lesson - creating Teacher Heaven!

Class/Yes activates the students' prefrontal cortex, readying the brain for instruction.  Immediately following that with Hands & Eyes eliminates all learning distractions, allowing the prefrontal cortex to control the rest of the brain.  These two steps, together, take less than 10 seconds to complete with a classroom full of students, and yet they are ESSENTIAL to any successful lesson.  As the commands are given and students respond, points are awarded on the Scoreboard.  Thus, the limbic system is activated causing small emotional jolts, either positive or negative, causing the brain to again narrow its focus on the learning about to occur.  In order to negate habituation (think sea slug here!) the scoreboard has built-in levels so that students view it in the same manner as a video game, always trying to get to the next level (and the teacher looks oh so cool!).  Within a total of 30 seconds, we have already activated two VERY important areas of the brain, and the brain is now ready to absorb all it can - within about 30 seconds until its short-term memory dumps its load and starts over.  I think of short term memory as a 32 GB flash drive that all information must pass through before being allowed onto the infinite hard drive of long term memory.  The brain either moves it toward the mainframe, or dumps it in the recycling bin.  Therefore, the instructor should only "teach" for about 30 seconds while students Mirror the teacher's gestures, just before "the dump" occurs, and then have the students Teach-Okay.  Now we are really activating some neurons!  During Teach-Okay, the students engage the visual cortex by seeing other people's gestures, the motor cortex by doing the gestures themselves which also activates those mirror neurons - the primal learning aspect of the brain, then Broca's area as they verbalize and Wernike's area as they listen.  Switch is used in order to maintain a balance of activation between Broca's Wernike's areas so that students don't get over or under activated based on their natural tendencies.  Now, because all of the students have rehearsed the 5 Classroom Rules, they know exactly what is expected, leaving no behavior choices to be made because their brains are VERY busy being activated by all this learning!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Big Seven

In a previous post, I introduced the Core 4 Principles of WBT as the cornerstones from which the foundation is laid.  They are

1. Class/Yes (the attention getter)
2. Teach / Okay (the engager)
3. Scoreboard (the motivator)
4. Mirror (the unifier).

In addition to these four core principles, the rest of the foundation is made of three additional essential practices, making the foundation known as the Big Seven.  These principles include:

5. Hands & Eyes (the focuser)
6. Switch (equalizer)
7. Five Classroom Rules (expectation setter).

These seven principles should be introduced, and mastered, within close proximity.  There will be another post on the Five Classroom Rules, but for the purpose of this post, we will focus on Rule 1.  After introducing Class/Yes, Teach/Okay, the Scoreboard, and Mirror, the very next things I teach my kids are Hands & Eyes and Rule 1.

Hands & Eyes focuses the brain allowing the prefrontal cortex to control the brain.

Switch allows for equal activation between Broca's area for verbalizing and Wernike's area for listening.  Kids usually tend to fall into the "speaker" or "listener" category. Switch allows the teacher to control the timing to ensure that all students are speaking AND listening during any part of a given lesson.

Finally, the 5 classroom rules are rehearsed.  Frequently is an understatement!!!  Because the rehearsals activate mirror neurons, students begin to buy-in to the rules, whether they want to or not!  Their brains take over and begin to believe that this set of rules governs their thinking.  So, activating the prefrontal cortex before rehearsing the rules trains the prefrontal cortex to use this set of standards to control the limbic system.

Rule 1 is taught first and to MASTERY!  Most of the problems and aggravations I face in my classroom are because students just sluggishly do what they are told, if they do it at all.  It is very frustrating to ask a group of students to complete a simple task, like get into a line... something they have been doing for YEARS in school, and they just mosey around talking.  Rule 1 is my FAVORITE rule (next to Rule 5 of course!) because it establishes an expectation and a TIME FRAME for doing a task.  Other rules are introduced and practiced, but on the first day of school, Rule 1 is what we learn and what the Scoreboard is based on.

