There’s so much I love about using Whole Brain Teaching with my 4th graders. In fact, it’s impossible for me to choose my all-time favorite technique from their overwhelmingly abundant list of ideas. So I won’t even try. I will, however, discuss how I am using the Switch technique and how I keep it “fresh” all year long.
The Habituation Fight
One of the key principles behind Whole Brain Teaching is the idea of habituation. After a while, what was at first appealing becomes boring. As human beings, we get used to situations over time. We see this in the classroom all too often – what worked wonderfully in September barely gets a response by January. To combat habituation (and make no mistake – it is a fight), you need to plan in advance how you will keep your effective strategies new all year long.
When using the Teach-Okay strategy with my students, at some point I usually call for a switch. I put my hand in the air high above my head and pull down as if I’m pulling on a giant lever, or switch. I call out, “Uh-oh, switch!” My students do the same and they know to switch roles. The student who was teaching becomes the learner and vice versa. It’s an excellent technique – simple but effective. In order to establish more structure, I assign students color-coded roles based on our school’s colors – green and white. I simply used adhesive dots and placed them on their computers.
Switch It Up with Seasonal Themes
Since our school mascot is a pirate, I start the year off by calling students with a green dot a “pirate” and students with a white dot are known as a “parrot.” It’s fun and reinforces pride in our school. After a while, though, it’s not so much fun because of habituation. Rather than change my adhesive dots, I just change the names I assign to each color based on seasonal themes. Here they are…
- August/September – pirate and parrot
- October – goblin and ghost
- November – Indian and pilgrim
- December – elf and present
- January – snow and ice
- February – hearts and candy
- March – lion and lamb
- April – rabbit and eggs
- May – flowers and sunshine
Now I can’t keep track of these roles in my head. (Hey – I’m busy teaching here!) I created these simple signs in PowerPoint. A couple of hole punches and some loose binder rings and I’m in business. The sign is easy to read from a distance, and if I forget what the roles are for each color…a quick glance at the sign and no one is the wiser. Oh, and it works even better if the roles are a surprise.