Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday! The Agreement Bridge

     This term has flown by, we are already on our last full week of classes and it is also my sixth 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 "The Genius Ladder", this week I would like to introduce you to the WBT strategy of "The Agreement Bridge". (I realize that my introduction of these strategies are not in any specific order).

whole brain teaching strategy, the agreement bridge, classroom management, challenging students, building rapport
 "The Agreement Bridge" is a collaborative problem solving strategy that us, as teachers, can use with our students who we are having a difficult time connecting with or who are displaying challenging behaviours in our classrooms. I will note that this is a strategy adopted, with permission through the inspiration of, Ross Greene's Lost as School document. Sometimes it can be really difficult for teachers to understand our student's true personalities. It can be very easy for a teacher to view a student based on their behaviour in the classroom or on their academic achievement. I feel, however, that it is extremely important that we provide opportunities to learn about our student's personalities outside of the classrooms: what types of extra-curricular activities are they involved in? what are their favourite TV shows or websites? what is their relationship with family members? etc.

     With this in mind, it is possible that we will have those students that we have a more difficult time building relationships with. As such, we may experience difficulties in our classrooms such as a disengaged students, poor attendance, difficulties with homework or classroom procedures, etc. What "The Agreement Bridge" does is that it functions as a means for students and teachers to learn more about each other and begin to build the basis for a relationship through a game rather than a formal discussion (which most students probably would not find comfortable). The game begins with a ruler in-between the teacher and student to represent a bridge with tokens on each side representing themselves. As the teacher and student answer various questions about themselves and about specific classroom situations they can chose to move their markers across the bridge if they feel as though they can now better relate to one another or keep their marker in the same place if they feel that there is still not a common understanding. The following describes "The Agreement Bridge" strategy as stated by Chris Biffle in the Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids free e-book download.

     Mrs. Maestra and Juana sit on opposite sides of a table with a ruler between them. One end of the ruler points at Mrs. Maestra; the other end points at Juana. The ruler represents the “distance” between them. One marker representing Juana, stands at her end of the ruler; the other marker representing Mrs. Maestra, stands at her end of the ruler. (If markers are unavailable, any other small objects maybe used, chalk, paperclips, etc.). The goal of the game is for the two players to participate in a structured discussion that eventually arrives at a mutually satisfactory agreement resolving the problem that separates them.
     Mrs. Maestra and Juana have a copy of The Agreement Bridge game board (Appendix) and talk about the subjects it presents. After each subject is discussed, one or both players have the option of moving their markers closer to the center of the ruler if they feel the distance between them has decreased. The game is completed when the markers of both Mrs. Maestra and Juana arrive at the middle of the ruler; this symbolizes that the distance between them has been removed and they are ready to fill out an Agreement
Contract (Appendix).
     Mrs. Maestra explains that each topic on the Agreement Bridge game board introduces a new subject for conversation. The subjects are: Hello, Problem, Swap, Smart Choices, Foolish Choices and Change. The players decide who should go first. With shyer students, Mrs. Maestra automatically took the lead. The first player puts a coin on one square on the board, introducing the subject he or she wants to talk about. When the first player is finished talking, the second player puts a coin on the same square and discusses the same subject. When the conversation is completed, the second player moves her coin to another square and talks about the new topic. Essentially, the players engage in follow the leader. First one player chooses a subject and talks about it; then the other player talks about the same subject and, when finished, picks the next subject. The topics may be selected as many times as the players wish. After each topic is discussed, one or both players, if they believe the distance between them has decreased, moves their marker closer to the middle of the ruler.

     Having only discovered WBT during the second last week of my student teaching placement, I unfortunately cannot offer any personal experience on this strategy. Obviously I chose to write about it today because it does interest me and I feel that it could work very effectively with early years students and maybe even some middle years students. I feel as though most of our students would love the opportunity to tell us more about themselves and to share stories about what interests them so I think, with some prompts, the Hello square could work really nicely. Something that the e-book also mentions is that this game allows students to see their teachers in a different context because they are learning information about them that they wouldn't normally learn. I feel very strongly that one of the easiest ways to build relationships with our students is for them to see us in multiple settings and to discover that we are actually "real people" and not JUST teachers, haha. Similarly to my post on "The Genius Ladder", once I start student teaching in a week and a half I will make sure to update information once I have tried these strategies with my class.

