Saturday, September 27, 2014

I Brain Break...Do You?

You guys are in for double posts today because GoNoodle has tasked bloggers to speak out about exercise in the classroom!

1. Often times adults see exercise as a chore, but for kids exercise should be all about fun and play. P.E. and recess offer great opportunities for kids to get their play on, but how can we bring this idea to the classroom as well?

As a middle school teacher, it is startling to me how little of exercise we have our middle schoolers engaged in.  Not only are they beginning to go through puberty and have these bodies that are changing, but then we stop giving them recess and expect them to sit longer in their desks.  This system just doesn't work.  GoNoodle provides teachers a resource to improve movement in the classroom.  
In my classroom, we use GoNoodle if students are very tired in the mornings and then as an incentive at the end of the period if they have beat me in WBT's Scoreboard game.  Students are so motivated by GoNoodle they beg for it each day.  Because they want to get up and moving, they work extremely hard during class time.  GoNoodle provides a win-win situation: I don't have to give up getting my content covered and students are engaged in fun exercise with me!

2. Something awesome happens in kids' brains when they are active. Have you observed students to be more focused and engaged in learning when you regularly incorporate movement into your classroom?  

...Um...YES!  YES!  YES!  Students are excited to come to class because they know they are going to have fun.  By making learning fun students want to learn and they are willing to put forth more effort.  Add in the brain science behind movement and learning, and we truly have a winning combination.  Movement makes students healthier.  They are academically more healthy, emotionally more healthy, and physically more healthy. 

3. Kids are watching and following your lead!  How can teachers model healthy, active lifestyles to their students inside and outside the classroom?

The first and foremost thing to do is to dance and move with your students.  By joining students in GoNoodle it builds a relationship with them.  Students see that you are all about movement so they are too!  In school, I GoNoodle with my students and play sports with them.  This not only shows them that I am active as an adult, but also builds those crucial positive relationships.  Outside of the classroom, I attend my students' games.  I encourage them to do their best, show strong character, and practice, practice, practice to help their team succeed!

GoNoodle truly provides teachers with the resources they need to build a safe community of learning through movement and fun. By getting students up and moving, we are setting the stage for a healthy lifestyle outside of the classroom and into the future!

Discipline with Dignity & WBT Pt. 2

Expectation of Success

Discipline with Dignity says:
Although schools with better funding seem to be more attractive to parents because they tend to have better test scores, the authors of Discipline with Dignity point out a profound statement:  These schools still have just as many boring teachers.  The authors than task us with this question:
"Could it be that these [thriving] schools have a cultural expectation of success?
Whole Brain Teaching does:
WBT is about setting high expectations and moving students from a place of complacency to a place where they are so engaged that they want to do better.  Through friendly competition, a safe learning environment, and "funtricity", students understand that when they come to a WBT class they will be expected to do well and when they rise to that expectation, the bar will be raised even higher.

Focus on Improvement

Discipline with Dignity says:
Academic and behavior achievement should focus on improvement.  Competition between students should be replaced with competition within each student.  Students should be challenged "to be better today than he was yesterday."

Whole Brain Teaching does:
WBT's Super Improvers League emphasizes just that, individual improvement.  WBT Founder, Chris Biffle discusses the importance of recognizing improvement rather than achievement.  Students that struggle in class may never see recognition and begin to lose motivation to do well at all. By flipping recognition towards being "better than your best", all students have the opportunity to achieve recognition and stay motivated to continually improve.

If you would like to find out more about Super Improvers, please look in my archived posts.  It's a great way to improve effort, achievement, and engagement within your classroom!

The next post in this blog series will deal with modeling and chunking information. Hope to see you back soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Practice Cards to Improve Behavior

So...for my regular followers, I know I told you that this week would be a series on Discipline with Dignity, but we are going to take a little detour because I couldn't wait to get home to tell you all about my wonderful day today!

Coach B's post today tied right into my blog!
School has been in session now for a little over a month and as much as I love my sweet 5th graders, I have a class of 6th graders that are the dread of my day.  Individually, the kids in that class are amazing, but together they form this overwhelming environment of chaos.  I found myself each night coming home and complaining about not being able to fully do Whole Brain Teaching because they wouldn't let me.  In actuality, I wasn't letting myself.  I wasn't using all of the tricks I had in my bag to get through to this class.

Not every class is the same and so I needed to do something different with this group of students. Thus, Practice Cards showed their face today in science class.  Practice Cards are simply warning cards in which students owe time practicing the rule that has been broken.  I am very lucky to have recess time in which my students can come in to "do their time".

How I am formatting my Practice Sessions are as follows:
1.  Students receive a Practice Card when they break one of the five classroom rules.
2.  For each card a student receives he/she must practice that rule (WITH GESTURES) for one minute.
3.  If a student gets three practice cards, we are calling home to talk with parents.

Today, I had five 6th graders practicing Rule 2: Raise Your Hand for Permission to Speak.  The power of the Practice Cards was not only in having the students practice the rules, but also in detouring others from breaking the rules.  It acted as a reminder of my expectations and when they saw me follow through with the Practice Cards they knew I meant business!

Class ran SO smoothly!  I was able to teach instead of harp at students for talking.  It was as Coach B says "Teacher Heaven"!  What discipline strategies do you use that reinforce positive behavior rather than dwelling on the negative?  I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Discipline with Dignity & WBT Pt. 1

This week's blog series is going to touch on the first three chapters of Discipline with Dignity, but rather than just telling you what is in the book, I'm going to present it in a way that gives those of you that use Whole Brain Teaching validation that we are making a difference in the lives of our students!

