Sunday, March 9, 2014

Power Stars and the Grand KaSlami!!

Here's the latest and greatest from Coach B...." Power Stars!”  Every day put up a Power Star ... a star with a word on it. For example, Capitals or Because Clapper or Also or periods or compare, etc. This means all day when the kids are talking to each other, you are looking for them to ADD the gesture/concept during Teach-Okay. We want to move Teach-Okay beyond the crucial skill of paraphrasing and into Oral Writing and/or Critical Thinking. We will use Power Stars to get way more Oral Writing and/or Critical Thinking reps.  When you see kids using the Power Star concept, then praise them ... you see them continuing ... you can give them a star on the Super Improver Team Wall. In other words, Power Stars connect lots of our stuff to Super Improvers Team. This is easy to implement and "powerful"!  So, after you do individual Power Stars, then you can have them work on two or more ... then, Freebie Power Stars!  Tell your students, "You pick the ones you and your partner want to work on ... and let me see if I can guess which ones you picked."   Finally, there’s the Grand KaSlami!  A Grand KaSlami is when the teacher selects five Power Stars and the kids try to use them all ... oh, what a Grand KaSlami that would be ... "
Check out these pictures below of three of the Power Stars my students used during Teach-Okay! I started with the Capitals Star, then added the because Star, and finally put up the For example, Star.  Even though my students have been utilizing Oral Writing and Air Punctuation techniques all year, the Stars became COOL visual cues! The CHERRY on TOP was the SIT (Super Improvers Team)!  This winning combination together inspired them to elevate their participation with their partner.  The best result was the higher level of critical thinking I observed as I moved around the classroom during the Teach-Okay sets during the day.  Each day, I changed the Stars out and built back up to three on the board at once.  We are working toward the Grand KaSlami!
Power Star Pic 1             Power Star Pic 2

Here is the FREE download of the complete set of Power Stars!  Share your experiences with us!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Crazy Professor Reading…Un-silent Reading!

The Crazy Professor Reading Game is a multi-step program that engages a student into the world of written language in a whole new way! In the Silent Reading segment of the game, Chris Biffle states, ”A major problem with silent reading as an in-class activity is that students drift off into their own worlds. If you’ve instructed your students to quietly illustrate what they read with gestures, you can easily tell who is on, or off, task. In addition, using gestures as they read will increase students’ comprehension. Instead of glossing over phrases, they must find a physical equivalent of the meaning of what they’re reading.”

Now here is a change! For young students…take the ‘Silent’ out! Beginning readers need to HEAR the language as they read. They need to bring BIG kinesthetic movement through gestures to the process to increase the understanding of the printed word. Later as a student matures in the reading process, ‘Silent’ reading takes its place!

So how do you get a student started in this method of UN-silent reading? Model! Model! Model! When you introduce a selection, use Mirror Words and pull your students into the wonder of the words. Create dramatic gestures that imprint meaning into the vocabulary. This is not only important for English Learners, but for all learners of the written language! Don’t limit this method to just literature. Bring math, science, and even the Lunch Menu to life! If it’s in print, bring new meaning to it!

Here is a short sample of the Crazy Professor Reading Game in the Un-silent mode with a group of second graders.

 

The next level of the Crazy Professor Reading Game is Paraphrasing…Yes, 2nd graders CAN do this!  After many readings, students are now ready to retell the story to a partner in dramatic style with their own words!  Amazing!  I incorporate ‘Switch!’ to keep the engagement and energy high!  The print comes to life again through the words and gestures of each individual student!  Watch again as this same group of students retell the story!

For more information, go to http://wholebrainteaching.com/

Sunday, February 23, 2014

WBT Word Problem Solvers…Prove It!

All through the year, my students are given a variety of problem solving scenarios in their Math studies.  Word Problems have been interwoven to bring specific application of math strategies into real life settings. This not only requires students to read and solve the problem, but also to justify their solution…Prove it! 

‘Prove It!’ in Whole Brain Teaching is used across the curriculum to encourage higher levels of critical thinking skills.  We incorporate Oral Writing techniques to raise the bar on communication skills.  We add in the Because Clapper to extend the responses beyond simple memorization of facts.

