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.