Monday, September 9, 2013

WBT Book Club Appendix: Mind Sports

Mind Sports, especially Mind Soccer is a great way to review material.  This part of the book explained the ins and outs of these games.  Here are my Mind Soccer questions for my Reconstruction unit.

Reconstruction Mind Soccer Questions

1. What was the time period/era that comes after the Civil War called? Reconstruction
2. What amendment abolished slavery? 13th
3. What amendment granted citizenship to all persons born in the United States? 14th
4. What amendment allowed black men to vote? 15th
5. What vocabulary term means "to vote?" suffrage
6. During Reconstruction, what group could not hold public office? Southern military leaders
7. During Reconstruction, what group could hold public office? African Americans
8. What law, although difficult to enforce, granted African Americans equal rights? Civil Rights Act of 1866
9. During Reconstruction, what group supervised the South?  Northern soldiers
10. What group was established to aid or help former enslaved African Americans in the South?  Freedman's Bureau
11. What was the group of Northerns who came to the South to take advantage of them called? Carpetbaggers
12. During Reconstruction, what laws were adopted to limit the freedom of former slaves? Black Codes
13. What year did Reconstruction come to an end? 1877
14. How did Reconstruction come to an end? with a compromise over the presidential election of 1876
15. What happened to the federal troops stationed in the South after Reconstruction ended? they were removed
16. What were the post-Reconstruction laws called that took away newly gained African American rights and freedoms? Jim Crow Laws
17. Which court case ruled "separate but equal?" Plessy vs. Ferguson
18. What year was the Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling? 1896
19. Who created a reconstruction plan that called for reconciliation? Abraham Lincoln
20. Who was president of Washington College, also known as Washington and Lee University? Robert E. Lee
21. Who thought preserving the Union was more important than punishing the South? Abraham Lincoln
22. Who was a powerful voice for human rights and civil liberties for all? Fredrick Douglas
23. Who fought for constitutional amendments that would guarantee voting rights? Fredrick Douglas
24. Who urged the Southerners to reconcile with the Northerners when some wanted to continue to fight?  Robert E. Lee
25. Who was president of the United States during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras? Abraham Lincoln

Monday, September 2, 2013

WBT Book Club Chapter 32: The Eleven Day Writing Lesson Plan

There are several differences between a WBT lesson plan, like the Day One: Sentence Five Step Lesson Plan and one taught in a traditional classroom.  First, many teachers do not introduce their lessons with a question and answer.  Sometimes, the teacher doesn't even tell the students what they are going to be learning.  They just start teaching.   I think it is a great idea to always tell the class what they are going to be learning, and asking a question and supplying the answer is a neat way to introduce lessons.  Gestures are rarely used in a traditional classroom.  The Five Step Sentence Lesson Plan gave a gesture that clearly defined a sentence.  Typically, students would be sitting at their desks trying to focus on the teacher but idle and not participating.  In most cases, a traditional lesson would be a 15-30 minute lecture involving the teacher presenting information about sentences to students.  Occasionally, they might use a textbook, document camera, video, or other handouts to keep students on-task, listening, and engaged.  But again, there is still very little active involvement by the students.  

In comparison, the sentence lesson, like all other WBT lessons, use active involvement with students through a micro-lecture type format.  Students are active participants, often gesturing along with the teacher, during 30-45 second teaching sessions.  Then, unlike traditional lessons, students teach each other what the teacher just taught them.  Everyone is actively participating and not just listening to the teacher talk, talk, talk.  There are many, many examples given, too.  A regular lesson, in many instances, does not provide enough examples nor do they test student comprehension.  After their lecture, teachers hand out a worksheet or assign homework that is used to determine student comprehension.  A graded quiz might even be given at the end of the class.  During a WBT lesson, like the Five Step Sentence Lesson, questions are prepared in advance, and students participate in an evaluation to check for understanding of material.  Yes/No Way involves whole group participation, while Thumbs up/Thumbs down Quick Test (QT) is individualized.  Both of these tests were used in the lesson plan on sentences.  This type of evaluation is fun, active, and non-intimidating.  There are many options for this quick check, but if 90% of students do not master these two evaluations, the material is presented again in a different way.  A traditional classroom has a sink or swim approach.  In many classrooms, if the child does not understand, the teacher may never know, so they go on with class and on to the next topic.  

