Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday! Mirror

    February is here and I'm excited to be writing my third Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday post! I hope that this focus on a specific WBT strategy is helpful to those of you who are wishing to learn more about how a certain strategy may work and what my personal experience with it has been. Last week I highlighted "Class-Yes", this week I would like to introduce you to the WBT strategy of "Mirror". (I realize that my introduction of these strategies are not in any specific order).

     "Mirror" is a classroom management strategy that allows for us, as teachers, to gain our student's attention to maintain engagement levels. One of the things that I found difficult during my first student teaching placement was that I couldn't always tell if my student's were truly paying attention while I was speaking. Sure they were sitting their quietly staring at the board but were they actually listening? I found that many times I would explain an activity or concept (verbally and on the board) only to have a few students respond, "What page was that on?", "Am I allowed to use markers?", "Can we have partners?" I quickly learned that no matter how clear I made my instructions, some students will just zone out at times and not be able to pay attention. That's fine, we all do it! There is a way, however, to assist in addressing this concern in our classrooms.

whole brain teaching strategies, classroom management, mirror, student engagement
The strategy of "Mirror" is awesome in the sense that it is very simple, requires little to no planning and we can quickly ensure that we have engagement from our students. When we are introducing something important like a definition, a new topic, an important announcement or instructions for an assignment we want to make sure our students are paying attention and understanding what we are saying. Like many whole brain teaching strategies, "Mirror" engages our student's motor cortex of their brain which assists in memory development. The following describes the "Mirror" strategy as stated by Chris Biffle on the Whole Brain Teaching website.

Mirror is one of WBT’s simplest and most powerful techniques.  You say “mirror” and your students respond “mirror.” They then pick up their hands ready to mimic your gestures.
As students imitate your motions, their motor cortex, the brain’s most reliable memory area, is automatically engaged.  Use mirror when telling a story, giving directions, describing the steps in a procedure, demonstrating a process ... anytime you want your class locked in to what you are saying.  In general, there are three kinds of gestures that you can use with mirror:
     -- casual:  these are hand motions that come naturally while speaking
     -- graphic:  match your gestures to exactly what you are saying.  
                       For example, if you’re talking about walking somewhere, 
                       walk your fingers through the air.  If you want to explain a hard
                      problem, scratch your head.  If you are presenting a big idea, s
                      pread your arms far apart.
     -- memory:  these gestures are linked to core concepts and/or state standards. 
                       Every memory gesture should be unique.          
Thus, we suggest pretending as if you are writing in the air as the memory gesture for author, making an “X” with your arms for multiplication, dealing imaginary cards for sorting and so forth.

     I used this technique several times with my class while I was student teaching last fall and it worked amazingly! I am a "hand talker" to begin with (maybe that's one reason why I love whole brain teaching haha) so I could easily incorporate casual gestures that my students would follow along with. The very first time I introduced this I was explaining an assignment, so I said, "There are 3 things I need from you today" and then as I went through the list I would have my students hold up 1, 2 or 3 fingers depending on what step I was explaining. At first, they were hesitant because before they could just let me talk and they didn't need to be paying attention but now they had to participate! After some encouragement, however, I was able to have them all participate with following along with the instructions. It was super simple, didn't require any prep to incorporate but I could easily tell if my students were paying attention. Plus, I didn't have any questions about assignments afterwards!

Check out the Whole Brain Teaching website to see Chris Biffle's instructions in context or check out Chris Biffle's YouTube channel to see this strategy in action.


  1. Great tool to have in your teacher's tool box! How is 5th grade going?

  2. I actually have about 4 weeks left of classes at the university before I start student teaching again. I'll be student teaching from March until the first week of May :)

  3. this is a very good strategy..I used this strategy on my practice teaching and on my experimental research in math and its working...I love this strategy


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