Brain Engager

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Mirror Words: When we want 100% engagement in our classes (and when don’t we?) a WBT instructor says, “Mirror words!” and holds up her hands. The students respond, “Mirror words!” and pick up their hands. The teacher speaks slowly and makes gestures illustrating the lesson. Her students repeat her words and mimic her gestures. Mirror Words is one of our most powerful Brain Engagers ... and so, at the Beginner Level, we've included substantial directions below.

Mirroring gestures and repeating a lesson’s words activates students’ visual, motor and auditory cortices. Mirror lessons involve seeing, moving, hearing and speaking. We don’t have one exercise for kinesthetic learners, another exercise for visual learners, another exercise for auditory learners. We address all learning styles simultaneously.
Imagine a basketball coach with dribbling drills for natural dribblers and shooting drills for natural shooters and rebounding drills for natural rebounders. The coach designs lessons for each player’s strength, their natural ability, their learning style. Practices might be pleasant; every kid does what she does best. Of course, at game time, players flail whenever called on to perform outside their skill set. The greatest athletes are often descried as having “the whole package.” They superbly perform every task involved in their sport. We want our students to be similarly blessed. In WBT, and specifically with Mirror Words, we don’t focus on one learning style, but on all of a student’s mental skills as an integrated whole. We want kids to develop every cognitive ability, not just their primary talents.
In Mirror Words we use two kinds of gestures, casual and memory. Casual gestures make lessons visual. If you are talking about active verbs, you might pump your arms as if you were running. If you are discussing the Mississippi, you might draw an invisible map in the air, tracing the river from Minnesota down to New Orleans. If you are talking about the Three Little Pigs, you might mime building houses of straw, sticks, and bricks.
Memory gestures, on the other hand, are motions that are linked to core concepts. If the lesson is on capital letters, you might raise one hand above the other showing a capital is a “big letter.” If you were talking about sorting, you might pretend like you are dealing, sorting, cards. Predicting might be represented by thoughtfully scratching your head.  For a huge collection of over 300 core concept gestures and pictures, see our Power Pix.  Casual gestures can vary from teacher to teacher; memory gestures should be the same for every WBT teacher in a school. Casual and memory gestures are powerfully communicated by Mirror Words.
Hands and Eyes: The Intermediate Level of our Brain Engagers is Hands and Eyes. About once every five minutes, you need to make a Big Point. Say, "Hands and Eyes!" and quickly fold your hands. Your kids respond, "Hands and Eyes!," fold their hands and listen silently to VII (Very Important Information). As with all your instructional strategies, vary your tone of voice and mood when announcing Hands and Eyes.
Silent Mirror: Silent Mirror is the Advanced Brain Engager. You say, "Silent Mirror, shhh" and place one finger over you lips. Kids respond, "Silent Mirror, shh" and mimic your gesture. In Silent Mirror students mirror your gestures, but don't say your words. Kids quietly pay attention, engaging their motor and visual cortices with your hand movements. Cards on the table, even veteran WBT educators overuse Mirror Words. It's power is intoxicating ... every kid marching in your parade. Ideally, we should use Mirror Words and Silent Mirror in equal portions ... and Magic Mirror, the next level, most of all.
Magic Mirror: Our our most powerful, but probably least used, Brain Engager is Magic Mirror. You say, "Magic Mirrors! Woo!" and wiggle your fingers. Kids repeat your words and gestures. But then the engaging weirdness starts. Place your hands behind your back, say "Repeat my words, but make your own gestures!" Talk slowly, using as much visual language as possible, and watch in amazement as kids create original gestures illustrating your points. In Magic Mirrors, your students creatively develop their own visual body language. For example, you might say, "The Big Point ... about reading a story ... is that you have to think deeply ... about the main characters." Students repeat your words but some, at "The Big Point" stretch their arms out wide, others life their arms high. When you say, "reading a story" kids repeat your words but create their own variation on gestures for opening a book, reading. And so forth. In Magic Mirror something wonderful takes place. Your words are repeated exactly, but each student creates a unique visual sign language. Creativity is one of our Five Virtues. When your Magic Mirror lesson passes into Teach-Okay and Collaborative Learning, kids are ahead of you ... having already invented their own gestures for teaching their neighbor.
Free Style!: Late in the year, or early if you have substantial WBT experience, you launch into Semi-Divine Brain Engagers. Oh Baby, you're free stylin' Mix up Mirror Words, Hands and Eyes, Silent Mirror, and Magic Mirror as the spirit moves you. For example, you might start with a Big Point, Hands and Eyes, and then dial in maximum engagement with Mirror Words. Or, you quiet everyone down with Silent Mirror and then charge them up with Magic Mirror and finish off your a deeply serious Hands and Eyes. All of this in the course of a minute's instruction. It's Semi-Divine Free Style. The new dance craze that's sweeping the nation.

10 Mirror Variations

  1. Giant Mirror Words! (Your kids respond, “Giant Mirror Words” and imitate your gestures. The same pattern is used in the rest of the variations.)
  2. Tiny Mirror Words!
  3. Rabbit Fast Mirror Words!
  4. Turtle Slow Mirror Words!
  5. Mirror The Words Right Now!
  6. Mirror Wacky Words!
  7. Right Hand Mirror Words!
  8. Left Hand Mirror Words!
  9. Calm and Quiet Mirror Words
  10. Arms Way Out Wide Mirror Words!