Monday, January 19, 2015

Whole Brain Teaching & the Common Core...

Happy MLK Day!  I hope you are all enjoying your day and reflecting on how far we have come as a nation and I feel this is especially amazing to see in our classrooms!

While I am reflecting on our nation's history, I am also wedding planning, house-hunting, doing grades, and blogging!  Ha!  Whoever said I couldn't multi-task?

Actually, I am starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed which is why I decided to focus my mind and blog!  I have been thinking about school a lot less than normal these days with everything else going on, but somehow, it always tends to center me.  I am so blessed to have a career I love and have a passion for!  So, here I am sharing my thoughts with you today!

NOW... DOWN TO BUSINESS!  Since I teach in a priority school, we actually get pulled out of class several times a month for PD!  And that is on top of after school & early release PD!  I am definitely not slacking on professional development, that's for sure.  But I do struggle with keeping focus on WBT while all this other stuff is being thrown at me!  So, I thought I would share some of my strategies since I am sure most of you may feel the same way whether you are at a priority school or not!

There are so many programs for education now and as I talk with more experienced teachers, it seems that it has always been this way!  Try this!  Try that!  Do it this way!  Do it that way!  New programs all the time and some are AMAZING and some just plain suck!  How do you keep it all straight and know which to use and which to throw out?

I could talk about this forever but I will just get to the point!  We had another PD last week on more Common Core stuff.  I am a fan of Common Core & I hope it stays long enough to be effective.  I do think the standards are age/grade appropriate & honestly, Common Core has made it somewhat easier to implement WBT in my classroom!  

I base all my lessons off the Common Core State Standards.  And when I write a Whole Brain Teaching Lesson, it takes so much less time for my students to understand the concept that I am able to teach 2-3 concepts each week!  As a part of my 1st Whole Brain Teaching Unit using Tacky the Penguin, I included 5 Whole Brain Lessons that I was able to teach in just 2-3 weeks!  This unit includes ALL First Grade Reading - Literature Common Core Standards (and several writing standards)!  

Imagine teaching an entire strand of standards in less than a month!

On the first day of a lesson, I do the 1st 3 steps of the WBT Lesson plan format.

Step 1: Question
Step 2: Answer
Step 3: Examples (I spend a lot of time on Step 3 before I move on!)

And admittedly, a lot of times, I will skip to Step 5 before I do Step 4!  I like to get a feel for where my students are at before I go into Critical Thinking (depending on the topic)!  So, sometimes during Step 3, I will add elements of Step 5 (such as playing Yes/No Way!) and then proceed into Step 4.  

Then every morning (afternoon for math) we review our Focus Wall & Power Pix!

So my students review what we are learning (Common Core Standards/I Can Statements), and what that concept is EVERY SINGLE DAY!  This repetition has done wonders for my students in learning different concepts!

I also keep a binder called "Things We Have Learned", which are simply Power Pix that we have already mastered!  Students can read this binder whenever they have free time & let me tell you, they LOVE IT!  Morning Work has turned into reviewing old concepts and studying the "Brainy Binder"!  

Anyway, I wanted to talk about the Common Core PD we had last week!  We had to take an ELA CCSS and write a related objective & lesson.  Then we had to assess whether or not our lesson aligned with our objective AND if they all aligned to the standard.

We found that several groups did not have alignment & I realized that using Whole Brain Teaching has really helped me align each lesson with each standard!  

If you are teaching a grammar standard on capital letters, although a lesson having students write a story would allow you to assess capitalization, it is more aligned with a writing standard.


If you do a Whole Brain Teaching lesson on orally writing using capital letters & punctuation, you are meeting the objective AND the standard!  For every standard you teach, you can easily write a Whole Brain lesson & easily use a Power Pic to help your students remember and review what they are learning!

I am currently in the process of finishing up my Jungle Themed ELA & Math Power Pix that align to the Common Core.... as soon as I have the complete set, I will share with you all in My TpT Store.  Until then, you can get FREE Power Pix (currently listing the California State Standards but are the same concepts as Common Core for the most part) on the Whole Brain Teaching website under FREE E-BOOKS!

I am also working on writing more 5 Step Whole Brain Lesson Plans for each standard.  I will share as much as I can!  

You can easily use WBT with Common Core by simply taking each standard & turning it into a question (your 1st step on your WBT lesson plan)!!!  

Are you using WBT and Common Core?  I would love to hear your thoughts & see how it is done in your classroom!  Use the comment form below to let me know!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Whole Brain Teaching In The News!

So, this is a VERY exciting edition of WBT Wednesdays!  Yesterday, my class was featured in the newspaper for Whole Brain Teaching & Learning!  We are so excited!