I use the WBT 5 Step Lesson Template to get the foundation of solving a word problem established.  The Critical Thinking step of the lesson is based on Oral Writing and WBT Writing. Below is a script I used for my class:

Question: How do I solve a math word problem?

Teacher: Class! Class!
Students: Yes! Yes!
Teacher: Today, we are going to learn how to solve a word problem!  Today, we are going to learn how to solve a word problem! Tell your partner how extremely excited you are to learn how to solve a word problem! (Students quickly turn to their partners and share their anticipation to learn how to solve a word problem. Get the Limbic system pumped up right from the start!)
Teacher: Class! Class! Chicka Boom Boom, Class!
Students:  Yes! Yes! Chicka Boom Boom, Yes!
Teacher:  How do I solve a math word problem? How do I solve a math word problem?
Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: How do I solve a math word problem?
Students: How do I solve a math word problem?
Teacher: Teach!
Students: Okay!
Teacher: Oh, class!
Students: Oh, yes!

Answer the Question

Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: To solve word problems in Math, I need to read the problem twice while using lively gestures. (Use Air Punctuation gestures to note capital letters and punctuation.)
Students: (echo) To solve word problems in Math, I need to read the problem twice while using lively gestures.
Teacher: Teach!
Students: Okay!
Teacher: Classity, class!
Students: Yessity, yes!
Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: After I read the word problem two times, I need to follow six steps to solve the problem.
Students: After I read the word problem two times, I need to follow six steps to solve the problem.
Teacher: Tell your partner, ‘You need to follow six steps to solve the problem!’
Students: You have to follow six steps to solve the problem!
Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: Step 1 Circle Key Numbers!  Step 1 Circle Key Numbers!   (Gesture: draw a circle up high)
Students: Step 1 Circle Key Numbers!  Circle Key Numbers!  (Repeat gesture)
Teacher: Teach!
Students: Okay!
Partner 1 rises quickly with hands up and teaches Step 1. Partner 2 mirrors the gestures. Teacher calls out, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Students respond, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Partner 1 quickly sits down and raises hands preparing to Mirror Partner 2, who is quickly standing to teach Step 1!
Teacher:  Class!
Students:  Yes!
Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: Step 2 Underline the question. Underline the Key Words. Step 2 Underline the question. Underline the Key Words.  (Gesture: Sweep hand across to underline for the Question and again for the Key Words.)
Students: Step 2 Underline the question. Underline the Key Words. Step 2 Underline the question. Underline the Key Words. (Gesture: Sweep hand across to underline for the question and again for the Key Words.)
Teacher: (Clap Clap) First two steps! Teach!
Students: (Clap Clap) First two steps! Okay!
Teacher: Oh, Class! Oh, Class!
Students: Oh, Yes! Oh, Yes!
Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: Step 3 Determine the Operation! Add Subtract Multiply Divide Step 3 Determine the Operation! Add Subtract Multiply Divide  (Use gestures to designate each)
Students: Step 3 Determine the Operation! Add Subtract Multiply Divide Step 3 Determine the Operation! Add Subtract Multiply Divide (Use gestures to designate each)
Teacher: (Stomp Stomp) First three steps! Teach!
Students: (Stomp Stomp) First three steps! Okay!
Partner 1 rises quickly with hands up and teaches Steps 1-3. Partner 2 mirrors the gestures. Teacher calls out, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Students respond, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Partner 1 quickly sits down and raises hands preparing to Mirror Partner 2, who is quickly standing to teach Steps 1-3!
Teacher: Math! Math! Class!
Students: Math! Math! Yes!
Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: Step 4 Write an equation! Step 4 Write an equation!  (Gesture a pencil writing in the air)
Students: Step 4 Write an equation! Step 4 Write an equation!  (Gesture a pencil writing in the air)
Teacher: (Snap fingers twice) First four steps! Teach!
Students: (Snap fingers twice) First four steps! Okay!
Partner 1 rises quickly with hands up and teaches Steps 1-4. Partner 2 mirrors the gestures. Teacher calls out, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Students respond, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Partner 1 quickly sits down and raises hands preparing to Mirror Partner 2, who is quickly standing to teach Steps 1-4!
Teacher: Smart! Smart! Class!
Students: Smart! Smart! Yes!
Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: Step 5 Solve the equation! Step 5 Solve the equation! (Gesture pencil writing in the air)
Students: Step 5 Solve the equation! Step 5 Solve the equation! (Gesture pencil writing in the air)
Teacher: First five steps! Teach!
Students: First five steps! Okay!
Partner 1 rises quickly with hands up and teaches Steps 1-5. Partner 2 mirrors the gestures. Teacher calls out, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Students respond, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Partner 1 quickly sits down and raises hands preparing to Mirror Partner 2, who is quickly standing to teach Steps 1-5!
Teacher: (Clap Snap) Class! (Clap Snap) Class!
Students: (Clap Snap) Yes! (Clap Snap) Yes!
Teacher: Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Teacher: Step 6 Prove it! Step 6 Prove it!  (Gesture is clap hands together quickly twice)
Students: Step 6 Prove it! Step 6 Prove it!  (Gesture is clap hands together quickly twice)
Teacher: First six steps! Teach!
Students: First six steps! Okay!
Partner 1 rises quickly with hands up and teaches Steps 1-6. Partner 2 mirrors the gestures. Teacher calls out, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Students respond, ‘Uh, oh! Switch!’ Partner 1 quickly sits down and raises hands preparing to Mirror Partner 2, who is quickly standing to teach Steps 1-6!
Teacher: Class-a-doodle doo!
Students: Yes-a-doodle doo!
Teacher: Give yourselves a Ten Finger Rolling Woooo for learning all the steps to solving Math Word Problems!
Students: Wooooooooo!

