Brain Breaks 2.0 – GoNoodle

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I have been incorporating brain breaks into my classroom for over 5 years now using my trusty brain break cards. However, last year the Wellness Teacher introduced me to GoNoodle and I am hooked.

If you are a teacher, I probably do not have to tell you about the importance of frequent breaks for learners. But in case you haven’t heard of this new craze, a brain break is simply a break for your brain that incorporates some movement. Although it sounds disruptive, these quick breaks actually increase engagement and stamina in students.The short periods of exercise improve the physical health, mental awareness and educational success of children.

GoNoodle is like youtube for brain breaks. A free account allows you to set up a class and watch videos that vary in length and content. After selecting an avatar, you can make it grow and morph as you accumulate time spent watching videos. Check it out and I know you and your student will be glad you did.

Types of Video

  • indoor recess videos
  • yoga
  • mindfulness
  • guided dance
  • free movement
  • kinesthetic learning
  • calming
  • stretching
  • test readiness
  • zumba

Since it is testing season, I should highlight the video – Take a Breath. My students really enjoy doing this before any test prep activities!

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Whole Brain Teaching Explored – Teach-Okay

I use WBT in my classroom for one simple reason, it works! Not only does it painlessly introduce a highly effective classroom management program to my class each year, but it also uses brain-based research and strategies to allow me to effortlessly deliver my content in a meaningful and highly effective way. Teach-Okay is a perfect example of how effective WBT is because it offers me so many opportunities to do one of the most important things I can do for my students  – close my mouth and let them use theirs!

Teach-Okay is an integral part of the 5 Step Lesson plan (more on that in a future post) that gets student using four modalities of learning – Seeing, Saying, Hearing, and Doing! Brain research supports that optimal learning occurs when the brains primary cortices- (visual, auditory, language production and motor) are all activated. This is exactly what Teach-Okay accomplishes for us. While we are doing this (and any WBT method for that matter) we are also having FUN! This further solidifies the learning process, as we know that attaching an emotion (lymbic system) helps the brain remember information more readily.

How Teach-OK Works :

The class is divided into pairs. One student in the pair is assigned a One, the other students becomes a Two.

Since the goal is to have them engaged and talking, you want them to do a lot of the teaching. Present them with a small amount of information (chunking into no more than 3-4 new items), complete with gestures. It’s best to repeat it at least twice and let them know that they are going to have to teach their partners this information after (I like to use Mirror-Words here). When you finish, clap two times, say “Teach!” Your students respond by clapping twice and responding “OKAY!”

They then do “full body turns” and simultaneously copy your gestures (kinesthetic learning) while also mimicking the emotion in your tone of voice (limbic system).  As they teach one and other, take this opportunity to move around the room and listen in to what they are saying.  This way you can check for understanding and clear up any misunderstandings right away. If it seems they need more practice, Mirror-Words to practice some more and use Teach-Okay so they can practice it some more. Once they are ready, move on to the next small chunk of information, and follow the same pattern.

Tips:

Keep it simple – Do not introduce too much at a time, or they will lose it before they ever get to use it.

Keep it fun – Vary the claps and patterns just as you would Class-Yes to keep the kids having fun.

Use it often – let the kids talk and teach one and other. No need for you to lecture to them… well, ever!

Whole Brain Teaching Explored – Mirrors

Mirrors

The longer we talk, the more students we lose – Chris Biffle

Mirrors Explained

Mirrors is used when introducing new content in a WBT classroom. When the students are mirroring our gestures, it activates their visual and motor cortices, resulting in student engagement!

The teacher calls out “mirror” and the students respond “mirror.” Students then lift their hands up near their ears, ready to mimic the teacher’s gestures. As the teacher teaches the lesson and makes gestures, the students mimic these gestures. In doing so, their motor cortex, the brain’s most reliable memory area, becomes automatically engaged.

Why Use Mirrors?

  • It activates the motor cortex, the portion of the brain with the highest memory retention abilities. In contrast, the Wernick’s area which is activated during speaking and writing, has the lowest memory retention abilities.
  • Our gestures offer students examples of gestures to use when teaching their partners. (more on Teach-Okay in an upcoming post)
  • We can immediately see which students are on-task and those who aren’t
  • It is just plain fun!

3 Kinds of Gestures

Casual: These are hand motions that you would use naturally while
speaking. 

Graphic: We try and match our gestures to exactly what is being said. For example, if you’re talking about writing something , hold an imaginary pen in your hand and write on the other hand.  Tip : Use when you are telling a story or describing a process.

Memory: These type of gestures are linked to core concepts and/or state standards, and the same gesture is repeated each time. Every memory gesture is unique. For example, a memory gesture for multiplication might be holding your arms out in front of you like an X.

Mirror Words 

Teacher says “mirror words” and students respond “mirror words.” As the teacher speaks, the students repeat your words and gestures. By using mirror words, 5 brain activities are now involved: seeing (motor cortex), speaking (Broca’s area), hearing (Wernicke’s area), doing (motor cortex) and feeling (limbic system). Engagement and it’s finest and highest quality!

Tip: To keep Mirror Words and Mirrors straight, I use Mirrors – Zip! for mirroring without words. When I call out “Mirrors – Zip” (and mimic zipping my lips) the students respond “Mirrors – Zip” as they zip their mouths closed to remind them to not speak my words.

Whole Brain Teaching Explored – The Scoreboard

The Scoreboard

How it Works

The Scoreboard is a great classroom management tool and class motivator! Simply make a Smiley/Frowney diagram on the front board. (Tip- Use Teacher vs. Students in secondary school.)

