Helping Beloved Rascals, Challenging Kids, is Whole Brain Teaching’s goal. In the early days of our movement, during the late 90’s, we offered free Saturday seminars in Southern California on topics we believed were of burning interest to instructors: increasing reading speed and comprehension, improving writing skills, developing math proficiency, preparing for Common Core tests.
We never had more than 30 educators attend our presentations. In 2002, for a reason we can’t remember, we created a new conference, “Power Teaching for Challenging Kids (and the rest of your class, too!)" Boom! Ninety teachers showed up for the presentation; we offered the same topic a month later … over 200 eager educators packed Yucaipa’s Crafton Hills College auditorium. A few months later 400 teachers jammed the theatre of San Joaquin Middle School … and we turned away 500.
Based on this unscientific research a decade ago, and countless conversations with educators since, we believe that the primary problem in American education, contrary to newspaper reports, is not improving test scores, but teaching disruptive students.
So, after years of classroom experiments, action research conducted by thousands of teachers, and communicated to us via emails,, blogs. Facebook, Twitter and the forum at WholeBrainTeaching.com, here are our conclusions:
- Kids, including Beloved Rascals, learn the most when they have the most fun learning.
- The longer we talk, the more students we lose.
- Scolding increases classroom management problems.
- In place of telling students how to behave, we should guide them through entertaining practice of incorrect and then, correct behavior.
- The strongest student academic and social motivator is rewarding for improvement, not ability.
- The more we construct lessons that engage Challenging Kids, students who are difficult to engage, the more powerful our lessons become for all students.
- The most important value to teach our pupils, the personality transforming value, is Kindness.
- From the first hour on Day One, use the Scoreboard to motivate your kids to perform like students two grades higher. This simple, powerful strategy is your class motivator, a team game in which your pupils advance to higher and higher levels of academic and social excellence.
- Think of the Scoreboard as a video game with morals! When your class is doing a good job following classroom rules, treating each other with respect, performing transitions quickly, staying on task, mark a positive tally. Kids clap their hands, a One Second Party, and exclaim, “Oh, yeah!” When students are off task, behaving rudely, breaking class rules, mark a negative tally. Your students quickly lift their shoulders and utter a Mighty Groan.
- Explore details here.
Student Engagement Average (SEA)
- Turn classroom management into a year-long game … your goal? Keep improving your SEA and reducing disruptive behavior. Too often, we focus on Beloved Rascals and miss the big picture … behavior is improving, but at a glacial pace. The Student Engagement Average portrays progress, however microscopically slow, and thereby overcomes instructor despair. As you'll see, SEA also allows us to focus on individual kids for behavior improvement.
- Score every student, once per week.
- 5 points: Student Teachers: Use Class-Yes and Mirror Words to deliver review lessons.
- 4 points: Alphas: Almost always follow classroom rules.
- 3 points: Go-Alongs: Generally follow classroom rules.
- 2 points: Fence Sitters: Occasionally follow classroom rules.
- 1 point: Beloved Rascals: Almost never follow classroom rules.
- 0 points: Amazers: Outbursts keep others from learning.
- After evaluating each student's engagement, add up the total points and divide by the number of kids. For example, if your total points are 90 and you have 30 kids, your Student Engagement Average is a happy 3.0 (90/30). This single number gives you a clear portrait of your students' performance. Always score "blind." Don't look at a student's previous score; evaluate what you have observed in the current week. If you're in doubt between two scores, give the pupil the lower score ... this avoids grade inflation, an unrealistic portrait of your students' engagement.
- Every week, pick a few kids to coach to higher involvement. If the performance of your select group doesn't improve, there are only two reasons. One, you set their behavior targets too high. Or two, you didn’t coach them well enough. Either way you know what to do next … change targets or improve coaching … no despair allowed! A great first move is to solve the easiest problems first, train 4s to be 5s, WBT Student Leaders who can use Class-Yes and Mirror Words to deliver lesson summaries … more Student Leaders, the richer the Whole Brain class environment.
- As the year unfolds, keep in mind the heartening goal ... you're not trying to increase the engagement of the entire class, but only a few kids at a time. If your SEA increases by only .1 per month, a modest goal, then over a 10 month school year, you've lifted every student an entire level.
- If we have a classroom game that rewards for ability, top students loaf (because it's too easy) and bottom students quit (because they can't win). When we reward for improvement, every student, top to bottom, works hard to win ... because they are only competing against themselves.
- VERY IMPORTANT: the better, more colorful, and larger your Super Improver display, the more powerfully motivating. A big, beautiful, colorful Super Improver display with your name on it in big letters is more engaging to the brain, than a cheesy, scrappy display lost in a corner ... same game, radically different student engagement. Explore details here
Classroom Rules Practice
- Too often, classroom rules are posted on the wall and are rarely referred to again. Weave WBT rules all through your day, rehearsing them, with gestures, first thing in the morning, after lunch, and each recess.
- The more entertaining you make the review, the more your kids will delight in following the rules. In addition, not surprisingly, the better your students know your guidelines, the clearer, and deeper, their understanding of your expectations. Explore details here.
