The first thing to explain to your kids about Whole Brain Teaching is that everything in your class is a game, one after another, all year long.
Each morning the Game's List on the board presents the day's entertainments. The crucial difference between Day One, and succeeding days, is that in the first class meeting, list the foundational games that support instruction throughout the year. On the Second Day, and thereafter, games, except when a new entertainment is introduced, are linked to academic activities. (Note the focus on Character Education, Manners, Please-Okay, all the way through. See the explanatory note near the bottom of this page.)
Here is a sample of a Day One list.
3. Mirror Words
6. Rule 1: "Follow directions quickly!"
7. Big Hairy Review!
Spend Day One, with frequent review on succeeding days, rehearsing the core WBT techniques that turn lessons into deeply engaging games. Instead of diving into math and reading, dive into the procedures of Collaborative Learning, and Character Education. Set aside writing and social science for the arts of opening books quickly and lining up efficiently. All of our strategies can be gamified, simply by linking them to the Scoreboard and/or Super Improvers.
On the Second Day, most items on the Games List link WBT games to academic activities.
1. Please-Okay: Morning Message
2. Please-Okay: Phonics
3. Class-Yes: Math
4. Hands and Eyes
5. Please-Okay + Class Yes + Hands and Eyes: Big Hairy Review!
Items 1-3 link WBT games to academics; item 4 introduces a new game (Hands and Eyes); item 5 brings everything together in a BHR (Big Hairy Review). Day Two sets the year-long pattern; most of the topics on the Games List link entertainments to academics, except when a new WBT strategy is introduced.
Point out that at the start of the year, the class will be playing Green Games (as noted by a green marker); the goal is to perform like student leaders two grades older than the current grade. Though you will be using many Whole Brain Teaching strategies during the day, each game has a focus. The focus for Morning Message above is to use Please-Okay, our Character Education strategy, with Green Power … like students two grades older. You may be using Scoreboard all morning, but it becomes the special focus during Reading (as listed above).
The advantage of a games list is that you can roll out Whole Brain Teaching techniques in any order you wish … fast or slow … and your students will remind you of what game you should be playing!
Here is a sample Day 30, morning game list. (Green = 2 grades higher; Blue = 3 grades higher)
1. Manners Bonus!: Morning Message
2. Magic Mirror
3. Manners Bonus!: Math
4. Super Improver: Reading
5. Manners Bonus! + Magic Mirror + Super Improver: Big, Giant Review!
Simply by changing your marker color, you increase student engagement. Kids love to think of themselves as older than they are!
A Day 90 list might look like the following (Green = 2 grades higher; Blue = 3 grades higher, Red = 5 grades higher!)
1. Scoreboard + Manners Bonus!: Morning Message
2. Silent Mirrors
3. Super Improver + Rule 2: Math
4. Rule 1 & 2: Reading
5. Scoreboard + Manners Bonus! + Rule 1 + Rule 2 : Ginormous, Big Review!
The timeline presented here of Day 1-30-90 is approximate. If you have rambunctious kids , it might be wise to save Blue Games for the lull after Christmas and the motivating challenge of Red Games for after Spring Break. You decide. It's your class. Whatever your choice, at the end of your first year, you will make a lovely discovery. The walls of Teaching Heaven are inscribed in red.
For Beloved Rascals who resist WBT strategies, point out that your class is modeled on video games. Games like Call of Duty and Candy Crush involve all brain regions: decision making, moving, seeing, hearing, speaking, feeling. This is why video games are so addictive … they are Whole Brain involving.
Your class is, of course, superior to any digital entertainment. Students aren’t racking up imaginary points, killing zombies or smashing digital candies, but gaining real smarts.
Tell your kids to forget about fiddling with cheesy apps seeking make- believe prizes … in your classroom, all day, they will be inside a video game getting brighter!
When students ask what they receive for winning a classroom game, reply, “Win enough times and, just like a video game, you go up a Level! Maybe someday you’ll get a crack at Purple Power.”
Our massive Character Education program, only hinted at above with Please-Okay and Manners is our core focus in Whole Brain Teaching. Of course, we want to help our kids become good at reading, writing, and math but our highest goal is to help them become good people. For year-long vitality, combine Manners with our two most powerful, multi-level games, Scoreboard and Super Improver. When you see several kids displaying good Manners, give them a bonus point, or even a dice roll for Uncertain Reward on the Scoreboard. When an individual student shows improvement in Manners, pick up those dice and let her roll for a Super Improver Star. Turn respectful behavior into lively entertainments.
Here's the big idea, which you'll convey to your kids in the opening minutes of Day One: everything we do in this classroom is a game. All day long, it's just one game after another. On Day One, the Games List itemizes core WBT strategies. On succeeding days, games are linked to academic activities. The goal in Green Games is to play like students two grades higher; in Blue Games, play like students three grades higher; wonderfully challenging Red Games must be played like student five grades higher. Every strategy in WBT, Please-Okay, Class-Yes, Mirror Words, Class Rules, can be gamified by linking them to the Scoreboard and Super Improvers. As the year unfolds, stack games together, Scoreboard + Rule 1 + Manners Dice Bonus or Super Improver + Mirror Words + Class-Yes. The combinations are infinite. Our entertainments never wear out. The core game, the Game of all Games, requires using Please-Okay, Thank you-You're Welcome, Woos, You're still cool, Help me!, and Deep Compliments, all the golden baubles in our Character Education treasure chest.
There are no clocks in Teaching Heaven ... because it's always game time.