Getting started with a Whole Brain Teaching classroom can be a little overwhelming at first! As with any new endeavor, the beginning is the hardest part. However, with time and experience, the process becomes easier. Best of all, the enthusiasm for learning that you will see in your students will motivate you along the journey to Teacher Heaven.
When you are first getting started with your WBT classroom, you will need the following:
A good color printer and LOTS of ink!
- Hopefully your school district has a color printer you can use – that would save you a lot of money right there. On the positive side, once you have your Power Pix and other posters printed, the need for a color printer really diminishes. However, don’t try to get by with just a black-and-white printer. The use of colors activates the visual cortex in the brain and plays more of a factor in helping students retain information than you might imagine. Another cost-saving strategy you could use is to print what you need in order of its use. Start with just those Power Pix you plan to use in the first month or quarter. You can gradually build up your inventory one step at a time.
white card stock
- I chose this option for added durability. However, if you don’t want to invest in card stock, you can always use plain white printer paper that you probably already own.
colored copy paper (10 different colors)
- You will use this for your Super Improvers Wall. A more affordable option would be to use different colored markers on white paper, but that just wasn’t visual enough for me. You could also use construction paper (often more easily available) and hand write your students’ names with a black Sharpie marker. A bit more time consuming, but sometimes we have more time than money!
clear plastic page protectors
- I LOVE these for storing my lessons and Power Pix together! Of course, a simple file folder will also do the job.
binders (one per subject)
- If you go with the plastic page protectors, plan on also getting binders to store them in. I like using different colored binders for different subjects.
3″ x 5″ index card storage box
- Since my name cards and signs for the Super Improvers Wall are all 3″x5″, I bought an index card storage box to hold everything until I’m ready to post it on the wall. It’s very handy to have everything I need in one little box!
- Plan on laminating your Power Pix and posters, especially if they are not printed on heavier card stock. If you can’t get this done right away, not to worry. I had more than 50 Power Pix on the wall for many months before I had the time to take them all down and properly laminate them. It just adds to their durability.
Getting Started – Introduction Scripts
During the first days of school, there are many routines unique to Whole Brain Teaching. Take the time to teach them to your students. Remember to build-in lots of rehearsal and practice time as well. Whole Brain Teachers don’t scold when students do something wrong, they use that as an opportunity to rehearse!
- The Class-Yes
- Class-Yes Variations
- Hands and Eyes
- Classroom Rules
- Lining Up Three-peat
- The Scoreboard
- Rule #1 Practice
- Name Game
- Fun Burst
- Open Books Three-peat
- Three-peat Practice
- It’s Cool!
- 10 Finger Woo
- Help Me!
- Removing “I Can’t”
- The Grabber
- The Tickler
- Class-Yes Rehearsal
- The Guff Counter
Checklist of Routines
At the start of the school year, I like to spend a lot of time introducing the routines slowly and thoroughly. I would rather go slow and have my students feeling confident that they can be successful in my classroom, rather than rush through these procedures and not do them very well. I think the latter approach sets students up for failure, frustration and fear – the 3 Big F’s!!! Here’s is a checklist I use during the first month. The order of these routines varies slightly from the book Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids by Chris Biffle. Feel free to change the order however you wish. It’s your classroom! I check off each procedure as we learn it. If I run out of time…shrug. I pick up where I left off the next day, and I make sure to integrate LOTS of rehearsal for previously learned routines throughout the day.
The First Hour
Watch this video by Chris Biffle for more information about how to get started with Whole Brain Teaching. He offers many guidelines for what you might want to accomplish with your students during the first hour of the first day of school. However, feel free to modify the suggested schedule. Focus more on the overarching messages you want to send to your students right away:
- This classroom is unlike any place I’ve ever been before.
- I can be successful in this classroom.
- This teacher is fun!
Goals for the First Week
Laying a solid foundation that you can build on for the rest of the school year is critical to being an effective teacher. I really don’t think you can over-plan this time. As the old adage says, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Think about what goals you want to accomplish with your students by the end of the first week of school. I would recommend watching another video on that very topic.
In my district, the first day of school is on a Wednesday. I like to mentally combine those three days with the following week and consider that my “first week.” One reason is that we do a lot of baseline testing during those days, so that’s a good time to teach and rehearse the routines. Secondly, taking eight days as the first “week” means we avoid feeling rushed to get it all done. I would rather take my time and do something well instead of quickly achieving mediocrity.
As you prepare your classroom for Whole Brain Teaching, I would also recommend visiting their website. You can find even more free resources and get ideas from other teachers on the forum.