By implementing these seven essential foundation techniques in your classroom, you are already elevating yourself toward Teacher Heaven.  If the entirety of WBT scares or overwhelms you, start small.  Begin with these principles and REALLY use them.  They work so well that you will wonder how you never thought of it, and you will be thanking Coach B, Jay, Chris and all the other WBT vets for establishing the words and techniques to describe this mindset!

Chapter 4 Book Club Entry

Chapter 4: Charting Progress

Imagine next year is completed. Using the system described in Chapter 4, 
you've faithfully charted your own behavior, as an instructor and your students’ 
progress. Looking back, what did you learn?

Yay Yay Yay! I completed a WHOLE year of faithfully charting my own behavior as an instructor AND my students’ progress. Kudos on outstanding effort and growth! Looking back on a challenging but highly successful year, I have learned…

1. My primary goal in the classroom is not to “control” students. We use the term “manage” student behavior, but before I could be successful with managing others I had to learn to manage myself. By maintaining composure and consistently following my classroom management plan, I was able to make rational decisions all day about instruction AND how to handle each and every classroom behavior thrown my way.

2. By tracking my students’ individual behavior patterns, and analyzing classroom trends, I was able to see a correlation between my score as a teacher and their score as a citizen of our classroom. As my consistency increased, their misbehavior decreased, optimizing time on task and overall instructional time. Coach B has actually found the most precious gift any teacher can possibly have… more TIME!

3. Consequences, both positive and negative, are as natural in our world as Newton’s Laws of Motion, or Supply and Demand. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” As I tracked my behaviors and compared with the students’ behaviors, I began to realize that the students were learning, from my calm, consistent adherence to the management plan, that for every action they make, there is a reaction. When smart choices are made, rewards are given. When poor choices are made, they are provided the opportunity to practice a more acceptable behavior. During these “practices” (of only about 2 minutes) I was given an opportunity as well - - the opportunity to prepare my thoughts and respectfully approach each situation rationally. I had enough time to remind myself of the 7 common teaching mistakes so that I could avoid them during this interaction and prepare my body language and tone to communicate that the consequences were not personal, just the reaction caused by the student’s actions.

4. Finally, and most importantly, I came to realize that “grow or die” applies to our students as well. Based on my behavior in the classroom and my consistency, passion, and preparation I am encouraging, inspiring, and ultimately leading growth in my students, OR sadly, contributing slowly to their academic death. Which would I rather do? Grow my students through example and instruction. Or, kill them with inconsistent, ineffective teaching and management techniques that breed chaos. It is a choice that I must make with each decision, every day. Although it is seemingly a very daunting task, it is one that WBT helped me accomplish!

See the original post here!

Chapter 3 Book Club Entry

Chapter 3: Seven Common Teaching Mistakes

Pick two of the errors described in Chapter 3, pages 9-13, of 
letter of advice about how you're going to avoid these mistakes in 
the coming year.  Include one or two useful quotes from the chapter.  

Dear Addie,

Since you are gearing up for the start of a new third grade year, I thought there were a few things you should know to prepare you for the road ahead.

First of all, remember to maintain your composure. Losing your temper with disruptive kids is completely ineffective. You have experienced this fact in the past. Losing your temper in the classroom decreases what little respect the kids actually have for you and raises your blood pressure, making it difficult to make rational decisions. Coach B reminds us that “if being addressed by screaming, out of control adults made our challenging kids better, then children from crazed homes would be our model pupils.” By remembering to control your temper and address each and every student with the respect he or she deserves, you can better manage the class. Consequences should be administered efficiently and logically, without yelling. Kids are disruptive for attention; it’s not personal. 

Secondly, remember to stay organized. Not just the students’ materials need to be organized, but your materials and the instructional time need to be organized. Remember what Coach B says about organization and structure, “…a place for everything in your classroom and everything in its place.” Every student should know exactly where every item goes on their desks, or in your classroom. In addition, lessons should be organized so that time is structured leaving no time to “wing-it” because that breeds more disruptive behavior. Being organized includes adhering to the classroom management plan in place, and following through with assignments and consequences calmly and consistently. No idle threats or spur of the moment, eventually unfinished, assignments. 

