Thursday, June 21, 2012

Growing a Super Improvers Wall

“Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow -- perhaps it all will.” Albert Einstein
The Super Improvers Wall gives teachers an amazing tool for encouraging students. In the classroom garden, we want our students to grow in so many areas. From personal experience, the wall is not only successful and motivating, but it is also easy to create. Whether the goal is making improvements in academics, behavior, or responsibility, the Super Improvers Wall can be the fertilizer to promote progress.

In my own classroom, I have a short, but positive experience with the SIW. During the last 3 weeks of the school year, the wall was so helpful in giving some of my students praise just when they needed it most. One particular student, “Juan”, was having some inconsistencies in his ADHD medication which resulted in great problems of distraction for the other students especially in the afternoon hours. Juan tried extra hard to manage those tendencies on his own and I rewarded him with a sticker on his SIW card for his effort. That small praise planted the seed to his continued growth in self-management! I don’t know about you, but I would much rather praise a student like this than be using valuable class time to focus on his unwanted behavior.

Setting up the garden plot for your Super Improvers Wall is very simple. 10 levels are created, each with a different name and a different color. Student names are written on a piece of paper matching the color of the level they are on. You can weave the levels around any theme you would like. For example, this year I will be using a Hollywood/movie theme in my classroom, so my levels are named things like actor, writer, producer, and executive. I put the wall up early on to build student interest and excitement until I start using it a week or so into the start of the year.

Once student curiosity has sufficiently grown, they are told how the wall works. To move up to the next level, 10 stars must be received for improvements in any area the teacher chooses. Individual students, even those high achievers, can be challenged with goals. Blossoming in remembering to turn in homework assignments, flourishing in handwriting, or even working extra hard on a specific area of behavior, as Juan did, can be means for earning a star. Then, a picture of the student is taken at level 4 and level 8, but the picture is hidden from everyone until the next level is reached. Although I have not had a student get that far, I can only imagine how excited the entire class will be to see that picture!

What the Super Improvers Wall does is sow excitement into praising students without the need for tickets and expensive classroom stores. Students might even start noticing the improvements of their peers on their own! Give me a mighty OH YEAH! Let’s shower the classroom garden by sharing the love of personal achievements and growth!

Here are pictures of my SIW for this coming year. I used a pocket chart to hold colored index cards. The index cards will make it easy for me to have all the various colors I need without having to cut paper to size. There are no student cards yet because I don't have my list of names, but they would be placed under the level cards. Level 1 is a white card. Levels 2-5 are pastel colored index cards. The last 4 levels are neon colored cards.

I printed the level names and taped them on the colored cards. Like many elementary teachers, I have a TON of small circle shaped stickers. Last year, instead of drawing stars on the cards, I let the students put a sticker on themselves. Once they move to a new level, I will give them the old card to keep.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

WBT National Convention Day 3

Today was the final day of this year's Whole Brain Teaching National Convention. It was a really good day for me because the areas discussed were some of the things that I needed a better grasp of being that I will be teaching self-contained this coming year. Let me explain the specifics.

While I have been told I write well, teaching students how to write and compose works of their own is definitely a weakness of mine. Writing was a focus this morning with Coach B. highlighting the Genius Ladder and the Oral Writing, or Doozy, game. Both of these will help me lead students step by step through the process of developing complete topic sentences and appropriate details to create paragraphs.

Another focus today was in the areas of reading fluency and comprehension. I have briefly used Super Speed 100/1000 for review of common sight words and I plan on using that with my new class. We also spent time experiencing the Crazy Professor game. This game will help students with comprehension skills like summarizing which will be helpful in many subject areas, including science and social studies.

The last portion of the day was spend on Super Speed Math and Mind Soccer. Super Speed Math was a big hit with my students last year, but I wasn't able to allow them to play as frequently as I should have because of our schedule. This year, I will begin using it earlier and more often.  The scoreboard reward game, Mind Soccer, has to be a part of my system this year more it has been. I will use it to motivate without candy, tickets, or prize boxes!

By far this was the most exciting and beneficial form of professional development I have ever attended. Next year, I plan to be in attendance again. If you have the opportunity to attend any WBT conference, I high encourage you to find a way to do so!

Friday, June 15, 2012

WBT National Convention Day 2

Cowabunga! This day will most likely be one of the highlights of my teaching career. I know for sure it is so far, though I’ve only been teaching for 12 years. If you aren’t about to be here for the conference, let me give you a run-down of the day and reason for my excitement.

Day 2 of the WBT National Convention at Louisiana College was focused on lesson design and delivery. We started off the day in the large group learning the 3 basic parts in teaching a lesson: the attention getter (Class-Yes) with ping-ponging the scoreboard, the lesson information presented in small pieces, and the Teach-Okay. Then, during our break-out sessions, the 5 steps of a lesson were discussed and practice. Coach Biffle asked Andre and me to each present shortened versions of a lesson to the whole group at the end of the conference day. We were both really nervous!

