Wednesday, October 28, 2015

WBT Wednesdays ~ All Things BRAINIES!

This week we are talking Whole Brain Teaching BRAINIES!

What is a Brainy?

In a nutshell, a Brainy is a gesture we use in Whole Brain Teaching to teach core concepts.  Brainies really help students to remember core concepts and they also promote higher level thinking!  In my classroom, WE LOVE BRAINIES!

We even have a saying...
"Zombies like Brains but we like BRAINIES!"

Okay, so how do I use these in my classroom?

First of all, I have a Brainy section on my Focus Wall.  I start the year with key Brainies like Capital Letters, End Marks, and College Talk Please.

We start with these Brainies and add more and more.  I keep all my Brianies in a binder which my students may look at during morning work.  Along with a BiffyToons Binder and a Power Pix Binder.

What I love about this is how into it the students get!  I have all the Brainies in my binder (including the ones we do not cover in first grade).  But when a 1st Graders asks you what a DEEP CITATION is, it's teacher heaven!


These are most of what we cover in 1st Grade.  There is a more advanced version for upper grades.  You can download the Brainy Game for FREE on the WBT Website! (Go to FREE EBOOKS, GENERAL, and find the BRAINY GAME)

The critical thinking Brainies are AMAZING for my firsties!  I just LOVE the BECAUSE CLAPPER!  No more lame answers!  I model this all the time by clapping whenever I say the word "because"... even when I'm not in school :)

Here is a quick overview of how we use some of the Brainys in 1st Grade...

Because Clapper ~  
Clap when you say because and teach students to use the word because anytime they are explaining something! For example, "A pencil is a noun because it's a thing!"

And ~
Shake your fist whenever you say the word "and" to help students extend their thinking and their sentences!

Also, & In Addition, ~
Hearing my firsties use "In Addition," in their paragraphs last year was the best!  They sounded so professional!  Just scratch your chin like you are thinking to use this brainy!

For Example, ~
Another amazing brainy to use in any grade!  Get your students explaining concepts and promote higher level thinking with examples!  This clip shows the Because Clapper and the For Example brainies!

Triple Whammy ~
THE BEST INVENTION EVER!  This is how I get my students to write 5 sentence paragraphs!  Start with a Triple Whammy sentence.... I like to run, jump, and swim!  Also, when students start writing paragraphs, I post this brainy (and the Topic Sentence & In Conclusion brainies) at my writing center!

Capitals, End Marks, Commas ~
The essentials!  We use these brainies starting from day 1!  I model it and the students think I am crazy but before long, they cannot read a sentence or say a sentence without brainies either!  These brainies promote oral writing & you will be so thrilled to see how these translate onto paper when you start writing!

College Talk Please ~
No more 1 word answers!  If you ask students, "Who is the main character in our story?" and they reply, "Tacky.", you do the gesture or say, "College Talk Please!" and they say, "The main character in our story is Tacky.".  Get them speaking in full sentences so they start writing in full sentences!  Plus, you will be in teacher heaven when you hear just how scholarly your students sound always using College Talk!

Help Me ~
This is a lifesaver and a team-builder all in one!  When a student is answering a question (or in a WBT Classroom, teaching a concept) and they forget something, they use the Help Me gesture!  The other students whisper answers to the student helping them out instead of the student standing there feeling embarrassed!  This also helps your shy students come out of their shells a little bit!

So, I post Brainies on our Focus Wall but students also have their very own Desk Set!  We pull these out later in the year and practice our Brainies with partners.  This is also great practice for Teach Ok and Switch!

I just print, laminate, and cut and these are ready to go!

I hope you find this post helpful if you are just starting out using Brainies!  If you have any questions, please leave me a comment and I will get back to you ASAP!

Happy *Whole Brain* Teaching!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Featured Teacher Tuesdays ~ Amber Unger from Mrs. Unger's Unbelievable Elementary Experiences!

Grab your beverage of choice and settle in for another exciting round of Featured Teacher Tuesday!  