Finally, a traditional classroom does not always end with a critical thinking activity.  In many cases, worksheets, textbook work, drawings/diagrams, group work, or some other type of seatwork is assigned.  WBT lessons always include some type of critical thinking writing task.  These tasks can be divided into low, middle, and high groups, but often involve comparing and contrasting, writing "because" sentences, and WBT Braintoys.  WBT lessons, like the sentence lesson and the other lessons found in Chapter 32, involve student mastery of the concept and not just presenting information and assigning tasks.  And, unlike traditional lessons, "weave the golden thread of fun" throughout each lesson step!

Monday, August 26, 2013

WBT Book Club Chapter 31: The Five Step Lesson Plan

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on

Reconstruction Amendments Five Step Lesson Plan

Please note the following abbreviations: H/E-Hands and Eyes, C/Y-Class/Yes, T/O-Teach/Okay, MW-Mirror/Words

Step 1: Question What are the basic provisions of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution of the United States? Post this question on the board and have students tell each other how excited they are to learn about these 3 amendments. T/O

Step 2: Answer C/Y, MW- 13th, 14th, 15th Reconstruction Amendments-Using Vocabulary Candy tell students, Reconstruction is the time period that came after the Civil War. T/O

C/Y The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. (Gesture: Show the number 13, then cross arms in an X then open them as if breaking free from chains.)  Ending slavery was the first step toward equality for African Americans.  T/O

C/Y, MW-13th, 14th, 15th Amendments-The 14th Amendment granted citizenship.  (Gesture: Show the number 14, then give a firm handshake with your own hands.)  A person must be free before they can become a citizen.  T/O

C/Y, MW-13, 14th, 15th Amendments-The 15th Amendment gave voting rights to black men.  (Gesture: Show the number 15, then while holding one hand palm-side up, write one your hand/cast your vote, and drop the ballot in an air voting box.)  A person must be free before they can become a citizen and must be a citizen before they can vote.  T/O

Step 3: Expand C/Y, H/E Show students the first part of the Reconstruction Amendments Power Pix (13th Amendment).  Even though Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery at the end of the Civil War in 1863, the question of slavery had still not be resolved when the war ended in 1865.  T/O

C/Y Since many southern states were rebellious, the U.S. government required each state to add the abolition of slavery to their state constitutions.  BUT (said with emphasis), there was no law preventing states from revising their constitutions.  So, that is why the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865.  T/O

C/Y, H/E Reveal the second part of the Power Pix (14th Amendment).  The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868 and was a step up from Amendment 13.  American leaders in Washington D.C. felt people born in the U.S. should be declared a citizen.  T/O

C/Y Amendment 14 gave full citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the U.S. This amendment says that everyone born in the U.S. regardless of skin color, race, or religion was legally an American citizen.  T/O

C/Y, H/E Reveal the third and final part of the Power Pix (15th Amendment).  The 15th Amendment was a milestone of 1869.  The 15th Amendment prohibits or bans the government from not allowing a person to vote based on a citizen’s race, color, or previous servitude.  African American opinions were finally heard and counted through the power of the vote.  T/O

C/Y Unfortunately, with every law passed, some individual states created new codes and laws that prevented full equality to African Americans, but these three amendments were the first steps toward equality.  This equality would not be fully achieved for decades to come.  T/O, C/Y

Step 4: Test Explain to students that they will be agreeing or disagreeing with a set of statements by playing Yes/No Way.  Ask students to help come up with a gesture for "Yes" and "No Way." For example, they might make a big check as they say, "Yes" and a big X as they say, "No Way."

