Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Wonderful World of SuperSpeed

The first Whole Brain Teaching tool that I ever tried was SuperSpeed 1000!  At the time I was teaching 3rd grade at a school in Dallas where the students were predominantly ESL.  There was a large focus on reading fluency and I was looking for a way to make it a little more fun.  I found just what I was looking for with SuperSpeed!  It partners students together to practice the 1,000 most common words.  Since then I have enjoyed using all of the SuperSpeed games with a variety of students.  

This morning I introduced SuperSpeed 1000 to the 1st grader that I tutor.  (The suggested age is 3rd-12th...but she is ready!)  Before she began kindergarten we used SuperSpeed Letters.  After practicing with Biffytoons to learn the beginning sight words, we played SuperSpeed 100 all the way to the end.  (She played all the way through SuperSpeed Numbers as well.)  It only seems natural to move on!  SuperSpeed 1000 starts with the most common sight words and gets progressively harder, so I think it will be a great way to help her continue to grow.

It had been several months since we played a SuperSpeed game together, but after showing her the agenda for the day, SuperSpeed was her first choice!  She loves trying to beat her records and coloring in stars to show her success.

I've had the pleasure of using the SuperSpeed games with every grade between pre-K and 7th (except for 5th) and I've had nothing but positive results.  They all enjoy what could be mundane practice.  Here is what the manual has to say:
Students, effortlessly, receive hundreds of repetitions reading the most common sight words while setting and breaking team records. The goal is not to break another team’s record, but to surpass your own team’s previous best mark. Even better than increasing reading speed, players of SuperSpeed 1000 are rewarded with one of the most deeply powerful lessons in education: I can set and break personal records. I can always do better than my own previous best.

SuperSpeed is like so many aspects of Whole Brain Teaching: it is free, easy, fun, and most of all effective.  Check out SuperSpeed Numbers, SuperSpeed Math, SuperSpeed Letters & Phonics, SuperSpeed 100, and SuperSpeed 1000!  Download all of the manuals here.

WBT Intern, 2011-12

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Genius Ladder

The lucky Wibbeteers who have been attending Whole Brain Teaching conferences this summer are talking about something called The Sentence Ladder, aka The Genius Ladder.  It is basically a framework to model creating sentences.  It begins with simple sentences, adds adjectives/adverbs, adds conjunctions, etc.  With practice over the course of the year, students will develop the skills to write their own complex, "genius" sentences!

I haven't had any training on this myself, but sought help on the forum and read others' blogs.  I got some good information here.  And I printed out Erica's visual for the ladder here. So I took this to tutoring with me to try it out on my soon-to-be 4th grader.

We had completed some reading, collected a list of vocabulary words, and looked up the definitions in the dictionary.  Then I introduced the Genius Ladder by reading all the sentences on the ladder and noting how they changed.  I then challenged him to use one of his new vocabulary words to make a simple sentence.  He chose scour.  He thought of a sentence and used air punctuation to model it before putting it on paper.  We worked together to move up the ladder and add to the original sentence.  This is what we came up with:
  •            I scour the car.              
  •          I scour the red car.           
  •   I scour and clean the red car.  
That is as far as we got, but I figure it is pretty good for the first try.  For my 2nd graders I know this will be a much longer process with much time spent on modeling.  Andrea Schindler passed on this advice:
We want to expose them to all the sentence types. Since the beginning stages of the sentence ladder are where the teacher is doing all the writing~ and modeling how the sentences become more complex, this is easy to do. Later they will "help me (the teacher)" and share their ideas to help construct the sentences. They will not be creating their own until much later. 
Below you will see three different representations of the Genius Ladder.  Thank you to Erica, Georgia Ramsey, and Ocalacna for sharing!  More info can be found in the WBT Model Classroom ebook.

WBT Intern, 2011-12

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Air Punctuation

I ordered a new resource for free with my Scholastic points called Draw then Wright.  Each page shows a very simple (3-step) drawing and then encourages writing based on one of three ability levels.  (Below you see the mid-level page)  This allows students to use their own creativity to hook them into writing.

I used this page with the new first grader that I tutor.  After allowing a few minutes to draw, I guided her through the 5 W's listed to develop ideas.  We took these ideas to create a short story.  

She orally created one sentence at a time and we practiced the sentence with air punctuation.  We focused on capital letters (gesture: pulling one hand up with a "whoosh") and periods (making a clicking noise while flicking the pointer finger).  The noise and gesture help to cement these skills so that students remember to use them!

I noticed that she also needed practice leaving spaces between the words as she wrote them on her paper.  We added a new  gesture into the air punctuation by pressing one finger on the table to illustrate a space between each word, and pressing two fingers  on the table between sentences.

With my 2nd graders next school year I may introduce this early on as a whole group.  After a quick draw, they could orally create sentences with their partner before moving on to putting them on paper.  They can check their writing by using their gestures again as they re-read their work.  After the students become familiar with the process, I can see this becoming a great center activity.