This week our featured teacher is Amber Unger, a first grade teacher who shares real estate with the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers, lots of cows, and many beer breweries.  Yep!  You guessed it; Amber is a proud educator in Wisconsin.  She is in her 7th year of teaching: 4 years in Kindergarten, 2 years in ESL, and 1 year in first grade so far.  Amber never thought she would find a grade level that made her happier than Kindergarten, but she quickly learned this school year that first grade is the place to be!


Her “home” away from home looks like this:

And she shares her real home with these men:


Amber has been blogging since 2011.  You will definitely want to stop by her blog, Mrs. Unger's Unbelievable Elementary Experiences, for years worth of great teacher tips, student-centered ideas, and fun photos!IMAG2303.jpg

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You will also want to swing by Amber’s Teachers Pay Teachers store, as all of her products are free!  Amber has a dream to find TIME to make products that she feels are worthy of selling, but until then - enjoy the freebies (currently 59) in her newly updated TPT store.  Here are a couple of examples:

You can also follow Amber in these ways, too:

Be sure to stop by our Featured Teacher Tuesday linky party next week to learn about another fabulous first grade teacher: Misty!  (Can you believe next week is November already!?)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Featured Teacher Tuesday ~ Jenny from EDUTUNES!

Do you use songs in your classroom? If not, now’s the time to start! 


Jenny Kramer, also known as “Miss Jenny.” Her “Edutunes” make singing with children as simple as pressing “play”—No musical experience necessary!

Jenny began creating her “Edu-tunes” nineteen years ago, after learning about the research. According to study after study, children learn more, remember more, and ENJOY learning more with educational songs. Along with teaching full-time for almost two decades, “Miss Jenny” has piloted her songs with 80 teachers and 1500 students South Bay Union School District in San Diego, CA. She has also given professional development speeches across the U.S. for the Bureau of Education and Research, the Institute for Educational Development, and Staff Development for Educators. Her work inside the classroom, along with her work with other  professionals, has helped her to make the songs truly teacher-friendly, fun for kids, and effective as learning tools.

Jenny just created a NEW “Halloween” song, along with lots of materials to promote literacy. Preview her new song HERE or CLICK HERE for her giant DELUXE “Halloween Literacy Fun” package, including the song and dozens of additional materials—currently on sale for 50% off!

Miss Jenny’s “Edutunes” educational songs help children to learn every aspect of the curriculum. Common Core 1st Grade Math teaches EVERY SINGLE first grade standard in 38 songs. You can listen to song samples by clicking HERE!

Her Phonics Time CD-book set teaches everything from simple letters and sounds to advanced phonics concepts through 28 songs.

Ready for some FREEBIES?

Miss Jenny has posted the “Magic E” song from Phonics time for FREE!

She is also giving away her “Butterfly” song and packet for a limited time!

This fun song—complete with motions—makes high-level concepts comprehensible to young children.

***Miss Jenny has started giving MONTHLY $25 TpT Give-Aways. You can enter to 

win in 5 ways: 

1. Follow her on TpT
3. Follow her boards on Pinterest.
4. Follow her on YouTube, where she has over 1,000,000 views!!! 
5. Check out her BLOG.

Finally, send a note in response to her blog, or to, to let her know you want to enter 5 times.

Happy Singing!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Morning Meeting Sentence Builders!

Happy Saturday!

I wanted to write up a quick blog post on how I use my Morning Meeting Sentence Builders in my classroom!  This is a favorite morning meeting activity not only for my students, but for me as well!  I love this because it promotes team building while practicing sentence building & sight word skills at the same time!  What could be better than that, right?

I will start out by saying this is not a NO PREP activity!  You have to laminate and cut the sentences but once you have done this, you can play over and over, year after year!  I don't know about you but I love to have everything seasonal so I made a morning meeting set for each month (3 for December)!

I simply organize them in labeled ziploc bags & pull them out as needed!

So here is how this works....

