Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vocab Candy and Purple Practice Cards

      Being a short week, I didn't have time to do my usual vocabulary activity.  It was the perfect time to try vocab candy.  The kids thought it was hysterical when I reached into my pocket and unwrapped my "candy".  More than one were convinced that I really was enjoying a scrumptious treat.  They quickly caught on as they realized my next sentence contained a vocabulary word.  (Actually, the word was "contained").  They were begging to have a piece of my candy, and then enjoyed offering pieces to one another.  This week was the highest scoring week I've had yet on these vocab. tests.  No joke!!!
     I also broke out the purple practice cards this week.  I am making them very difficult to get.  The problem is- I am forgetting to give them out.  I only sent one home this week.  I need to come up with a system to make it a routine for me, without making it predictable for the kids.

     Oh yes, I also introduced the guff counter this week.  My kids don't give much guff, but I have noticed a little creeping in here and there.  (Someone dared roll her eyes at the librarian on Tuesday....).  They loved "practicing" guff, but I haven't had to use it yet.  I did hear one student tell another one "stop please" during an independent work time, but I didn't hear what the infraction was.  It is great to give the students a tool to use, when someone is acting out and they don't want to be a part of it.  Empowering!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scoreboard Refresher

     On the first day back after Thanksgiving break this week, I was completely prepared to walk in and teach.  My room was ready, lessons planned, and my desk top was even clean.  I was awake, coffee in hand, as I opened the door to my smiling students.
     As the day progressed however, I found it difficult to find my groove.  The kids were strangely sluggish and crazed and the same time and although we accomplished our objectives for the day, getting true participation and engagement was like pulling teeth.  At the end of the day, I looked at the scoreboard and saw many many frownies and very few smilies.  I realized that even after using the scoreboard for over two years and attending several WBT conferences on the topic, I had messed up.  In my frustration, I had used the scoreboard to actually reflect the class' behavior.  Silly me!!  That night I refreshed myself by reading the forum post about the scoreboard on
     The next day, I ping ponged my class back and forth so many times they almost had whiplash.  The energy shifted each time, and it continually brought the kids' focus back to me.  At the end of the day, there were many marks on both sides of the scoreboard.  Because they lost (as planned), they were starved to win the next day to win the prize- a chance to try out the new buzzers we would use during mind soccer on Friday.
     Even though I knew how to use the scoreboard, I needed a reminder.  It also reinforced to me how much power the teacher has in the classroom.  On Tuesday, I was able to manipulate the emotions of my students in a positive way, and help them learn in an engaging, fun way.  Teacher heaven!  :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Power Pics

     I made my first power pics this week!  We have been going over the rules for making plural nouns and I kept wishing I had a power pic for it. I checked second grade PPs, and while I didn't find one to cover the rules, I did find several that I could use throughout the year.  I took those, and gave the others to a second grade teacher at my school who has no experience with WBT.  She was thrilled to find one to use the very next day.
     I made my own for the plural rules, and made up my own motions.  They look a little different than the official ones, but my students didn't care.

photo.JPG  (You can see them more clearly in my forum post

Last year, I used power pics at the time I introduced the concept.  This year, I am using them to front load.  For example, (yes, I did the example popper motion as I typed) our measurement units in math are not until the spring.  They move incredibly fast, and the kids struggle to do conversions between units.  I decided to start introducing a few of the measurement PPs (Quart, cup, pint, etc) now to see if the advanced exposure would help them in a few months.  Often, my students are like lab rats- I love to try new techniques on them!