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.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Resources to Start Off Your Week 6

Its a new week and what better way to start off our week by finding some great new online resources to use in our classrooms. I actually found both of these resources through discussions with other education students in class today, thanks guys! Remember, I will be adding these to my Favourite Websites page so ensure you head over there to check out the full list that I've complied so far.

1 ) The Scale of the Universe (2nd Version)
- This website provides an interactive model that allows users to use the
  scroll-bar to move through a list of objects based on their size, from the
  string theory to the observable universe!
- Teachers can use this website in a variety of science and social studies
  contexts and students can click on any one of the hundreds of objects in
  order to learn more.

2 ) Manitobia
- This website provides a detailed archive of Manitoba-based archives
  including photos, videos, newspapers, letters, public documents, etc.
- Teachers can use this website to gather primary sources for their
  lessons plans and students can use this website to research reliable
  material for projects.
- Yay for local information!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

My Thoughts on WestCAST

     I'm back safe & sound! All 41 of us from our university survived the 11 hour bus ride (22 hours round trip) to and from Calgary without killing each other (almost) haha. All-in-all it was a great time! I really enjoyed spending time with other students from my faculty, some of whom I had not even met before, and I learned a lot from the sessions I attended. I give props to the U of C who organized a wonderful event with some amazing presenters and super helpful volunteers. I was able to visit family, see the mountains and rode the C-Train for the first time as well!

     The hardest part was deciding what sessions my fiance and I wanted to attend. In total, one could have the opportunity to attend up to 16 sessions depending on which ones you chose (some were shorter than others) which were presented as a workshop, a paper or panel discussion. I ended up choosing 7 sessions that were all longer workshops because I was drawn to the hands-on aspect of them and they were topics that really interested me.

- Tai Munroe & Jennifer Kock (University of Alberta)
     This was a great interactive session that introduced different outdoor-education games that integrated science curriculum outcomes too. Tai had a lot of experience with creating cross-curricular outdoor games as a teacher and was able to offer a lot of information about what works well, what doesn't work so well, safety precautions, necessary materials, etc. As a group we played many of the games and discussed how they worked, what things we would need to keep in mind, and how to integrate different curriculums. With my fiance having a Phys-Ed teachable and me having a Social Studies teachable we were already thinking of all the different activities we could create together for our students! Some books that Tai & Jennifer suggested for more ideas were:
- Project Wild Curriculum & Activity Guide
- Below Zero Workshop

 - Ashley LePage & Courtney Cann (University of Lethbridge)
     I've written a few posts on inclusion and I love the class that I take here at university regarding inclusion so I was really excited for this session. I was, however, pretty disappointed. From the title I had assumed that we would be provided with lists of strategies or different resources that we could use in our classrooms. The session was split into two groups with Ashley presenting one topic, Courtney presenting another, and we would switch half way through. The first half introduced the strategy of "precision reading" which, from what I learned, seemed to be based on rote memorization. You can read more about it on their website. I would love for some comments on teachers who have used this strategy because I could not understand how it taught comprehension or how it was more beneficial than phonetic reading. The second half spoke about "backwards by design" or "understanding by design" which was good, but was something we already cover in school. I feel that both Ashley and Courtney were very well-informed and seemed to have good ideas, but it was not what I was expecting. I feel as though if they focused on one idea or had a longer slot (it was only 50 minutes) then I would have enjoyed it more because I feel as though we couldn't get into depth on the ideas.

- Fiona Purton, Dr. Ali Abdi, Dr. Lynetter Shultz & Associates (University of Alberta)
     This was another session that I was really looking forward to because I felt that it was a good fit with my teachable being in Social Studies. This session, for the most part, focused around guided discussion regarding points brought up by the TEDtalk video, Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Singe Story. I am a big fan of TEDtalks (I can easily spend a few hours on the weekend watching different videos) but I had not seen this one yet and was very impressed. I would definitely recommend that you take the time to watch the video. Chimamanda talks about her journey to discover her Nigerian culture and how someone can misunderstand a culture if they only hear one story about it. I had just read an article by Michelle Jay regarding the concept of the hidden curriculum and I realized that the concept of the hidden curriculum only tells a single story for our students. This is something that I will definitely keep in mind when I am teaching. I have bookmarked Chimamanda's talk and can't wait to watch it again. :)

- Sandy Hill (University of the Fraser Valley)
     Hmmmmm what to say on this one. This session did not really fit my style what so ever and I will admit that, because of this, I tuned out. Do not get me wrong, I think that Sandy was incredibly passionate about what he does and seemed very knowledgeable, it just wasn't my forte. Sandy spoke a lot about working on our presence in the classroom and how to be emotionally ready to teach our students. To achieve this, he provided a lot of meditation-like techniques that we could do when we enter the classroom. These included us sitting in our chairs, grounding our feet to the floor, focusing on filling the room with our breath and orientating ourselves with each of the corners by describing what was in them. He also spoke about different techniques on how to vary the tone and level of our voices in order to fill the space which I think many participants found useful.

