Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday! WBT in High School

Can Whole Brain Teaching be used in a high school setting?
Here are some concerned comments I've pulled off the WBT Forum.

      The fact is that although WBT strategies are being used more amongst elementary school teachers, they can and are being used regularly by many high school teachers as well! Check out these videos of WBT in action in different high school classes:

     Chances are we would probably change several aspects of our teaching if we were teaching a Grade 1 class compared to a Grade 11 class to best suit their age level. Whole Brain Teaching is no different. We can easily incorporate the gestures and team-teaching basics of WBT while still maintaining age-appropriate instruction. Remember, with anything we do in our classrooms, we modify it (consciously or not) to:
- Fit our own personality/comfort level
- Suit our student's needs
- Reflect our school's policies/rules/regulations
- etc, etc!

     I have mentioned this several times on the forum but I am mentioning it here again, Coach B's advice during the Lesson 1 YouTube video is key! When teaching, our students know immediately when we are unprepared, stressed, unorganized, etc and this can be the #1 deterrent when it comes to student buy-in. Confidence and commitment sells! When you first introduce WBT to your students, whether that is at the start of the school year or in the middle of the semester you have to commit. Coach B suggests comments such as:

- "Now that you are entering Grade 10 you will be taking on more responsibility. As such, our classroom will be following the WBT learning strategies that will involve you actually teaching your classmates!"
- "At this point in the semester I begin using WBT learning strategies with my students. I know that you are ready now and I can't wait to show you."

     These types of comments imply that we have had it in our minds all along to introduce WBT in our classrooms at this exact moment. This is how I introduced WBT to my Grade 10 class when I was student teaching and they were behind it 100%. The students loved the idea that they were ready to begin this new strategy. Even if we, as teachers, are nervous or unsure about a new strategy our students need to know that we are confident and sure of ourselves. Once we waver or imply that these strategies are, "ridiculous" or, "meant for younger students" our legitimacy is immediately lost and we won't have student support.

     I have used WBT with both a Grade 10 class as well as a Grade 5/6 class and had success with both age levels, but here is my WBT high school experience.

     The day before I began WBT with my Grade 10 class for the first time I decided to spontaneously "test-drive" some of the theories behind it. By this time I had read some of the free e-books, creeped on the WBT Forum and watched... then re-watched the videos but I was still nervous because it was so different than what I was used to. One area of difficulty in our class was having students remember to bring their supplies to class after their break. We would consistently have students coming and going because of forgotten textbooks, pencils, and assignments. Before break, as I was explaining to the class what supplies to bring back with them, I quickly realized that they were not listening to a word I was saying.... I can't blame them, it was almost break and our school was hosting a volleyball tournament in the gym! I quickly lifted up 4-fingers and announced, "I need everyone to mirror my gestures!" and waited expectantly until I had all 28 students with 4-fingers up in the air. I then proceeded to go through the 4 supplies they needed to return with, wiggling each finger as we counted it off the list. Wouldn't you have loved to see my expression when not ONE student forgot their supplies after recess?

whole brain teaching, does whole brain teaching work
whole brain teaching, WBT, does whole brain teaching work, how does whole brain teaching affect the brain?When I did introduce WBT the next day it went off without a hitch! I don't think I had ever been so committed to any one teaching method in my life (I really wanted to prove to myself it would work). As I explained that at this point in our time together we would be starting "Whole Brain Learning" I also had a PowerPoint with images of the brain and which areas were engaged during different activities. I explained that by using different WBT strategies we would be engaging more areas of our brains compared to when we were sitting and writing notes, which was our traditional method. Technically, we would be learning more even though we were writing LESS!! This was a huge selling point in our class because our history/geography class traditionally involved a lot of written notes as well as written assignments.

For the next 2 weeks we used the WBT strategies of "Class-Yes", "Teach-Ok", "the Scoreboard", "It's Cool" and "10-Finger Woo"; all of which worked perfectly in our high school setting. This fall I will be student teaching again for 6 weeks in a high school setting and will definitely be using WBT again. (I hope to even film my own class video for WBT Certification!)

     For more information from full-time high school teachers who are using WBT check out these great blogs!
Whole Brain Teaching with Roxi Shayne (that's her class in the 2nd video at the start of this post)
Mrs. Molnar's Whole Brain Teaching Log 

     You can also join the NEW WBT-High School (9-12) Facebook group!


  1. You're welcome Bobbie!
    It is so exciting to hear about entire districts incorporating WBT! So far I am the only person in my province that is using WBT that I know of so I feel pretty alone, hopefully I will start the ball rolling.
    Can't wait to hear more about how the conference goes, I hope you will post about it :)

  2. Where did you get the whole brain diagrams? I am moving from teaching 8th grade math to teaching high school (block schedule, too), and I think I am going to have to show students something like this to get them to buy in.