Before we truly get into how WBT reinforces Discipline with Dignity, I want to present you with a quote from the book:
"Good discipline is about doing what is best for students to make good, healthy choices, not about making the lives of educators easier."  
Many teachers ask me why my classroom management plan has so many components and how I can keep them all straight.  The answer to that question is quite simple. It isn't easy. It isn't easy to do everything I need to in order to make sure that I follow WBT.  What is easy though, is teaching students in a way that makes my job fun all the while shaping my students into well-rounded, hard working people.

Discipline with Dignity's main focus is reinforcing positive behavior and using negative behavior as a teachable moment to change the behavior rather than drawing attention to the negative and lessening the self-esteem of the challenging kids in your class.

How Does WBT align with Discipline with Dignity? This series will focus on the following areas in which WBT has gotten it RIGHT! :)

Expectations of Success
Focus on Improvement

Rule Reinforcement &
Evaluation of Discipline Plan

Tomorrow's post will be about the expectations of success and focusing on improvement.  Can't wait for you to check back tomorrow!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blog Series Coming Soon!

As I work my way through ASCD's book Discipline with Dignity, I can't help but point out to my colleagues how most of the suggestions in the book align directly with the strategies in Whole Brain Teaching.  These reflections will make up my new blog series:  WBT Rooted in Research!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Remind for Parents

Image courtesy of
Do you have that principal that keeps driving home the need to stay in contact with parents?  Or do you have that parent that insists that you contact them all of the time to let them know the homework assignments?  I have experienced both, and what could sometimes be a frustration due to lack of time, has been made easier by Remind.

Remind (previously known as Remind 101) is a one-way text messaging opportunity for you as a teacher. You can text the parents and students that sign up for Remind quickly and easily. This year, I have had multiple parents thank me for my communication with them. I have also had many of my students prepared for class the next day because their parents reminded them of the science homework.

When I first considered using Remind, I just assumed it would be another thing to add to my list to start remembering to do, and honestly it is, but it makes my classroom time so much more efficient.  This year I have a system where during my plan period, which is after all of my classes, I really quick access the website and send out the messages.  It is so quick and easy that I timed myself today and it took a whole one minute and 24 seconds to send out messages to all of my classes.

But what if you forget? Remind has an app!  I have the app on my iPad and then can send messages  when I'm sitting at home watching TV!  It's quick, it's easy, and will make a world of difference in your classroom!

Do you use Remind?  What great ways has it affected your class?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Go Noodle Works!

Today was the day that I decided to introduce GoNoodle to my students.  I knew it could go one of two ways.  The students could get completely into it or they could think it was super lame.  Guess what!?  They loved it! 

What's GoNoodle?  If you have not heard about GoNoodle, definitely click on the link provided to access their website.  GoNoodle is a website that provides different brain breaks for your students.  Currently, my plan is to primarily use the dance category, but there are several categories to calm or energize your students.

The best part of GoNoodle is the interactive avatars that are provided. Below you can see the different avatars that my classes selected. Each class is different and I love that! Each avatar, such as "Bart Reynolds" or "Zap von Doubler" grows and becomes stronger as students move up levels.

How does this link with Whole Brain Teaching?  This year my goal was to stay consistent with the Scoreboard.  When students beat me on the Scoreboard, then they get to play GoNoodle for 1-3 minutes.  This keeps my students wanting to play more, so they are sure to have great behavior the next day to finish their current dance party! 

GoNoodle is the perfect incentive for students in relationship to WBT's Scoreboard because the activities are short enough to complete or get students hooked enough in the time frame available.  I never thought I would have time to give students game incentives.  When you only sacrifice 1-3 minutes of class, it's worth it to improve engagement and get students excited about learning!

Good luck, and let me know if you implement GoNoodle in your classroom and how it works for you!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Update from the Whole Brain Teacher!

Hey guys!  Not a lot has been happening to blog about recently.  I've been super busy with school, but everything is going great!  My students are engaged and excited about learning mainly due to my full implementation of Whole Brain Teaching. 

I have blogged about several topics in regards to Whole Brain Teaching (WBT), but I thought that today I could show you some of the strategies in action.  Due to a video camera don't have actual video of me teaching, but I did manage to take a picture of a wall I use regularly. 

Okay, there is a lot going on here and much of it is hard to see, so bear with me. On the left is my Scoreboard.  This was after my ROCKSTAR AWESOME 5th period class.  Today they beat me hands down.  They wanted to show my mentor how well they could follow WBT.  I have improved greatly on keeping points on the Scoreboard, but still have a lot of improving to do.  As hard as it is to stay consistent with the Scoreboard, it is worth it!  I find myself almost speechless at how excited my students are when they receive points!

In the center of the photo is my rendition of the Universal Homework Model.  Whenever we take notes, students have different tasks to do to reach different star levels.  Today I wrote the number of stars they received as a class. Tomorrow their goal is to beat their current score.  If they successfully beat their score they will get a star on the Super Improvers Wall.

The last section of the photo shows the Super Improvers Wall.  All of my classes are at the Rookie level because it is the start of the school year, but two of my classes are moving up quickly.  The interesting aspect of the Super Improvers is that it rewards improvement.  This is hard for my 4th and 5th hours because they started out great and are slightly bummed that they aren't getting stars.  They'll be able do it, though! Their next chance is tomorrow when they need to beat their star homework score.

Well, there you have it!  Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I will have an awesome video of me using these strategies in the classroom.  Remember, if you need more information about WBT strategies you can find information, videos, and printables all at!