- Melanie Sawatsky & Ashley Warkentin (University of Winnipeg)
     For not being a science student I found that this was by-far my favourite session! Melanie and Ashley spoke of different environmental activities they had developed/modified while at a student teaching placement at an environmentally-focused school in Costa Rica. They shared an interactive electricity unit that included building windmills with students and introduced a game called the Sustainable Forest Game. This game followed a Monopoly-style format where each team was given a grass mat plot and $200. As teams make their way around the board they answer trivia questions (based off of the unit outcomes), face natural disasters or make choices regarding commercial development versus environmental sustainability. Based on their answers/choices students can either earn/lose money or earn/lose trees for their grass mat. Its a great way for students to review information and think about long-term effects. This was another session that got my fiance and me brainstorming ideas of how we could use this for Social Studies, English, etc. 

- Kathryn Marinakos (Strathcona Tweedsmuir School)
     This was the only lesson/unit planning workshop that I found in the schedule and it was so helpful! Kathryn is a private school teacher and was so personable and down-to-earth I found that it felt like we were all sitting in a staffroom discussing ideas rather than sitting in a formal session. She focused on the idea of concept based instruction and how to plan our lessons and units with the end goal in mind (essentially backwards by design). She focused on planning our lessons/units by thinking about, "What do I want my students to know and understand?" and "How will I know what my students know and understand?" She also spoke a lot about focusing on the bigger, all-encompassing concepts rather than each individual outcome separately. What really hit home with me was when she asked, "Can you take your lesson to China, change the localized facts/information and still be teaching the same concepts?" For example: our students may be learning the local river systems, landforms, major cities, etc (local information) but are they using that information to determine how the physical landscape influences human settlement (big concept)? I find that I haven't had a lot of opportunity to do any long term planning with any of my classes or placements yet so I found this session really helpful.

- Dr. John Poulsen (University of Lethbridge)
     This workshop listed ten areas of consideration for student teachers based off of common areas of difficulty. This session was extremely well attended and we actually found ourselves sneaking in and sitting on a counter in the back in order to attend. John was a really engaging speaker and had us interacting with one another to demonstrate many of the points on his list. Some points focused on basic skills such as planning, time management and preparation while others focused on behaviours such as modeling politeness and fostering acceptable language/behaviour in the classroom. I found that I really connected with this presentation because I am a student teacher and could relate to every point on his list. I know that his information will be something I keep in mind when I go out to student teach in two weeks time and I think that this session was perhaps the most appropriate last session for me to attend. 

    All-in-all I am really impressed with my WestCAST experience and am glad that I chose to attend. Next year's conference will be held in British Columbia so I am glad that my fiance and I were able to attend this year because I feel as though that would be an expensive trip from Manitoba (especially since our wedding would be coming up soon then too!) Please comment and let me know your thoughts, especially about the precision reading concept. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Off to WestCAST!

     My bronchitis is almost all better, final projects are getting completed and it is time to head off to the annual WestCAST Conference! WestCAST is an annual teacher education conference hosted by various education faculties across Canada's four western provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba). Last year's conference was actually hosted at my university but I was unfortunately not a part of the faculty yet, darn! This year it is hosted by U of C in Calgary, only a short 10hour bus ride away :)

     I am really looking forward to this conference because:
1 ) There are so many great sessions to attend. (I still haven't been able to
     decide on which ones I will be attending. Unfortunately there is no WBT
2 ) I'll be able to spend time with my friends from the faculty of education
     before we leave to go student teaching. (We go straight to summer break
     following our student teaching so I won't see many people again until the
3 ) I'll be able to visit my fiance's aunt, uncle and cousins whom we are very
     close with. His cousin will be turning 6 while we are there so we will be
     able to attend his birthday party :)

     What I am wondering in regards to sessions is this: Is it better to attend the sessions that I am really interested in that focus on my teachables or to attend sessions that are outside of my comfort level but will assist in broadening my knowledge base? I can't decide!! Interested in viewing the conference schedule?