1. The Reconstruction Amendments are the 10th, 11th, and 12th Amendments.  (No Way.)
2. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery.  (Yes.)
3. A person does not have to be a citizen of the country in order to vote.  (No Way.)
4. The 15th Amendment allowed African Americans to vote.  (No Way.)
5. African Americans were allowed to vote before slavery was abolished.  (No Way.)
6. The 14th Amendment gave citizenship to all persons born in the United States regardless of race. (Yes.)
7. These three amendments banned slavery and granted citizenship and voting rights.  (Yes.)

After each statement, have volunteers stand up and use C/Y and a Because Clapper to explain their answers.  The class responds with Ten Finger Woos.

Q/T Test-If 90% of students answer correctly, give the Q/T Test by having students use Smart Cards.   

1. The Reconstruction amendments include the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.  (True)
2. With the passing of the 13th Amendment, African Americans were no longer considered slaves. (True)
3. Black American men were allowed to vote in the early 1900s due to the 15th Amendment, which granted them suffrage.  (True)
4. The 14th Amendment granted freedom of speech to all persons.  (False)
5. These three amendments did not help African Americans achieve equality.  (False)

If at least 90% of my students passed the QT Test then go on to step 5.  If not, return and reteach Step 3 with new material.

Step 5: Critical Thinking Students complete one or more of the following exercises:
  • Using the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, complete each sentence type in the Genius Ladder.  Students can complete this orally with a partner, and then add their best/favorite of the three amendments to their ISN (Interactive Student Notebook).
  • Talk to your neighbor and compare and contrast the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
  • Play What Am I? with your neighbor.  For example, students will use the Because Clapper to describe either the 13th, 14th, or 15th Amendment and finish by saying, "What Am I?"  The other student will answer, and then they will switch roles.
  • Use Sockless Hand Puppets, then Props, then Air Whiteboard to explain the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

WBT Book Club Chapter 30: Designing My Classroom

My Personal WBT Favorites:

I think the first four features of a WBT model classroom are a no-brainer for me.  Without the rules, Scoreboard, proper seating and Teach/Okay, and the Super Improvers Team, my class will not be top notch!

1. The Five Classroom Rules govern the classroom.  The rules are simple and specific for any student to understand.  These five rules, along with their gestures help structure classroom behavior and are key to an organized, friendly, and safe environment.  

2. The Scoreboard motivates teamwork.  It is a non-threatening way to reward positive behavior and correct off-task students.  I love it because there are so many variations and students will never get bored.  Rewards are endless, including beating the teacher, extra recess, talk time, and game time just to name a few.  Finally, using the Scoreboard is a blast.  Using "Mighty Oh Yeah" and "Mighty Groan" along with the boards other levels is so much fun.  The kids and myself will never lose interest.

3. I have always assigned seats.  Designing a seating arrangement and placing students with their partner helps maximize learning.  This arrangement should also be rearranged periodically to provide variety, too.  Seating, combined with partnering students for using Teach/Okay and Switch, also increases learning.  Teach/Okay and Switch allow both students to share their ideas so everyone has a turn.  In addition, Teach/Okay will work great with Oral Writing, and I look forward to using it as well.

4. Finally, I will adopt the Super Improvers Team because it will help each student set/meet personal goals.  This individualized approach to learning is student-centered and specific.  I love this technique because it has levels, is individualized, and inexpensive.  Kids do not feel threatened because they compete against themselves.  Breaking personal records make this approach unique.

Monday, August 19, 2013

WBT Book Club Chapters 26-29: Ideas to Improve My Teaching

Little Gems

Chapter 26-
There were many leadership-training ideas described in this chapter for helping students become leaders.  I particularly liked the concept of counting off students by 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s.  Whether students are reviewing a rule or leading a Teach/Okay session, this strategy allows specific students an opportunity to be the leader.  I also loved the "small group" advanced technique of meeting with different students and introducing material to them and creating gestures.  This small group session is a perfect way to spend quality time with students while creating leadership roles.  Both of these techniques allow students a leadership role while creating more time for the teacher to observe, monitor, and assist individuals or small groups of students.  When students are better leaders, I am a better teacher, so these strategies will definitely help me improve.  

