Saturday, May 21, 2011

WBT with Technology

Well, a nice week followed my awful Monday.  I had a fellow teacher come to check out my class.  It is so much fun to share WBT with others who are eager to try something new.  She said that since she stopped by, she has already tried using some of the techniques and now the kids don't have time to get in trouble! 

At our school we rely a lot on technology.  We often incorporate videos from United Streaming in science and social studies.  We also have online math lessons with our Pearson math.  You expect anything on the screen to be engaging, and maybe it was at one time, but now it it just feels like the same old thing for the kids.  They think of a video as a time to zone out and I’ve actually heard the class groan when they saw me open a Pearson lesson online!

To combat this sense of boredom, I have been incorporating gestures and the teach-ok with my use of technology in the classroom.  Here is an example of a lesson we did yesterday with a 15 minute video about natural resources:

Teacher in red, Students in blue

Class, class, class!
Yes, yes, yes!
Today we will be watching a video that teaches how we can take care of the Earth. 
Tell your partner what we will be learning about AND give an idea about how YOU can take care of the earth. Teach!
Ok! (The students explain to each other what they will be learning about)
I start the video and they watch the introduction. Pause.
Class, class!
Yes, yes!
Natural resources.
Natural resources.
Materials from the earth that people use. (with gestures)
Materials from the earth that people use. (copying gestures)
Teach your partner the definition of natural resources AND give examples.  Teach!
Ok! (They turn quickly to their partners and start talking)
Classy, class class!'
Yessy, yes yes!
Natural resources.
Natural resources.  Materials from the earth that people use. (as they act the definition out with our gesture)
Raise your hand to share an example of a natural resource.
We have a trusty stuffed animal that we throw across the rooms at times when students share.  I toss it to 3-4 students as they quickly respond with examples of natural resources. Everyone wants a chance to catch the dog and throw it back to their teacher!
Watch some more of the video.  Pause.

Tell your partner why we need to conserve natural resources.  Teach!
Ok! (Partners start talking)
Natural resources. (sometimes I use the vocab words to get their attention)
Natural resources.  Material from the earth that people use.
Watch some more.  Pause.

To use less of something.  (As I bring my hands together to show less)
To use less of something.  (The class  mimics the gesture)
Teach your partner what reduce means and tell them something you can reduce your use of.  Teach!

You get the idea.  The videos offer much more information than our out of date textbooks.  Now I feel like I am using the videos as a tool to provide more depth, not just as a filler.  They are actively involved.  The students come away acutally retaining the information.  As always, these WBT techniques are especially helpful to the ESL kids.  Most of the video would go in one ear and out the other without some time to stop and process what they are learning.

Hopefully I will have a Smart Board next year.  I can’t wait to see how I can use that to engage the students and incorporate WBT!  Air Smart Board, anyone? ;-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Epic fail...

Wow, yesterday was awful.  My WBTing did not even help.  Dare I may have caused MORE frustration.

It was Monday.  The second graders were physically in the classroom but mentally...I can't even venture to guess where their minds were.  Maybe in the old days I would have relished the eerie silence of the class on a Monday morning, but as a wibbeteer I could not take it! 

They did not respond to "Class".  They did not respond to the classroom leader's attempt at "Class, class."  They did not mirror.  They did not do hands and eyes.  They could barely muster up the energy to half-way attempt the classroom rules.  They did not call out page numbers.  They were NOT keeping their dear teach happy.  Dear teacher was extremely AGGRAVATED! 

Honestly, it didn't help that I was working on only 5 hours of sleep myself.  I've mentioned that it is a struggle to maintain the enthusiasm on my end when I'm tired and cranky.  The scoreboard was 0 happy  to 4 frownie.  (Yes, in anger I broke the +-3 rule)  What do you do when the scoreboard does not even rouse them from their catatonic state?! 

Looking back, I probably should have been a little more positive and sought to award a happy for a meager attempt at doing things the right way.  I should have stopped and patiently practiced with the class instead of preaching.  Yes I am ashamed to say, I reverted to preaching, "We are not at the beginning of the school year!  We have been in school for THIRTY-FIVE weeks!  There is NO EXCUSE for not following directions quickly.  You know EXACTLY what I expect.  You better start showing me that you are ready for 3rd grade! etc..."

Things were better today.  I think we all caught up a bit on our sleep.  Now to end things on a positive note, here are some successes for today:
  • Today as students were teaching each other about erosion, I heard one say to his partner, "Hey, lets make a complete sentence!" as he proceded to begin using air punctuation. :-D Awesome!
  • The students transitioned very well today from desks, to floor, to large group circle.
  • They miraculously remembered what to do when I call out a page number.
  • One student spontaneously used "class" and "mirror" when I called on her without any prompting, thus engaging the rest of the class without any effort on my part.  That makes me smile :-) 
  • I spoke to a student about the fact that many classmates look to him and do what he is doing.  I encouraged him to make smart choices and be a good example in order to help our class do better as a whole.  I overheard him kindly telling a friend to "behave" today.  Wow!  The thought of guiding a class to self monitor and rely on leaders is amazing!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Field Day!

