Sunday, May 27, 2012

The First Pieces to the WBT Puzzle

Awarded 6/28/2012
For those who are new to Whole Brain Teaching, which I was just a couple years ago, you might look at the WBT website and be overwhelmed at all of the parts available. I suggest looking at the parts as the pieces of a giant puzzle. Using all of the pieces together will help you complete the classroom picture we all want – teacher heaven!

When working with WBT, it’s a good idea to start with the edge pieces which will help with classroom management. The first of those pieces would be the attention getter, Class-Yes. Forget yelling at the top of your lungs, blowing a whistle, or having to walk over to the light switch just to have the focus on you. By just saying “Class”, your students respond “Yes”, stop talking/working and look to you for direction.  Does that get boring after using it for a long time? No it doesn’t because you can vary how you say it and how your students respond. Oh Class-Oh Yes!

More of the framework for the puzzle comes in the form of the 5 classroom rules. We’re always told as educators that we should focus on as few rules as possible and WBT does that for us! You can print out the rules posters on the WBT website. The most important tip is to practice them every day and at more than one time during the course of the day depending on how long you have your students. Also, having the entire class review a specific rule in unison when a student or a small group “forgets” helps bring back order and gives a verbal cue without you pointing out individuals.

Finally, what I see as the corner pieces that hold the frame pieces together is the Teach-OK. Do students love to talk? Most students love to talk and you can use that to your advantage by letting your students do just that! With Teach-OK, students review material that you just taught by facing a partner and teaching them that material. This gives you a chance to listen in and be sure they are grasping the concept in small pieces. With a Class-Yes to regain attention, you’re off to teaching your next topic.

Once your class has mastered these frame pieces, you can begin filling in the rest of the picture. From the scoreboard to practice cards and even the Agreement Bridge for those really tough students, you’ll have so many puzzle pieces in your back pocket that the picture can keep changing as you need it to. Now that’s teacher heaven!

Friday, May 25, 2012

WBT, My Hero!

Awarded 6/28/2012
This school year, we departmentalized our third grade classes for the first time. For me, it meant juggling two sections of students with a shorter teaching time and using Whole Brain Teaching techniques that my coworker did not use. I hoped WBT would be my superhero!

Just like any superhero, WBT gave me instant attention. You know what I’m talking about. Let’s face it, any time bystanders in those movies see the over the top lead character, they are awestruck and give them their full attention while they do something remarkable! Well, “Class, Yes” did just that for me so many times and the best part was that the type situation didn’t matter!

During football season, our classes could attend the high school pep rally on Friday afternoons. Naturally, they were loud and super exciting for our young students. When we needed to leave early to return to class for dismissal, my superhero, WBT, was on call. With one loud “Class, Class!” I had 30 students responding, “Yes, Yes!” and giving me their attention! My superhero then was able to commandeer a line of students on cue and exit the pep rally with no one left behind and no chaos! But, it doesn’t stop there!

Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and other holidays bring their own individual enemies. From being hyped up on sugary goodness, or not being completely satisfied with a gift received, we all know that these parties can be loud and crazy! WBT flies in and saves the day yet again! Even with all 30 students in one room, I could quickly gather their attention for my coworker to give a set of instructions. Even better was when it was time to return to our separate rooms. All I needed was “Lines” and my section would arrive at the door in an orderly manner! No pushing, shoving or fighting to deal with!

Awards day, which is our last day of school, can be the most frenzied time with parents wanting to leave with students before we can bring them back to our classes and check them out. I just knew my hero’s power would do wondrous magic for one last time! In to the lunchroom, all nice and in line, but an hour later, those calm students are now antsy and ready to start summer vacation. “Oh, Class!” I say. “Oh, Yes!” our group responds. With their full attention, I ask them to merge into one line as we head back to our rooms for check outs. Awards day was no problem for my hero!

