Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Whole BrainTeaching Conference 2016

WBT Conference 2016 was a different kind of conference than the other two I had attended. The location was different, what was shared was different in many ways and the temperature was very different. 

This year conference was held in Las Vegas. Wow, what an eye opener that was. My first reaction was to go to my room and stay there. So glad that I did not do that as I actually really enjoyed every minute of my stay in Vegas. There was so much to see and do. Best of all I got to see and do this with my Whole Brain Teaching family.

We met at Las Vegas High School and what was shared was different in many ways. Coach B(Chris Biffle) the Director of Whole Brain Teaching, shared his heart in relation to what is currently happening in schools and how we can lead the way for it to improve for both teachers and students. The teaching sessions were linked to the new wholebrainteaching.com website. The sessions followed the new format of beginner, intermediate, advanced, legendary, and semi divine. I encourage you to go to the website, join it, and work your way through the levels. 

The temperature had an impact on the conference and we all learned the importance of lots of cold water. Sessions were held in airconditioned facilities which made a wonderful difference to our ability to focus. Going outside was not really something any wanted to do. Evening walks were the preferred option as the temperature stayed high for the entire week. 

My future blog posts will focus on the content of the conference. This was an over view of the highlights of the week. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

WBT 2014 Reflections

WBT 2014 Reflections
The season for giving gifts has passed and I am wondering about the gifts that I gave my wonderful children from 2014. Yes they all got a gift that was wrapped in Christmas paper that they loved to rip open and see what was inside.  They all came to me with such excitement to show me what they had received.
It was actually the unwrapped WBT gifts that I was wondering about. I think I gave them the gifts of knowledge,belief and understanding. I gave them knowledge on how the brain learns, belief that we can all improve and the understanding that our classroom was a very safe and supportive learning environment.
I gave them the gift of knowledge about how the brain learns. We talked about how the brain works and how we need to do certain things to help ourselves learn. We need to use our eyes, ears, speech, movement, repetition, and we need to have fun. We used our power pics every day to help us learn the concepts and skills so needed in year 1. The golden thread of fun was carefull woven in each day. This knowledge empowers children to guide their own learning.
The next gift was the gift of belief that everyone can improve. Through the use of the super improvers wall each child was encouraged to set goals and was rewarded when they achieved these individual goals. It was wonderful to look back in those final days and remind each other about the things we had improved in. The children laughed when I reminded them of individual progress points along the way. They certainly displayed happiness with the progress they had made.
This final gift is one that excites me and sets our classroom above many others.  The final gift was the gift of understanding that our room was a safe and supportive learning environment. Through the use of ‘help me’ the children knew it was ok to not know an answer and that their peers were there to help them learn it. I really love this simple but oh so powerful WBT strategy. It supports our school code of conduct that states care for others and care for learning.
The really exciting news is that the teacher in the class my students are going to in 2015 is also a WBT teacher and all these wonderful gifts will keep on giving in 2015.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back to Basics-Practice Cards

Back to Basics-Practice Cards

I have a chart in my classroom that has a pocket for each child. Throughout the day if I catch someone doing the right thing I can ask them to put a purple card in their pocket. If however I catch someone not remembering to follow a rule I can ask them to put a white card in their pocket. If a child gets a white card they need to practice the rule they have broken at the next break time. The children accept that they need to practice the rule to help them learn it. They love getting purple cards and feel happy with their choices. 

I love starting the day with giving out purple cards. The children actually pray for purple cards. So cute! It is good to start in a positive way as it encourages others to do the right thing. This is the WBT individual tracking behaviour  system and stands separate from the class scoreboard. At the end of each day we check how each child went during the day. This is one part of our end of day meeting.  The children know they are accountable for their actions and that will be acknowledged for making smart choices. 

This year our school introduced a green slip system to communicate with parents when children are not following the rules. It has evolved over time to equal three white cards in a day gets a green slip. This is not a WBT strategy but a school based strategy. To balance this I give a reward certificate for three purple cards. Last Friday we had a very purple day and five children achieved reward cards. We were all so excited we took a photo of the chart and the children. 

I really like the way this chart tracks all behaviour in one place. I like the way the pockets are emptied each afternoon and the children start each day with an empty pocket nada fresh start.  I like the way it is not a big fuss to give a practice card. It is a simple fact that the rule has not been followed. It also helps with consistency in our classroom. 

There are other elements in the practice card section of WBT but these are the  only parts that I have used in my year one room. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to Basics- Power Pics

Back to Basics-Power Pics
A Power pic is something we use every day in our classroom. A power picture is a colourful picture prompt in the middle of a card. Around the card is a coloured border. At the top of the card is the question and answer for the children to learn. The bottom of the card has the gesture to use with the answer to the question.  Power pics are colour coded on the border. A blue border is for English power pics. A red border is for Mathematics power pics. A green border is for science power pics. 

You can make power pics for any topic, question and answer.

We use power pics to help us learn a specific fact. At this point in time I have two walls set up. One is for English and the other is for Mathematics. I have them on display all year round so the children can refer to them whenever they need to. 

Last week we reviewed expanded form. Before I could point to the power pic I saw several chn looking at the wall and looking for the appropriate card. We used the card as a prompt with Mirror activities. It was also used for teach o.k. and other strategies in the lesson plan. During the same week we made a graph and again I saw children referring to the wall to help them explain what a graph is. 

