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. 


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




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:


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.



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! 



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  Watch the WBT Webcasts  for Universal Homework:  Mind Soccer: 

Download Free EBooks for SuperSpeed Read and SuperSpeed Math at 

If you are interested in a copy of my modified Homework Model, you can email me at

Monday, August 19, 2013

Opening Day in WBT

The First Minute, Hour, Day in 2nd Grade


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
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

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


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





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
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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

Friday, April 12, 2013

All eyes on…”Student Engagement!”

Another amazing week! Thank goodness for WBT!

One of our newest strategies refocuses on calling students to share responses in class. While circulating among students during a Teach-Okay set, note students who are highly engaged and sharing great information with their partners. Lean over to that student(s) and say, “Great job! I may be calling on you later to share with the class.”

Call the class back with, “Class!” and wait for their response, “Yes!” Repeat the question from the previous discussion. Now point to a student you spoke to earlier and say, “All eyes on Sam!” Class responds, “All eyes on Sam!” while turning to look at Sam. Sam rises quickly and says, “Class!” Class responds, “Yes!” Sam says, “Mirror, Words!” Class says, “Mirror, Words!”

Sam answers question, using gestures and pausing to allow class to echo and mirror his complete sentence answer. You may encourage him to give additional details and examples by spinning your pointer fingers around each other. You are always looking to encourage critical thinking from your students. When Sam is finished, there should be some major Ten Finger Wooos! At this point, you may decide to call on another student to respond, or proceed on with your 5 Step Lesson.

If you have had the opportunity to try this in your class, please share with us!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

WBT Certification and Facebook!

If you have been thinking about becoming a Certified Whole Brain Instructor/Presenter, or you have already started the process, there couldn’t be a better time to further your Journey!  Oh, yeah! 

A WBT Certification Facebook page has been created just for 2nd Grade educators!      WBT 2nd Grade Certification,  

As the Director of WBT Certification, I am currently working with amazing teachers from around the world who are working on their Certification Journeys!  I would love to offer my personal services to help you also!  Hit the Link above and then hit LIKE!  I can’t wait to hear from you!


Cert 3

Monday, March 11, 2013

In, Over, Under…Complex!

If you are wondering how to elevate your students’ writing, try this new set of sentence frames from Coach B! My class has had the benefit of the Genius Ladder and Triple Whammy writing this year, and has made great strides in writing mini essays and multiple paragraph essays. Last week, after Coach posted these frames, I began a writing session based on the premise that since we were approaching the end of third quarter, students needed to bump up their writing again.

We started with the first frame, “ In ______, the girl laughed.”  Without even filling the blank, we used Teach-Okay to repeat the sentence frame over and over with a partner just to hear the language of the frame as is.  The next step was to introduce a simple noun.  I started with a couple of examples, “In the classroom, the girl laughed.”  “In the car, the girl laughed.”  Using Tag Team, students then worked with partners to fill the frame with as many different nouns as they could.  Their next task was to record at least two examples of the sentences they had created orally with partners.  For students who finished early,  they were asked to read their sentences silently, using  Air Punctuation and gestures while waiting.  When the majority were finished, I did a Teach-Okay and students shared their written sentences with partners again, also adding in the gestures as they spoke.

With the basic frame introduced and practiced, the next step was to move from Blah to Spicy!  Students revisited their previous sentences and orally added adjectives (Spice) to their nouns.  “In the very noisy classroom, the silly girl laughed.”  Tag Team was again utilized to elicit as many reps as possible.  Students were then tasked to write at least two examples of created sentences.

The agenda of the activity became established, so moving on to the next sample frame was simple.  “On ____, the boy cried.”  Starting Blah, and then onto Spicy, students created a wealth of sentences.  After each set, another frame was introduced.  “Beside _____, a dog barked.”

Roughly 45 minutes was spent on this activity.  We concluded the session by doing some student call-outs to hear the variety of sentences created.  (Reminder, when calling on a student to share, that student should stand quickly and call out, “Class!” and the response from the class, “Yes!”  Student speaker then says, “Mirror with words!”  Class echoes that request, “Mirror with words!”and then proceeds to mirror and echo the student speaking.)  Finally, working with their partners, students were asked to prove, using a Because Clapper, how the Spicy sentences were better than the Blah sentences. 

For the next lesson, students will be given a list of prepositions to choose from to create new sentences using other frames recommended on the above list.  Finally, we will take one of our complex sentences and use it as a starter for a mini-essay paragraph.  Let’s see, Genius Ladder, Triple Whammies, and now complex prepositional phrase sentences!  Oh, yeah!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

There’s Gold in those Sentences and Essays…Who Knew?!

Every year in my class, writing instruction begins on the first day of school, and continues everyday for the remainder of the year.  All students need support, encouragement, and very importantly, tools to help them become successful in the art of written communication.  As an educator, your students look to you for all of the above, no matter their age or ability. 

Of the programs I have used through the years, The Writing Game created by Chris Biffle for Whole Brain Teaching, has had amazing results in my classroom.  (The Writing Game is a free EBook download at  Check out the webcasts, #536 and #537, Writing Game Part 1 and Part 2 at the WBT site also.)  Now, to make this program even better, Coach B has introduced  Triple Gold Writing!

Triple Gold Writing begins by teaching your students how to write “one,  perfect, information packed sentence.”  When I introduced my class to this process, I used the scaffolding examples shown in The Triple Gold webcasts at WBT.

I started with lots of oral repetitions to help students understand the task.  As Coach points out, remind students that a Triple Golder is about three separate subjects.  Otherwise, you have created a “Clinker”!

At the beginning, at least ten minutes was spent every morning just in oral practice, incorporating Teach-Okay with Tag Team to keep student engagement high and to generate as many student responses as possible.  The next step was to have students generate written examples while still working with partners.  Both steps allowed for the range of abilities in my classroom to participate more successfully and with less intimidation. Once I felt at least 80% of my class were becoming more fluent in their written responses, I shifted to the next level…the Triple Golder Paragraph!

For the Triple Golder Paragraph,   I switched to  a paragraph framework where each piece of the Triple Golder Sentence became a sentence on its own.  This step was helped by the fact that my students had been working on Genius Ladder paragraphs for some time.  Using the pattern below, students were able to see a familiar pattern, but with new directions.

After several days of practice using this frame, I then required this pattern as the standard  for daily writing.   As a result,  the Triple Golder Paragraph soon became an automatic response to daily writing tasks. 

But as you may know, Coach B couldn’t stop with just a paragraph!  New goal…Triple Golder Essay!  First, I told my students that Coach B had just sent us a new challenge in our writing, but that he wasn’t quite sure if we were up to it!  Of course, you can picture the reaction from the class!  They were not stepping back…bring it on!  When I showed them the essay pattern followed by examples, the light bulbs went LED!!  They realized the new frame was a continued pattern from the Triple Golder Paragraph!  Here is Coach’s diagram I posted on my front board as a guide for my students.

We took the sample below and began walking through the steps orally.  I then took one of our original Triple Golder Sentences, and slipped it in for further oral practice. 

The written essays then started taking shape.  Note, the frame did not remind them to indent with each new paragraph, so that was a mechanic many had to work on.  For the Adder sentences in each paragraph, students used a Because Clapper and a For example sentence to demonstrate critical thinking in their sentence choices.

Learning to write is not easy, but mastery can best be achieved through daily practice in a safe, supportive environment.  Here’s how Coach B sums it up:
I am including some examples of my students’ essays to give you a feel of what you might expect from 2nd graders.

For more information on Triple Gold Writing, check out the free webcasts at   I look forward to hearing about your “gold” experiences!