Rule Call Out
- When students have mastered the rules, typically by the end of the first month, start Rule Call Out. Randomly call a Rule Number and kids respond with the rule and its gesture. By the end of the second month, use Rule Call Out whenever a rule is broken. Use callouts to stop challenging behavior without halting the instructional train.
- When a disruption occurs, announce the appropriate rule and hold up the number on your fingers. Students exclaim the associated rule and gesture. You will discover one of the marvelous blessings of teaching ... kids love to tell each other what to do.
- To motivate intense, fast responses to the callouts, mark the Scoreboard.
- Wrong/Right Practice can be started a week or two after the beginning of Rule Call Out Ask kids to demonstrate Wrong, two grades lower, behavior and then Right, two grades higher, behavior. For example, for third graders, ask the class to demonstrate how first graders would open their books. Then, demonstrate how fifth graders would open their books. Kids love to think of themselves as older than they are.
- When you don't know what else to do, normal situation in today's classrooms, practice Wrong Way, Right Way procedures. Motivate wtih Scoreobard marks and/or Super Improver stars.
- NEVER allow inappropriate behavior to go uncorrected … but don't scold, rehearse incorrect and correct behavior.
- BackTalk Stopper! Say, "Let's see how we can make our class more polite. Tom, I'm going to ask you to sit up straight. You say, rudely, 'I am sitting up straight.'" You ask. Tom complies with pretend backtalk. Then say, "Let's do the same thing. But this time, when Tom backtalks, I'll say Five! You exclaim, 'Keep your dear teacher happy!'" You ask Tom to sit up straight. Tom starts to comply with pretend backtalk, but you interrupt him with "Five!" Kids proclaim, "Keep your dear teacher happy!" You've demonstrated that when backtalk occurs, the class joyously supports you ... even Tom's homies will merrily put him in place.
- Do your best to postpone Recess Practice until a month before Christmas break. Only use this strategy after you have vigorously implemented Tiers 1-3 above.
- Draw a box on the whiteboard and label it with a target behavior (Rule 1, in this case). Say, “You can practice following directions quickly in class, or at recess.”
- When you note kids ignoring a rule, look away from them, wave your hand in their direction, say “Some of my friends need recess practice on Rule 1.” If you look at the Rascals, you may ignite rebellion. Let kids wonder who you're talking about.
- Put an X in the box for each student who needs practice.
- At recess, kids repeat the rule gesture they need to rehearse for 15 seconds. Every few weeks, increase by 15 seconds to a maximum of 120 seconds.
- If students complain at recess say, “I'll happily listen to your complaints, but I won’t start the stopwatch until you’re ready for practice.”
- As the year unfolds, announce a new level of Recess Practice. Say, "If you think you got X'ed, and I see your behavior improve ... you may escape from The Box!" When you note a student fixing their questionable behavior, draw an arrow from one X, partway out of the box. This indicates someone, who could it be?, might escape Recess Practice. After several days of practical escape, draw the arrow outside the box and announce the Escaping Winner. Oh! Goodness! How exciting to have earned recess!
Open the Door
- Toward the end of the year, say something like the following to your students, “As you know, one of our most important rules, is ‘Make smart choices.’ I want you to have lots of Smart Choices practice. I’ll occasionally ask you a question about yourself outside of class. It’s your choice, of course, how much to answer and how long we talk. But I do encourage you to chat with me because I think it would be a Smart Choice if you help me, your teacher, know more about who you are.”
- Open the door to your Beloved Rascals by posing questions, not many more than one per day. Before anything else, with resistant learners, you must establish a relationship that doesn’t involve scolding. Praise your Rascals for small signs of positive behavior; learn about their interests; praise their cool shoes. We suggest five types of Open the Door questions. The last one is Surefire:
- General: How are you doing today?
- Personal: How’s life at home?
- Academic: What part of class do you like the best? What’s your strongest (weakest) subject?
- Topical: Did you see "Batman Goes to Mars"?
- Surefire: Find out your student’s favorite video game … then play it …and ask for advice.
Advanced Character Education (ACE)
- ACE is one of our newest programs and replaces detention or keeping kids in for recess, or any penalty that involves setting students aside from group activities.
- Student referrals are filled out by circling the rule that needs extra practice. Students stay in the ACE room only for as long as it takes to neatly complete their level of writing tasks. ACE monitors should be exceedingly strict about neat compositions. Students repeat each level three times (or whatever the school decides) before moving on.
- Specially chosen Motivational Music is played during Advanced Character Education … Polka, Hillbilly Opera, Glockenspeil Classics, Musical Saw. Understand that students love music but have an exceedingly narrow range of music they enjoy. Motivational Music motivates kids to never return to Respect Practice!
- Students refusing to write are not hassled. They simply stay until the last student leaves and return the next day. Students lacking writing skills, neatly draw pictures representing their level. The school may decide to substitute other writing tasks than those listed, but the tasks should increase from easier to more challenging.
- Level 1: We should follow rule _____ because _______.
- Level 2: We should follow rule _____ because _______ and _______.
- Level 3: We should follow rule _____ because _______, _______, and _______.
- Level 4: We should follow rule _____ because _______, _______, and _______.
- Green sentence. Blue sentence. Red sentence.
- Level 5: We should follow rule _____ because _______, _______, and _______.
- Two Green sentences. Two Blue sentences. Two Red sentences.