What are your thoughts?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Resources to Start Off Your Week 5: Long Weekend Edition

     I can't believe its been almost a week since I even thought about my blog, I actually forgot it was even Monday! After battling bronchitis I am starting to feel back to normal (thanks to 35+ hours of sleep over a 2 day period!)
     With that out of mind now, I wanted to throw together a special Long Weekend Edition of Resources to Start Off Your Week with TEN great new resources. Remember, I will be adding these to my Favourite Websites page so ensure you head over there to check out the full list that I've complied so far.

1 ) Creative Commons
- A website database for royalty free pictures.
- Teachers can grab pictures, clip art and diagram off this site to include in
   their lessons or have students use it to reinforce the idea of digital citizenship.
- Click on "Find CC-Licensed Works"

2 ) Roadmap to Harmony
 - An article from the "Good" network that visually summarizes important
   concepts such as sustainable development, education, globalization and
   relationships between humans and the earth.
- Teachers could use this as an activating strategy for many social studies
- Great for visual learners!

3 ) ToonDoo
- A website for making online comic characters and stories.
- This website has lots of options and teachers can use this to encourage
   writing or have as an option to use during projects.
- Very user-friendly, fun to use and appeals to many children.

4 ) 2ePub
- A website that can convert pdf and other document formats into
  compatible files for ebook readers such as iPad, Sony Reader,
  Kindle, etc.
- Simple to use!

5 ) Aviary Education
- A group of child-friendly, easy to use applications such as document
  sharing, image editing, music creator and much more!
- Teachers can have their student use this website for any type of project
  or assignment.
- All content is designed for school-age children and is guarenteed to be
  100% safe.

6 ) Drop Box
- A website used for online file storage.
- Teachers can use this to save files online, no more carrying your
  flash-drive around!
- Great "add-on" features such as Drop It To me, which allows other
  users (who have access) to add files to your Drop Box. Teachers could
  have their students submit assignments this way!

7 ) Daily To Do
- An online To-Do list that creates your list with easy to check completion
- Teachers could have this for personal use, or have on the board as students
  come into class and use as a classroom itinerary.  
- Very easy to use.

8 ) Pearl Trees
- An online bookmarking site that creates visual networks to display favourite
  website and resources.
- Teachers and students could use this collaboratively to bookmark classroom
  websites. Teacher could also create a Pearl Tree of various bookmarks to use
  as an activating strategy for new units.

9 ) Clay Yourself
- A website used to create claymation-style avatars of people and animals.
- This is a neat way for teachers and students to include pictures on the internet
  if your school doesn't allow you to upload actual photographs of students.
- Easy to use and super cool!

10 ) Museum of Obsolete Objects
- An interactive YouTube page depicting objects that are now technologically
- Teachers can use this website to show the evolution of technological
  advancements on this interactive timeline that displays an individual video for
  each object. Great for science, social studies, ELA, math... everything!
- Amazing visual design and very engaging.

Happy Monday everyone!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday! The Genius Ladder

     I am currently laying in bed seemingly dying from bronchitis but it is also my fifth 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 "The Scoreboard", this week I would like to introduce you to the WBT strategy of "The Genius Ladder". (I realize that my introduction of these strategies are not in any specific order).

     So far, my WBT-W posts have been summarizing classroom management strategies but this week I would like to add something new! Last night my fiance and I were working on a reflection paper for his ELA Methods course and decided to include some information on the WBT teaching strategy of "The Genius Ladder". Although English is not one of my teachables, I really enjoyed learning more about this strategy so I've decided to include it as this week's WBT focus.

     One of the things I had difficulty with when I started post-secondary level classes was my formal writing, specifically all those essays and reviews for my history major! While I knew what I wanted to say in my writing, I had difficulty with essay organization, topic sentences and effective arguments. After some trial and error I began to have a better grasp on the mechanics of formal writing but I feel that I would have benefited if I had had more opportunities to learn these skills in high school. "The Genius Ladder" is a visual teaching strategy that provides students, of any age, with an opportunity to practice sentence structure, parts of speech, complex sentences, and paragraph organization. The following describes "The Genius Ladder" teaching strategy as stated by Chris Biffle in the WBT Model Classroom E-Book available for download  here.
Whole brain teaching strategy, genius ladder, classroom mangement, paragraph development
Genius Ladder made by Allison, WBT Intern for 2011/2012

