Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Key" to a Successful Whole Brain Classroom

Hello everyone!  Farrah here from Mrs. Shipley's Fabulous Firsties and the Whole Brain Teaching team.  First let me take a brief moment to thank April here at Wolfelicious for allowing me to be a guest blogger and bring you some amazing information from Whole Brain Teaching!  Be sure to show her lots of love and check out the rest of her blog for amazing information and insight into her classroom.

I am in my 9th year of teaching and 5th year as a Whole Brain Teacher.  I was honored two years ago to join the WBT Executive Board and became a national presenter.  I have had the privilege to meet some amazing teachers from across the country and share the amazing grassroots educational movement known as Whole Brain Teaching.  To find out more information about the beginnings of WBT please visit the website.  There you will find loads of information, all FREE I might add, and meet my amazing colleagues who are ready to answer all of your questions.  The big man himself, Chris Biffle is even browsing the boards to give you help and advice. Join us on our webinars where Chris Biffle will be covering a topic related to Whole Brain Teaching in personal detail. Check the website for dates and times.

The title of this blog should tell you that I am going to share with you the "Key" to having a successful whole brain classroom.  I am often asked "Mrs. Shipley, where do I start?"  To a new WIBBITEER (that's what we call a whole brain teacher in our world) the website can be a bit overwhelming.  There is just so much amazing stuff to look through and implement.  Let me tell you, my first year, I tried to do it all!  I just about went mad!!!   It can be done, however, I suggest you
start with what we on the WBT executive team have affectionately named the "CORE FOUR"!!!!  Look at the image below to get started.

The "core four" are the CLASS/YES, the SCOREBOARD, MIRRORS, and TEACH/OK!  These four elements are the basis for any whole brain classroom.  Class/Yes is our attention getter in which the teacher calls the class back from various activities in the room or during Teach/OK!  The scoreboard controls the tempo, engagement, and attentiveness of the students with smilies and frownies based on the teachers expectation of performance.  Mirrors engage the entire class and focuses each student on what the teacher is doing and saying.  TOTAL CLASS ENGAGEMENT...pure teacher heaven!!  Teach/Ok allows the students, with a partner, to reteach the material presented either verbatim or by paraphrasing at the teacher's discretion.  These four elements, once mastered, open a door to teacher heaven that every teacher wants to experience.

The next question I am most often asked is "How do I get the students to now think for themselves instead of just mimicking me and repeating what I say?"  That is where the "bar" of the key comes in.  The BECAUSE CLAPPER is one of the many brain toys that we employ to get students to explain why they think something is the way it is.  For example, if I am teaching a lesson on nouns and I have gone through the "core four" with my students, I might ask them with their partners to explain why fireman is a noun.  Their response, using the because clapper gesture, should be "Fireman is a noun BECAUSE it is a person."  Now, lets take that a step further.  The second side of the bar is our PROBLEM SOLVER.  The problem solver presents the students with just that, a problem that they must solve.  For example:  "Class, now that you have told me why fireman is a noun, think of some ways I can us FIREMAN in a spicy sentence on our Sentence Ladder"(check out my blog or the whole brain teaching website for information on this little gem).  Now the students are critically thinking, on their own, about nouns.  INGENIOUS!!!

The final part of our "key" to success is the SUPER IMPROVER WALL!  This is what holds all the other parts of the key together.  This amazing tool allows your students to improve on areas that they need to improve on.  Why have the whole class working on raising their hands to speak when only two or three truly need help in that department.  How about little Suzy who needs to work on remembering to put her name on her paper?  What about Johnny who needs to work on writing neatly?  The Super Improver Wall insures that each student is IMPROVING in some area, specifically an area that they personally need to improve on!  

Now when I am asked, "Where do I start?" I give the "KEY" description!  These "CORE FOUR" components along with the rest of the key, when mastered will give you a whole brain classroom that will knock your principals socks off!  I wish I could take credit for this amazing analogy however, our amazing leader Chris Biffle coined this little treasure.  If you were lucky enough to attend the National Convention in Louisiana this year you heard all about it from the man himself!

If you are a beginning wibbiteer or perhaps you have been using the techniques but can't quite get it to all flow, use this as your model this upcoming year.  Once you have mastered this, the rest is TEACHER HEAVEN! For more information on the elements presented here visit my blog or visit WHOLE BRAIN TEACHING!  Once you register you will be able to access a wealth of knowledge under the FREE eBooks section of the site! 

Thanks again to April for allowing me to be a guest on her blog!  Here's to seeing all of you next year on the site and hearing all your amazing stories of how Whole Brain Teaching has changed your teaching life!

Wib On Wibbiteers!


  1. Awesome post Farrah!! Thanks so much for being a guest blogger!!


  2. I love the illustration of the WBT key! I've been thinking about making one myself, but I really like this one. Awesome job, Farrah!

    Julie aka Southern Teacher

  3. April, thanks for having Farrah guest post about WBT. I'm trying to wrap my brain around how I'm going to do IT ALL next year (I only just began with class, yes and teach, OK last year). This really helped :)

    Fun in Room 4B

  4. I love these WBT ideas!! I like the Super Improver Wall and the Because Clapper!! Thanks for sharing your ideas. :)
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  5. Thank you for this post! I just discovered whole brain teaching at the end of last year and I am so excited to use it from day one in my class.

    Mrs. Slocum
    Teacher's Don't Steal, They Share!

    1. Thank you for the fresh ideas and inspiration.
      Lynette Rudduck

  6. Thanks for this great post. I started using WBT last year. I realized that my kids had a lot of trouble with teach-OK. And, I screwed up. It wasn't because they weren't motivated. They really didn't have the skills. I teach kindergarten in Taiwan and so it is very difficult because some kids don't know much English (the language of instruction) and some kids are more used to a traditional kind of classroom with little interaction. However, that being said. There is all the more need for WBT for my students. For next year, I am going to start out very slowly. Get them used to doing gestures. Get them used to speaking to a partner. When they are comfortable with both, I'll try to combine them together.

  7. Thank you for the fresh ideas and inspiration.
    Lyn Rudduck