Chapter 27-
Wow!  It was difficult to pick just one idea from this chapter that will improve my teaching, and it is important to note, I plan on incorporating all strategies from this chapter.  If I had to pick one it would have to be the Scoreboard.  I have tried the Scoreboard several different ways, and I have to say, it is so very important to use it like it is described within the book.  The +/-3 rule and the student Mighty Oh, Yeah and Mighty Groan responses work.  There's something about the whole setup of the Scoreboard that is appealing to students, especially middle school kids.  They love competing and having an opportunity to beat the teacher, and this is a reward that motivates kids for months.  Other rewards, like extra recess or talk time, can be added later in the year.  The board is a great way to unite the class as a team.  It offers a fabulous way to reward positive individual/group behavior and a great way to correct off-task behavior.  This is the best technique I have ever found to motivate my students and by far one of my favorites for improving my own teaching.

Chapter 28-
This chapter was filled with what I call "little gems."  I loved the Positive Behavior Reinforcement section best.  I have found my sixth grade middle school students love the Scoreboard (as described above) and one simple phrase, "It's cool!"  When a student makes a mistake during class, the others reply, "It's cool!"  This little gem works wonders for creating a positive environment where my students were not afraid to be wrong.  Last year, when I made mistakes, my students even told me, "It's cool!"  I can't wait to introduce this phrase early in the school year, as I know it will help improve my teaching.

Chapter 29-
This chapter proved to be the most difficult to discover a way to improve my teaching.  After thinking about the question and the message delivered by this chapter, I think I need to pay more attention to my own classroom data.  The schools mentioned in this chapter showed measurable growth across multiple subject areas and in the area of behavior.  By tracking and periodically monitoring my own classroom data, I will be more aware of both individual strengths and weaknesses and how much growth and progress my students make.  Monitoring individual student behavior, assessing students through a pre/post test, and comparing student end-of-year test scores from 5th grade to 6th grade will most certainly help my teaching.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

WBT Book Club Chapter 25: Smart Cards

Yes/No Smart Cards

Smart Cards are a very low-tech, cost effective way to assess student comprehension of material.  Each student is given either one or two index cards.  Labeled with "Yes" and "No," they can be used any time the teacher needs to check student understand.  They are a good alternative to small, hand-held white boards and computer, hand-held clickers.  

It's painful to admit, but I have a bad habit of teaching until bell time.  I am aware of this and am conscious of managing my time more wisely.  Smart Cards would be very effective with time management.  If I added this activity into my lesson plans and used them consistently, it would definitely help me manage time.  

Smart Cards could also be a great way to quickly track student understanding of daily topics.  Too often teachers wait until test results to discover students that did not master material.  By then, it is too late to review because new material must be taught.  I think I will use a class roster with the cards so I can mark students that need more help.  

Too often, the teacher will review content by calling on individual students.  Smart Cards provide a good effective way to assess all students at the same time.  Finally, they provide the teacher with a great way to monitor the "underperforming student."  These kids have a knack for sliding under the radar.    Many wait until others speak answers and then repeat those answers, or they just agree with the majority of the class.  Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids suggests Smart Cards be used with voting.  After a question has been given, students quickly "vote" by showing either their "Yes" or "No" card, and then, they quickly lower their card.  This effective technique would not allow students "to see" other student's answers.  I like this because I'll be able to get an accurate measure of student comprehension.

As a tech junkie, I am very fortunate to have my own set of SMART Board Clickers.  After reading this chapter, I definitely need to be using them more.  I have never used Smart Cards, but I think they will be put to good use in my classroom this fall.  This will certainly be a great, instant way to assess students at any level!

