Step 1: WBT Basics

Direct Instruction with 100% Student Engagement

WBT Basics provides a simple starting point for teachers new to Whole Brain Teaching.  Beginning with Class-Yes, the Attention Getter, each of the steps around the instructional circle are described in the sections below.

Deliver a lesson by cycling through our teaching pattern, over and over.

  • Start with the Attention Getter (Class-Yes). You can't teach if you don't have your students' attention.
  • Weave Manners into everything you do with the Thank You/You're Welcome gesture.
  • Activate the Brain Engager (Mirror Words). Choose how you will deliver content: big gestures, tiny gestures, fast gestures, slow motion, etc. The variations are endless!
  • Speak using gestures for about one minute of Direct Instruction, talking only about one new point. Breaking your lesson into Lesson Chunks means you only present one new point at a time. When combined with the next step in the cycle, you ensure students understand this one new point before moving on to the next.
  • Employ Collaborative Learning (Teach Ok) as students teach their neighbor your lesson using gestures. You will move through the classroom during this, assessing if your pupils are ready for a new lesson chunk or need to review.
WBT Cycle

Use the WBT Basics circle to give directions, teach content, improve writing ability, polish reading talents ... any classroom activity. Get your students Attention (Class Yes), choose a Brain Engager (Mirror Words), teach for about one minute on one new topic (Lesson Chunks), then have students teach their neighbor what you just taught them (Teach Ok). Then call students back with a Class Yes...and around and around the cycle you go.

Your ultimate goal is to have students leading the class through this cycle, becoming Whole Brain Teaching Student Leaders.

Beginners can use 3" x  5" cards to structure their presentation.

Deliver point #1 on each card, then point # 2 and so on.  Update card #3 with each new lesson.

Explore these three links: Classroom Rules , a video demonstrating the Rules' gestures... and a Superb video from a Louisiana third grade classroom demonstrating the One Minute Lesson.

Website One Minute Lesson

How do I get my students' attention? - The Attention Getter

When you want your students' attention say, "Class!" They respond, "Yes!"  For variety, if you say "Class Bazinga!," they respond, "Class Bazinga!" Many other variations are possible. "Yo Class!" "Class Shaka Lacka!" "Yada, yada Class!" etc. Approximately one in five times that you employ the Attention Getter, substitute an entertaining variation.


A second, important feature of the Attention Getter is to teach your students to do these three things: 1. Stop what you're doing 2. Turn and look at the teacher 3. Fold your hands.

Never scold when kids fail to use a WBT technique properly. Scolding means you haven't practiced enough. Use micro-step practice, training kids on each small step, one at a time.


The wackier your variations of the Attention Getter, the more fun for your kids.  As a reward for improvement in behavior, and to develop student leadership, make a few students Call Outers.  When you point at them and whisper “Class,” they call out their own wacky version of Class-Yes, to gain their classmates’ attention. When you're ready to amp up your use of the Attention Getter, click on the Upgrade at the bottom of this page.


To understand how to break this strategy down into Microsteps for lower elementary, take a look at our Co-Founder Andrea Schindler's  explanation below.

How do I get 100% Student engagement? - The Brain Engager

Direct Instruction receives a powerful visual and motor cortex amplification with the Brain Engager, Mirror Words.


You say, "Mirror Words!" and quickly lift your hands. Students respond, "Mirror Words!" and quickly lift their hands. Then, your kids repeat your words and mimic your gestures as you present a lesson.


Once your students are ready, increase the funtricity by adding variety: use voices, change your pitch, use whispers.  The more variety, the more fun! When you're ready, increase critical thinking with variations of the Brain Engager by using the Upgrades at the bottom of the page. Magic Mirrors is a favorite!


There are two different types of gestures you can use: social gestures and memory gestures.

Social gestures are those movements you make while talking - the purpose is simply to ensure engagement. These do not need to be created in advance, just make movements as you talk, you students will repeat.

Memory gestures are movements that connect directly to the content. Every time you use that word or talk about that concept, you use its gesture. The word and definition are tied to the gesture for easier recall and deeper understanding.

Watch the videos and listen to the podcasts to learn more about using gestures and Mirror Words.


To understand how to break this strategy down into Microsteps for lower elementary, take a look at our Co-Founder Andrea Schindler's  explanation below.

How do I use direct instruction? - The One Minute lesson

Whether you are delivering content or giving directions for an activity, this much is true: the more we talk, the more students we lose.


To deliver your instruction, speak in short chunks using Mirror Words, talking about one new thing for only one minute.  The key is to speak briefly and make engaging gestures. Explain this one new thing in different ways using varied voice and gestures, while students repeat.


Break your lesson down into one minute chunks. Think about what you want students to know or what you want them to do in one minute increments. What do you want students to know or do first? Once they understand that, what's next? What's after that? Break any lesson into bullet points, teaching one new point at a time.


Using memory gestures for concepts powerfully engages a student’s motor and visual cortices, thus helping to build stronger memories. Each bullet point is taught with gestures. For example, when you say "fraction" hold one fist on top of the other. Waggle the top fist when you say, "numerator", waggle your bottom fist when you say, "denominator." To access hundreds of gestures and illustrations for core concepts, explore our Power Pix.


When you're finished delivering your lesson, say, "Mirrors Off" and students repeat "Mirrors off." Now you're ready for some collaborative learning and formative assessment with the next step in the WBT Basics Cycle.

How do I turn my students into teachers? - Collaborative Learning

Teach-Okay is WBT's version of Collaborative Learning. Simple as pie ... speak briefly, not much more than about a minute, teaching one new idea. Now, clap twice and exclaim "Teach!" Your kids clap twice and exclaim, "Okay!"

Students turn to their neighbors, use big gestures, and paraphrase what you said.  Paraphrasing, of course, is a key intellectual skill. Kids don’t truly understand lessons until they can translate what they’ve heard into their own words.

The Teacher in a student pair summarizes your lesson and makes explanatory gestures.  The Student mirrors the Teacher’s gestures. Thus, it is easy to spot off-task kids … they aren’t moving!!  Simply stand beside them, whisper, “Big gestures, please!”

As you walk around the room, checking comprehension, you'll know whether to repeat your lesson, or go on to the next point. This is the simplest and most powerful formative assessment you will ever use.

We can’t judge students’ understanding by their facial expressions. Too often we are shocked during assessments when we discover how little of our lessons kids absorbed.  In place of testing every few months or even every week, in WBT we evaluate student understanding every 60 seconds.  Walk the room, check comprehension by listening to students paraphrase your last concept.

When you're ready, increase the critical thinking during collaborative learning with the Upgrades at the bottom of the page. During Teach OK, students can be repeating the teacher's lesson, paraphrasing the lesson, coming up with their own examples, orally filling in sentence frames, comparing, contrasting, using Brainies...the sky is the limit! This is where the true magic of collaborative learning comes in.

WBT Basics Upgrades