Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Critical Thinking Journey through WBT

My  journey in WBT has been such a learning experience for me so far. I have had to retrain my brain completely from the way I used to think about teaching. I discovered WBT from several of the teaching blogs that I follow and kept wondering what all the hype was about with this style of learning. I checked out the WBT website at the beginning of the summer, but with so many Pinterest projects on my to-do list, I put off discovering more about this style of learning.

In July, I was back from all of my summer vacations and exhausted the possibilities of the new lens I just bought for my camera. I was finally ready to learn. I decided to dive back into WBT to see what it was. I was hooked! I began by watching several YouTube videos teachers posted of WBT in their classroom. I furiously took notes and wrote down everything they did or said. These ideas were fantastic!

After the class videos, I began reading the articles in the Levels section and Goodies section of the WBT website. Suddenly all of the videos were beginning to click even more. I liked what I saw in the videos, but now I was beginning to understand why they worked so well with students. I was beginning to see how the pieces fit together to activate the whole brain.

Then, I discovered the archived webcast videos! I cannot get enough of these videos. I have watched many of them and learned so much, although I know there is still so much for me to learn. Because this has changed the way I have thought about teaching so much, I decided to start this blog and work toward WBT certification.

Because it is the summer and I do not have any students right now, I am just soaking in as much as I can of this learning process. My goal is to continue to learn as much as I can before teachers go back to school. (I only have one week left! Oh, why didn't I start sooner!?)  I want to begin WBT rituals and routines with my first graders beginning the first day.

Once I have taught the rituals and routines for my students, I plan to use this blog to post WBT things that I have created to share with others as well as videos of my class in action. My goal is to divide this blog into two pieces: the learning and the application.

I know this post didn't really share any new learning, but I feel that I have grown so much and wanted to reflect on my journey with you so far. If you haven't started exploring the website and learning about WBT, get started! You will love what you find!

Certification Webcast: Prove It! 506 & State Test Prep 521

After learning a little about Prove It through the 5 Step Lesson webcast, I was very excited to learn more about the Prove It strategy and how to turn it into a game.

Numbers Tracing Clip ArtRewrite test questions (or use released questions) using the most common errors students make as answers. If you use the released questions, make sure all of the answers are things a student would say.

Display the question for all to see. Have students explain how to solve (HTS) the problem. Use the process of elimination (POE). The class can earn a point for excellent effort and accurate answers. The points will be cashed in for a special prize (extra time playing Mind Soccer, etc. not candy!)

All of this work is recorded on student whiteboards. On the top, students write HTS and leave room to write. On the bottom, they write the letters A-D and leave space after each. Students explain their thinking on their whiteboard. You can use many variations in the top section to keep the game fresh.

This is great for math, language arts, and reading comprehension. For example, in reading comprehension there are three ways Coach B. suggests to solve these problems: answer now (answer the question without going back into the passage), find and compare (compare answers to parts in the passage), and read again (reread the passage). Since there are three types of questions, we should teach them how to solve all three types!

Numbers Tracing Clip ArtNow, let's move onto the game. As with all WBT games, the only rule is to keep the ref happy! Make a 3 column chart on the board. Label the columns effort, answer, penalties. Then write the letters A-D on the bottom of the chart in the lower right corner.

-Penalty points are for back talk and being a bad sport.

-Effort points are given for working hard, however you define it. Big gestures, high energy, on-task discussion, using prop, etc. This has nothing to do with the correct answer. They can earn between 1-3 points at a time in this category.

-Answer points are a little more complex. After students have recorded their work on their whiteboard, play a quick round of QT. On top of the A-D that you have written on the bottom of the scoreboard, make a vertical line in a corresponding length to the number of students who chose that letter. If most students chose A, there will be a long vertical line over A. If 2 students chose B, there will be a very short vertical line over B, etc.

Cover the diagram you have made so students can't see. Reveal dramatically. If every child or some children got the right answer, award between 1-3 points. Keep the scoring flexible each time. 10-20 points should be the maximum number of points students should score per day.

On to the next webcast...

Test Clip ArtI will admit that I was not very excited to watch the State Test Prep webcast before I started. I have taught in "accountable grades" before teaching in first. So much of the time spent is on preparing students for the test. All you hear is test, test, test and it is easy to get burnt out quickly. This webcast, however energized me in the Test Prep category.

