Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday! All Systems are Go

     I can't believe that spring break is almost here! I feel like I've only just gotten the hang of everything in our classroom and now we are leaving for an entire week! The exciting news, however, is that my eighth Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday post is about introducing WBT in our classrooms! I hope that this focus on WBT 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 "Mind Soccer", and while this week isn't about a specific strategy I would like to highlight how I introduced my class to WBT.

     Today marked my first official day teaching my own lesson plans in our Grade 5 Science class. Actually, it was my first official day teaching everything in our classroom as my cooperating teacher was out sick today. Thankfully, I was able to continue his lesson plans for the remaining classes and was still able to introduce my lessons for science with no issues. Being my first day "in charge" I wanted to make sure I established my classroom expectations very quickly to ensure that there was no confusion in the classroom. Our students are very high energy and really enjoy talking with their peers. This doesn't, however, always facilitate the best learning environment because it can get quite loud! On top of that, I am not one to raise my voice so I knew that I needed a quick and efficient way to gain our student's attention and redirect behaviour to on-task activities. Thank goodness for "Class-Yes"!

     When I first found WBT during my student teaching placement in the fall I was in a high school setting and decided to introduce it with my Grade 10 class. I realize that many WBT strategies are often very different than what most students may be used to and, because of their age, I wanted to make sure the class understood exactly why I was choosing to present information and manage the classroom this way. With this in mind, I prepared a PowerPoint presentation explaining the benefits of working the different areas of our brain by participating verbally, visually, and physically. As a class we were able to have a group discussion about the positives and negatives of learning/teaching this way, which I really enjoyed.

     With our Grade 5s, however, I didn't feel as though this type of introduction would be appropriate. What I wanted for our class was to encourage a respectful and fun environment as a way to ensure that each student was able to learn to his/her best ability. I explained that I was not comfortable raising my voice with the class but I still need to be able to get their attention quickly. We talked as a group and our students lead discussion about how it makes students feel when teachers need to yell to get attention. For the most part, our class felt that when a teacher raised their voice that meant that they were angry with their students and that would sometimes make them nervous during the rest of the class. Now keep in mind, we realize that just because a teacher raises their voice that doesn't mean that they are angry with their students, it may just be the only way to be heard above the noise! So it surprised me to hear our students talk about how raising our voice affected them later on. We agreed that we needed to have a way to get attention quickly that would be fun. We also agreed that it was important to be able to get attention quickly because there may be important information or questions that need to be addressed. Luckily, our class's french teacher uses a modification of Class-Yes so my students quickly caught on to the idea of getting attention through student verbal response.

     For the rest of the day I was able to use Class-Yes and have 90% of our students respond the first time! This was definitely much quicker and easier than standing at the front of the class announcing, "Grade 5's.... Grade 5's... I need your attention at the front please!" I was even able to use Class-Yes as we got organized during an assembly and getting ready for gym (two of our most exciting and hectic times during the day). Overall, I am really pleased with how our first day with WBT went. I loved that we were able to have a classroom discussion about why we were using Class-Yes and how it would help foster a respectful learning environment. I am looking forward to introducing The Scoreboard and Teach-Ok when we get back from spring break!


  1. I am so excited to see your energy and progress in WBT!! The Scoreboard and Teach-Okay are really going to be great for your class! Keep me posted!!

  2. Thanks Nancy, it is exciting everyday! I am hoping to get things going as soon as spring break finishes up and I will update the blog as I go. :)

  3. This is great, and by introducing these strategies and explaining them the students will understand from the beginning and be with you when you are using them. I've heard of "up and down" in that a teacher says one word very loudly (such as class) over their noise level, and then reduces her voice level. Explaining these things to students really helps them understand what you are doing and why, and then they help you with the strategy. Great work! Carolyn

  4. Thanks Carolyn! It is really important to me that students understand why I do things the way I do. I never want my students to feel like they are doing things, "just because the teacher said so." I hope that by having open discussions about strategies like this my students will understand and appreciate why we do the things we do


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