Saturday, July 28, 2012

Teaching Time!

We have made it through getting student's attention with Class-Yes and defining the classroom rules. Now it's time to teach! WBT has several research-based strategies for teaching that I cannot wait to try. These are: Teach-Ok, Hands and Eyes, Mirror, and Switch!

How do they work?
Let's begin with Teach-Ok. In this technique, students are activating the seeing, saying, hearing, and doing parts of their brain. For this activity, everyone has a partner. The teacher's job is to present a small amount of information, making sure to use words and gestures. Then, the teacher claps two times and says "teach." The students will then clap two times and say, "ok" as they turn to teach their partner. While the students are teaching, the teacher is walking around to monitor.

If you notice that one student in the pair is doing all of the talking (which happens a lot in younger grades), you can implement the Switch! technique. The teacher says "Switch" and the students parrot "Switch!" before switching speakers. This makes sure both partners have a turn talking and gesturing.

Hands and Eyes is another simple approach to making sure students are ready to learn. I used to call this the "ready position." It is a follow up to Class-Yes. The teacher says "Hands and Eyes" and the students repeat "Hands and Eyes" while folding their hands in their lap and looking at you.

Finally, the Mirror technique is another teaching technique to get students involved in learning. The teacher says "Mirror" and the students respond "Mirror." As you are gesturing, the students mirror your gestures.

What does the research say?
For the activities above, four brain activities are involved, seeing (visual cortex), saying (Broca’s area), hearing (auditory cortex) and doing (motor cortex).  Keeping a high level of energy throughout keeps students motivated and excited to learn.

What does this mean for first grade?
Using these consistent strategies lets students know what to expect and keys them in for learning time. I have used a lot of "shoulder partners" and "turn and talk" moments in my classroom. The kids love having that time to share. I never thought of having them repeat the learning as well. I think this will help engage my students and solidify the concepts they are learning throughout my teaching time.

Certification Webcast: Orientation 530 & Class-Yes 514

"The more we complain, the steeper the mountain becomes." -Coach B.

Last night, I participated in archived Webcasts (Orientation 530 & Class-Yes 514) from Coach B. of Whole Brain Teaching. I am so excited and motivated to climb the mountain to become a WBT Board Certified Instructor. From what I have seen of the program and the videos offered online, this program will do great things for my students!

Coach B. discussed the mountain of teaching. He said that as we are climbing the mountain, there are three ways you can respond when things get tough. You can keep climbing, get off the mountain, or do the foolish thing and keep climbing the mountain while you tell yourself you can't do it. It takes perseverance and determination, but I know that I have proved many times that I can keep climbing.

Coach B.'s orientation reminded me of a quote by author and motivational speaker Denis Waitley. "Winners take time to relish their work, knowing that scaling the mountain is what makes the view from the top so exhilarating."  Celebrating those little victories along the way, those little moments that we create, make the climb all worth it in the end. Being a lifelong learner definitely brings with it an exhilarating view.

More on Class-Yes
If you are unfamiliar with Class-Yes techniques, read this original post first. This Webcast was a great extension of the Class-Yes learning I have previously done. It went a little more in depth with some different variations to the Class-Yess process and I gained a few more pearls of wisdom to add to my Class-Yes strategies.

One pearl of wisdom was a variation I really liked called the Core Knowledge response. Instead of just sharing the "Class" and "Yes" back and forth with students, another way to get their attention is to ask a question that they all respond with an answer to. In first grade, this might sound something like, "What number comes just before 99" and the response, "The number that comes just before 99 is 98." This is a great variation for "habituation" or when students are so used to a technique, that they do not respond to it anymore. (Don't forget to use variations in pitch and speed as well.)

Another pearl (although this one was more of a reinforcement) was the need for hand gestures. Students cannot tune out the talking with the hand gestures, whether they are mirroring you or teaching a partner. The motor cortex is the most important area of the brain for memory and using gestures activates it!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Classroom Rules and Scoreboard

With every classroom community comes a set of rules. Along with trying every form of attention signal, I think I've also tried every variation of classroom rules. I like these rules because they are simple, clear, and easy for my young students to remember. They also go hand-in-hand with a great motivation component, the scoreboard.