Today I proved that WBT isn't just for teaching, it is for surviving amongst chaos!  This was Field Day.  My class, along with 300 other kids at one time, rotated through 15 games.  To say that the kids were excited is an understatement.  Even the "good" kids had trouble containing themselves as they ate popsicles while seeing the crazy water games ahead of them! 

WBT certainly created my own bit of "teacher heaven" today.  Even with all of this stimulation, I had control with my class-yes and "lines".  I don't have the voice to make myself heard above the crowd, but the students have been conditioned to respond when they hear these commands!  We took a couple of minutes to practice in the classroom before we even went out to reinforce the expectations.  I thought it might be fun and novel to have a new call and response today.  Some students came up with saying "Go!" and the class responds "Team!"  That was nice but the old standby worked sooooooo well,  so I mostly relied on class-yes. 

It was helpful to line up the class to move to each activity and have them ready to listen to directions.  I just had to say one word, "LINES!"  and they all began to chant "Lines! Lines! Lines!"  I was really impressed with how well they followed this procedure even in this atypical situation.  It was wonderful!  This reminds me of another blog I read recently where the Wibbeteer used WBT to manage a cross-country team.  Check out Pinetreelia's blog here.  WBT is so versatile!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The class-yes was the first whole brain strategy that I tried.  I enjoyed it instantly because it is an easy attention getter and the students really respond well to it.  There are similar strategies like clapping, but the special thing about the class-yes is that there are endless possibilities to change it up and keep things new.  When things are new, the students are instantly interested and quickly comply with little effort on my part :) 

Generally in my class I use something like...
Class, class, class     and they respond with...  Yes, yes, yes
Classy, class                                                    Yessy, yes
Alrighty class                                                    Alrighty yes
Oh my class                                                     Oh my yes
Yo ho class                                                       Yo ho yes

I also love to use vocabulary words for attention. For example, I would say, "Prevent" and the class would respond, "Prevent- to stop from happening" as they act it out with the gesture we have practiced for this word.  Last year I did a lot of math facts. 
5 x 3                   and they respond                       5 x 3 =15

There was an interesting post about class-yes variations on the forum:

Recently we have had some fun new additions to our class-yes procedure!  First, I began to use a classroom leader.  This is a new WBT strategy that I learned about at the conference in February.  I let my class vote on a leader that would be a good example.  They made an excellent choice.  So far I have only used the leader for the class-yes, but it has been an amazing success.  While the class might be getting bored with responding to me, I simply point to my leader, he says "Class!" and they they eagerly respond with "Yes!"  It is so cool!  The class thinks it is awesome!  They smile in wonder at the thought of a student having the class-yes power!

I have also started allowing the students to use the class-yes when they are called on and ready to share with the class.  Again, they are excited with the power that they feel, and the rest of the class is highly engaged and more focused on the speaker.

This is just another reason that I love WBT!  It is so easy.  It becomes second nature.(Sometimes I say "Class, class" to other students...and they look at me funny.)  And it has so many possibilities to grow and change with the class to add new exciting elements throughout the year.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Power of the Scoreboard

One of the cornerstones of WBT is the scoreboard.  It is so simple, but so powerful.  It brings an energy to the classroom that I never had before.  It keeps the class on their toes and keeps them engaged.  Best of all it is an easy way to manage behavior. 

In the past, I've tried recording points on the board to motivate students.  Just putting points on the board doesn't really work.  The WBT scoreboard takes into account how people are motivated.  According to the website:
One thing you must understand from the start is that you should not let the difference between smilies and frownies be greater than 3.  This is the +- 3 rule.   if you reward too much your students will become lackadaisical. If you penalize too much, they will become resentful.  That is the reason for the +-3 rule.
Smilies and frownies will build quickly at first, but fall off as your students get better at procedures.
As with everything WBT, I think, "Wow! That is so simple, yet so true!"  I have found that the scoreboard was key in teaching procedures at the beginning of the year and so helpful at maintaining discipline even in these last few weeks.

I have to admit that when I'm in a bad mood or not feeling well, I really don't want to deal with the scoreboard.  It takes a conscious effort to use the scoreboard and sometimes I just want to get through the day and not have to think too much.  I've been super-stressed the past few weeks, and have fallen into a slump.  On Thursday I decided to bring it up a notch and really focus on the scoreboard.  It was so much fun!  In the first hour of school we had a total of twenty points on the board.  I just can't tell you how exciting and uplifting it is to have all 20 students cheering their success in unison.  The more points the better.  It keeps the students on the edge of their seats and brings in a level of excitement and intensity to the classroom.  It makes the students happy, keeps them in line, and prevents me from reverting back to hypertension-inducing practices like yelling and griping at the kids. 

My only problem with the scoreboard is the physical constraint of having to be nearby to mark points.  My white board is usually covered by the screen pulled down in front of it for the projector.  Half way through the year I decided to change to a mini, hand-held whiteboard that I can carry around.  It definitely helps...but I already have a problem with losing things frequently.  Maybe I just need to hang one around my neck so that I can't walk away from it!  Fellow Wibbeteers, does anyone else have this problem?

In my ideal world I would have a monitor on the wall exclusively used to project a digital scoreboard.  Then I would have a remote control in my pocket so that I could easily access it at any point in the classroom.  Maybe I should ask my techy brother to work on this for me. :)