Explore

Using a math word problem preprinted on a student worksheet, work with students to follow the steps below to solve the problem. Use Mirror Words with gestures to read the printed problem twice before starting Step 1!
Step 1: Circle Key Numbers (KN)
Step 2: Underline Question Underline Key Words (KW)
Step 3: Determine the Operation(s) Add, Subtract, Multiply, Divide (write and circle after the question)
Step 4: Write an equation
Step 5: Solve the equation (includes student work, such as student-drawn pictures, used to determine correct answer)
Step 6: Prove It! (Student must write complete sentences explaining/justifying the solution to the problem. Academic language [College Talk] is a must to receive credit for this step.) I have the example frames below posted on the white board to model the expectation.

Example: My answer makes sense because I___________ and I ___________. Also, I ________________. Therefore, _________________________________.

When a student finishes writing the Prove It sentences, he then uses the Sockless Puppets (Brain Toy) to read his sentences out loud to himself. When the majority of students are finished writing, I will call out Class! They respond, Yes! I clap my hands together twice quickly and say, Prove it! They clap twice and say, Okay! Students will then turn and Partner 1 stands quickly to begin proving his answer, while Partner 2 mirrors his gestures. Call out, Uh, oh! Switch! Students respond, Uh, oh! Switch! Partner 2 quickly rises and begins speaking as Partner 1 mirrors him.

Reminder…you should be walking among the students during the Teach-Okay to Praise, Prompt, and Leave! You will be able to quickly informally assess student engagement and progress.

At this point, I may Call Out a student to share their Prove It comments with the class:
Teacher: All eyes on Mary! (I point to Mary with arms outstretched.)
Students: All eyes on Mary, Mary, Mary! (Students are turning and pointing to Mary with arms outstretched.)
Mary: Class! Students: Yes! Mary: Mirror words! Students: Mirror Words! Mary will begin to speak in short phrases to allow students to echo and gesture with her. If Mary has difficulty, she has been taught to say, Help me! The class may call out suggestions to her. When she hears one she likes, she calls the class back with Class! They respond, Yes! She proceeds as before. Upon completion, I will ask the class to give her a Ten finger Wooo!

The Explore step of this lesson will require many examples of word problems for students to become fluent with the process. Model!  Model!  Model!  When you feel the majority of your class is proficient, go to the next step of this lesson.

Assessment: QT! (Quick Test)

Create a set of True/False statements about the steps to solving word problems. When you call out QT, students will bury their eyes into their arm on desk and place other hand flat on the desk top. When they agree with your statement, they will raise their thumb up. When they disagree with a statement, they will point their thumb down. Have a student roster handy to note students who answer your statements incorrectly.

Sample Statements:
1. Read the word problem at least two times before solving the problem. (True)
2. The last step to solving a word problem is to circle the Key Numbers. (False)

Critical Thinking

Have students explain why the order of the steps to solve a word problem is necessary by using a Triple Whammy response. Post a sentence frame on the board to encourage participation from all styles of learners.