How Does it Work?
There are five simple rules to be taught. Each rule has a set of gestures to follow to help students remember the rule. The rules are as follows:
1. Follow directions quickly.
2. Raise your hand for permission to speak.
3. Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat.
4. Make smart choices.
5. Keep your dear teacher happy.

If you are looking for adorable versions of these rules, search Teachers Pay Teachers. One of my favorites is a set by Gypsy Teacher (free) of chevron rules. Miss Nelson has a cute (free) set of polka dot ones as well. (Between Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest, it's easy to see where my summer has gone...)

As any experienced teacher knows, the rules cannot be introduced and forgotten. Students need plenty of practice. I typically practice them at least twice a day: first thing in the morning, then after lunch. Just like with anything else at this age, the more fun you make it for students, the more engaged they will become.

The scoreboard becomes a motivator/game for students. It is simple to make. Simply make a quick T chart (see example below). Draw a smiley face on one side and a frowny face on the other. Students earn smiley points for following rules and procedures and frowny points for not following them. The purpose of the scoreboard is to reinforce positive behavior in a fun way.

There are many add-ons that can be done with the scoreboard as well. For example, positive points can earn students saying together "oh yes" or having a "one second party" to celebrate. Negative points can just as easily cause a "mighty groan" from the crowd. One tip I have read several places online is to be sure that the difference between frowny and smiley faces remain no more than three points apart to keep students engaged and interested in the game.

What does the research say?
The brain learns in five ways, by seeing, saying, hearing, doing and feeling. When we learn and practice the rules with gestures and emotion, we are covering all of these ways. Seeing a smiley or frowny on the scoreboard gives students small positive or negative emotions. By using the scoreboard, we are activating the limbic system, our source of emotions.

What does this mean for first grade?
In my classroom, it means it has to be ready to catch and hold their attention. In the past, I have used Class DoJo's for team and individual points. This year, I plan to continue to use Class DoJo for individual points, but move to using smiley and frowny points for whole group time.

My classroom is Dr. Seuss themed, so thanks to the dollar bin at Target, I will have a lovely Dr. Seuss scoreboard this year. I have attached circle magnets to the back so it will attach to my marker board since the scoreboard is not magnetic. I like it because I will be able to move it around the room depending on where our learning is taking place.

Attention, Please!

One of the first things with WBT is getting student's attention. From using chimes to hand clapping to flashing the lights, I think I've tried it all! Most of the class responds beautifully. There are always one or two students that continue working or playing instead of stopping. Enter the WBT strategy for getting student's attention: Class-Yes!

How does it work?
Class-Yes is a fun and engaging way to get student's attention. The teacher simply says "Class" and the students respond, "Yes!" There are many varieties of this attention grabber to keep it interesting and keep students listening. For example, if the teacher whispers, the students whisper back. If the teacher says "Classity-Class," the students respond "Yessity-Yes!" What a fun and interactive way to get student's attention and keep them engaged! The possibilities seem endless.

What does the research say?
According to the research for Class-Yes, it acts as a switch to get students ready for instruction. It essentially activates the prefrontal cortex that has the main functions of decision making, planning and focus of attention. (Score!) Now, students are focused and ready to learn.

What does this means for first grade?
First graders love interaction. The more you can turn things into games for students, the more they will enjoy them. By switching the way Class-Yes is said each time, it becomes a listening game for students. Expectations are the same each time it is used and it does not require extras (like a bell or being near a light switch) to be effective.

I also love the Class-Yes because it encourages and gets students in the habit of saying "yes" instead of the dreaded "yeah." I know, I sound old fashioned, but students saying "yeah" or "huh" are on top of my list of pet peeves. I am very curious to see how quickly this transfers to student interaction in general.

What are your favorite ways to say Class-Yes?