As we describe in our new book, Whole Brain Teaching; Fast Track: Seven Steps to Teaching Heaven our our primary goal in WBT is to reward students for improvement, not ability. We praise excellent effort more than excellent work. We nourish growth rather than innate talent. Thus, every child, special ed to gifted, can be equally successful.
In traditional education, rewards for ability result in the same students winning recognition, year after year. Too often, our brightest kids skate by with minimum effort while less talented pupils bail out of a race that the system has taught them they can’t win.
For Step One in your journey to Teaching Heaven, create a Super Improver classroom display as described below. (For lots of free Super Improver Graphics, and an amplified description, g here.
In upper grades, 5-12, we use a sports theme, Scrub to Living Legend. The contest is period against period.
When you see improvement in transition speed, a crucial skill, praise the student. If the pattern continues for several more transitions, award a Super Improver star. After 5 stars, the kid’s card changes from Turtle white to Penguin blue (or whatever color you choose) Note: the cards don't move ... only the color changes!
Hector, a bit of a slowpoke, shows increases in speed when getting out his study materials. Praise him. If rapid transitions continue an d he becomes the new Speedy Hector, award the boy a Super Improver star on his name card. Daphne, naturally quick, peps it up even more than normal when cleaning up her desk. Praise her new talents. Then, when she maintains her new pace, give Daphne her star. If Hector or Daphne slow down, don't remove stars! Praise and incentives are more powerful than scolding or punishing. Simply say, "When I see you return to your speedy self, I will give you a new Super Improver goal for more stars.”
For more details, see Fast Track Our yearlong strategy begins with lots of praise at the start of the year and few stars. This makes improvement stars valuable. Mid-year, less praise and more stars. In the spring, when you really need student energy, it’s raining stars!
- sentence variety (two sentences in a row don’t start with the same word)
- increased use of adjectives (or prepositions, adverbs, conjunctions, appositives, etc.)
- reading speed
- mastery of math facts
- direct instruction focus
- collaborative learning energy
- insightful questions
- multi-sentence answers to the teacher’s questions
- praise of classmates
- use of "Please, thank you, you're welcome"
- good sportsmanship
- considerate leadership
- mentoring lower grade students.
- following any of WBT’s Classroom Rules
A common mistake that educators make with Super Improvers is rewarding good, rather than improved, behavior. “Look at how nicely Melvin writes! If he starts adding adjectives, he might get a star!” No star for Melvin unless his excellent writing skills improve.
Ida’s handwriting is illegible; she has many virtues, but writing clearly isn’t one of them. But look here! Ida found a way to write more neatly! She’s arrived at the corner of Super Improver Lane and Personal Growth Blvd. Star her!
Your natural tendency with challenging kids is to ask them to improve their most aggravating behavior. But this is not immediately possible. Sammy’s crying is aggravating because it is so frequent. It’s so frequent because his outbursts are a natural reaction to a frustrating world … a natural reaction that is deeply wired into his brain’s dendrites. Give your challenging kids improvement goals that are easiest for them to achieve. If you tell Sammy that his one goal is to stop crying, then he’ll learn, before long, that an improvement star is beyond his reach.
A strategy we’ve found effective with our Beloved Rascals is to give them a list of behaviors and let them choose the one they think would be the simplest to improve. For students who have a difficult time with self control, set up the list so the behaviors are isolated to a time period: keeping your hands to yourself in line before first recess, keeping your hands to yourself when walking to the library in the afternoon, etc. You could include crying on Sammy’s list, but within time periods or parameters: no crying if you lose at tether ball, no crying about crayons during morning drawing.
1. Number of students in seat at bell.
2. Number of students with supplies. You'll somersault with joy when you hear kids reminding each other in the hallway to bring a pencil to your class because they want their star! As the class earns stars, their card is replaced with the next higher color. Each month, ask the class to nominate Leaders. (They nominate, you choose). Post Leader names on the class period card. When these pupils show improvement, the whole class, stunningly, earns a Super Improver Star. “We’re three stars ahead of Period 4 … but we’ve got to catch Period 1!!” We don’t know why, but Period vs. Period competition drives teens crazy … in a most wonderful way. Keep adding to your Leadership team throughout the year. Earning stars for their period, makes Leaders more popular. In Teaching Heaven, you control the spotlight.
We've decided not to use Class Dojo's option of subtracting points from students. Keep rewarding your Super Improvers. Those lovely bells you hear, ring out from Teaching Heaven.