WBT Intern, 2011-12

Monday, July 11, 2011

WBT Intern, 2011-12

I came home this afternoon to find an email informing me that I have been selected as one of the 2011-12 Whole Brain Teaching Interns!  I am shocked, excited, honored, and a little nervous as to what I have gotten myself into!  The WBT internship requires blogging and posting on the forum, which I am already familiar with.  It will also push me to try new things and I'm sure I will receive advice and constructive criticism from the official WBT trainers.  If I succeed, I may be able to join the team as a WBT trainer next year!  I'm excited to share my experiences here and share the joy of WBT with others.

Now... on to my original purpose of this post.  I wanted to expound on my Smoothy Bumper post.
This past week I played the Mind Reader game with the almost-first-grader that I tutor.  I called out two numbers, and she used the chart to answer the question, "What number in the middle am I thinking of?"   We also played the Clapper game again to practice +2.  The colors of the number wall on Smoothy Bumper Planet help the students to see patterns.  For example, my second graders noticed last year that when adding 2, the addend and the sum are always on the same color- thus odd plus two equals odd and even plus two equals even.  (Oooo...I'm thinking now that the students could teach each other the pattern they see in complete sentences using air punctuation!)  The little girl that I tutor did a great job hopping her finger to the sums and saying the number sentences, but she isn't to the point where she can communicate the patterns yet.  Here are some wise words from the Smoothy Bumper Planet book:
The more time your students spend on the Number Wall, walking their fingers back and forth, leaping from one row to another, using backward or forward diagonals, the more the numbers themselves become visual, even tactile, rather than mere abstractions.
To add some variety, I changed up the Clapper game and allowed  my student to play independently by rolling a 10-sided dice.  After rolling, she found the number on her Smoothy Bumper Planet, hopped her finger over +2, and stated the complete number sentence.  This would be an easy way to extend the game from a whole group activity to a partner game or math center activity.

Don't forget that all the Whole Brain Teaching books are available online for free!

WBT Intern, 2011-12

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Whole Brain Writing Game

In the past year I have had a chance to try out the Whole Brain Writing Game.  I like how it starts by creating sentences orally before pushing to have them written down.  In the future I will definitely combine this game with the Air Punctation brain toy, so that students can use gestures to practice capitalization and punctuation.

I tried this game last year with my entire 2nd grade class but unfortunately I did not follow through.  It is always challenging to find the time to fit everything in!  However, I really feel that taking the time to use this game will truly impact the students' writing.  It would have worked if I kept at it, but I think it may be even better to do it in small groups next year (at least in the beginning) so that I can more closely monitor for understanding.

I also used the writing game with the 7th grade boy that I tutor.  He needed practice writing and I really like how this game allowed for specific practice in a limited amount of time.  The topic lists for each complexor are also helpful because it sparks ideas while also allowing for plenty of creativity.

Just last week I had the 7th grader use the WB Writing Rules listed in the book to check his writing.  I love the list because it kind of took the pressure off of me.  It was no longer just me critiquing his writing.  It gave him guidelines to assess his writing himself.   Each rule also has a gesture to go along with it to make it more active and fun.  Even this 7th grader started to giggle when he got to #5 and got to flick each punctuation mark with his finger!

Last year I created a simplified version of the writing rules for my 2nd graders.  Before my students ever turned in their writing they had to grab a checklist and review their own work.  Click here to preview/download a copy of the document.  To download a free copy of the Whole Brain Writing Game book click here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Smoothy Bumper Planet

I introduced Smoothy Bumper Planet to the soon-to-be 1st grader that I am tutoring this summer.  I started out by explaining that it is like a hundreds chart, BUT it has extra special things to help us (like the animals, the smoothies, and the bumpers).  The "bumpers" are the parts of the chart that appear to stick out.  These are numbers that don't follow the pattern you would expect when counting.  For example it is fifty, not fivety; thirteen, not threeteen.  I can see that this would be a great help to my ESL students who struggle with the language of numbers.

My student did not have any difficulty with these numbers but she enjoyed jumping her finger way up high every time she got to a bumpy number.  In fact, a week later I asked her to count something for me and she remembered (I completely forgot) to jump her finger as high as she could every time she saw a bumpy number.  It is fun and it is a great way to incorporate gross motor movements into an activity that could involve no movement whatsoever.  Last year I gave my class party favor witches' fingers to point with whenever we used the chart.  

My tutoring student played the clapper game to practice adding +1.  I called out a number to find and when I clapped she was to add 1 to that number.  She called out the addition sentence.  This is a super easy game that works with one student or the whole class.  I have used this as a quick number sense practice in the mornings with my second graders to practice adding and subtracting 1's, 2's, 10's, 9's, and 11's.  
I love how using Smoothy Bumper Planet incorporates many visual cues, kinesthetic actions, and an oral/auditory element.  You can download the complete Smoothy Bumper Planet book for free when you register on the WBT website.