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Step 1: Ask a question. 

When introducing a new lesson, begin with the question which the lesson will answer.  "What is a noun?"  "What is an active verb?"  "What is a simple sentence?"  "What is (book title) about?"  "What did we learn about (subject)?"   "What are the steps in solving (insert math problem)?"  "What are the steps in (experiment name)?"


Step 2: Answer the question. 

Give a short, kid-friendly answer to the question. When appropriate the answer should be tied to a memory gesture. "A noun is a person (point to yourself), a place (indicate the classroom), a living thing (tug your ear), or a noun living thing (tap the desk)."  "An active verb shows action (Gesture: churn your arms)."  "An adjective changes, modifies, a noun.  (Gesture:  roll an imaginary ball of clay in your hands, "changing" it.)

Whole Brain Teaching Step 3 Writing

Step 3: Critical Thinking

Expand the answer, finishing with critical thinking tasks.

Start simple and build complexity. Offer one sentence examples of the answer. "A teacher is a noun because a teacher is a person."  "I run.  Run is an action.  Run is an active verb."  "Blue bear ... blue is an adjective because blue changes, modifies, bear."

After examples, introduce critical thinking tasks to be completed by students.  "Tell your neighbor lots of nouns that are persons."  "Take turns with your neighbor filling in this sentence frame for one minute: We active verb."  "With your neighbor, fill in this sentence frame over and over:  The adjective dog runs."

Step 1, 2, and the first part of Step 3 only take a few minutes.  The majority of the lesson, 5-10 minutes or more, should be occupied with critical thinking tasks in the bold part of Step 3.


Step 4: Assess

Quickly assess comprehension using the Quick Test (QT). A QT is a list of True/False statements.

You say, “QT”; your kids respond, “Cutie!” and cover their eyes. Make true/false statements. For example, “A noun is a person, place or action word.” If the answer is true, students silently give a thumbs up gesture. If the answer is false, kids give a thumbs down gesture. If they are uncertain (good information for you!) pupils waggle their thumbs sideways.  QT provides a rapid, clear picture of individual student’s understanding ... that doesn't require grading!  If 90% of your class score 90% on the test, go on to Step 5. If not, cycle back to Step 3 above and reteach the concept with new examples and critical thinking tasks.

Whole Brain Teaching Step 5 Writing

Step 5: Writing

Complete the unit with a summative task. Since every lesson begins with a question, an excellent writing exercise is answering the question (for K-1, assign the following as conversation topics with a neighbor).

  • Write a letter to the aliens on Planet Zork explaining the concept.
  • Write a letter to your Genius Pet who loves to know what you learned at school.
  • Write several sentences that compare and contrast the current concept (for example, noun) with previous concepts (verb, adjective, preposition)
  • Use the current concept in as many sentences as possible that contain the word “because."


Example Five Step Lesson

Step 1: What is a verb? Say to your students, "Today we are going to answer the question, what is a verb? A verb is a part of speech, just like the noun we learned about yesterday. The noun and the verb are partners and work together very closely. There are many other parts of speech, but the noun and the verb are the most important parts. They are like the foundation of a house: in language, everything else is built on and around the noun and verb. Today we will tackle the question, what is a verb?" Next, ask your students to do a full turn, use big gestures, and explain to their neighbor the question that we are going to try and answer in this lesson. Students turn to their partners and paraphrase both the question and the significance of that question, to their partner.
A verb can be active (churn arms) or passive (fold arms).
Give examples of active verbs. Speak for one minute, using Mirror Words or Mirror Variations. After one minute have students teach each other your lesson using Teach Okay. Then come back and add more complexity, teaching for one minute followed by Teach Okay. Increase the level of critical thinking by using sentence frames. Kids insert verbs into sentence frames, completing each frame as many times as possible in one minute. I _____. We _____ and _____. They _____, ______, and _____.
1. All verbs are passive. 2. Some verbs are active. 3. I run. Run is a verb. 4. They walk in the park. "In" is a verb. 5. I fly over the hill. "fly" is a verb. 6. The next sentence has two verbs: We eat and drink. 7. The next sentence has two verbs: Bob runs across the big field. One great trick is to have a seating chart in a clear sheet protector on a clipboard. Use a dry erase marker to make a tally mark next to a student's name for each incorrect answer. You can use this information to reteach as necessary to individual students during step 5.
Write a letter to your Genius Pet describing verbs.

Click HERE to see more five step examples.