As a student teacher, I worked in a district that used the “Whole Brain Teaching” instructional system. Fundamentally, “Whole Brain Teaching” (WBT) is a set of behavior management techniques and engagement strategies designed to teach in a way the brain understands best. It combines call and response with physical movement to teach the curriculum and get the students’ attention. To someone passing by my room, it can be quite noisy! I am not the only one talking, the kiddos are chanting, standing on their chairs, and using hand motions to practice vocabulary words. Whole Brain Teaching can seem intimidating, especially when you watch YouTube videos of teachers who have fully implemented all of the techniques; however, my favorite part of WBT is that you can pick and choose what works for you and use the strategies to add to the amazing things you already do. I choose to implement some aspects of the Whole Brain Teaching philosophy and simply don’t use others. I have had success using the following techniques with my third graders.
- Classroom Rules- The Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) system uses a set of rules that can be used with any age group, in any classroom. The rules are very general and can be applied to so many situations. Every day my class starts their morning by reciting the classroom rules. Each rule has a hand signal to accompany it. For example, when they recite rule number four, make smart choices, they use their finger to point to their brain. I display my colorful rule posters on my bulletin board and the children reference them throughout the day. The posters can be downloaded (for free!) from Teachers Pay Teachers.
- “Class? Yes!” – Class? Yes! is by far the best way to get my class’s attention. I taught this on the first day of school and they know whenever I say “class” they say “yes” and stop what they are doing and look at me. For example: if I say “class, class, class” they say “yes, yes, yes”. If I say “howdy class” they say “howdy yes” and so on. I keep them on their toes by switching it up and adding snaps, claps, and goofy combinations, ensuring their attention is on me.
- “Hands and Eyes” – When I say give me hands and eyes they know to stop what they are doing and look at me with their hands still, and that it is my turn to talk and their turn to look at me and listen.
- “Mirror with Words” – Mirror with Words is how we learn new vocabulary in my classroom. Students simply “mirror” my movements and repeat what I say. To introduce mirror and words we started with the “mirror” aspect. I told my students they had to mirror exactly what I did after I did it. I would touch my head, then they would touch theirs. I would draw a circle in front of my face; they would follow. Next, we added in the “words.” They would watch me say a word like perimeter as I drew a shape with my finger. Then they did the same. We use “mirror with words” for all subjects! Sometimes my motions are goofy but it helps them remember the words for months!
Whole Brain Teaching can be daunting to implement, but by picking and choosing my favorite aspects of the program I am able to teach content and manage behavior effectively. If you aren’t ready to uproot your entire classroom management system yet, consider adding in “class yes”…it is a great place to begin! If you want to learn more about the system, check out the book Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids by Chris Biffle.