3 Ways I Implement Whole Brain Teaching in My Classroom

Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) is an interactive form of instruction that presents information to students in short chunks using hand gestures. The chunked information is content-based and loaded with vocabulary. Students then mimic the presentation of content back to you or teach it to their peers. The idea behind incorporating motions with words is that it engages all parts of the brain, creating a more holistic learning experience for the student.

I am in no way an expert on WBT, rather, just a teacher who loves an engagement strategy and has molded it to fit the needs of my classroom! As you read this, remember, Whole Brain Teaching is what you make of it. If you’re feeling extra silly one day and want to use your best pirate voice to teach a chunk of content, go for it! I’m sure it will grab the attention of (and entertain) your students. If you decide to use WBT strictly to review the learning objective each day, that’s fine too. I was hesitant to start at first, especially with my 5th graders; However, since implementing parts of this program, my students are more engaged in the lesson, retain information better, and even smile a bit more! Below are three ways that I implement Whole Brain Teaching in my classroom.

Class, Yes!

This call and response is how I gain the attention of my class. As soon as I say “class” my students respond with “yes”. However you say the word “class”, students should mimic in the same tone/variation. WBT suggests different variations of the phrase, for example: If I say “class-class” students respond with “yes-yes” OR “classity-class” students respond with “yessity-yes”. I also use several other attention getters throughout a lesson. You can find these all over TpT or Pinterest. Recently, my students’ favorite attention getter has been “Scooby-Dooby Doo” and they say “where are you?”. During the month of October I like to use a spooky attention getter such as “hocus pocus” and students say “everybody focus”.

What makes these fun phrases so effective are my expectations. As soon as students hear me say an attention getter and they begin to respond, they know they must stop what they are doing and turn their bodies so that they can see me. If I don’t get the attention of every single student, I remind them of my expectations and we redo.

Mirror – Mirror

This portion of the WBT cycle is the brain engager. In my classroom, I say “Mirrors On” and put both hands up. Students repeat that phrase and mimic my hand gestures. This is the time to present direct instruction on content and load it with appropriate vocabulary that you want the students to use throughout the lesson. The content should be chunked so that they can remember what to do and say (chunks will look different in a primary class vs. intermediate class). A school-wide goal that TME leaders are currently working on is making sure ALL students know what they are learning. To begin class every day, and as a reminder later on in the lesson, I use Mirror-Mirror to read aloud and engage my students in the learning target. I find this far more effective than me posting the LT and simply reading it to my kids. After completing Mirror-Mirror, I use the next engagement strategy (Teach, OK) to reiterate the learning target and have students paraphrase it in their own words.

Caution: after you turn the mirrors on, students will mock every.single.word. you say. So be ready or it could get interesting! 😉

Teach, OK!

I give my students SO many opportunities throughout a lesson to share their thinking. Teach, OK is a practice that promotes peer communication and allows students to paraphrase your direct instruction. When you finish teaching in chunks and are ready to see if students retained the information, clap your hands twice, say “teach”, students clap their hands twice, and students say “OK”. Students will then turn their body and give full attention to someone sitting next to them (for the most part in my classroom, this is their elbow partner). One elbow partner will paraphrase your lesson, using hand gestures and vocabulary, while the other partner listens intently. The teacher will then call out “switch” and partners will take on the opposite role. As students are teaching their peers, walk around the classroom to check for comprehension. At that time, you can make the decision to move on with instruction or reteach. After all peer teaching is finished, remember to get their attention with a variation of “class” or another fun callback!

Like I mentioned before, I am no expert. To be exact, my WBT journey began at the beginning of this year and I am still learning my way through the beginner phase. You’ll see that you can extend this practice so much further than I have mentioned, once you visit the website (wholebrainteaching.com). The best part about this professional development opportunity is that it is FREE and the impact on instruction is significant! Get out of your comfort zone, use a silly voice, and engage the WHOLE BRAIN of each student in learning!

Good Luck and Happy Teaching!

Jordan Greene, Leader, 5th grade Teacher, Taylor Mill Elementary


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