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1st Scoreboard Change October 3, 2011

Filed under: Scoreboard — wholebrainteacher @ 10:16 pm

After about 2 weeks of noticing the scoreboard becoming less and less effective, I finally took the time to remind myself of the other scoreboard levels.  I had been kicking myself for not being consistent enough in using the scoreboard to enforce the classroom rules.  I had convinced myself it was my fault my classes were getting chatty and quite lazy with the rules.  Even the “CLASS! YES!” is not what it used to be.  I had a few days of pitying myself saying things like, “This is what always happens… I get too lax and am not consistent in enforcing the rules… The scoreboard can’t fix my shortcomings in classroom management….”  And it goes on, but you get the idea.

So last night I looked over the adaptation that involves giving “The independents” their own scoreboard.  I had convinced myself earlier that this wouldn’t work because I don’t have any truly “challenging” kids who have an outward poor attitude.  I just have kids who are chatty!  They want to do well but are talking all the time and causing disruptions.  I realized this might work for them because the point of the independent scoreboard is to take kids that are causing the whole class to have negative points (more homework, in my case) and give them their own section of the scoreboard.

So today I added “The Independents” at the bottom of my scoreboard.  I noted to myself who my independents were.  As students entered for each class, I let independents know who they were and said I’d explain what it meant later.  The suspense built as students noticed the new scoreboard and wondered what it meant to be an independent.

In my advanced class, the group of 6 or 7 chatty independents took it upon themselves to try and earn LESS homework than the rest of the class once I had explained how it worked.  This made me chuckle to myself.  They have no idea how much they get off task and have side-conversations.  It only took 2 “more HW” points to quiet them way down and give me that glorious learning environment I covet.  We had a very effective lesson today.

In my class of 30, I think I almost derailed.  I had 4 independents in that class.  They are constantly looking at each other, laughing, talking, etc.  Again, these are kids who are nice, and even respectful, but just have some very bad habits developing in my room.  I explained that one independent’s bad behavior hurts the whole independent group (This is always a big deal to them when I explain it.  They think it’s SO unfair.  Yet it’s the same thing they have been doing to the rest of the class all along.  When they start to realize this — it is a really effective lesson for them.)  Well, while I did reward the independents one or two times, I had lots of opportunities to dish out negative points.  I ended up doing 2 negatives in a row — one for some bad behavior and then another one immediately following when one of the independents complained about it, bringing them to 3 total extra homework problems.  The student who had complained then got really aggravated.  Out of anger, he threatened to not do his homework at all tonight.  He is a student with ODD who I have had a great rapport with up to this point.  I’ve been SO happy with the work ethic I have been getting from him so far.  I stopped right after his comment and gave a stern reality check to the “whole class” (but really to the independents) about how many times the class was given extra HW at the hand of just a few rule-breakers.  And then I went on to say how many times I DIDN’T punish the class when it was just a few rule breakers because I didn’t want to keep making the whole group suffer — but now that the independents are in their own group, they are feeling the heat as they are being called out for more of their bad behavior than they are used to.

To that I got a very quiet room.  I don’t know if it was the best way to handle the moment, but time will tell.  I feel like I’ve been walking on eggshells around my ODD kiddo as to not make him “mad” at me and stop working for me.  At the same time, I know this was an impacting lesson he was learning as he felt the anger of suffering due to others bad behavior.

All in all, I’m happy with the independents scoreboard.  The whole class had a fresh momentum and seemed re-enthused with something new and unexpected going on in the room.  I could see the relief on many faces that I had noticed it was just a few students who often were the ones misbehaving.  They were quietly appreciative that I was doing something about.  I also like that students must leave the independent group by their own choice.  They simply come to me and explain they no longer want to be a part of the group.  I think I will have many of those requests tomorrow.



So Easy a Kid Can Do It! September 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wholebrainteacher @ 7:23 pm

Today I was held up on the other side of the building at the start of my advanced class.  I told the teacher I was talking to that I had better go because my rowdy group of smarties were probably running amok by then (this week I have already had 3 “less HW” points show up mysteriously on the scoreboard while I was standing in the hallway during class-change).

I walk in to find Johnny Smith (we’ll call him) has taken charge of the class and is going over the answers to the warm up problems in a semi-serious way.  He’s calling on students to come up and write their answers on the board.  The class looks at me when I walk in, but I tell them to carry on as if I’m not there.  I went ahead and sat down in the back.

Then comes the Power Teaching.  Chatter and laughter fill the room as I sit down.  Johnny responds to this with a deep, stearn, “Claaasss.”  And gets a perfect, “Yeeeesss” back.   Johnny continues, “I know you don’t want more homework tonight.”  (I laughed to myself that, being a student himself, he only threatened more HW, but didn’t actually put a point on the More HW side of the scoreboard.)

He went on through the rest of the warm ups and really got me laughing when he called for a 10-finger woo to a student who found and fixed a mistake on the board — still using his version of a “teacher tone.”

It was just too funny.  The power of routines in your classroom can not be underestimated.  It also goes to show that if someone else, even a 13 year old boy, knows a few whole brain teaching “tricks,”  they can man the class just the way you would.  Johnny was also not the one I would have expected to take over.  I have other students who I thought would have jumped at the chance to take center stage.  Johnny had great charisma with the class and (to a scary degree) imitated all my tones and mannerisms very accurately.

It was a great start to my morning.