I told my students at the beginning of the year that they would be doing college things with Whole Brain Teaching and if they met some goals, I would send our picture into the newspaper!  (My previous EA would do this all the time for my class 2 years ago!)  So, since by October, they were orally writing 5 sentence paragraphs, I had to keep my promise!

I sent in a picture and a small paragraph and shortly after that, the newspaper contacted me to see if they could come in and see WBT in action & learn more about it!

We have received a lot of positive feedback from the district & parents on this article!  I am so thankful to be able to share this amazing teaching method with others!  I even received a personal email from our Superintendent & Deputy Chief of Schools!

You can read the full story at the Racine Journal Times!

I also recently uploaded my first Unit with a TON of Whole Brain Teaching lesson plans & strategies to my TpT Store for Winter featuring TACKY the Penguin!

This unit includes 61 pages of everything listed above including direction on how to use the Whole Brain Lesson Plan format. 

I wanted to elaborate on Class/Class, Teach/Ok, and Mirrors for those of you just starting out with Whole Brain Teaching.

This is the basic attention getter talked about in Chapter 6 of Coach B's book "Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids".  If you are not already using this (or some other attention getter), START NOW!  I'm serious.  This is a life saver!  Some days you have to do it more than others but nothing is worse than trying to talk over your students, telling students to be quiet, saying "shhhhhh" (my personal pet peeve), or yelling to get your students to listen to you!  Teach your students that when you say "Class, class" they are to respond "Yes, yes".  However you say "class, class", they are to respond in the same manner.

I am VERY strict about this!  If they do not say it in unison (or loud enough), I call it again.  Especially in the beginning of the year!  If you call class, class and only half of the class responds OR students continue to talk after they have said "yes, yes", this just becomes ineffective.  Set your expectations high and don't stop until they meet them!  My students know these expectations well enough that when they are teaching the class, they will repeat "class, class" if the response is not up to standard!

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE with your class and HAVE FUN doing it!  Change up your voice, use different variations, different tempos, different accents...whatever you have to do to make it work and make it FUN!

Okay, so this one took me awhile last year!  I started WBT in the middle of the year & starting Teach/Ok was probably the hardest part for my class!  (I should remind you here that I work in a priority school and had a VERY challenging class last year!)  So I started out very small....

I told students when I clap twice and say "teach!", they clap twice and say "okay!"... so we practiced that for a bit.  Then I changed up my clapping & voice and told students however I say teach, that is how they should respond okay.

I got a lot of blank stares, students saying teach instead of okay, and took time practicing turning to our neighbors.  But they finally got it.... so it was time to teach them something.  I started with the simple sentence, "I see a dog."  Then I said "teach!" expecting them to actually do it.... but they didn't!  I think about half of them remembered to say "Ok" but most forgot to turn and no one remembered the sentence I just said.

This was a lightbulb to me!  How long had I been talking to students without them actually hearing/processing what I was saying???

So we practiced several more times & even tho it was kind of a mess...they eventually could say "ok" and repeat the sentence!  Just like class/yes, it just takes...


I do not know where my students would be without teach/okay (I don't know where I would be without it either!).  This is the BEST teaching tool I have EVER used... effective, engaging, and so much fun!  Nowadays, I honestly feel like I am not the teacher.... I am just here to facilitate learning because my students are teaching the class and each other ALL DAY LONG and just as Coach B says, it is "teacher heaven".

There are different types of mirrors (mirror words, silent mirrors, magic mirrors, etc) but I am just going to touch base on basic mirrors for those of you not using it yet!  If you want to learn more about different mirrors, leave me a comment & I will be happy to help!

Basically, mirrors is just a fun way for students to repeat what you are saying.  Hold up 2 hands and say "mirrors!".  Students repeat "mirrors" and hold up 2 hands just like you.  Say only a couple words at a time of what you want students to repeat.

Example:  When I was teaching Teach/Ok, I used mirrors like this....

Me: Class/Class
Class: Yes/Yes
Me: Mirrors (holding up hands)
Class: Mirrors (holding up hands)
Me: I see
Class: I see
Me: a dog.
Class: a dog.
Me: *clap clap* Teach!
Class: *clap clap* Okay!

Then class turns and repeats "I see a dog." to their neighbor over and over until you say Class/Class.  Anytime you want the class to teach each other something, have them mirror you saying it first!  Simple, right?  And I promise, you will see a difference in your class!

And that's it for the basics!  This is all you really need to do to be able to effectively use my Whole Brain Teaching Lessons in this Tacky the Penguin Unit!

If you use WBT, please leave me a comment so I can follow you too!  I am always looking for teachers to collaborate with on WBT!

And finally.... I just started my Blog Facebook Page!  Please go like it to get updates about Whole Brain Teaching and follow my WBT journey!