Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Making Student Leaders: Mirror Words

One of the best parts about Whole Brain Teaching is truly getting 100% participation.  If your school is anything like mine, it is an expectation to have students engaged in their learning; however, it is a constant battle to get all kids to participate in class discussion.  Introduce MIRROR WORDS! Mirror Words is a strategy in which you say "Mirror Words"  and then students say and gesture as if they are mirroring you.  Not only does it get kids involved in the classroom, but it provides a kinesthetic mode of learning.  Students are using their brains to listen and watch what you are doing.  They are then continuing to use their brains to repeat what you said and replicate your gestures.

Image by: Living Breathing and Loving Teaching
Want to encourage continued involvement?  Make your students the leaders.  Build up their confidence and have them lead discussion or answer questions using Mirror Words.  In my classroom the dialogue would go something like this:

Teacher: "All eyes on Blake!"
Students: "All eyes on Blake!"
Blake: "Class!"
Students & Teacher: "Yes"

Blake: "Mirror Words!"
Students & Teacher: "Mirror Words!"
*Note: The teacher should join in when not leading discussion! 

Blake would then go on using gestures to explain his answer to the students in CHUNKS!  Chunking is a very important component of Mirror Words.  By chunking the information students can better understand what is being said and can remember the gestures to mirror.  

Not sure how to introduce Mirror Words? When I introduce Mirror Words we practice a couple of times with me being the leader.  Then I immediately turn it over to the students.  By setting the expectation that Mirror Words is not just what the teacher does, it gives me more buy in from the students and makes them less reluctant to participate.  We spend the period getting to know each other using Mirror Words.  Each student stands, gets the attention of the class, and then says one thing about themselves using gestures. The students mirror the words and gestures, and then we have a discussion about others that have similar interests.

As with last week, attached is a short video by Coach B for further information about this strategy! 

Find more blogs about Mirror Words by clicking the image below.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WBT Wednesday - Attention Getter!

Can I just say how excited I am for WBT Wednesdays?  Hopefully this will hold me accountable to blog each week and will also give me a chance to give you guys some great ideas!

So, today's topic is the Attention Getter.  First of all, this is one of the BEST teaching strategies I have ever come across. It always drove me crazy when I was in school and the teacher would raise her hand and wait for everyone to do the same.  Can I just say "What a waste of time!"  Instead I say "Class" and my students respond "Yes" and I have the immediate attention of every student in my class.  It's quick. It's easy, and it's FUN!

Many of you that follow this blog already know about Class, Yes so I thought I could give you some of the variations of Class, Yes that my students love. You can't continue to just say "Class" "Yes" because that will get old and students will be less engaged.  Instead make it interesting by changing it up once in a while...or in my case each time I do it!

Here are three HIGH ENERGY variations that I use:
The Ninja
Teacher: "Class Hi Ya!" (Make a gesture like a ninja!)
Students "Yes Hi Ya!" (Make a gesture like a ninja!)
*Note: You may need to explain to some classes that it is not appropriate to kick or karate chop any other classmates.  I do not have this issue, but I've had classes in the past that may need to be reminded of Rule 4: Make Smart Choices.

The Yell
Teacher "Class" (Yell)
Students "Yes" (Yell)
*Note: Talk about an attention getter! The purpose of this one is not to talk over my students when they are working. Instead, when students are getting a little too serious for our high energy classroom, I use this one to get us back to the giggly selves we should be!  For some reason, this one always gets my 5th graders laughing!

Teacher "Class Class BOOM!" (Swing arm and stomp foot, emphasize boom)
Students "Yes Yes BOOM!" (Swing arm and stomp foot, emphasize boom)
*Note: This is every student's favorite.  They really get into it and use their whole bodies to emphasize the BOOM.  This is a great one for students to earn points on the Scoreboard or for the teacher to encourage higher energy in class by giving him/herself a point.

Lastly, here's a video from Coach B about Class, Yes.  Enjoy! 

Follow other WBT Blogs by clicking on the following link:
 WBT Wednesdays

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Whole Brain Teaching: Activating the Parts of the Brain

Now let's take a second and talk about brain science!  The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Scientists have spent countless hours studying how the brain works.  Not everything is known, but we do have a good idea of the importance of activating multiple parts of the brain when learning. In a book titled Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning published by ASCD, Willis explains that the more connections a student can make when learning, the more dendrites that are formed. These dendrites act as pathways to information and allow the student to more easily store and access the information in the future. Rather than simply attempting to memorize information, the brain is able to cross reference material and store it in in a meaningful way. The more regions of the brain that are stimulated, the more connections that are made in order for students to pull up learned material.

Parts of the Brain

I introduce neurons and parts of the brain at the beginning of the year.  To introduce neurons, you can use your hand and arm! Your arm signifies the axon.  The palm demonstrates the cell body, and the fingers represent the dendrites! When students are learning new information, new dendrites form and can connect with other dendrites to make meaning of the information.

Introducing the parts of the brain is a highlight for students in my class. Students feel so smart because they have learned something about neuroscience! I have posted a video below to show how you can introduce the parts of the brain. The video is of 1st grade students, but you can do it with any grade level and just adjust to their needs!  After learning the parts of the brain, I have my students create a poster diagram of the brain and then brainstorm in groups how Whole Brain Teaching activates each part!  Good luck, and let me know how it goes for you!

Deb Wiegel's First Grade Class

Friday, September 18, 2015

Student Engagement: "Your Students Should Need Bibs!"