Monday, August 5, 2013

WBT Book Club Chapters 23-24-WBT and Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Oh sweet mama, I have found a new love-"Brain Toys!"  I love, love, love the "Brain Toys!"  I love all of them!  They are so, so cool!  The name, itself, is even awesome.  The subject of history lends itself well to all of these wonderful tools, and it was extremely difficult to just choose three.  I plan on introducing a new technique, at least, once a month, but the three I think I will keep in my back pocket and use most often include Air Whiteboard, Because Clappers, and Example Popper.  

1. Just the drawing of the Air Whiteboard and the "Eek, Eek, Eek" of wiping it clean gets students interested in the topic.  Many teachers and students speak with their hands a lot, and the invisible board will allow students to use movement while they speak.  It is a good variation to "Teach/Ok," too.  This would be a great tool to use when introducing or reviewing U.S. and world geography, especially United States regions, states, and major cities.  It would also be valuable when discussing the Great Plains, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Westward Movement, and even immigration.  The board improves critical thinking skills because it gives students a visual.  I can see students explaining more because they have to tell what they are drawing.  It is using the Broca's speaking area of the brain, the Motor Cortex (making gestures on the air whiteboard), and the Visual Cortex (seeing gestures).  I think this would improve critical thinking because students are explaining what they are drawing.  

2./3. The Because Clappers (BC) and Example Popper (EP) can go hand in hand.  They both give students a fun way to explain their thinking.  It is really a form of oral writing, too!  I want my students to explain their thinking and not just "regurgitate the facts."  By using the gestures for these two strategies students are activating their brain and explaining what they know.  With practice, they will be speaking in complete sentences.  I will use these two tools daily during "Teach/Ok" sessions.  The combination of the two could be used during review sessions, as well.  Students could even work together or individually and write their Because Clappers and Example Poppers in their interactive notebooks (a tool used to promote critical thinking).  I plan on using student led "Teach/Ok" as well.  By teaching the class their BC and EP, they are also improving critical thinking skills.  By explain what they know and giving examples, my students will definitely be improving their critical thinking skills.  Repetition of these two tools will help them remember to explain themselves and give details even when I'm not reminding them to do so.  

On a side note, I love Air Punctuation, too.  I will definitely be using gestures for capital letters, commas, and periods.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WBT Book Club Chapter 22-The Agreement Bridge

The Agreement Bridge

Honestly, the Agreement Bridge is unlike any other counseling technique I have ever used, observed, or heard of.  In the past, I have dealt with several challenging students, and most “problem solving steps” offer short-lived solutions.  For the past 15 years, I have taught on a team with three other teachers.  One technique I have participated in is to meet with the individual student as a team.  We have had parent/teacher/student conferences, too.  Other strategies I have either used or heard of include the student meeting with the school counselor and creating behavior contracts.  In one instance, a student also frequently met with the administrator to discuss behavior and progress.  Looking at these strategies as a whole, they were all failed attempts at helping each challenging student.  In all honesty, I can’t say any of them worked.  Compared to the Agreement Bridge, attempts I have used and seen have only scratched the surface of dealing with a challenging behavior.  How sad is that?  I am really excited about having the Agreement Bridge as an option for dealing with challenging kids.  The key to the success of the Agreement Bridge is building a strong, positive relationship between the teacher and the challenging student.  Both the teacher and student learn personal facts about each other, and this lets the student know the teacher cares and is human, too.  Unlike the other techniques, the Agreement Bridge is like a game; each part can be played, as many times as you wish, and this is appealing to kids.  The “act-it-out” Swap part of the game board often brings laughter but also allows both participants to see the situation through the other person’s eyes.  I like it because it is personal and non-intimidating.  Students meet with the teacher one-on-one, and ultimately create specific, attainable goals, meeting frequently to discuss progress or play the game again.  This is, by far, the best counseling technique I have ever heard of.  I hope I don’t need it, but I’m certainly glad I have it as a tool.    

