Thursday, July 31, 2014

An Attention Getter That Works!

Many of you probably know the following scenario: Your students enter the classroom and begin talking to their neighbor. You are ready to start class, but no one is listening.  Or better yet, you are in the middle of the awesome lesson you planned and it's time to transition. You hate transitions because it is so hard to get everyone settled back down into their seats.  I have the solution, or at least the solution that has worked for me time and time again!

When you want to get your students' attention simply say "Class" and teach your students to reply "Yes".  The fun part that gets them hooked on this response is this next key phrase: "However I say 'class' that is how you say 'yes'".  Then practice with them.  Be silly! The more you make your classroom fun, the more learning that is going to happen. You can say class multiple times, you can say it in a high voice, low voice, any number of silly voices. This variation constantly has them engaged and ready to learn. 

You see, the Class-Yes attention getter activates the prefrontal cortex, the decision maker of the brain.  By awakening this portion of the brain, students are ready to learn and take in all of the wonderful things you have to say.

If you'd like more information on "Class-Yes" or other classroom management techniques.  Feel free to contact me or research more on your own at

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Study Anyone?

Over the past week, I have eagerly walked to my mailbox hoping a book I had ordered would arrive.  Well, it came today!  Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids by Chris Biffle.  If what I posted about the classroom rules gets you excited, this book is for you!  It is every strategy designed in Whole Brain Teaching.  It's the "how to" guide to implementation.  It's going to inspire you to change the way you teach and give you every resource you need to teach with energy and effectiveness, all the while breaking through to those kids that drive you crazy!

Here's a thought: If you are interested in purchasing the book, we can read it and discuss it together! I know what many of you are probably thinking, school is about to start and I do not have time to read the whole book. The book is structured more like a reference guide; the important information that you would need to start your class off right is at the beginning.  The more complex strategies that you may or may not want to implement further on into the year come later. You could definitely get the basics down in time to head back full steam with Whole Brain Teaching!  It's a super easy read and many of my posts in the upcoming weeks are going to be about the strategies covered in this book!  You can buy it on Amazon used for $7.99.  I bought mine new for $12.71 because I just love opening a book that has never been opened!

Let me know if you are in! You can comment below, post on our Facebook group, or email me. Wouldn't it be great to gain some ideas and resources that you can put in your pocket for the first days of school!   

Classroom Rules That Will Change Your Life

Hey Everyone!  Today's focus in going to be on the five classroom rules that will change your life! Within my classroom I use Whole Brain Teaching (WBT). Each rule has a purpose and an action.  These actions help engage the brain because it activates the students' motor cortices. When presenting these rules to my students, I always come in with high energy.  We practice, practice, practice each day in order to make sure we do not forget them.  This practice is also great for getting your students up and moving.  The whole purpose of whole brain teaching is to make learning fun all the while truly developing critical thinking skills and activating multiple parts of the brain. The students should be more talking than the teacher (I know that is a tough one!)
So, what are the rules?
Rule 1: Follow directions quickly
This rule is great because it helps with transitions and gets kids actively engaged in your lesson.  I usually use a timer or count down in order to help students know how much time they have to complete tasks.  When you implement this rule I think you will be surprised how much you can get done in a class period.  Students are eager to finish whatever they are doing before you get to 1.
Rule 2: Raise your hand for permission to speak

This rule is pretty self explanatory, but definitely is a must when conducting a busy and active classroom.  If you have practiced the rules with your students, then when a student breaks this rule you can say "Rule 2"and have the students reply "Raise your hand for permission to speak".  By doing this, you are not singling out the rule violator, but reinforcing the classroom rules to all students.  This encourages a positive learning environment!

Rule 3: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat
Rule 3 is the one rule I struggle with following through with because we are always up and moving within my classroom.  Students are cutting and pasting and throwing things away.  Here is my solution to maintaining this important rule, but still allowing for some flexibility: a green sticky note or piece of paper.  This year when it is okay for my students to get up and throw things away or grab materials they need without asking, I'm going to stick a green sticky note next to rule 3.  This is kind of like a green light to get up and move as needed.