     The Genius Ladder is posted on the front board and changes daily. Students work from the bottom of the ladder, simpler sentences, to the top of the ladder, a paragraph. The rungs of the Ladder are:
     Genius Paragraph
     Extender Complexor Sentence
     Spicy Sentence
     Blah Sentence
     Here is a filled in sample (Note that when used in class, students work from bottom to top, from Blah sentence to Genius Paragraph).
     Genius Paragraph: The crazy boy runs down the street. He looks like he is being chased by a ghost. No one knows what is wrong with him.
     Extender Complexor Sentence: The crazy boy runs down the street.
     Spicy Sentence: The crazy boy runs.
     Blah Sentence: The boy runs.
     The Blah sentence, as you can tell, is composed of an article, "the," a non subject, "boy" and a verb, "runs." Obviously, an infinite number of sentences can be composed using these three simple components.
By having students begin with a Blah sentence, teachers can employ a very useful rule for student writing, "No Blah Sentences!"
     The Spicy Sentence adds an adjective, one of the simplest grammatical devices for increasing the flavour of student writing.
     The Extender Complexor extends the Spicy Sentence and makes it more complex. This category is extremely rich in possibilities. A Spicy Sentence could be extended with because or a prepositional phrase. A Spicy Sentence could also be extended with a conjunction, an adverb or dependent clause.
     At the top rung of the Genius Ladder, the Genius Paragraph, several sentences called Adders are added to the Extender Complexor. Adders are defined as any sentence that adds information to a previous sentence. Thus, Adders make up the bulk of student writing. As you can see, as the student moves up the Genius Ladder, the sentences advance, quite naturally, from simple to complex. Fairly sophisticated topic sentences can easily be created.

     As some of you know, my first student teaching placement was in a Grade 10-12 Social Studies classroom so I unfortunately don't have any personal experience to share with you regarding this teaching strategy. In March when I begin my second student teaching placement I will be in a Grade 5 class where I may have an opportunity to try out this strategy. If so, I will make sure to update and let you know how it worked out! Click on the link below to download the E-Book where you can find the full "Genius Ladder" description on pages 8-11. There is a great section on how to specifically utilize it in the classroom.

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

Monday, 13 February 2012

WBT & Manitoba's "Towards Inclusion" Document Part 2

     Yesterday I started blogging on how WBT strategies might fit in with the criteria set out by the Manitoba government. I found the Towards Inclusion: Supporting Positive Behaviours in Manitoba Classrooms document and decided to focus on Section 6: Positive Reinforcement (pg. 53) and Section 7: Fair & Predictable Consequences (pg. 58). I quickly realized, however, that this was not a one-post topic and decided to split it into two parts by covering Section 6 yesterday and covering Section 7 today.

The document summarizes that a teacher must establish consequences for inappropriate behaviour BEFORE the behaviour takes place so that our students know exactly what to expect. For example, it may our classroom policy that if a student(s) misses time in class because they are not paying attention or are late, they will owe that time during recess. This would be something we would discuss as a class at the start of the year and at the beginning of class to ensure that our student's are being treated fairly. 
The document goes on to explain that for a consequence to be effective it must be immediate (but not intensive), reasonable, well-planned (but flexible) and practical. I think that, for the most part, my use of "The Scoreboard" fit into this criteria. By using this strategy, a consequence would be to receive a teacher-point on the scoreboard as opposed to a student-point. If there were not a positive number of student-points near the end of class the students would not earn a privilege that they were working towards (such as the opportunity to work on an assignment in partners). By using "The Scoreboard" I could put up a point immediately and it was our class-schedule so it was well-planned into our daily routines. We would begin each day by speaking about it as a class, however, which also allowed it to be tailored to ensure that it was both reasonable and practical for what we were doing that day. 