There are three "big ideas" that go with this strategy and they are:

1. Daily Tests: Make sure the test has distractors or wrong answers that are very close to the right answer. Work in grade level teams to make good question banks. Start with about 10 minutes per day in the second week of school. Work up to about 1 hour.

2. Visible Behavior: Don't just tell students to read carefully, give them a visible behavior they can do to show this. Instead, have them underline important things and double underline really important things.

3. Rewards: Super Improver stars for improving in different categories.

Here are some other ideas and tips that I have learned:

1. Have students make a "Personal Neatness Model" where they print their neatest model. Every time they write, they need to try to write neater than their model. It keeps setting the bar higher and higher at their own level of ability. Love this!

2. You can practice reading comprehension questions with students without them reading the passages. Have them just read the question type and share what type of strategy they would use with that type of problem. What a time saver!

3.  There is an app coming out for the iPad and iPhone that is a Scoreboard. I can't wait to download this one!

Certification Webcast: Mind Soccer 507 & 5 Step Lesson Template 505

Football Ball Clip ArtAre you ready for a little Mind Soccer? Mind Soccer is an academic review game that is a lot of fun! The goal of the game is for kids to work hard at learning in order to get to play the game. **Warning: This game is VERY LOUD!**

How do you play?
Divide your class into two teams. Create a scoreboard on the board. A scoreboard consists of one long horizontal line with vertical lines or "hash marks" evenly spaced throughout. Place your eraser at the center vertical line. This is the soccer ball and it is beginning at mid field. (I am picturing a beautiful SmartNotebook file for this!)

What questions do you use?
Any short answer questions. At the beginning of first grade, they might be something like:
-What is a word that has a /s/ sound at the beginning?
-The /s/ sound at the end?
Whistle Clip Art-What part of speech names a person?
-What do we do to all proper nouns?
-What was the setting of ___ book? Who were the main characters?
-What do all living things have?

You will want to create a long list of 50-60 questions, because this game is very fast-paced. 

Let's begin!
Goal Clip ArtEach team needs a captain. Flip a coin to see who goes first. Fire questions at the winning team. You want their answers to be loud, fast, and accurate. The louder the answer, the farther the ball is kicked. (Move the eraser toward their goal.) When there is a wrong answer or one that is too slow, yell "steal" and the other team gets the ball.

Students can cheer when their team gets a point and groan when their team doesn't. Can you picture how excited your students will be to play this game? Oh my goodness! Keep the game close, so students stay excited and motivated. There is only one rule to this game: Keep the Ref happy! Love it!

-If you have complaining or eye rolling, you can move the ball closer to the other team's goal as a penalty.
-Use a timer.
-Use as a long term reward on Friday.
-Kids can earn a set of stars on the board. Once they earn a certain number, they get to play.
-"Free Ball" means the question is open to either team.
-Give the students a topic like "plants" and students shout out everything they can with that topic.
-"Shoot Out" means having 5 members from one team go against the team captain of the other team. Whoever is first and right wins.
-Add "Positive Trash Talk"

The possibilities and variations for this game are endless. I am even thinking about getting a button down referee shirt and penalty flag to go with my whistle. For a sample video of Mind Soccer, check out this YouTube clip!

Open Binder Clip Art
Now, let's move onto the 5 Step Lesson Template. This is a great organizational tool and is very easy to create and use. Follow these simple steps:

1. Ask a question. "What's an author?" Teach-Okay

2. Give an answer with a gesture. "A person who writes a book" (As miming writing) Teach-Okay

3. Expand the answer with details and examples. "Here are some authors we have learned about this year. They can write fiction or nonfiction..." Teach-Okay periodically.

4. Test for comprehension. There are three steps you can use:

-Yes-No Way: Ask a question about a concept. If the answer is "yes," your students answer "yes" and pump one arm. If the answer is no, students touch their head with both hands and say "no way" as they pull them away. "Is an author someone who sings a story?" If 90% of your students answer these questions correctly, move on to QT. If not, reteach.  

-QT: Quick Test. When you say, "QT," students cover their eyes with one hand. If the statement you make is true, they give you a thumbs up with the other hand. If the statement is not true, a thumbs down. If 90% get it right, move on. If not, reteach.  Make the questions difficult because it is your best measure.

-Prove It! Show students a multiple choice question on a projector. Have students write a statement to prove the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answer is incorrect. This will be a little more challenging the beginning of first grade because students are just learning to write, but it can definitely be done in smaller increments. They can do this on their whiteboards. I have a class set of CPS Clickers that would be perfect for this as well.