As Coach B. started the end of the day whole group session, my nerves continued to be on edge. I was called first and made my way to the front to give my lesson on odd numbers. My excitement probably got the better of me during my lesson because I went a little overboard on my Teach-Okay signals. Many attendees complimented my “performance” so I assume it was effective.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to get the opportunity to not only meet the amazing Coach B., but also be asked to present the very thing he is teaching to the whole convention group! With one more day remaining to the conference, I have no doubt that I will become a better teacher for having attended just the 2 days so far. I look forward to learning about reading and math techniques tomorrow.

Thanks Coach for giving me confidence in my teaching!

For variations on Class-Yes and Teach-Okay, check out my suggestion list.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

WBT National Convention Day 1

I have 3 words for you -OMB: Oh My Brain! Today was the first day of this year's Whole Brain Teaching National Convention in Pineville, Louisiana. Why did I put off going for the last couple of years?!?! I've had the opportunity to meet Mr. Chris Biffle, aka Coach B, and spend the majority of the day learning from his modeling and teaching about WBT techniques.

Coach B and I just before the start of the conference.

I also spent the day partnering with my new Whole Brain buddy from Kentucky, Donna, of Mrs. Slatton's Kindergarten. She's a newer WBT blogger and I happened to check her blog through a post on the WBT website. I had no idea that my reading last night about her adventure of arriving in Louisiana would make a connection for us this morning when we ended up sitting near each other. Now that's what I call ccrraaaazzyyy!

I'm so worn out but at the same time I'm so excited about tomorrow. Sleep might be a hard to get tonight because I can't wait to learn and experience more WBT!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I Won a Blog Award! Oh Yeah!

Thanks so much to Melissa Smith from Mrs. Smith's 1st Grade Class for giving me the Liebster Award for my new blog! This is my first blog award and I hope it won't be the last I will do my best to keep this blog interesting and inspiring for all those Whole Brain Teaching fans old and new!

The award is given out to new blogs with less than 200 followers to highlight our efforts in the blogging world.

Here are the rules:
1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. Thank the giver and link back to them.
3. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

This is the tough part! Here are my top 5 blog picks. I hope you will take time to visit their blogs. 
1. Miss L's Whole Brain Teaching - another WBT blogger with variety of information
2. Whole Brain with Roxi Shayne - a fellow Louisiana WBT but she's at the high school level 
3. Mrs. Shipley's Fabulous Firsties - a veteran WB teacher with awesome videos, be sure to check out her summer guide to setting up your WBT classroom series!
4. Edukate with Whole Brain - Kate has great pictures of her Super Improvers wall
5. Mrs. Schuler's Pawsitively Wild for WBT - a new WBT blogger with 2 amazing posts about using the Genius Ladder with her 3rd graders

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Scoreboard!

Awarded 6/28/2012
Going into this recently finished year, I knew Whole Brain Teaching was going to be with me.  I felt as if I was going into one of those old western gunfights. My ammunition was everything WBT, but specifically, the powerful scoreboard. My target - Teacher Heaven in my classroom. How was my aim? Not quite as great as my ammunition. Here’s how the classroom wasn’t exactly won.

The year began with a small dilemma. It was our first year departmentalizing our grade. I decided to color coordinate my scoreboards, one for each of my 2 classes. The scoreboards were side by side and I left them up so that each class would see how the other had done the session before. Was it the perfect motivation for the students? Not really as much as I had hoped, though the students did discuss with each other how the other group had done. It was time to take better aim.

Reward would have to be the main excitement with the scoreboard. In the beginning, I decided that a little music time would be great and would be free. After winning the first time, the reward was 30 seconds of a song. Each additional win added more time until they could listen to the entire song. It was a hit and a miss. Some students loved it and danced around, others just looked bored out of their boots. What could I do to hit my target? 

After that 1st term, the reward was changed to free seats after 3 wins of the scoreboard. No cost to me and students would have to work longer to get something I was sure they’d like a lot since they had assigned seats. My mistake – letting them have those seats for the entire session with me instead of for just a few minutes or for one subject. While they enjoyed the reward, I left myself with no way to increase the level of their reward. So, I was initially right on target, but my shot fell short. 

Was I able to hit the bulls-eye? - No. The free seating was fine for a longer time than the music. I tried rewarding equipment to use at recess and even shoes off in the room days. Nothing was just right for the groups I had. Despite feeling disappointed in not having a winning shot, my classroom did not fall apart! The other components of WBT I used, like the Super Improvers Wall, helped me survive the yearlong management gunfight and I look forward to the challenge next year holds!