The visual cortex is a large area at the back of the brain and it is really important that we use this area in all our lessons. The more areas of the brain we use in every lesson the higher the opportunity for learning. Power pics are an essential part of daily lessons in our classroom. I am a visual learner so this appeals to my way of learning and I know it helps my students have success in learning. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to Basics- Hands and Eyes

Back to Basics
Hands and Eyes
This is another of my favourite attention getters. I only use it when I have a main point to make. I say hands, hands, hands and eyes.  When I say it I flick my hands out each time I say hands and clap them together when I say eyes. The students drop what they are doing, repeat the words and actions and  clap their hands together and look at me. I try to say it from different places in the room, so they know they all have to look for me. 

The key point when using this is not proceeding to the main point until you have full engagement of all the students. A quick response prompts a smiley, but a slow response gets a frowny. Once you have full attention you can go on to give your main point.  Smiley and frowny are part of the scoreboard strategy that I can talk about it another post.

I use other variations of actions with hands and eyes to prevent habituation and the strategy becoming stale and not effective. The silly actions increase the fun and willingness to engage. The fact that it is not used as much as class yes makes it something different and an important part in the lesson.  I like the fact that there are different types of attention getters that are equally effective. It is also interesting to note that there is no need to raise your voice or change your tone to get attention. Attention is gained in a fun, quick, and friendly way.

Hands and eyes is a great strategy for getting attention and bringing home the main point of a lesson or activity. Give it a try and you will be surprised how effective it can be. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to Basics - Mirror

Back to Basics -Mirror
Mirror is a strategy that we use everyday in our classroom. It is instant student engagement and my children just love it. Here is how it works and why it works.

I put two hands up and say mirror. The students put two hands up and say mirror. Then I speak and they copy what I said and how I said it, including my gestures. It works because the children love to learn, love to speak, love to move and love to have some fun. They are using so many areas of their brain all at once. It is active learning. No one sits back and observes, everyone is participating. You teach them the correct way to talk about a concept or skill and have them learn that,  by using correct practice repetition.

They love to catch me out when I forget to say mirrors off and they keep copying me when I don't mean for them to copy me. So a big hint is always remember to say mirrors off, when you are finished.

I mostly use mirrors for whole group instruction however I am also using it in small groups now and it works really well. Today I had a small group for spelling ,  I asked, "what they were learning about?"  A child answered, "blends"and was able to say "a blend is two letters that work together and you still hear their sounds". He also used the gesture that had been used during mirror time. Amazing, no more blank stares when I ask, what are we learning about in spelling?

Another helpful hint is to have a colourful picture prompt to go with mirror. It has the picture, the question, answer and gesture you are teaching. In Whole Brain Teaching this is called a power pix. In my classroom I have two power pix walls. One is for Mathematics and the other is for English. I'll have to save the explanation of power pix for another blog post. 

Now back to mirror. Once the students have used mirror a few times with the teacher. I then have them turn to their partner and teach it to them. I encourage full body turn, big gestures and using the words we all used. In the world of Whole Brain Teaching we call this, Teach o.k. Oh, there is another blogpost in the back to basics series. You will have to just keep coming back to read and learn more. 

Another way I use mirror is for the students to stand up at the front of the class and use it with their class mates. When I select a child I say all eyes on and the child's name and the children repeat it. The action for this is, touch your eyes,  then point fingers toward the child who is now standing up and is the teacher. The child than uses the mirror routine to reinforce a concept or skill we are practicing. The extra perfect practice this provides is an extra bonus in building that strong pathway for learning, that children and adults need. 

I strongly encourage you to use mirror in your classroom. You will be surprised how effective it is.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

WBT BASICS-The Five Rules

Oh my gosh!  I wrote a lovely article and then managed to delete it. Here we go again. 

From day one we have used the whole brain teaching five rules. We have posters that clearly identify the rules. We also have gestures for each rule. Our five rules are:
Rule One-Follow directions quickly.
Rule Two- Raise your hand for permission to speak.
Rule Three- Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat.
Rule Four- Make smart choices
Rule Five-Keep your dear teacher happy.

We practice the rules throughout each day.  Our class has a rules leader that uses mirror to lead the class in the first rule practice of the day. This is a highly sort after job each week.  If someone is not following a rule I can state a rule number and the children will repeat the rule with gestures and we move on. The rules are also linked to our practice and reward cards. More details about that in another post. 

The fact that every teacher in our building uses the same rules is an added bonus because we all have a common understanding.  The consistency this provides the students is worth gold.  Recently our Prep class taught the rules to the whole primary school as part of their chapel performance. It was super cute and very effective. It is a joy to be working with other teachers who love whole brain teaching and how it can help our children learn. 

The rules we use are also being used by parents at home. Many have said how much it helps them.  This is an added bonus for the children as there is more consistency between home and school. I love that WBT can help build bridges in this way. Coach B talks about teacher heaven, now the five rules can help with parent heaven.

Walking back from the playground the other day, I was talking to a girl about the way she calls out. She told me she was going to make rule two her learning goal for next week. The rules make improvement easier for the child because they know clearly what is expected. Another advantage of WBT is that it helps children identify their needs and what to work on. 

As for me and my class, it is the five rules every day.