5. Employ critical thinking skills (usually writing). This could look a lot of different ways. Students could write a letter to someone, write their own Prove It questions, compare and contrast, etc. These should be open ended tasks."What is alike and different about an author and an illustrator?"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Certification Webcast: Power Pix 529 & Brain Toys 1 508

Presentation Clip ArtPower Pix and Brain Toys are the subjects of today's two webcasts. These are both new to me as well, so another exciting morning of new learning for me! (I am really getting antsy to start the school year. My Professional Development Notes notebook is brimming with things to try! I love spending my summer learning!)

Power Pix are downloads that teach Common Core knowledge. (Yes, please!) These resources use visual and motor cues to teach abstract concepts. Each card shows a picture and a word.

Great Features:
-The words are color coded by syllables.
-A blue border means language arts, a red border means math.
-There are gestures to go with each card.
-There is a definition to go with each card.
-There is a lesson to go with each card.

Everything you need is on the front of the card. These cards are based on the Common Core Standards. Yea! There is a set for each primary grade and a higher set for older kids. These cards help you start with the concrete and build up to generalizations.

Critical Thinking Connection:
Have students use the words in a sentence and use the because clapper. Have students write a letter to someone to explain the concept. Have students compare and contrast two of the concepts.

The best news, as with all WBT products, they are free! You can find your first grade Power Pix cards here: Power Pix

Sockpuppetpl Clip ArtNow, onto some great new learning about Brain Toys! Brain Toys are gestures students use to develop critical thinking skills and make lessons more fun! Brain Toys are going to be used to develop the CT skills. The focus for this webcast was on the Air Whiteboard, Sockless Hand Puppets, and Props. These strategies get students from being passive listeners to active learners!

1. Air Whiteboard: Students simply make a whiteboard in the air to illustrate a teacher's point. Have students make the whiteboard with a gesture outlining the board. They can even make sure the corner is squeaky clean with a little air circle. The uses for this whiteboard are limitless.

In the beginning of the year, I can see using this strategy for all types of math and reading connections. The kids are going to love this because they are showing their learning, but doing it in a fun way that uses their imagination. It engages the brain's visual and motor cortex. Also, making large gestures can wake up the class if they are sleepy. (Perfect for that after lunch slump!)

2. Sockless Hand Puppet: Students pick up their hands and make a handpuppet without the sock. You can use them for anything from summarizing a story to discussing letters and sounds. This is a very silly strategy that students are going to love. (You can even use it with funny voices to show the right and wrong way to follow procedures in the classroom.)

3. Props: Props can be anything. Your students can turn something as simple as a pencil into a prop like a timeline (or anything you can imagine) in order to help with the learning. Another great, free, easy way to get students engaged!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Certification Webcast: Genius Ladder 504 & Oral Writing 502

This is another new set of learning webcasts for me. Today, I learned more about the Genius Ladder and Oral Writing. (I think I am most excited about the proofreading within the Genius Ladder section! Why didn't I think of that?)

What is the Genius Ladder?

The Genius Ladder is a technique used to get students to write complex topic sentences and tightly focused paragraphs.  Let's begin with how the ladder works. On the bottom rung are the words "blah sentence," the next rung "spicy sentence," the next "extender sentence," and finally the top rung "genius paragraph."

Write a simple sentence next to the bla rung on the ladder. (Typically an article, noun, verb.) For example, The boy sits. Erase the noun and replace it with a blank. Have students replace the noun in the sentence. We want students to see the power and flexibility of our language.

As we move up the next rung, we begin to add some spice to the sentence. For example, The wimpy boy sits. Erase the adjective and have students add their own word. Now, we want to add the extender. All we are doing here is adding additional words. For example, The wimpy boy sits because he is tired.  This sentence now becomes the topic sentence for a paragraph.

Red Pen Clip ArtTwo kinds of proofreading are also taken into consideration with this strategy.

1. Red/Green Dot Checking: Write one feature of what you will be checking on the board. In first grade, this might be spacing in between words. As you walk around the room, place a red mark next to bad spacing and a green mark by good spacing. Make sure each student has one mark of each color on his or her paper. This makes differentiated proof reading! That is awesome!

Students get a proof reading list. When a student gets a red dot for something, they put a tally mark on their proof reading sheet. It will let you know at a glance what students will need extra support with.