The next 8 pages cover various strategies to effectively respond to inappropriate behaviours in our classrooms and how to establish appropriate consequences. For this post, I am choosing three to discuss based on the fact that they also fit in with the classroom management model project I am currently working on. Get the Activity Moving discusses the importance of well-planned transitions in our classrooms to assist in eliminating down-time where students may get off-task  because redirection at this time is often misguided. One of the WBT strategies that I think would work perfect for transitions is "Teach-Ok" because it allows students to review what was just taught with their neighbour and can be utilized in-between different lesson components. Redirecting is the idea that sometimes you just need to grab the student's attention away from whatever is distracting them in order to redirect their behaviour. This fits the strategy of "Class-Yes" to a T! "Class-Yes" is an attention grabber you can use to gain your student's attention quickly and easily. If one or more of our students are off-task or needing clarification we can use "Class-Yes" to gain their attention and give any needed instructions or comments. Lastly, Gestures, is all about a certain movement communicating a message to our class. I wanted to include this one because of the kinesthetic component of WBT which students often enjoy. WBT uses a lot of gestures to symbolize different aspects of a lesson plan and to just get our students moving and engaged during a lesson. For example, a teacher may have a list of supplies that students need to have ready at the start of a lesson (these may include their notebook, a pencil and an eraser) so as student's are preparing for class she can hold up three fingers that symbolizes that students should have those three different supplies out. 
     If you were able to read Part 1 of this post, you know that I thought WBT fit in quite well with Section 6 of the Towards Inclusion document. After summarizing Section 7 as well, I found this to remain true. I realize that each teacher is an individual and will utilize different strategies differently but I am confident in saying that I will be able to utilize WBT strategies and follow the guidelines set out in this document as well!

Resources to Start Off Your Week 4

Its a new week and what better way to start off our week by finding some great new online resources to use in our classrooms. Remember, I will be adding these to my Favourite Websites page so ensure you head over there to check out the full list that I've complied so far.

1 ) What Was There?
- A website featuring an interactive map of the world featuring historic photographs
  organized by location and year. Their goal is to provide a photographic history of
  the world!
- Teacher can use this website to provide primary visuals during Social Studies,
  Geography and History lessons specifically but the possibilities are endless!
- Users can upload pictures and some locations have more photos than others
   so make sure to do your research before class!

2 ) Story Bird
- A website for creating online narrative stories using visual art prompts.
- Teachers can use this website to encourage writing assignments and it is the
   perfect platform for sharing stories online (link to your classroom blog, email
   to parents, receive meaningful feedback, etc).
- The illustrations are gorgeous, funny, and engaging for students!
* Big thanks to Ms. Bertram for sharing this resource with me :)

3 ) Resources for History Teachers
- A wiki summarizing educational resources for teachers and students looking to
  learn more about various history, geography, politics, economics and much more. 
- Teachers can use this website to gather resources for a lesson or have their
  students explore certain pages for information.
- A 2011 Edublog Award winner!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

WBT & Manitoba's "Towards Inclusion" Document Part 1

     I spent the better part of this weekend working on filming a video with a group for our Classroom Management class. Our film is supposed to demonstrate a specific classroom management model and will be used to teach the rest of our classmates about said model. With my last post about "The Scoreboard" and this project on my mind, I started thinking about how WBT strategies would fit into different classroom management models. While I enjoyed the model we were working on (Rudolf Driekur's Social Discipline Model) I decided to do some research on how WBT would fit in with the criteria set out by the Manitoba Government specifically.

manitoba curriculums, whole brain teaching, positive classroomsWhat I found was the Towards Inclusion: Supporting Positive Behaviour in Manitoba Classrooms document. I found our Classroom Management class schedule follows the contents of this document quite closely (go figure huh) so it was an easy read. While I believe that the entire document is important to teachers, I want to focus on Section 6: Positive Reinforcement (pg. 53) and Section 7: Fair & Predictable Consequences (pg.58) specifically because they fit into our project model as well. I was going to talk about both of these in one post before I realized just how long it would be. With that in mind, today's post will summarize Section 6 and tomorrows post will summarize Section 7.

The document summarizes that for a reinforcement to be effective and positive it must be age-appropriate, at the student's level of functioning, has administrative and parental support, and is genuine. When I posted on Wednesday about "The Scoreboard" I mentioned that at the beginning of each class with my Grade 10's we would discuss what the reward would be for that day depending on what we were doing. During my time in the classroom our rewards were anything from more time to complete an assignment to the opportunity to go watch the in-school volleyball tournament. I feel that this set-up was age-appropriate because at Grade 10 they enjoyed being able to be a part of the decision process. On that same note, since they were involved in choosing their reinforcement I felt that it was always at the student's level of functioning and they knew that it was genuine. As a student teacher I did not have a lot of contact with parents except at the end of my placement during parent-teacher conferences but I did have the support of my cooperating teacher, faculty supervisor and principal. In general, I feel that my use of this WBT strategy fit in with what was summarized at the first part of Section 6. The document then goes on to explain three important factors of positive reinforcement which are social reinforcement, building anticipation and interdependent group contingencies. Social Reinforcement is vital for many students and it can be as easy as a simple comment or a smile. I feel that WBT definitely encourages social reinforcement in many of it's strategies.

