Friday, July 20, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Conference

Two teachers, Nancy Gajewski and Patty Mayo (English teacher) attended a Whole Brain Teaching Conference on July 17th and 18th in Union, Missouri. They have provided us with information on Whole Brain Teaching.

I [Nancy] started researching Whole Brain Teaching after an old colleague and previous DCE teacher, Pattii Waldo recommended it. My first impression was - Wow! This stuff is strange! But the more I investigated their website, the more I liked what I saw. I liked that students were highly engaged and Chris Biffle is quite brilliant in terms of strategy when it comes to dealing with challenging students. I started watching "Coach B's" Tuesday night television broadcasts and implemented a few strategies the last month of school. The strategies worked well. Patty and I (along with 620 other teachers) attended a two day conference in Union, Missouri. Chris Biffle (founder) happened to be staying at our hotel so we asked him if we could get our picture taken with him. Here is information from the Whole Brain Teaching website.

Chris Biffles, developer of Whole Brain TeachingWhole Brain Teaching (originally called “Power Teaching”) is a highly interactive form of instruction that delivers information to students in short “chunks.” Kids then teach what they have just learned to their partners, using hand-gestures to help remember specific vocabulary. While students teach each other, the teacher walks around the room to formatively assess who understands the lesson and who needs more instruction. Research shows that children retain more information when they have an opportunity to put it into their own words and use gestures to emphasize key instructional units… plus, it’s amazingly fun! Whole Brain Teaching was developed by Chris Biffle, Philosophy professor at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, CA (San Bernadino County). Fourth grade teacher Chris Rekstad is one of the whole brain teachers who has worked a lot with Chris Biffle.

Whole Brain Teaching makes claims that students learn better because they are using many parts of their brain. They have a research section on their websites which provides some statistics about student achievement from a few school districts. The claim regarding the use of "the whole brain" may be difficult for them to prove. All I know is  know it that it gets people focused in a quick, fun and efficient manner (We were on-task 98% of the two days in Missouri) and the use of gestures provide cues for students. I found several articles about the use of gestures and learning: Students' Gestures Boost Learning Gesture Give a Hand to Language and Learning, Teachers Gestures as a Means of Scaffolding, The Role of Gestures in Learning  The Role of Gestures in Geoscience Teaching and Learning, Why Kids Need to Move

Probably the best part of Whole Brain Teaching is how much the students are talking and teaching. Whole Brain Teaching is like "Think Pair Share" on steroids. The teacher is continually walking around and formatively assessing understanding.

Here is a great site which explains the Whole Brain Teaching basic components.The blog describes the Core Four and Class Rules:
The Core 4 are, simply put, the four main things you can incorporate into your class to implement Whole Brain Teaching quickly, effectively, and with immediate results each and every day.
They are:
  1. Class-Yes
  2. The Scoreboard
  3. Mirror
  4. Teach-Okay
They are meant to:
  1. Bring the class together (Class-Yes)
  2. Keep them motivated (Scoreboard)
  3. Get them active (Mirror)
  4. Build community and be accountable for their learning (Teach-Okay)

Here is another website which contains many Whole Brain Teaching videos. The program also provides many well-thought out strategies for challenging students. A "Super Improver's Wall" is also part of the program.

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