2. Paperclip Proofreading: When it is time for students to proofread on their own, give them a paperclip. It should be clipped onto their proofreading list. Go down the list with students. Students tap the item in their writing that the paperclip is pointing to. Once they have done that, move on to the next item on the list.

Tell me more about Oral Writing!
Oral writing helps make writing easier by teaching students to talk how we want them to write. Here are some steps I will use to make this work in my first grade classroom.

Little Boy Clip Art1. Teach students that every question you ask must be answered with a complete sentence. Consistently. If a student doesn't answer in a complete sentence, use a prompt. Place your hand behind your ear and say, "I didn't hear your complete sentence."

2. Teach students to add a detailed sentence to their sentence. The oral prompt is "give me more." Place your pointer fingers together and move them around in a circle."

3. Teach students to add a conclusion. The cue is to wave one hand above the other like you are saying "safe" to a baseball play. Teach them to say things like "in conclusion," or "to sum up."

4. Teach students "air punctuation" to punctuate their sentences. For example, for a period, make a sound like a car breaking. EErrr! "When you make it physical, you make it visual." Coach B.

5. To show a capital letter, put one hand on top of the other. Move the top hand up toward the ceiling to represent the letter getting bigger.

To boost the critical thinking aspect with students, have them clap every time they say "because" to push students more. Whatever you want in writing, think up a gesture for it and have kids practice it. It helps retrain the brain! Oral writing is a great pre-writing exercise as well. The possibilities are endless!

Certification Webcast: Super Improvers Wall 503 & Practice Cards 523

Click to viewI am so excited about these two webcasts because they are both new learning for me! I haven't seen any information yet about the Super Improvers Wall and Practice Cards, so I can't wait to share all of this with you!

Let's begin with the Super Improvers Wall. This wall rewards students individually for any classroom activity. This is not a place for students to compete against each other, but against themselves. You want to create a growth mindset with students. "The only fair race is the one you run against yourself." Coach B.

Set Up
To make this wall, you simply put every student's name on the wall, leaving blank space after their name. Include a key with a color code beside the wall. You will need 10 colors. (Students will be earning stars. As they earn 10 stars, they will get to change the color of their name.)

How does it work?
When you see huge improvement in an area by a student, put a star by that student's name. Have the rest of the class do a quick cheer for that student. (It can be a reward for anything. For example, finding the right page quickly when it usually takes a long time.) Once students have gotten the hang of earning stars, post goals for the students on the board. Goals can change as often as you would like.

As stated above, students get a star for improving. Once they have earned 10 stars, their name is put in the next color on the color key and they begin collecting stars again. Critical thinking update: Can you say place value practice for first graders!? Groups of ten and students move up a color on the color key. This gets them thinking in groups of ten and counting how many more until they have another group of ten. LOVE IT!

After students have advanced several color areas, take pictures of the kids making silly faces. Post their photo on the wall, facing the wall so no one can see the picture. As a bonus, 5 stars are needed in order to turn their picture around. You can obviously change this any way that works for you. Critical thinking update: You can make the photo go face down at 45, so that in 5 more stars it will be turned over at 50. What is so special about 50? Halfway to 100! There's another math benchmark!

Here are a few other ideas to spice it up a little:
1. Give the color levels different names. I have a Dr. Seuss theme this year, so I am probably going to name the levels after Dr. Seuss books or maybe even characters. (Horton, Cat in the Hat, etc.) You want them to have an emotional/visual attachment to the colors.
2. Give students some leadership privileges when they reach certain levels.
3. Add photograph opportunities more often throughout the chart.

Click to viewPractice Cards are another new component of WBT I am very excited to learn more about.This is an extension of the scoreboard. The scoreboard is for the whole class, practice cards are for individual behavior. 

Set Up
Set up a pocket chart. Each child gets a pocket with a number. Sounds pretty familiar to the old flip-card system so far, doesn't it? Here is where we switch it up. Have a stack of white, purple, and green practice cards ready. To make the cards, print the words "Rule 1" on several of each color, "Rule 2," etc. 

How does it work?
Use white cards only to start out. If students are struggling with a rule, place a white "Rule 1" card (or whatever rule is needed) in their pocket chart. The pocket is going to work as your memory device. There are card penalties for this section. If a student gets a white card, he or she has to spend 2 minutes at lunch or recess practicing the rule with the gestures. The student must practice the gesture over and over again. If one arm gets tired, move to the other arm.

