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!