Be sure to remind yourself of these facts each and every day and remember Coach B’s advice. If you remember these two things, and apply the WBT mindset to every lesson every day, your classroom will run much more smoothly and you will be in TEACHER HEAVEN!!

Best of luck, 

See the original post here!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chapters 1 & 2 Book Club Assignment

Chapters 1 & 2: Intro and Origin

Coach B says... "You've just been made principal of a charter school 
and you're about to address your staff for the first time. Select three 
points from chapters 1 and 2 that you are going to talk about describing 
key aspects of Whole Brain Teaching. Include one story about your 
teaching experience."

Whole Brain Teaching is a way of teaching that increases engagement and decreases common management problems. It isn’t a system, or a program. It’s a mindset!

First, students are “emotionally involved in lessons that require seeing, saying, hearing, and physically moving.” We’ve all learned that in order for students to be successful during a lesson, and retain the information taught, we have to move past lecture and basic discussion and toward the students teaching each other. WBT provides a structure for teachers to constantly engage their students and for students to retain information and solidify it as real learning rather than regurgitation.

Second, students CRAVE fun and excitement. It’s difficult as educators for us to compete with video games, iPods, and social media. WBT structures lessons in a way that encourages “orderly fun.” When students buy-in to the game format in a classroom, review becomes fun… challenging even. It helps us as educators move past surviving and into actually thriving in the classroom!

Finally, educational neurology is proving what we as educators have known for years… the more modalities a student uses, especially simultaneously, the higher their engagement and the more they learn and retain. Coach B adds, “If a student’s whole brain is involved in learning, there isn’t any mental area left over for challenging behavior.” By engaging students in sight, sound, speaking, doing, and teaching, all at the same time, we get 100% of them 100% focused on the lesson and there isn’t any time or energy left to contemplate and manipulate.

I have taught in two very distinctive classroom environments. In my first environment, the most challenging behaviors I experienced were students (yes plural, as in more than one) who brought knives to school to threaten me and actually toppling classroom furniture onto me. They were first graders. In the second environment, the most challenging behaviors I experienced were giggling and talking during my lessons. In both instances, WBT rescued my classroom from failure. When I switched from the first environment to the second, I believed I wouldn't need WBT because I wouldn't have kids physically trying to harm me. However, for our students to truly succeed in school (beyond a standardized test) and become productive, well-educated students, they need a classroom structure that encourages the highest level of cooperation and thinking—what is truly expected of them as adults.

See the original post here!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WBT - The Core 4

There are four basic corner stones on which all other WBT structures are built on.  They are:

1. Class/Yes (the attention getter)
2. Teach / Okay (the engager)
3. Scoreboard (the motivator)
4. Mirror (the unifier)

These cornerstones create the foundation that will end challenging behavior because every student is engaged and on task by using the combination of these principles.  Here is how they work:

Begin every lesson with a variation of Class/Yes.  There are several posts on these derivatives, especially on the WBT Book Club Blog.  Use one of them to get your class' attention and then mark the scoreboard according to their response, either positive or negative (click HERE to find out how to use Class Dojo to make your scoreboard more tech savvy!). 

Then, ask the students a question and have them "teach" each other the question.  You clap twice and say "teach" they clap twice and say "okay" and then turn to their partner and repeat your question.

After this you teach SMALL snippets of information, having them teach in between to keep them engaged.  You can also have the students "mirror" your gestures as you teach.  This unifies the class and keeps them on task while you are speaking.

During the lesson, award points on the scoreboard to keep students engaged and motivated.