Example:
You need to solve a word problem using all six steps in order because ________, ________, and ______. First, _______________ because ______________. Second, _______________ because _____________________. Finally, _____________________ because ________________________. In conclusion, you need to solve a word problem using all six steps in order because _______, ________, and __________.

(To see an example of a 5 Step WBT Lesson, watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuuBtwMyB4w)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Universal Homework Model…WBT Style!

School has started!  Your classroom looks great, your students are eager to do their best, and the plan book is humming!  If your district is like mine, you have also been gearing up to address the Homework Policy! 

Whole Brain Teaching offers an amazing Universal Homework Model that can be used as is, or modified to meet your local district requirements.  This model is based on a team effort by the class to complete daily assignments using three levels of participation. 

image

Each level is worth a set amount of Team Stars. These stars accumulate each day to earn minutes of a learning game called Mind Soccer

image

image

image

In my class, when students arrive each morning, they place their daily homework on their desks for me to check in.  As I collect, I count out loud the total number of Stars as I move between desks.  When I come to a student who has completed Two or Three Star homework, I will call out, “Please give ____ a Ten finger Wooo for bringing in Extra Stars for our class today!”  Students quickly shout out “Woooo!” wriggling all ten fingers in the direction of that student!  I know you can picture the look on that student’s face as he reaches out to “grab” that Woooo!  (You may be thinking right now; what about the student who didn’t return any homework that day?  As I move between desks, if I come upon a student with no homework, I keep moving on while making a mental notation to speak to that student privately later.  I DO NOT draw attention to that student!  Depending on the reason for no homework that day, he may have a one minute rehearsal of Rule 4, Make smart choices!, at recess.)

When I have collected all the homework, I note the total Stars for the day on a special line graph on the front board.  Starting on the second day of collection, I write an addition computation on the board of the previous Star total plus the new Star total.  Students are asked to do Mental Math and solve the problem.  They must blow their answer into their hand and hold it up.  When all the cupped hands are raised, we solve the problem out loud so they can check their answer.  There are always lots of cheers, and no one is on the spot for making a mistake!  Everyone participates! The graph is marked with goal lines for earning the extra minutes for Mind Soccer I mentioned earlier. The blue numbers indicate the Extra Minute goals.  I use a different color to plug in the daily totals as we go through the week.  The graph starts clean every Monday.

photo (25)

I have 30 students in my class, so the first opportunity to earn a minute would be at the 60 Star mark.  At the end of each school quarter, I raise the number of Stars needed to earn the minutes.  

You really want to get Team Spirit hyped up, so here is the recommendation from Coach B:

image

This really works!  I am always happily surprised to find students not only eager to volunteer, but also follow through on their commitment the next morning!  You may find as I have, that some of those eagerly volunteering are the ones struggling in class, and/or have not always been consistent in returning daily homework!  Amazing!

Earlier I mentioned how you can adapt this model to fit your requirements.  For my district, that is exactly what I had to do.  Here is the outline that is attached to my 2nd grade team’s weekly homework packet.  It contains the Star outline, and the directions for the Super Speed Read and Math folders that are checked each Friday for progress.

 image

 

When you present the homework plan to your parents, it’s very important for them to understand that extra homework turned in for Stars does not count as Extra Credit!  Many are shocked when their child comes home excited to do more school work just to earn more minutes to play a learning game!  No Treasure Box! 

 

image

My final comment is that this is the best Homework Plan I have ever used in terms of student participation, parent support, and overall results in academic learning! Last year, my students were voluntarily turning in illustrated book reports, Triple Whammy essays, and yes, original poetry!  All for a Star for their TEAM!!