You get at least 6 different sentences (enough cards for 30+ students).  Each sentence set has a different colored border.

So this one has a green border. When you cut them, be sure not to cut off the border!  When you pass out these cards, all the students with a GREEN border will be a group.

This set has a blue border so all of the students who get a BLUE border card will be a group.

I pass out the cards (higher students may get more than one card).  Once everyone has at least 1 card, I tell the students to find their groups!  I love this part because they will end up working with students they normally do not work with and every time you play, they will end up in a new group with new students!

Once they find their group, they have to WORK TOGETHER to put their sentence together correctly!  This is great practice for capital letters, punctuation, and sight words!

I start out the year using pictures instead of words for some of the sentences.  Once they get used to the game, I will add the picture and the word (picture of the bus and the word bus) and teach students to put the picture under the word.  Eventually, I will take out the pictures!  This is also great for differentiating!

The first group to put their sentence together correctly wins!  What do they win?  In my class, they get a 10 finger wooo!  If a group finishes and other groups are still working, I have them read the sentence using Whole Brain Teaching Oral Writing!

Once all the groups are done, we do a gallery walk to read the sentences the other groups put together!  In my classroom, they read each one orally using the brainies for capital letters and punctuation!

I have included ideas and instructions for organizing your sentence cards without the colored border!

As of right now, these are the versions that are available...

Click on any of the images to get your copy!  The Morning Meeting BUNDLE (full year of sentence builders) is coming soon!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Welcome to this week's edition of WBT Wednesdays!

This week we are talking about my FAVORITE WBT strategy....  TEACH/OKAY!

I have a display window in my classroom where I post the WBT Strategies & of course I have to change them out with the season/holidays!  

I just have to add the November edition and then these will be available for FREE on my Google Drive page!

Okay so let's get to it!  Teach/Okay is one of the most POWERFUL WBT strategies you can use!  When I first started using this, I quickly realized how much I was talking and how little the students were retaining!  Since I have been using this, it has made such a difference in the knowledge & retention of information in ALL of my students (including special ed & struggling students)!

So, how does it work?

Well, I use Teach Okay along with CLASS YES and MIRROR WORDS.  So if I am teaching about Verbs, it will go like this...

Me:"Class Class!"
Students:"Yes Yes!"
Me: "Mirror Words!" (mirror hands up)
Students: "Mirror Words!" (mirror hands up)
Me: "A verb"
Students: "A verb"
Me: "is an action word." (gesture for verb)
Students: "is an action word." (gesture for verb)
Me: "Teach!"
Students: "Okay!"

Then my students will do FULL BODY TURNS to their neighbor and repeat, "A verb is an action word!" using the gestures.  They will say it over and over again until I call, "Class Class!".

The repetition of the students saying it, not just hearing it, is amazingly effective!  The gestures are also a huge part of retaining the information so don't forget those!

Here is a short clip of one of my students (in September!) using Class Yes, Mirror Words, and Teach Okay to teach the class about sentences.

You can see more videos on my Facebook Page and my WBT Page!

That is how I use Teach Okay when I am introducing a topic or skill.  It is amazing for reviewing key information & practicing new concepts.

As we get more into it, I will use Teach Okay for things like...

"When I say Teach, turn and talk to your neighbor about more verbs.  What are some action words (or things you can do)?"

Then I will say "Teach!"
Students will say "Okay!" and do a full body turn and start talking to their neighbor giving examples of verbs.

Teach Okay is a GREAT tool for promoting critical thinking.  You can use it the same as "turn and tell your neighbor" or "think, pair, share".  

The SWITCH is an adaption to Teach Okay.  Using the Switch, one partner talks at a time.  

So to start using Switch, I will usually start off by telling the partner groups to choose 1 person to be peanut butter and the other person to be jelly.

I then tell the students that the peanut butters are going to teach first.  When I say, "TEACH!" everyone says, "OKAY!" but then only the peanut butters teach.  The jellies should still gesture along with the peanut butters but only PB's talk!  When I say, "SWITCH!", the jellies teach while PB's gesture along.