Okay, so now I'm on post overload, but I couldn't help but write about what has recently ignited my passion for education. Last night I tuned into the Teacher Blab Show with Bow Tie Guy & Wife.  If you haven't heard him talk, you are in for a little Southern twang, but a lot of real talk. He doesn't sugar coat anything, but rather slaps you in the face with what needs to be done in education. The most inspiring was his take on student engagement. I thought I'd pass a little of his wisdom on to you: 
  • Student engagement is not all about the tools you can give students. It's about the attitude YOU bring in.
This is something that we often forget with the push to try new strategies and implement new technology.  You can buy every piece of technology, every app, every type of curriculum and you may not see all students engaged.  That's because student engagement is fostered by what YOU bring into that classroom. Your life may be a mess (I know mine is half the time), but that cannot show when you step foot into the school environment.  Put a smile on your face, take a deep breath, and know that this is your chance to make a difference.  Your students look to you to bring out the best in them.  Bring high energy, exude passion, and make kids WANT to come to your class. 
  • Teachers need to defeat ignorance by developing curiosity in their students.
What is the role of education?  Everyone may have a different answer to this question, but I think we can all agree that we, as educators, need to make sure that we are developing intelligent productive citizens in society. Ignorance plays a role in so many of the issues we have today.  Part of this may be because we haven't taught students to question what is being told to them.  We just expect students to listen to what we tell them and to accept it as fact.  Our role as teachers is not to be the all knowing power, but rather to teach students how to learn, how to question, and how to make judgments based upon information they are given. Breed curiosity in your students. Excite them with how you present your lessons. Make them want to know more. Encourage them to ask questions.  Then, give them the tools they need to develop their own understanding of the content we present to them.  
  • You should be the most interesting and powerful thing in that classrooms. 
If you were a fly on the wall in your classroom, what would you see?  Would students be looking around the room?  Would they be watching the clock and wondering when they get out of class?  If the answer to this is "yes" then we really need to think about our approach to how we teach our students. In order to truly engage students we need to demand their attention. Talking louder and getting mad at them for not paying attention does not work.  Instead, we should be the most interesting thing in the room.  As Bow Tie Guy put it, "Your students should need bibs to wipe the drool off their chins".  That may be a slight exaggeration, but truthfully, how can we expect students to be engaged if we don't make what we are teaching the most interesting thing in the room?  Show your students you care and make the information you are teaching intriguing and relevant to them. Dress up, do cartwheels, sing, dance, conduct trials, the list goes on an on, but the point is, without student engagement, we can't expect students to learn what we need them to know! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Teacher vs. Students: The Game Where Everyone WINS!

Image from Miss L's Whole Brain Teaching
Recently I read a blog post that claimed that the Scoreboard game was not good teaching practice and expects students to fail.  While citing TeachHub as a source to explain the game, the author and TeachHub were misinformed about the appropriate way to conduct the Scoreboard game.

Today, I'm going to take some time to refute the negative claims against the Scoreboard game and explain why it encourages student growth and engagement.

Let me start off by explaining the rules of the Scoreboard game.  Draw on the board a smiley face and a frown face or I use T vs. S.  Every time the students do great they get a point.  Every time they don't meet expectations I get a point.  Here is where some teachers may play the game incorrectly:

  • The goal is not to beat the students.  Instead it is to push students to try to beat you, by meeting the expectations established.  Set appropriate expectations that are obtainable and then keep raising the expectations bar to encourage them to keep getting better!
  • When either side gets a point it should be fun.  When the students earn a point they get a one second celebration.  When the teacher gets a point the students give a one second "Mighty Groan".  When I introduce this, we see how fast we can groan and how big we can make our shoulders shrug. We do not dwell on not meeting the expectation, but rather acknowledge the need for improvement. 
  • There are several ways to give both sides points in order to improve student effort. When students are trying hard, I might still give myself a point to encourage them to try even harder!  It's fun to see how much effort students will put forth in order to earn that point on their side.
  • Teacher points give the teacher an opportunity to reteach expectations. It might go something like this:  "Oh students we were not giving enough energy. Point for the teacher. (Mighty Groan) Let's try again. Great Improvement! Point for the students. (Oh Yeah!). It's almost like a ping pong effect. 
  • The teacher should never outright win.  The game should always be kept close (within 3 points) this encourages students to keep trying to better themselves to meet your expectation and also keeps you aware that you need to award students for their effort.
  • Lastly, you should NEVER single out students by name and then give the teacher a point.  A better way to address not meeting an expectation would be as follows: "Some of my friends were not fast enough. Point for the teacher! (Mighty Groan).  Awesome groan!  Point for the students! (Oh Yeah!)"
This classroom management strategy is about teamwork.  Everyone in the classroom works together for a common goal. The teacher is the facilitator to help students reach beyond what they know they are capable! 

Here's a link with the different varieties of the Scoreboard game, and here's a video from Chris Biffle about using the Scoreboard correctly! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Okay guys, sorry I've been MIA for months!  I have had a CRAZY year.  To fill you in, I recently completed my Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from Liberty University.  I also was blessed with a new addition to the family, my son, Gavin James.  I hope to post at least weekly now that I have found a rhythm with life again.  Someone needs to hold me to this!

Here's my little handsome man!
Picture courtesy of Becky Howe Photography

Well, today's post is going to be about all of the exciting things happening with Whole Brain Teaching.  I'm still working on my certification. It appears to be a LONG process, but the end goal is just amazing!  By the time I complete my certification, I will be an "expert" on WBT and ready to help you guys even further in your journey to teach with "funtricity" and have 100% engagement!
Recently, Whole Brain Teachers have embraced technology and have taken to several different social media outlets to connect with others.  You can gain information about WBT through Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and Blab. Coach B answers questions on his scopes as well as Farrah Shipley, so if you are hesitant about jumping feet first into WBT, join one of these scopes and ask about your reservations.

Also, since I last posted, WBT has gotten some attention from PBS.  Check out this news clip starring my mentor, the one and only Jasselle Cirino!