As we describe in our new book, Whole Brain Teaching: Fast Track: Seven Steps to Teaching Heaven, 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.
- 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
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.