I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the tests we have to give students these days. Pre-tests, post-tests, formative tests, cumulative tests. Certainly tests can inform us as to the effectiveness of our instruction, but some days it just feels like too much testing and not enough teaching. Luckily, I have found one assessment that gives me instant feedback, requires no scoring and is both paperless and free. Want to know what it is? Just a smile. 🙂
The Smile Test
Coach B commented during last week’s webchat, “If your students aren’t smiling when you use Class-Yes, then you’re not activating their whole brain.” Hmmm…when was the last time I saw my students really smile at me after a Class-Yes? I couldn’t recall exactly. While it seemed as if they were having fun during my lessons, I decided I had better do a quick Smile Test the next day.
I Fail the Test
“Class, oh my class!” I enthusiastically called out the following morning. I got my requisite, “Yes, oh my yes” from students, but…not very many smiles. Hardly any, in fact. This rookie Whole Brain Teacher just failed a test. Mighty Groan! I whipped out my cheat sheet of Class-Yes variations that I had collected from the online Book Club this summer and started using different versions the rest of the day. You know what? The smiles returned. Instantly. Not only did the smiles return, but their attention was more fully focused on me. That’s when I realized that I had gotten a little sloppy with my expectations. In Teacher Heaven, talking stops, eyes are on me and hands are folded following a Class-Yes. I wasn’t being consistent with those behavioral standards and was settling for quiet with most eyes on me. Definite no-no. The Scoreboard got quite a workout this week, as a result.
The Fight Is On!
When I first read about the habituation principle in Coach B’s book Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids, it immediately resonated with me. I had seen its power in my own classroom prior to ever knowing it was called habituation. Let me tell you, habituation kicks in quickly! Surprising quickly. Disturbingly quickly. That cheat sheet of Class-Yes variations has a permanent home on my marker board where I can glance at it just as quickly! So, habituation is kinda like…germs. Yeah. It’s a battle you will always fight, a constant threat to the health of your classroom. However, the good news is that you can win this fight by advancing through the three levels of mastery in Whole Brain Teaching – Rookie, Pro and All Star.
Class-Yes Levels of Mastery
Every component within the Whole Brain Teaching system can be done at three levels of mastery. Class-Yes is the Rookie Level. Coach B encouraged us to make tally marks every time we used a different version of Class-Yes. Once we had 20 tally marks, it was time to go to the Pro Level and introduce Class-Boom. When you had successfully used at least 10 variations on Class-Boom, you can advance to the All Star Level. This is when you ask your students core knowledge as a means of getting their attention. I must admit to having a hard time remembering to track my variations with tally marks. I think I will either have to post it next to the Scoreboard or beside my cheat sheet. I may even ask a reliable student to help me!
Encouraged and Empowered
Is it always easy and comfortable to acquire this level of mastery? Uh…no! The Class-Yes is the first piece of the Whole Brain Teaching program I started using. You’d think that of all the parts in WBT, this would be the thing I’m outstanding at by now. Is this discouraging to me? Actually, no. Just the opposite. I’m encouraged that even the simplest part of the Whole Brain Teaching Universe can be further leveraged into increased student learning. I’m also empowered because the mastery levels are the tools I need to get even better. This is one test I’m determined to pass…with a smile!