A note then goes home informing parents about the rule that needs practice. If the note comes back home from a parent signed, remove the card. If it doesn't come back signed, leave the note in one more day. If you know the note will not get signed at home, assign them an on-campus parent (an adult that can have a relationship with that child and help him or her be accountable). No student ever receives more than 2 white cards per day.

After several weeks, introduce the purple cards. Purple cards are given to reward for excellent behavior. A note goes home to inform parents how well their child is doing. Students can obviously not get a white and purple card note home in the same day.The purple card can cancel out a white card on the chart.

After many, many weeks, introduce green cards. These are cards for self-monitoring positive behavior. This is for a student who needs to practice in the situation in the classroom. Every time the student follows the rule, he gets to put a tally mark on the green card.Check the card at the end of the day. Don't reward with candy or food incentives.

I can't wait to find a wall to start implementing these strategies!

Certification Webcast: Teach-Okay 516 & Scoreboard 517

"Electrify your brain with learning!" -Coach B.

Today's "Pearls of Wisdom" come from two more Webcast training videos: Teach-Okay and Scoreboard. These videos are great for pushing my learning to the next level. Reading all of the introductory information through the WBT website has been a great introduction for me. These Webcasts have been a great stretch to take the basics to the next level and to learn the next steps for myself with WBT in my classroom! Now, on to the learning...

If you are unfamiliar with the Teach-Okay strategy, check out my original blog post first. This Webinar, Teach-Okay got us started as the "whole brain activator."

One of the things that I really like about this strategy is its ability to be used as a continual comprehension assessment. As students are teaching one another, the job of the teacher is not to sit in her teacher chair and watch each student teach his or her partner, it is to circulate and listen to partners teaching. As teachers, we should travel to all of our students throughout the teaching time. Chris suggests traveling to the "borderline" kids most often because they might or might not understand it.

Gestures are important! Why? Because they activate the motor cortex, the brain's most powerful learning station. Memories are formed by repetition. We need students to switch their brains on and be ready to learn. So many portions of our brain are turned on and ready to learn by Teach-Okay.

There are three types of gestures we can use:
1. Casual Gestures: These are simply gestures we use when we talk with our hands.
2. Graphic Gestures: These are gestures we use to describe a process. For example, introduction (hold hands up top), conclusion (hold hands down at the bottom.)
3. Memory Gestures: Gestures that stand for something.We want to link these to our state standards. For example, holding your hands parallel to mimic an equal sign.

Our short term memory can only hold 3-7 items in it at a time. To move things to long term memory, we need repetition and activation of different brain areas. As we all know, there is very little repetition in lecture teaching. As we have our students use Teach-Okay more and more, they are hearing and saying the learning more and more. Long term memory, check!

Another foundation of WBT is leadership training. Teaching students how to lead different activities like Teach-Okay give the leadership opportunities to students. Let the students choose the signal to let the learning begin. Instead of clapping twice, let the students choose something else to do before they say teach. "On-task" laughter is great!

Critical thinking can also be incorporated very seamlessly into this strategy by asking students a question to discuss with their partner. Here are some first grade critical thinking question examples:
1. How are these two versions of the story The Gingerbread boy alike? How are they different?
2. Our new vocabulary word for today is "impossible." Use the word impossible in three different sentences.
3. Describe what you think the author included in her illustration on the next page before I show you.
4. If we added another character to this book, who should we add and why?

The second webcast focused on more with the scoreboard. This was another webinar packed with ways to stretch my learning in the classroom. The scoreboard becomes the motivator to get kids excited and on the edge of their seats to learn. Who doesn't want that in their classroom?

One thing Coach B. suggested was to begin the scoreboard with no reward in the end. Just play with the smiley and frowny faces alone. If you do use rewards, make sure they are not physical like candy. Also, keep the rewards small because the smaller the reward, the more precious it is. (For example, one minute extra of recess time.) Another great variation is to rename the categories. Instead of using a smiley and frowny, rename them to something fun.

Another great idea Coach B. discussed was the use of a stopwatch. Time students to see how long you can go without a student calling out. Keep track of that time. (I can see great tie ins with the Olympics currently going on! Having students track and compare their scores and try to beat our class "world record" would be a great critical thinking addition to get students to make comparisons and set goals. )

With a "Mighty Oh Yeah," I am on my way to WBT heaven!