Rule 4: Make smart choices
Rule 4 is probably my favorite and most go to rule.  It is important when developing our young learners to build character.  There is a famous quote by C.S. Lewis that is quite startling to me: "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil."  I'm not going to go into everyone's belief system, but he does make a statement here.  One of our tasks as educators is to develop productive citizens.  This rule gives you the opportunity to constantly teach values and develop character within your students.

Rule 5: Keep your dear teacher HAPPY!
I'd like to introduce you to...(drum roll, please!)...."TEACHER HEAVEN!" This rule covers everything.  It is the "no loophole" rule.  If a student is doing something that you do not like in your classroom, you can just say "Rule 5" and your students can reply "Keep your dear teacher happy."  If they are not making you happy within your classroom then they are violating the rule.  This encompasses all of those little things that any other set of rules may have missed. 

Well, that's it guys, the rules that have changed my teaching life! If you have any questions about the rules, please feel free to ask. You can also find several videos at Whole Brain Teaching and on YouTube.  Good luck!  Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Setting Up for Back to School!

Well, school is just about to be back in session.  For some of you that may strum up feelings of excitement and eagerness to meet your new students and decorate you room.  For others, it may make you want to turn back into a toddler, kicking and screaming because you don't want to head back. If you are like me, I have feelings of both.  Summer definitely has not been long enough, but I love setting up my room and getting it organized so that my students can succeed!

Last week I spent a couple of days in my classroom getting a few things together.  I have photos of a what I have accomplished in getting my classroom organized.

1. Desk Organization: Here is my desk area.  It is not finished, but I thought I'd post it anyway so that if you are reading this and you are getting your classroom organized you can begin take ideas and implement them into your classroom. I use a dish rack to organize my curriculum materials.  I love this idea because I can easy access everything I need.  In order to stay organized, I need STORAGE, STORAGE, STORAGE.  A new thing I am implementing this year is my grade, copy, file drawers.  These are fairly deep drawers so that if I get behind on paperwork, the papers aren't scattered all over my desk.  My plan is to organize or complete all of the tasks in these drawers each day before I leave school. 

Whiteboard Organization: Here is one of the whiteboards in my classroom.  Two years ago I started selecting one board to designate for important information.  I separate the sections on the board with washi tape (If you have not heard of this, definitely look it up: AMAZING!). I teach two grades so there are two sections for essential questions, the agenda, and possible homework they may have each day.  The WBT section is my classroom rules based upon Whole Brain Teaching.  I will post my five classroom rules later on in the week.  The last section relates to my homeroom kids.  Each subject has a section so we can discuss at the end of the day what they need to complete at home.  The "C" with a star stands for "Challenge".  This year, I am going to work on character development with my students.  They will have a weekly character challenge, such as "introduce yourself to someone new".  We will then discuss how it affected them on Fridays.

Extension Center: The last section for today is the extension center.  This year students have a whole section dedicated to what they can do when they finish their work.  In the muti-colored drawers are science task cards.  Some may be related to what we are covering, some may be review, and the super challenging ones are things they have never learned before.  My classroom library and games area is also located on the shelf. This year I am doing two new things that I'm very excited about.  First, the "Shout Outs" wall.  In order to build the classroom community, students will have the opportunity to compliment others on their classroom work, character, etc.  The trays on top of the bookshelf are where students are going to turn in work this year.  I do weekly learning logs, but due to the busyness of the school day, I don't get them graded right away.  When students turn papers in based upon their beliefs about their understanding, I can easily see if I need to reteach.  This is a quick and easy formative assessment that gives me relevant feedback so that I can modify the lesson to meet the needs of my students.

Well, that's it for today!  Check back later in he week and I'll post more as school gets closer.  Have a wonderful day!