Switch is the final piece of the Big Seven classroom management system in Whole Brain Teaching. I started using Switch with my students last year, and I was thrilled with it for many reasons. First, student engagement increased dramatically. Second, my students enjoyed it! (That’s not an educational sin, by the way.) Most importantly, the combined effect of participation and enjoyment increased their retention of what I had taught.
Get Creative with Switch
So, how do you get started using Switch? Well, you need to pair up your students. I have a computer-based classroom where every two students share one computer, which creates my groups. The students in each pairing need their own unique identifier. You can simply have them number off – 1, 2, 1, 2 and so on. I thought that was a little boring, so I applied green and white adhesive circles on the monitors. (Green and white are our school’s colors.) One student is “white” and the other student is “green.” That’s how we start the year. However, to avoid the dreaded habituation effect, you will eventually want to mix it up. Some teachers change it based on the seasons. Here are some examples:
- September – pencil/paper
- October – ghosts/pumpkins
- November – turkeys/pilgrims
- December – reindeer/elves
- January – ice/snow
- February – valentines/chocolates
- March – leprechaun/rainbow
- April – showers/umbrellas
- May – sun/flowers
There are truly LOTS of variations! Let your students suggest some names, too. Tap into their creativity! Here is a PDF for a script to introduce Switch with your students. When first using this technique with students, choose something easy and familiar for them to teach. You want them concentrating on learning the routine, not the content itself.
It wouldn’t be Whole Brain Teaching if there weren’t variations on using Switch! One of the most frequently used variations occurs when you have an odd number of students. It’s pretty typical to have someone absent. As a result, that might leave you with an uneven number of students. The solution is easy. The student without a partner teaches their shoe! That’s right. Their shoe. My students loved it! They seamlessly transitioned to this version without any difficulties. If it’s late in the day and your students need a shot of energy, have the teaching student stand up and the learning student stay seated. The extra movement is just what some lethargic students need. Finally, there is the Tag Team. As soon as one student finishes teaching, they give each other a high five and automatically switch roles without waiting for you. This gives every student a chance to teach the information.
This post is just a brief overview of the Switch technique. For a more in-depth look, check out Coach B’s webcast. It’s Program 522 in the Whole Brain Teaching archive.
Going for It!
That’s it for the Big Seven. I’ve focused on these techniques most of the summer. With school starting this week, it’s time to put them into practice. I’m really diving into the deep end this school year with Whole Brain Teaching. Last year I just dipped my toes into the waters. I was amazed at the results! I know this year will be a real challenge as I try to incorporate all the elements together. I’m 90% excited and 10% nervous about how it will all work. I don’t doubt the ideas behind Whole Brain Teaching – too many other teachers have successfully used them – just my own ability to implement them effectively. However, I have the forum at the Whole Brain Teaching website, some WBT veterans on speed-dial and my awesome colleagues for feedback and support.