On a side note:  I’m proud of the fact I make it a goal of mine to “know” my students.  I learn their names within the first days of school, have them complete a student inventory about themselves during the first week, and have parents complete an assignment called, “Million Words or Less.”  Let’s face it, teachers rarely get to know their students, and who better to tell us than their parents.  Basically, the assignment says, “In a million words or less, tell me about your child.”  I never thought about using all of this information as a way to help counsel a challenging student, and I think the inventory and letter could come in very handy when using the Agreement Bridge with a student.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

WBT Book Club-Chapter 21: The Bull's Eye Game

When comparing and contrasting the Bull’s Eye Game to methods I have used and observed when dealing with a challenging student, it does have several qualities that make it worth using when needed.  I teach sixth grade, and strategies that once worked in elementary school, do not work at the middle school level.  During my teaching career, I have taught several students that have refused to complete tasks.  They seem immune to any consequence.  In my opinion, nothing their teachers, including myself, ever did changed their behavior or encouraged them to participate and work for any good length of time.  I have seen students given desk checklists and behavior trackers, candy, stickers, and play money.  I have participated on teams where we discussed behavior with individual students and created behavior plans.  One time, a plan was even created for a student to give him individual “free time” at the end of the day if his behavior “tracker sheet” totaled X number of points per day.  Unfortunately, none of these methods were successful.  Taking into consideration the aforementioned failed plans, I enjoyed reading about the Bull’s Eye Game.  I have never tried this strategy, but I can see the bull’s eye target, itself, making a big statement to the entire class.  Just like playing an electronic game, students love to earn points, so it holds the “fun factor,” too.  

Compared to other methods, I see several important features of the Bull’s Eye Game that were missing in strategies I have previously tried and observed.  First, the child is involved in the assessment.  I like the fact that the student scores him/herself and compares that to what the teacher was thinking.  The closer their score is to the teachers, the more bull’s eye points they score.  Second, this strategy involves frequent student and teacher reflection.  By meeting with the student several times a day, they are really thinking about their actions and overall behavior.  Finally, the Bull’s Eye Game is goal specific.  Small, easily attainable goals are targeted, and the challenging student knows, specifically, what is expected in order to gain points.  In the long run, many small achievements would improve overall work ethic and behavior during class time.  

My only concern at the middle school level is with the stickers.  In my opinion, stickers will not motivate most 11 and 12 year olds.  This could be remedied, though, as our team could easily choose another incentive that would hold more value if necessary. 

WBT Book Club-Chapter 20: The Independents

Thinking back to my middle school years, I can really remember two or three students that I would have called rebels.  All three were female, and they fed on the torture of others.  They were what I would call “part of the rough crowd” and what WBT calls a “clique of students.”  Growing up in a small community, unfortunately, meant you were in small classes, too.  I rode the bus with these girls, ate lunch at the same time as them, and was in all of their classes.  They fed off of each other, and their behavior carried over into the classroom.  If only my teachers had been wise to the ways of Whole Brain Teaching!  Independents Scoreboard Level Five would definitely have worked like a charm with them.  I know the rest of the class would have been grateful not to be punished for the girls’ actions, and these girls would have quickly learned the importance of separating themselves from situations that were getting them into trouble.  One mean-spirited rebel, who loved harassing others, led this group of girls.  Together, they preyed on weaker, more timid students, like me.  The Independent level would have played one student against the others, because when one misbehaved, they would have all gotten into trouble.  This would have, most certainly, evaporated the clique.  My friends and I would have bonded more and supported the teacher wholeheartedly.  I remember one time, in seventh grade, when the whole class was punished and not allowed to go outside because of these girls.  This would never have happened with “The Independents!”

WBT Book Club-Chapter 19: The Guff Counter

Mr. S-

We just wanted to let you know that our Classroom Management System is in full swing.  You had inquired about our team’s Super Improvers Team (Level 2 of our Scoreboard), and we want you to be reminded that it is the best strategy we have implemented for encouraging individual student improvement and success.  We wanted you to be aware we have also introduced a new class management technique, the Guff Counter (Scoreboard Level 4).  We have had several students back talk and be disrespectful lately, and the Guff Counter is specifically designed to eliminate this.  We know, as you have stated many times, “Student success relies heavily on keeping their E-tanks (emotional tanks) full.  It is difficult to keep E-tanks full when others are disrespectful during class, and with months of school left, we felt it was time to add this classroom management strategy.  