When first starting this, I usually have the person teaching stand up to help them get used to who is teaching and this way I can also clearly see if they are doing this correctly!

In this picture, one student is asking a question and the other is giving the answer.  When I call SWITCH, they will change roles.

There are variations of switch.  I usually use "high 5 switch" where I say, "high 5 switch", students repeat that, then they high 5 their partner and switch teaching/listening roles.

The switch is amazing for assessments!  It is also ideal for using critical thinking skills and having partners discuss ideas rather than just repeat what you say!

So, that wraps up this week's edition of WBT Wednesdays!  Don't forget to check out our WBT Blab Show tonight at 6pm CST!  If you cannot make the live show, you can always watch the replay!  Just click here and search Whole Brain Teaching OR WBT!

Thanks for checking out my blog and feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Featured Teacher Tuesday - LIANA DAVIS!



Liana Davis is living her dream as a first grade teacher. All her life, she has dreamt of teaching little kids to dream big and love learning, and her dream has been a reality for 4 years now! She teaches with the core concept of providing social justice to students that were just like her when she was a child. An immigrant, a non-native English speaker, and from a family that lived modestly.  She knows that every student has the capacity to learn, and she harnesses that ability to see her students shine. To read more about her teaching philosophy, you can read it HERE!

Only two of her 4 years teaching have been in first grade, but she couldn’t imagine teaching anything else. She loves the unscripted feel of first grade.  Besides first, she has also taught Kindergarten, and high school English.

Liana is also a newlywed. She got married in January 2015 to her college/bible study sweetheart.  If you would like to see pictures from her wedding, CLICK HERE! At that time, she was teaching high school English, and she didn’t spend quite as much time cutting, pasting, and creating fun activities for a primary classroom.  With so much free time on her hands, March 2015, she decided to sell on TPT. She was always creating products for her classroom, and she thought why not share them with the world!

If you know Liana, then you know that she never sits still, much like every other teacher who takes on the task of teaching full time, blogging about it, and creating products for Teachers Pay Teachers. 

To find Liana’s store, CLICK HERE!

Other than teaching, blogging, and TPT, she loves to spend time with her family in Los Angeles, and explore her new city with her new husband in San Diego.

Liana’s most popular product is the Book Report for Grades 1-3.

Her latest two products are Unit 2: Addition Math Printables and Fall Fluency, Phonics, and Writing Activities.

Wanna know more and have access to freebies?! Follow her at:

Join us again next Tuesday for another amazing primary teacher and product FREEBIES!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

WBT Wednesdays ~ Classroom Rules & the 3 PEAT!

Welcome to another edition of WBT Wednesdays!  Don't forget to catch the LIVE BLAB show tonight at 6pm CST!  If you miss it, you can catch the replay!

As some of you know, I have been pretty sick with the most annoying, exhausting cough I have ever had in my life!  I have had to miss work, which I hate to do, so I feel out of the loop with the classroom!  But, since I am 6 months pregnant, my health has to come first, right?  So anyway, I am excited to blog and blab with you all this week & maybe start to get back in the swing of things!

This week we are talking the WBT Classroom Rules & the 3 PEAT!  These are 2 more easy & amazing strategies to get (and keep) your class on track without taking away teaching/learning time!  Sounds great, right?  If you have joined in for the last 2 WBT Wednesdays (Mirror Words & Class Yes) then you are well on your way to TEACHING HEAVEN!

Okay so first up... Classroom Rules!
Click the image to get these rules FREE!

Truth be told... I was skeptical of the rules when I first found WBT!  If you have seen my Whole Brain Teaching story, you know I found WBT in the middle of a school year.  I did not even use the rules at all that 1/2 a year.  I always believed in having the students come up with the class rules so they could take responsibility for them!  I would always say, "These are your rules, not mine!"  ...they loved that LOL...

The next year when I decided to fully implement WBT (management and academics), I decided I needed to use these rules!  So, I did what any teacher would do....manipulation!

