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.