For more detailed information, please visit http://wholebrainteaching.com/  Watch the WBT Webcasts  for Universal Homework: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP9LC2hasKs&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLDB8B4C4DBF1F7346  Mind Soccer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDwqGpal2tI 

Download Free EBooks for SuperSpeed Read and SuperSpeed Math at http://wholebrainteaching.com/ 

If you are interested in a copy of my modified Homework Model, you can email me at NancyStoltenberg@WholeBrainTeaching.com

Monday, August 19, 2013

Opening Day in WBT

The First Minute, Hour, Day in 2nd Grade

Schedule 

This morning’s lesson
1. Class-Yes
2. Rule 1: Follow directions quickly!
3. The Scoreboard
4. Practice Rule 1*
5. Learn student names: Name Game**
6. Practice Rule 1
7. Mirror


This afternoon’s lesson
1. Teach-Okay
2. Five Rules
3. Oral Writing
4. Power Pix
5. Red/Green Writing

I post this schedule on my board for the students to see. This schedule contains
terms that are brand new to them. Not only does it keep the interest of my students up, it keeps me on target throughout the day. For second grade, I choose to cover up the afternoon section of the schedule until after lunch. You may choose to cover up more of the schedule depending on the ability of your class to stay focused on the activity at hand.Standing in front of your class, practice the Class-Yes a few more times…remember to smile, be confident, and be in charge! You are ready to teach Rule 1! Oh, yeah!!


Rule 1: Follow directions quickly!


Teacher: Class! Class!
Students: Yes! Yes!
Teacher: Today, I’m going to teach you the first of our Five Rules.
Rule 1 Follow directions quickly!
(Make gesture)
When I say Rule 1, you say…Follow directions quickly!
Teacher: Rule 1!
Students: Follow directions quickly!
(Some of the students may make the
gesture.)
Teacher: Very nice! Let’s try again, but we need to be faster! Rule 1!
Practice this two to three times.
Teacher: Class!
Students: Yes!
Teacher: Now, let’s practice following directions quickly!
(Quickly give some short commands …Look up…Look down…Raise your hand…etc. Be sure to praise for speed!)
Teacher: Class! Class! Class!
Students: Yes! Yes! Yes!
Teacher: Rule 1 will help us learn and have fun! Raise your hands if you think Rule 1 will be good for our class.
(No matter the number of hands raised, continue on with the following statement.) I agree that Rule 1 will be good for our class!


*Classroom Procedures with 3Peat


Procedures, procedures, procedures! These make or break a class! You know
exactly what it is like to step into a classroom where disorganization is evident just by the look on the teacher’s face! You cannot start teaching productively until you have procedures! So, starting the VERY first hour of the day, teach procedures! I will say that again! Teach procedures! Teach procedures! Teach procedures!


Rule #1, “Follow directions quickly!” has been introduced and practiced several times at this point of the day. Teaching procedures using 3peat, involves the repetition of this rule several times. Setting your expectations is very important that first hour, and day!


We repeatedly use “Seats, Seats, Seats”, “Bodies up, up, up”, and “Lines, lines,
lines” during the day. Any direction that you want a quick student response to,
becomes a 3peat! Here are some examples:


Teacher: Bodies up! Students: bodies up, up, up! Your students should
immediately stand and push in their chairs, if appropriate, and stand straight
without a sound. I model the RIGHT way and the WRONG way to do this. Do
not assume they understand your expectations the first time they hear the
direction! Practice, and use the Scoreboard!

 
Teacher: Line! Students: Line, line, line! Your students move quickly and
orderly to the lineup area without a sound! Use the Scoreboard, and MODEL
again.

Teacher: Seat! Students: Seats, seats, seats! Students must move to sit
down, feet under the desk, hands folded on the desk.


With all of these commands, and any others you choose, practice the right way and wrong way! If you are not consistent with your expectations, your students will cue right into that! Whatever level of response you are willing to accept, that’s what you will get! Make it right the first time, and realize you will be practicing a lot! Another big point: Use the Scoreboard…a lot! You should have a total of at least 10 marks on it by the end of the first hour!


**Name Game


Coach has come up with a fast, efficient, and fun way to learn the names of your
students…all of them! Coach B’s Name Game is not only fantastic for quickly learning your students’ names; it is a great way to set your expectations for getting your 2nd grade students to answer questions with complete sentences!
When you ask, “What is your name?” you will model how you expect them to answer. “My name is …” Since you expect “college talk” in your class this year; you get the ball rolling with the expectation of your students answering in complete sentences the very first day! Play this game with lots of energy! Remember, these are young students with “fragile” attention spans. They’ve only been in your class for an hour! You most likely don’t know who might roll out of their chair at any moment! So to keep engagement high, I use a script similar to this:


Teacher: Oh, class!
Students: Oh, yes!
Teacher: I just LOVE to play games! One of my favorites is the Name Game! It’s really fun! It’s really fast! And, the only things you need to know for this game are your name and how to listen really good! Tell your neighbor, “I can play this game! Piece of pie!””
Students: “I can play this game! Piece of pie!”
Teacher: So this is how we play! I am going to point at someone and say,
“What is your name?” That person will answer back with their name in this sentence. “My name is _____.”
(To help students remember what to say, I have a frame sentence on the board for them to use if needed.)
Teacher: (Point at a student you believe will answer quickly.) What is your name?
Student: My name is Tom.
(If the student does not answer with a complete
sentence, just say, “Complete sentence, please.” Student should try it again.)
Teacher: (Once student answers prompt, always ask the child to repeat their answer again.) Please, say again. (After you have called on 3 to 4
students, tell the students: Repeat after me. You will then point at a few students and say, This is Susan.
Students echo back. This is Susan.

When you come to a student that has been introduced previously, but you can’t remember the student’s name, don’t panic! Just say as you point to that student, What is this student’s name? At least one person in that class will know! Continue on with the game, pointing to a student and asking them, What is her name? This gives the class a chance to practice the names, and it will help you learn the names also! If you forget a name anytime during the day, use your class to help you! Class, what is his name? Your students will help you on the spot! Now you can proudly say at the end of the day, that you know all your students’ names, not just the three names of those three people in trouble on the playground today!)

Wishing everyone a great First Day of the new school year!  Please share some of your experiences with all of us!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

WBT Summer Book Club…Sizzling!!

 

You’re Invited!

Summer, Funtricity, and the WBT Book Club

clip_image002

We have created the first Whole Brain Teachers Book Club! Our highlighted book for discussion is the newest WBT book from Coach B with all the latest and greatest strategies and techniques:

Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids http://goo.gl/gBNAW

clip_image004

 

Where: http://wbtbookclub.blogspot.com/

image

How: Go to this link and become a member! It’s Free! Grab the book on Amazon or Kindle! Start reading and join the posted discussions! Be prepared for some thought-provoking, energizing, moving, and always lively conversations with fellow WBT teachers from around the world!

You can also earn up to 700 Whole Brain Teaching Certification Points with your posts! We'll be exploring, chapter by chapter, our manual, "Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids." Follow these directions ... Step 1: Go to http://wbtbookclub.blogspot.com/
Step 2: Scroll down to "Members" on the left hand side. Click on "Join This Site" and become a member. You will need a Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Open ID, AIM, or Netlog account to do this. Becoming a member is a necessity to use the book club, as you have to be a member to post.
Step 3: Enter your email address into the box on the right hand side of the page (below Members). This will allow you to receive messages regarding new discussion topics and important info.

Hope you can join us!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Power of a Teacher!

The end of a school year brings a range of emotions.  The demands of seemingly endless administrative paperwork, combined with a rise in student behaviors, can make one wish the last day would come a little faster.  On the other side of it, when you reflect back on your students’ growth, you realize how blessed you were to have been a part of it all!

Today, a very special teacher of very special children posted on the WBT forum an amazing reflection on the power of a teacher to make the difference in the long term success of a child.  Marie Everman is a teacher of special needs students in West Virginia.  This year she began to incorporate the philosophy and strategies of Whole Brain Teaching to help her students reach new heights!  Here is her story:

The Genius Ladder
“If a child
can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” Ignacio Estrada
INTRODUCTION
My teaching career as a Special Educator has spanned twenty four years and I have worked with students who have had Special Needs or handicaps including LD, ED, ADHD, ESL, and oral and visual Processing Problems due to trauma, malnutrition, cultural circumstances, and other causes. In my experience, the most difficult subject to teach these children has always been written language. During my career, I have tried numerous written language programs including 4 Square Writing, Traits of Writing, writing prompts, writing journals, sentence strips, photo cards, picture books, story cards, story starters, and others. I have attended many workshops near and far over the years, many specifically designed for children with Learning Disabilities. With the arrival of the digital age, there have been webcasts, podcasts and multiple CD’s and DVD’s that promised to motivate handicapped students and teach them to write cohesive sentences, paragraphs, and essays. Nothing worked! My students were still barely able to compose an interesting simple sentence and were still inconsistent with capitalization and punctuation. I felt frustrated because I had been unable to teach them this vastly important skill.
Then, Teacher Heaven opened up! I discovered Whole Brain Teaching and the Genius Ladder.
DESCRIPTION
The Genius Ladder is an engaging written language plan that uses a cartoon format to teach students to write increasingly longer and more interesting sentences. Then, they build on these sentences to compose paragraphs and essays. Because the pictures and sample sentences are fun, silly, and colorful, they grab and keep students’ attention. The “Blah” sentence is the bottom rung of the ladder, and it is composed of only three words, an article, a noun, and a verb. The “Spicy” sentence is next on the ladder, and it expands the “Blah” sentence by adding an adjective to describe the noun. Next up is the “Extender” sentence which adds an adverb. On the top level is the “Genius” sentence which further extends the sentence by using two adjectives and two adverbs. The final operation needed to complete this effort involves having the students write cohesive paragraphs using their Genius sentences as the main idea. Because it contains over 500 slides, the Genius Ladder pdf contains exactly what my students’ need: lots and lots of oral practice.
METHODS
This school year I am a collaborative teacher in a 3rd grade remedial RLA class, so the general educator and I both claim these students. The first week these children were introduced to the “Blah” sentence and learned to orally substitute the noun and/or the verb. We also used gestures to teach the definition of the sentence as well as the required capitalization and punctuation. The class worked as a whole with us, but also spent much time working with a partner. Then they wrote as many sentences as they could in fifteen minutes on the computer. The computer was chosen because writing on paper was such a laborious task for them, and they had rarely been successful with paper and pencil assignments earlier in their school careers. But the computer was neutral and had no prior associations with failures. The next few weeks the same teaching strategies were followed with the “Spicy,” “Extender,” and “Genius,” sentences. The day that all twenty-two of these children composed, capitalized, and punctuated complete “Genius” sentences pandemonium broke out in the computer lab! The children were out of their chairs hugging and laughing and dancing along with their teachers. The joy on their faces and in our hearts was indescribable. Coach B said teachers who use this program need to have big hankies close. (But I only needed two tissues.) That was my most wonderful day in teaching! Funtricity at its highest.
CRITICAL THINKING
Critical thinking develops slowly in handicapped children, is an ongoing process that is measured in baby steps, and requires repetition in varied ways. Now that the students can construct sentences mechanically, they need to use higher level thinking to enable them to build cohesive paragraphs to form essays. (After mastering Genius sentence composition, we had the students begin using paper and pencil to record their thoughts.) Our strategies are to use lots of teacher prompts, to continue to write orally in whole class and partner situations, and to use gestures and onomatopoeia. What seems to work best is using examples taken from fairy tales so the children can relate their own stories to the characters and events from those stories. Of course, we use real life situations too. One of their assignments was to persuade the principal to lengthen their recess time. Their progress with the paragraphs and essays is increasing, albeit slowly. We all had to learn to walk before we could run. But they have come so far during this year, they get lots of ten finger woos from us.
THE BIG HAIRY TEST
In March, the Mother of All Tests, the online writing portion of the WESTEST, appeared. This requires every student in West Virginia to respond on the computer to an unknown prompt with an essay. In past years, most of the SPED students wrote a couple of sentences and quit or just gave up. But this class spent two hours writing rough drafts and typing in their essays. They insisted that we read their drafts before they were shredded because they were so proud. We won’t know how truly well they did until September when the scores are returned. But each of them is a gigantic success story to us.
“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing”
Enrique Jardiel Poncela
CONCLUSION
The Genius Ladder rises to the summit as the crème de la crème of all writing programs which enables students with Special Needs to master the skills needed for composing sentences, paragraphs, and essays.
Thanks, Coach B and all of those great folks who work with you to make teaching successful and fun for teachers as well as students.

After I read this, I was so inspired and reminded why every day of the school year is not to be taken lightly!  Our students depend on us, even as they are leaving us on that last day of school, to always seek out the best programs and strategies we can to help them realize their full potential!  Thank you, Marie for that extra punch of energy we all need at this special time of year!

For more information on the WBT Genius Ladder, go to http://wholebrainteaching.com/