The video on the following Glog is AMAZING at teaching this to students for the first time.  You will also see the rules being taught, but pay attention to the Core 4.  Start small and implement just these 4 principles in your room today, and I can guarantee in a matter of a few moments you will be kicking yourself for not trying this sooner!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Integrating Technology into Whole Brain Teaching

As I dive into WBT head-on with a new gusto, I am looking for ways to incorporate even more technology, especially into the scoreboard. For a couple of years I have used Class Dojo as a way of tracking points during games, especially review games, and for attendance. It has come a long way with its updates and is truly an amazing site for tracking management.

I was playing around with some of the *new* features last night and then the idea hit me (while I was dreaming of course)---use Class Dojo to track scoreboard points. While the site allows both positive and negative points to be earned, I instead will use only the positive points. Points go to the kids just like smileys and points will go to me just like frownies. The best part about this feature... I can track the points from the computer that projects, my iPad, or even my iPhone. Meaning, I can track scoreboard points no matter where we are or what we are doing. And I won't be constantly losing my pen!!!

Class Dojo is completely free!!! You can add as many kids or classes as you want/need and now parents can log in and check their child's points, if you also choose to use the attendance and behavior features.

The following is a visual tutorial of how to set up a Class Dojo account, create a class, and use the features they offer to tech-nify your WBT scoreboard. (Click HERE for a PDF version that you can print!)

- Delivered by the Magical BlogPress Fairies in my iPad

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wholly Whole Brain (from October 8, 2012)

Feet first. Deep end. Let's go!! 

This week I wanted to give it up.  I wanted to give it all up.  I wanted to stop teaching altogether.  The situation wasn't even directly related to my kids.  I love my job... and that's why I stayed.   Here's what's going on...

1.  We are now implementing the Common Core State Standards.  Full implementation, but no resources or curriculum with which to implement.  Every weekend I am creating my own curriculum which I am capable of, but consumes a LOT of my time.

2.  Our state is implementing a new teacher evaluation system called COMPASS.  Teachers in my state are now being evaluated according to a 20-page rubric and the Value Added Model.  My job security is now half-based on my students' scores. Even though I am confident in myself as a teacher, I don't like the idea that my kids could show up and have a bad day the one day they are tested and it could cost me my job.  And it happens... last year one of my kids was making wonderful progress then his parents let him stay up really late and skip the first day of testing and his scores bombed... and now, my future is based on that?  Research has even shown that the VAM is unreliable.  And yet we are going towards it at full force.

3.  Lesson planning has returned to the dark ages--full lesson plans that are inflicted on new teachers are now the norm.  And we are being told not to share them with each other.  Which makes me feel like I am a castaway on Teacher Island with no support.

Enter--me walking into the assistant principal's office in tears and trying to quit.

Then I remembered something!  I don't teach legislators.  I don't teach rubrics.  I don't even teach standards or curriculum.  


Because I am determined to love my kiddos and teach my students, I decided to get back to Whole Brain Teaching.  I've dabbled with WBT every year since I started teaching.  I've used Class-Yes, Hands and Eyes, and the Scoreboard as permenant staples in my room.  You can even hear those words ringing through the hallways of my school because other teachers have seen how well it affects my children and my classroom management in general.

But this time... I want more. I want it ALL!  I want full on mastery of every concept and I want to LOVE my kids with ZERO behavior interruptions.  So, WBT is my answer!

I went WBT Full Throttle this week and LOOOOVED it!  We had gestures for everything, practiced with Papers, Papers, Papers and Lines, Lines, Lines.  We now have Star Homework and the Super Speed games as permenant activities that my kids LOVE!  This program, system, routine... whatever you want to call it, allows me to focus fully on my kids while I am teaching and leaves me with enough energy to tackle all the teacher "junk."  Either way, I am going to be tired at the end of the day.  With WBT I am tired, but productive.  I know what my kids have learned because they can explain it to me, to each other, and to their parents at home.  I am receiving tons of feedback from parents that they appreciate the system of homework being linked to choice.  I am also getting reports of how much the children are teaching their parents at home.

All of these changes have helped me to embrace the changes in the "junk" and ultimately, "Keep the dear teacher happy!"