After all the students were gone and teachers were left to start our end of the year wrap up work, I almost wanted to cry. Looking back, I can now picture the star-struck girl gushing over her hero for saving the day yet again. WBT, you are my hero and I can’t wait until we can meet again – next year!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WBT Certification

If you missed out on last night's live webcast about the new WBT Certification, you really need to play catch up! Go to and watch the replay of Coach B's explaination of what certification is and how to go about achieving the ranks. There are 10 ranks total ranging from WBT novice to WBT Board Certified International Presenter!

How does this process work. Well, in a nutshell it's basically letting others know about your WBT experiences, good or bad, and getting awarded for your thoughtful sharing. You can earn Certification Points (CP) in many ways. Posting about webcasts, such as the one last night, can earn you points. So can posting to a blog and getting followers to that blog. The more followers your blog has, the better. Creating videos can also give you the chance to earn points. Attending a conference and posting to the WBT website about that conference could give you 100 points! Just think how awesome attending the upcoming National Conference in Pineville, LA would be knowing that you could tell others about it and earn CP!

You might be wondering what becoming WBT certified can mean for you as a teacher. Well, once you achieve Level 5 - Board Certified WBT Teacher, you'll receive 2 great rewards! An awesome certificate of achievement as well as a personal letter of recommendation from a member of the WBT Executive Board will be headed your way via email! Not to mention a phone call from Mr. Biffle himself for an oral exam about WBT. How cool is that! From there, other opportunities to be a WBT voice are available.

How far do you want to reach? Level 3? Level 5? Maybe all the way to Level 10? Or, do you want to be a master in a specific area? Whatever your goal is, just remember the WBT motto: Despite hardships, to the STARS!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Could WBT really be that good?

Awarded 6/28/2012
When I started dabbling in Whole Brain Teaching about 2 years ago, I was more than half way finished the school year with a group of 24 somewhat challenging kids that generally fell into one of three groups- the “interrupters”, the “sneaky talkers”, and the “I could care lessers”. I needed to bring them in and get better overall control of my classroom. My observations in the past all said I needed to work on that management part of my classroom environment and even though I hadn't had one in 2 years, I knew that was still the case. I came across WBT online and wondered, "Could it really be that good and work as well as these teachers out there claim it does?"

I had nothing to lose, so I began with the basics - the 5 rules and the scoreboard. The students took to the rules and gestures easily because I had used gestures in some of my science lessons not knowing about their part in WBT. For winning the scoreboard, I allowed the students to have a minute of free talking time, which was a big hit! Using the rules and the smilies/frownies alone helped to cut back on some of the bigger problems I was having and I was pleasantly surprised. But as the last few months of school neared, their behaviors started to creep back in. It was time for another change.

Part 1 of the change was our rewards. After winning a set number of times, I pulled from a bag of choices - No shoes day, movie snack, extra recess. They enjoyed having more than just the minute of talking and the surprise element of what the reward was made it even sweeter to win. Of course they had their favorites, but they didn't seem to mind getting any of the new options.

Part 2 - Enter the Practice Cards! It was amazing the difference they made! I told my students that I would give them a trial run day so they could experience what the cards would be like and to show them just how often some of them were “forgetting” the class rules despite our reviews of them throughout the day. To say they were shocked at the end of the day by the high number of practice cards that would have been handed out is an understatement. So, when we played for real the next day, I thought I had another class in my room. Only a handful of students received cards, and many of  those students ended up being my habitual rule breakers that needed that practice 3-4 times a week even when I increased the practice time.

For the first time in many years, I made it through the end of the year without draining myself of all my energy trying to keep my class from going berserk. I knew that WBT was going to be part of my classroom from then on and I read and reviewed everything I could that summer to prepare for this year. How did this year go? I’ll talk about that in another post. :)

The beginning of my blogging journey!

Today, I begin my first blog! I hope to post some pictures from my classroom this year while I'm off for the summer. As I make plans for the coming school year, I'll post what I'm doing, too. If you don't know about Whole Brain Teaching, visit the website where there are FREE downloads, videos, forums, and a weekly webcast with the man himself, Chris Biffle!