Happy November!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Brain Toys

     This week, after watching the two podcasts on Brain Toys, I was excited to add a few new ones to my repertoire.  I planned on trying out air whiteboard, air punctuation,  and action figures this week.  I already use the example popper frequently. 
     The air whiteboard was easy to incorporate.  A few kids didn't understand why we just didn't get out our real whiteboards.  We use the real ones a lot in the course of a day, especially for "Prove It!".  Some students would pull out their real whiteboards every time I said "air whiteboard" until the fourth or fifth time.  Now we've go it, and it is a quick and engaging tool, especially to review power pics or multiplication.
     I had to practice air punctuation at home for a few days before I whipped it out in class.  The kids like it, and I love how it slows down the "high" kids and makes them really think about what they are saying/writing.  It is also helping solve some of the chronic run-ons that occur with some of my students.  At first I used it with the genius ladder, but as I was teaching this week, I kept finding more and more places to use air punctuation.  My goal is for it to be "just how we speak"  in class- a completely natural part of the process.
     It was more difficult for me to add action figures.  I have been using WBT techniques for a few years now, so the basic delivery/lesson plan is my usual teaching script.  For some reason, I couldn't remember to add in action figures in the heat of the moment. I will try again next week during my language arts block as we discuss our story.  As teachers, I think we often fall back into what is comfortable.  I love the WBT is constantly adding new things and tweaking ideas to make them better.  It makes me a better teacher to try new things, and I know it is making my students better learners!

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Prove it!


I am ready to talk about "Prove It!".  No, I am ready to shout about "Prove It!" from the rooftops!  I began about three weeks ago after watching the "Prove It!" Tuesday night podcast. (check it out at ).  I bean in language arts and Math.  More about LA later.....

I am using "Prove It!" throughout my math lesson.  I use it to get kids to experience and think about a problem before I teach them how to do it  (regrouping across zeroes, for example).  In addition, I use it in my five minute check (review of the previous lesson).  It is also helpful during the lesson to monitor understanding.  Here are a few other reasons I love "Prove It!":
  • You can quickly see what every student is THINKING!
  • The kids REALLY want extra seconds of mind soccer.  It blows my mind that they will work so hard for an additional 20 seconds of a review game.
  • Students can use their white boards to teach each other how they did the problem.
  • It saves paper.
  • Having to write out their thinking slows the high students down, allowing the other kids to think through the problem.
  • They beg me to play it!
It was difficult for about 2/3 of the class the first two weeks.  They had no idea how to explain their thinking, or what they did in solving a problem, or even naming a strategy or operation.  I was getting frustrated with so many students leaving the H.T.S. half of the board blank or putting a question mark there.  We have trained them NOT to THINK!  Even kids who can memorize facts and spit out logarithms can not explain why they are using them.  The third week, everyone was able to write something down, and I could see confidence levels increase dramatically.  I am so excited to see what kind of mathematicians they are by the end of the year!

I have also tried "Prove It!" in Language arts.  We have only worked on the "solve now" type problems, and will start the "go back" type this week.  It has been harder for me to fit "Prove It!" into my morning L.A. schedule for some reason.  It is my goal to make this happen every day next week.

Here are a few pics of prove it boards:

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Late Start to my WBT Blog

     This is my new Whole Brain Teaching blog.  I began WBT over 2 years ago when I decided to make the jump from teaching music to teaching general ed.  I knew I needed help with the transition, and in my search for support I stumbled upon the WBT website and videos.  I watched the basic videos introducing "class/yes" and "teach/ok".  Check them out here at  The next day, I gave it a trial run in a second grade music class.  I was amazed at the result!  The students were engaged, and everyone was participating and happy.  It instantly changed my teaching, and I knew that I could make the switch to classroom teaching. 
     Fast forward two years and I am thrilled to be in my second year of teaching 3rd grade with WBT.  5 conferences and many webcasts later, I am constantly excited to go in on a Monday and try new things I have learned.  This weekend, I attended the Math and Reading conference (for the 2nd time) in La Quinta.  I love how every time I attend conferences, I come away energized to try new things, or tweak things I am already using.   Here are some of the things that are new to me this year that I will blog about in the upcoming weeks:
  • Super Improvers Wall
  • Power Pics Wall
  • Genius Ladder
  • Oral Writing/Punctuation
Just to name a few!

Have a good week!