Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back To School Night with WBT

Every year, within a few days of school starting, most schools hold the traditional Back To School Night. Parents come to meet their child’s teacher and hear an overview of the new school year. At my school, there are often many children in attendance with their parents. This is usually because of child care, and sometimes because the child is the translator for the parent.

My 2nd grade team of four teachers started making this event a team presentation a few years ago, with all our parents in attendance in the same room. Our goals have been to educate the parents to grade level expectations, district and state mandates, and general school information.

Three years ago, Whole Brain Teaching entered the second grade classrooms of my school! Back To School Night has not looked the same since! Parents come in prepared for a “typical” listen to a short teacher spiel, grab a handout, and move onto the sibling’s classroom talk! They’ve just come from work, soccer practice, etc. Needless to say, they are weary and just want to check off the yearly “obligation box”!

Now, to better illustrate what’s coming, I need to back up to the first day of school. If this is the first time to my blog, please read the post prior to this one, where I describe introducing students to Whole Brain Teaching. By the time our school hosts Back To School night, our students have had five full days of instruction, rules, and procedures using WBT techniques. On the day of the parent event, each of the team teachers explains to her students that if they attend that evening, they might be called on to demonstrate what they have been doing in school so far.

Picture a packed cafeteria of parents, grandparents, children, siblings and the general loud echoes of voices bouncing off the bare walls.

“Class! Class!” “Yes! Yes!” “Classity, class!” “Yesity, yes!”

The 2nd grade students’ voices swell in unison, like a well oiled machine, from every corner in the room! And then there is silence! Oh, yeah! Parents are stunned, and students are beaming!

“Bodies, up!” “Bodies, up! Up! Up!” Every 2nd grade student is now standing! You can still hear a pin drop! “Line!” “Line! Line! Line!” The students make their way from their positions near family to the front of the room!

With almost 80 students now standing up front facing the audience, we start the presentation of the 5 Rules! What a chorus line! And then, the roar of applause and whistles fill the room! What a moment of celebration!

“Seat!” “Seat! Seat! Seat!” The students quickly and quietly return to their places in the audience. Let the teacher presentation begin!

The power of that quick student performance cemented the strength of the second grade team by showing the parents that our teachers and students, and now parents, will work as a team to reach the same goal…a fantastic education for the children based on state, district, and school site standards and expectations!

Each teacher then proceeds to explain a portion of the 2nd grade plan, and the use of Whole Brain Teaching to reinforce and individualize the instruction for each child. Not one parent left the assembly early, and the handouts were sought out!

The school year has now officially begun! First Hour! First Day! First Parent Team Meeting! It’s going to be a great year! No “bench warmers” in this crowd! Oh, yeah!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

And the New Year Begins…!

This is my third year starting the school year with WBT, but this has to be the best one ever! I have an amazing group of 2nd graders, who very eagerly responded to my first direction of the day, “When I say Class, you say Yes! Class!” “Yes!” “However I say Class, you say Yes. Classity Class!” “Yesity Yes!” Love, love, love that command! It never fails to get your group together!

Coach B recently presented webcasts on the First Hour and the First Day. (See the WBT Video Library #532 and #533) Using the suggested schedule for the day, I organized my presentation accordingly. I loved the flexibility it gave me to adjust it to my school’s schedule that day too!

First Day Schedule

I posted this list on my board for the students to see as they walked in. Not only did the schedule keep me on target throughout the day, it kept the interest of my students up. This schedule contained terms that were brand new to them. They quickly found that just learning a rule also required participation with gestures and lots of repetition!

Rule #1, “Follow directions quickly!” was introduced and practiced several times then, and often through the day. Teaching procedures using 3peat, involved the repetition of this rule several times. Setting your expectations is very important that first hour and day! We repeatedly used “Seats, Seats, Seats”, “Bodies up, up, up”, and “Lines, lines, lines” during the day.

Three peat

By introducing the Scoreboard, and emphasizing that the students in my class work as a team to support each other, student participation went even higher! Smilies were not easily given, which made students work very hard to earn them. They had to learn how to “wait for it” before giving a quick clap of hands with an, “Oh, yeah!” after I made the tally mark. When I gave a Frownie, “Hug those ears!” meant a very quick “Uh!”, as they raised their shoulders up to their ears. Note, Smilies can be earned as a result of even one student’s special efforts, but a Frownie may only be given for a Team mistake, not an individual error.