WBT Scoreboard in the Middle School August 31, 2011

Filed under: Scoreboard — wholebrainteacher @ 7:05 pm

I’ve noticed a few things that have surprised me, so I thought I’d share…

I’m already using the scoreboard very differently depending on which class I have in the room.  I have one large, potentially chatty/noisy class.  For them, most points earned/lost on the scoreboard are tied to noise level and quick direction following, because that’s where they need to improve.  In fact, today at the beginning of the period I let them know that our scoreboard focus would be on rules 1 and 2.

In another class, I have a quiet group that has not been very enthusiastic.  During teach/okay times, I even had 2 or 3 pairs who weren’t really talking to each other.  They seemed to not feel comfortable with it.  With this class, I give/deduct scoreboard points for high vs. low energy, using gestures, etc.  I had initially wondered if WBT was going to work for this class, but yesterday and today they have come out of their shells and I’m getting a lot more enthusiasm out of them.  WBT really makes the classroom lively, and this class has finally caught on to that!  Success.

P.S.  I will post about how I’m using the genius ladder for math eventually, but for now I just have to say that I created a giant one at the front of the room and have said nothing about it.  The letters of “Genius” on the top rung sparkle with gold glitter.  It’s driving the kids crazy that I won’t tell them what it’s for!  I have kids in every period who want to know when we’ll start using it.  (See the Whole Brain Teaching “WBT Model Classroom” ebook to find out more about the genius ladder.  It’s a FANTASTIC and FUN writing/language arts strategy that I am adapting for my math classroom).


3 Days Down, Excited for 177 More August 26, 2011

Filed under: Beginning of the Year — wholebrainteacher @ 9:52 pm

The night before Day 1

I really wasn’t sure this was going to work.  I started to doubt that my personality would mesh with WBT.  So, I pretty much memorized the first minutes script laid out by fictitious teacher “Mrs. Maestra” in the WBT  “Teaching Teenagers” manual.  I stood in front of the mirror and rehearsed the introduction of the scoreboard, rules, etc.  I went to bed nervous, but excited about “committing” to WBT.  If I was going to do it, I had to be all in.

Day 1

  • Class #1: 7th Grade Advanced Math (25 students): I had this group last year.  They came in excited to see me and as if they knew what to expect.  I went through my introduction, mentioning that class would be much different this year.  They totally bought in.  They all know each other well, so they got right into TEACH/OKAY with enthusiasm.
  • Class#2: 7th Grade Math (30 students): I’ve never taught a class this big before, so that was my main concern.   They were a bit loud as they came bounding in.  But then, the curtain rose and my performance began.  They were all over it.  This class has great personality, and they worked hard to reduce their HW!
  • Class #3: 7th Grade Math (24 students): In previous years, my classes after lunch have always been rowdy compared to the morning, so it caught me off guard when this class was very quiet.  They didn’t pick up up on the routines as well, but seemed to like it.  The old me would have been so excited about a quiet and compliant class, but now I’m hoping to liven these guys up a bit.  I have a handful of partners who aren’t really into TEACH/OKAY and don’t seem to be talking to each other.  I might move some seats around to see if I can get some better match-ups.

Thoughts on the week

I was the only math teacher to give HW on the first day.  Also,  I worked the scoreboard so that I was ahead by 2, meaning they had 2 extra homework problems — just like Mrs. Maestra =).  I would think this would turn the kids off, but it didn’t seem to at all.

On day 2, when I truly started teaching, I found myself slipping back into my old teaching style and forgetting about the scoreboard.  I also didn’t plan out exactly when I’d use TEACH/OKAY, and then I barely used it.  I knew I had to be more intentional so it will become habit.

Today (day 3) in the advanced class, I had students working out problems in partners after my instruction.  I caught a boy arguing with his partner about an answer by using the gestures he learned for the definition of absolute value.  It was hilarious.  Then I gave the whole class a point because I saw gestures being used during partner work.

Looking ahead

I need to use the scoreboard to tighten up on routines next week.  I also haven’t rehearsed the rules all that much, so I think we’ll do that on Monday as a review after the weekend.  I’m thinking I’ll have them do it in funny voices since rule rehearsal has seemed to drag a bit.


Getting Ready August 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wholebrainteacher @ 11:42 pm

Somewhere around April of last school year, I stumbled upon WBT videos.  I had punched in “brain based learning” into the Google search bar, because I have a lot of interest in how the brain works during learning.  I clicked on a whole brain teaching link and was soon watching video after video.  The first was of a 6th grade math teacher introducing the rules of order of operations.  Coincidentally, I was also teaching 6th grade math.  I was a little taken a back by the choral responses at first… didn’t know if I liked that.  But I immediately loved how this math classroom was buzzing with discussion over each step of PEMDAS.  She taught one step at a time, using creative gestures, and then shouted the magic word: “TEACH!”  And in amazing unison, students responded, “OKAY!”  Then the craziest thing happened.  They enthusiastically began throwing their arms into the gestures and teaching one another.  It was loud!  But it was productive!

At the time, I had recently noticed so many of my students — the usually enthusiastic ones even — had gone into this sort of March funk.  They had slowly begun to drop off the effort wagon.  Watching (and drooling over) the symphony of student involvement in the video, I knew this WBT stuff was golden.  These kids were having a blast in math class — gasp!

So over the last 6 or 7 weeks of summer, I have prepared to try WBT in my classroom this year.  I’ll be moving up to 7th grade math, so I’ll see many familiar faces from last year.  It’ll be fun to see their faces when they realize class will not be anything like it was last year!  Also, I love to have fun in the classroom.  I like how WBT gives me some specific places to channel my humor while still running a “tight ship.”