Examples: During "Teach-Ok" teachers are encouraged to walk about the room to gauge student's comprehension of the material; this is the perfect opportunity to provide positive feedback to your students. The "10-Finger Woo" and "It's Cool" reinforce positive behaviours and assist in building a culture of respect in your classroom. "The Scoreboard" provides countless opportunities to provide your student's with positive comments and feedback.
The document states that Building Anticipation assists in building both motivation and excitement (sounds a lot like my scoreboard post already)! What we need to remember is that we need to be clear about what type of behaviour we are looking for, discuss what will happen if we see that type of behaviour, and give positive feedback and a reinforcer immediately following said behaviour. I feel that, again, this fits perfect with my use of WBT strategies. With the use of "The Scoreboard" we would discuss what our goal would be for a specific day based on what we were doing that day. If I had prepared a lesson around the "Teach-Ok" strategy followed by an activity we would discuss that I was expecting full participation (and explain what that looked like). My class knew that if I saw that behaviour they would receive a student-point on the scoreboard and if I didn't I would receive a teacher-point on the scoreboard. If my class had a positive number of points near the end of class they would receive their goal which may have been the opportunity to work on their activity in partners or small groups as opposed to individually.
"Interdependent Group Contingencies require the entire group of students to reach a designated goal in order to receive reinforcement." While the "Teach-Ok" strategy , "10-Finger Woo, and "It's Cool" provide opportunities for individual reinforcement like a positive comment, "The Scoreboard" requires all students to reach a goal as a group. I feel like I have repeated myself quite a few times in regards to "The Scoreboard" already so I will let you look back on it rather than boring you with yet another explanation. What I want to touch on is how this factor encourages cooperation and encouragement among our students because they are all working towards a common goal. I definitely felt that this was the case with my Grade 10 classroom and I think that it is a positive thing in regards to creating a team environment in our class.

     After summarizing Section 6 I felt very positive that my use of different Whole Brain Teaching strategies was fitting in with what was laid out in the Towards Inclusion document, which I was very happy about! Tomorrow, in addition to posting some Resources To Start Off Your Week, I will summarize Section 7 of the document.

- To Be Continued -

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday! The Scoreboard

     The week is almost done (we don't have school on Fridays) and I'm excited to be writing my fourth 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 "Mirror", this week I would like to introduce you to the WBT strategy of "The Scoreboard". (I realize that my introduction of these strategies are not in any specific order).
whole brain teaching strategies, scoreboard for older students, classroom management
Scoreboard for older students (5-12): Teacher vs. Students
"The Scoreboard" is a classroom management strategy that assists in motivating our students. We are told again and again in our education classes that a student's motivation can affect the entire classroom environment and will affect us and the other students as well. We can tell when one of our students (or perhaps the whole class) is just not into a certain idea or activity. Maybe its the topic, maybe its the teaching style, maybe they are having an off day, or maybe its one of those days where you swear its a full-moon (it happens)!

whole brain teaching strategies, classroom management, scoreboard for younger students
Scoreboard for younger students (K-4): Smiley vs. Frowny
We are not always going to be able to have all of our student's be super-excited about our subject or a certain activity. We get that, right? Some people will just not like subject "x" no matter how hard a teacher tries. "The Scoreboard" can be a fun way of boosting our student's motivation in the classroom. Essentially, all it is is a basic T-chart where we keep tally of positive and negative behaviours. What type of behaviours is completely up to the teacher. Using "Teach-Ok" and the student's aren't participating? Negative point. Morning announcements come on and everyone attentively listens? Positive point. We can award points for anything depending on what type of activity we are doing and what our expectations are. This way, even if a student doesn't like the subject or activity, they still realize the expectations for the classroom and can be motivated by the scoreboard even if they are not motivated by the task at hand. The following describes "The Scoreboard" strategy as stated by Jeff Battle on the Whole Brain Teaching website.

During class you will be rewarding a mark in the Student section for procedures performed well. When you reward them with a mark in the student section for their performance, just like the smiley-frowny game, you can involve the kids in a really fun way. Walk to the board, raise your chalk or marker, or stylus, and address the class.

“One second party!” You proclaim enthusiastically. Make a mark in the smiley section then point to the students. To this they respond by clapping and throwing their hands in the air and yelling “Oh, Yeah!”