Coach B’s new Name Game was not only fantastic for learning my students’ names quickly, it was a great way to set my expectations for getting students to answer questions with complete sentences!

Name Game

When I asked, “What is your name?”, I modeled how I expected them to answer. “My name is …” Since I expect “college talk” in my class this year, we get the ball rolling with the expectation of answering in complete sentences the first day!

After lunch, we worked on the other 4 Rules, and I introduced Teach/Okay and then Mirror to model and reinforce the new procedures. Modeling the right and wrong way is especially important to demonstrate your expectations also! With these “tools” in their back pockets it was time for a Fun Burst!

fun Burst 2

Fun Burst script

Fun Burst Warning

The Fun Burst in the afternoon was especially effective in helping students release some energy, while also keeping the learning mode intact! As Coach B states in the slide above, the Class/Yes is a must for instant control!

blah Oral writing

Oral Writing was the finale of the day. We worked on Blah and Spicy sentences! I used a frame sentence, “The dog is big.” Students, working with their partner, came up with as many words as they could to replace dog. I was able to incorporate Teach/Okay into this activity since they had used it earlier with the rules. For Spicy, we switched to, “The brown dog is nice.” Again, students worked with their partner to replace the word brown with as many words as they could. Working with a partner encourages participation from everyone, especially children who are not comfortable sharing with the whole class yet.

“Backpacks! Backpacks! Backpacks!” Off to waiting parents with lots of experiences to share about the first day! Oh, yeah!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Prep Week…WBT Style!

On Monday, the school year began with the presentation of the Keys to The Classroom! Well, actually, it was just a matter of signing a district form and getting my keys back from our awesome secretary! This is my 27th Key Signing! I have to say, no matter what number it is, the same feelings of anticipation and excitement swelled up this year as they did so many years ago!

Turn the key, step in, and voila!

room prep

The “blank canvas” of the classroom can be a little daunting at first! Where to begin?! That “take a deep breath” feeling eased up a lot 3 years ago when I made the plunge into Whole Brain Teaching! Yes, I still haunt the local teacher store, dollar store, etc. for great deals on supplies. I joined TPT and TN this year too! The big difference now is that my walls aren’t just meant for eye-catching posters and decorator apples!

The elements of a WBT classroom allow for the creative style of individual teachers, but the five most important elements that go up first are the Super Improvers Wall, the Power Pix grid wall, the Genius Ladder, the 5 Rules, and the Scoreboard.

Super Improvers Wall



The Super Improvers Wall is the “heart” of my room! There are so many great tools in WBT for classroom management, and the Super Improvers Wall is an amazing way to reach ALL students! I remind them that the only person they are competing with is themself, and I will be watching to see how each is growing and improving. There are 10 levels, each labeled with a different dinosaur. The T-rex is the ultimate level, of course! Check out the Video Library #503 at WBT for a more detailed explanation.

Power Pix Grid Wall


The Power Pix grid wall is one of the most interactive tools in my classroom! It is a work in progress as students are taught core standards. This will be used daily to ensure all students are not only introduced to the standards, but are able to internalize them using critical thinking skills. View #529 in the WBT Video Library, and see my previous post regarding Power Pix.

The Genius Ladder


The Genius Ladder is a model for creating oral and written language. Students work from the bottom of the ladder, simpler sentences, to the top of the ladder, a paragraph. Check out The Writing Game, a free Ebook at WBT and #504 in the WBT Video Library

The 5 Rules


The 5 Rules are the “cover all your bases” rules! These rules are practiced orally with gestures EVERY day! Initially, I practice them at least three times a day. A complete set may be purchased at the WBT store. Go to the WBT Video Library #515 for information.

The Scoreboard


The Scoreboard is the Motivator in WBT! It is used to reinforce positive behavior throughout the day in an energetic and fun environment! My scoreboard is drawn on my whiteboard very simply each day. See the WBT Video Library #517.

Desk Arrangement


With my five WBT elements in place, I move to desk arrangement. I have found that keeping my desks in groups of two facilitates Teach/Okay. Students do not have to decide partners, and they have already been told if they are a One or a Two. This placement also allows me to move between students easily while they teach one another.

Now, on to the posters and decorator apples! Oh yeah! To be continued…