Here’s how the Guff Counter works:  We have added a row, called Guff, to each of our classroom scoreboards.  When we see disrespectful behavior, either toward us or other students (eye rolling, back talk, groaning, etc.), we will verbally say, “That sounds like guff to me, where's my marker?"  This will cue the class to raise their hand with a "stopping gesture" while firmly responding, “Please stop!”  This effective classroom management strategy unites the class behind the teachers and the team because it does not allow disrespectful behavior to be tolerated.  This quickly shows the guffer that they are all alone and not supported by their classmates.  During the introduction/practice session, students lost one point for each disrespectful word/gesture, but in reality, they will never lose points for individual guff.  Students do not want to lose points and will always stand behind the teacher's leadership.  They can, however, earn points for uniting together when they say, “Please stop!”  

“No one may interrupt instruction and learning” is one of our team expectations, and we can’t afford to allow rebel students to win a classroom struggle.  Nor is it our goal for any one student to be hurt or upset.  The Guff Counter is an effective classroom management technique because it allows us to correct the behavior as a class so we can quickly continue with learning.  

Thank you for supporting our team’s Whole Brain Teaching efforts.  We just thought we should let you know about our current steps toward making our team stronger and more proficient.  

None of us is stronger than all of us!

Respectfully yours,

Team Canterbury Castle

Sunday, July 14, 2013

WBT Book Club Chapters 17-18: Practice Cards

Dear Parents/Guardians,

We hope this team letter finds you and your scholar enjoying a wonderful sixth grade year.  It is hard to believe we have finished the first semester and a much needed winter break.  As you might well remember, we introduced our team’s classroom management system during our back to school open house.  We briefly discussed we would be practicing how to follow team rules, routines, and procedures.  You may also remember us mentioning after we have had adequate time to practice our rules there might be some students who still need more practice.  We would like to briefly introduce how our “Practice Cards” will be used.  

As you may recall, Team Canterbury Castle has five rules that govern our classrooms.  We practice these rules often, and they help keep our kingdom on track and running smoothly!  However, occasionally, students may need extra rule practice.  Practice Cards are just that--Practice!  They are not punishment.  Cards come in three colors: white, purple, and green.

White:  If your child requires more practice following a classroom rule, they will be given a white card.  Students will not receive more than two white cards per day.  At the end of seventh period (M-Th) and at the beginning of Fun Friday (F), he/she will spend 2 minutes practicing the rule.  They will also bring a note home to inform you which rule was practiced.  We respectfully request your child spend time practicing at home, too.  Please sign and return the note.  

Purple:  Purple cards cancel out white cards.  If a child receives a white card for not following a rule, and then, later during class, they demonstrate following the rule, they would get a purple card.  Practicing the rule and a note home would not be necessary.  In fact, the team might send home a “Knight Note” praising him/her for following the rule.

Green Cards:  Sometimes, a student might be given time to practice a rule during class.  If so, a green card will be given.  The rule needing practice will be written on the green card, and each time your scholar follows the rule, they will place a tally mark on the card.  With enough tally marks, students can be rewarded with a purple practice card and even a “Knight Note” home.     

We are the FMS Knights of Canterbury Castle and dedicated to learning.  We value your parental support and understand that one key to student success is your involvement.  None of us is stronger than all of us!  Please help us help your scholar be true to the spirit of the rules.

Please feel free to contact us if you have further questions.