However, if the students do not listen, and follow instructions you do not have to fuss at anyone! You just look at the non-compliant students and say “Thank you very much! That was a point for ME!”

You walk to the board and add a mark the Teacher column. Loudly proclaim, “Mighty Groan!” and point to the class. They must lift and then drop their shoulders and groan loudly! Since they are getting to make noise in class it is usually nearly as enthusiastic as the one second party (or Mighty Oh, Yeah!)

In this way you have a “game” in which student cannot rebel effectively. Rebellion only results in a point for the dreaded Teacher.  You are either playing for the students and getting a reward, or not following instructions and playing for the dreaded Teacher's Team, and losing some reward.

Note that there is no punishment. You do not assign extra homework, or take anything else away. They just lose a privilege they were working for.
One thing you must understand from the start is that you should not let the difference between the number of Student and Teacher points get greater than three. If you over reward they will stop working for it. If you let them get too far in the hole they will quit trying to win the reward. That is the reason for the +-3 rule.
Student and Teacher points will build quickly at first, but fall off as they get better at procedures.
     I used "The Scoreboard" during student teaching and I did find it effective. Like Jeff mentions, I did not punish my students for receiving negative points but I did not allow them a privilege that they were working towards. For example, at the start of class we would decide as a group what type of "reward" we wanted based on what we were doing that day. Maybe it was extra time to complete an assignment or the option to work in groups as opposed to individually. If they "beat" me in "The Scoreboard" they would receive that privilege, if they didn't I would carry out my lesson like I had originally planned. The students definitely got into it and I could tailor "The Scoreboard's" use each day depending on our activity. Sometimes it would be based around specific WBT strategy expectations, sometimes it would be based around basic classroom procedures and sometimes both. Note, that we always talked as a class about what the expectations were for the day so everyone could be on the same page. Personally, I am not incredibly fond of creating a teacher vs. student environment in my class so I am thinking of revising this for my personal use in the future. I would like to come up with something that achieves the same effect, just not with those labels attached to it (I don't think High School student's would be as motivated by a happy face and sad face).

     What are your thoughts?

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.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Help Wanted: Autism Spectrum

I am currently working on a project for my "Students with Exceptionalities" class and am looking for information about teaching students on the autism spectrum.
I've been able to access some great resources but I would really like to include some quotes from teachers on:

1 ) What are some of the opportunities that teachers face when teaching students on the autism spectrum?
2 ) What are some of the challenges that teachers face when teaching students on the autism spectrum?
3 ) What do you want other teachers to know about teaching students on the autism spectrum?

If any teachers would be willing to provide a quote that I can use in the presentation portion of my project I would really appreciate it!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Resources to Start Off Your Week 3

Its a new week and what better way to start off our week by finding some great new online resources to use in our classrooms. Remember, I will be adding these to my Favourite Websites page so ensure you head over there to check out the full list that I've complied so far.

1 ) Tag My Doc
- A website that allows you to apply a tag to a document which can be scanned by
  a mobile device and retrieved as a virtual copy,
- Would be an amazing resource to use if your school had a B.Y.O.D
   (bring your own device policy).

2 ) You Are What You Read
- What  five books have shaped your life? This is a children's social networking site
   based around literature.
- Teachers can use this website as a means for students to connect with other
   people based on their literature preferences
- Very user-friendly!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

1000+ Page Views!!

     It has been a short 32 days since I entered the blogging world and I will admit that I LOVE it! It has been such a good tool for reflecting on what I learn while in our Faculty of Education classes. It has also been wonderful to connect with other educators all over the world; their insight and experience is invaluable. With this in mind, I am so pleased to announce that the blog has reached OVER 1000 PAGE VIEWS!

     To celebrate, I would like you to head on over to the Whole Brain Teaching website to grab yourself a copy of their TWO NEW FREE E-BOOKS!!

whole brain teaching, free ebook, dowload, classroom management, reading strategies
Electronic SuperSpeed 1000
whole brain teaching, free ebook, classroom management, download
SuperSpeed Rhymes
     Both of these awesome new resources are formatted on PowerPoint and can be fully customized to best fit the needs of your classroom! These fun programs serve as a way to teach and review sight words and word families, all while being fun and engaging for your students. A big thanks goes out to everyone on the Whole Brain Teaching team for putting these programs together and offering them to teachers for FREE.

     I hope you enjoy these new programs as much as I have and I thank each and everyone of you for taking the time to view this blog. Next goal, 10,000 page views?

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.