Just kidding! Kind of.... so we had our meeting at the beginning of the school year and talked about classroom expectations.  I let the kids come up with the rules & low and behold, most of what they came up with were the WBT rules, just in different words!  So by manipulation, I just mean that I took what they said & rephrased it, asked them if they agreed, and then put up the rules!  This is different than how Coach B instructs to use the rules (Rule #1 first hour, first day!) but, it is your classroom... do what works for you!

These are the WBT Classroom Rules.  The one that causes the most controversy is Rule #5.  I have heard of teachers taking the rule out, admins not approving of the rule, parents questioning the rule, etc.  Here is what I say and do in these circumstances...

First of all, I make it CRYSTAL CLEAR to my students that the rule state KEEP your dear teacher happy, NOT MAKE!

I tell them I come in happy every day because I love to see them & I love to teach and learn!  As long as I see them doing their best teaching & learning, I am happy!  I also relate this back to Rule #4!  We go over this OFTEN in the first weeks of school!

As far as admins and parents, I explain that this rule is somewhat of a blanket rule... one to cover anything else that the other rules did not cover.  I also explain it the same way I do with the students.  The kids do not in any way, shape, or form have to make me happy.  They just have to do their best & make smart choices and they are following Rule #5!

So now that that is out of the way, how do we use these rules?

We practice, practice, practice these rules in the first month of school... I'm talking like 5-10 times a day, whenever you can, stop and practice the rules.  I call out "Rule #1" and the students say (and gesture) "Follow directions quickly!"

I simply say the rule number and students repeat with what the rule is.  This year in particular, this took EXTRA practice!  They always wanted to repeat what I said instead of telling me the rule.  Remember, this is most likely new to your students so if you don't take the time to practice, you won't get the results you want!

Once they know the rules, the fun starts! :)

Now, anytime throughout the entire school year when I see someone breaking a rule, instead of getting mad, calling them out, and giving them the negative attention they probably want, I simply call out "Rule #2!" (or whatever rule they are breaking) and the entire class states the rule, then I go on teaching!

If you are thinking this is crazy, just TRY IT!  I swear even with my rascals, it works!  I have one rascal this year who gets up out of her desk 24/7 for no reason!  Anytime I see her even thinking about getting up when she shouldn't, I say "Rule #3!" and the class shouts & gestures, "Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat, ayiiii!"  She immediately goes back to her desk and I go on teaching!  It is a life saver, a time saver, and a sanity saver!

Another huge time saver in the classroom is teaching your students the 3 peat!  The image above is from my Scoreboard Skills tags that I use to focus on certain skills when we play scoreboard!

The 3 peat works like this...

Tell the students whenever you have a direction for them, you will say the direction (and say please!), they will repeat your direction 3 times, then perform the task.  


I need my students to take out a pencil.  I say, "Pencils please!".  They say, "Pencils, pencils, pencils!" and THEN they can take out their pencils (remembering Rule #1 for a smiley point!).  Since I teach 1st grade, I practice this with saying the task 3 times while counting it on our fingers.  One month into school and I still have some students who will perform the task before they repeat it 3 times.  This gets them all a MIGHTY GROAN and we start over (practice makes perfect, right?)!

You can do the 3 peat with whatever directions you use in your class!  Some examples are...

Lining Up ~ Lines please! Lines Lines Lines!
Standing up ~ Bodies up please! Bodies up, up, up!
Center rotations ~ Rotate please! Rotate Rotate Rotate!

You get the idea!  Teach this to your students first, model it, and then practice your tails off!  It will save you a ton of time transitioning throughout the school year!

Well, that's it for me on this fabulous WBT Wednesday!  I hope you find some of this helpful and if you have any questions, please leave me a comment or check out the other WBT blogs from the linky below!

Prayers for better health for me are also greatly appreciated!  3 weeks sick and pregnant are just NO fun!  "I ain't got time for dat!"

Happy *Whole Brain* Teaching!