Respectfully yours,
Team Canterbury Castle

WBT Book Club Chapter 16: Improving State Test Scores with the Super Improvers Team

As an educator, I am always looking for ways to improve my standardized test scores. I found several strengths in Chapter 16 that I can use with my history students. Practice is key! Students need daily practice questions, and this chapter outlined a way to help students practice the most basic to more complex strategies as the year progresses. The strategies are connected to the Super Improvers Team, which is definitely a strength. Stars can and should be awarded to students for getting questions correct and for proving their work. This is, most certainly, a plus in my book because I am always looking for opportunities to award stars. WBT test taking strategies are focused around the ‘fun factor.’ Just saying the words, “Doofus, Trickster, and Smarty” make learning fun. Finally, these strategies are specific and visible. Prove It, double underlining, and labeling provide detailed directions and expectations to students and a quick way for the teacher to assess student comprehension. On the flip side, I am concerned my middle school students will get bored with the Prove It strategy. My middle school and its feeder schools implemented a similar version of Prove It years ago. I know students as young as second grade using this strategy. I fear my students will become bored by the repetition. Plus, if my whole team uses these strategies, will students become uninterested because of frequent exposure? Hmmm? This is definitely a concern and a possible weakness. I did enjoy the chapter and definitely plan on putting ‘Doofus, Trickster, and Smarty’ into daily student practice.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BT Book Club Chapter 15: Super Improvers Team

WBTs Super Improvers Team strengths, most certainly, outweigh its weaknesses! Here are my top four strengths:

1. The Super Improvers Team is individualized. Children race against themselves as they work for stars. By removing the ‘competition among peers,’ students are highly motivated to break personal records. All students, no matter their ability or age, love setting and breaking personal records. 

2. It’s visible and color coded. I love the simple, yet brilliant fact, that the SIT is visible to everyone. When individual stars and levels are added, students receive immediate feedback, personal gratification, and success. Now, who doesn’t want to see themselves move up the ranks? All kids, no matter their ability, love to do well, and they love for others to know they are making progress. Everyone has areas they can improve in, but the challenging students will quickly advance because they have many areas for improvement. 

3. The Super Improvers Team has levels! There’s something mysterious about ‘levels.’ Even adults love a good game with levels. The SIT has 10+ levels, so there’s no end to the ability to progress. I loved the WBT book idea of taking photographs at various intervals with the finale of level ten students making it to the ‘forever photo wall of fame.’ SIT levels appeal to all learners.

4. The SIT is versatile. There are an infinite number of ways to award stars. Following classroom rules and procedures, correcting disruptive behaviors, improving handwriting and writing skills, completing homework, showing leadership, helping, and participating are only a few of the reasons for awarding stars. Teachers can even set ‘team goals. And, if you run out of ideas, teachers can ask their students to help. As WBT veteran, Kate Bowski suggests, your students can suggest and nominate their classmates for Super Improver stars. The possibilities are endless.

It was difficult to identify SIT weaknesses, but if I am completely honest, I was able to identify a one concern. As a middle school teacher, I only see each class 50 minutes per day. In the spring of 2013, I started my own SIT, and with the content that must be taught within one class period, I found it difficult to award stars. On a positive note, the SIT brought attention to the importance of ‘noticing the good’ in my students. Near the end of school, one student suggested many good ideas for awarding stars. I think consistency is key, and the more I reflect on the SIT, the more ideas I will have for awarding stars and promoting it with my students. This year, I am excited because my sixth grade team will be implementing WBT together. This will make all the difference when concerns arise. Four brains will be better than one!

The Super Improvers Team is a highly effective tool for helping extremely challenging students. I have seen, first hand, the usefulness of the wall with difficult, hard to reach students. These children crave attention, and unfortunately, it is usually negative. The SIT visibly rewards these students for positive behavior, one goal at a time.

Personal Note: I am currently using the Super Improvers Team at home with my 8 year old son. He loves the wall, and I have seen improvement in his behavior. He’s not a bad kid, but the wall has encouraged his kindness toward his younger brother and his helpfulness around the house. He loves the fact that I will not take stars away for poor decisions or behavior. He loves the stickers and the levels. It has been fun to work with at home this summer.