The students earn Smiley points or Frowny points depending on their behavior; and compete with their teacher for a reward. In our classroom this reward is usually a 2 minute dance break or 2 extra minutes of Mind Soccer.

When the students are on-task, they earn a smiley point and the teacher will place a tally mark on the smiley side of the chart. Once the marker is lifted from the mark, the teacher points to the students and they scream out, “Oh Yeah,” as they clap their hands once with excitement. This Mighty Oh Yeah is introduced to them as a 1 second party! (Who doesn’t love a party?) 

If the students aren’t following expected behaviors, they then receive a Mighty Groan. A tally mark is placed on the frowny side of the chart, earning the teacher a point. Once the marker is lifted the students give out a Mighty Groan – they call out in unison “ughhh” and shrug their shoulders up to the ears and quickly back down.

Keeping score continues throughout the day, or for a predetermined amount of time. It is important to never give out more than 3 frowny points in a row, without giving out a smiley point.  Tip– Never let the difference between Smiley and frowny points be greater than 3. If you reward too much, students lose energy –  the  game becomes too easy. If you punish too much, students become unhappy – the game is too hard! Keep it in balance and you will be amazed at how well it works!

Also, once the Scoreboard is established, work with the kids to come up with the rewards they would like to work towards, as well as consequences for the times that the teacher wins. This way you can create excitement and buy-in.

The Science Behind It

The Scoreboard  is directly linked to the limbic system’s emotions and the amygdala which registers pleasure (Mighty Oh Yeah!) and pain (Mighty Groan!) as students accumulate rewards and penalties.

Why Use It?

Goodbye stop lights, goodbye clip charts, and good-bye classroom management tools that require too much teacher input. The Scoreboard does it all, in a quick and easy to use format. I have found that with the Scoreboard I no longer need individual classroom management behavior plans, and that is why I will always keep it around. In the event you have a student who just will not fall into line, then check out this article on the WBT site which explains how to address these very students effectively: The Guff Counter

Keep It Fresh

The students might not react to the same motivator after it loses its novelty, so it is important to keep it fresh! Here are some ideas on how to switch it up: Scoreboard Variations

Check out the Scoreboard in our 3rd grade classroom!

Whole Brain Teaching Explored – Video Preview of WBT in My 3rd Grade Class

This is a preview of some of the strategies that are used in my 3rd grade, Whole Brain classroom. I will be adding more specific blog posts to detail each strategy and the brain based science behind each. Please follow my blog at http://www.mszuluaga.wordpress.com

Whole Brain Teaching – The First Hour

I start my Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) lessons as soon as I meet me kids in the hallway each year. This way they know how seriously I take our routines and that in a WBT classroom we never waste any time! Of course there is no better way to get this across then to model it right from the start.

We start off with the Class! – Yes! attention grabber. Of course, when they are learning the choral response, they are having fun and reinforcing one of WBT’s core values- kids learn when they are having fun! I then move them quickly to any seat in the classroom, explaining permanent seats will be assigned later, and reinforcing that we will not be wasting any time in class!

Once in the classroom, I introduce Rule #1 – Follow Directions Quickly! Using a series of fun exercises I model this rule and as a class we practice this rule. Once the Class – Yes and Rule Number #1 are taught, the rest of the day breezes by as you use there 2 tools to teach all five rules and the Core Four.

The most exhilarating part of using WBT is watching how quickly the kids pick it up and how excited they are to follow the procedures. Seeing how elated they are to practice it always makes me excited to be able to connect with them so quickly. The first days of school used to drain me entirely, but since using WBT that has changed entirely and each year runs as smoothly as the last.

Just remember, kids want to feel a sense of belonging and need to know specifically what is expected of them in order to be successful. WBT does this for them from the moment you start your first hour with them, and nothing feels more empowering than that, for you or your students. So whether it’s the first hour or school, or your first day back next week, WBT can help transform your class in ways you never thought possible.

Most challenging kids want to be part of the classroom environment; this is why they work so hard, and continuously, to get everyone’s attention. – Chris Biffle

Tip: Download these great PDF cue cards on TPT to help you get through your 1st hour of WBT, and the rest of the day.

First Hour of WBT

WBT Day 1 Continued

Whole Brain Teaching – “Class – Yes”

Class! Yes!

The more educational fun we can introduce into our classrooms, the more students will learn and the fewer opportunities there will be for challenging behavior.  -Chris Biffle

All seasoned educators know that a classroom that runs well, does so because of established routines. One vital routine that must be taught early on (I’m talking in the first few minutes) is the Attention Grabber. In a Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) classroom, we use one quick and easy word to achieve this…. “Class! – Yes!” That is it! 2 words that are simple and efficient!

Say good-bye to complicated rhymes, clapping patterns, bells, and the flickering of lights. Once you achieve the Class – Yes pattern in your classroom, you have set up your year for success!

The “trick” of course is to keep it fresh. When taught, the students learn that however you say “class” they must say “yes.” For example, if you say, “Class Class” then their response is “Yes Yes.” Make it fun, make it silly, and keep it changing! Consider having your kids come up with some ideas too and make it fun for everyone.

The best part is, anyone can use it with your class, and it works! This is a substitutes best friend, and soon it will be yours too!

Freebie Alert!  

Click Here For: Class-Yes Variations PDF on my TPT Store 

Video Explaining – Class – Yes by Chris Biffle

Interested in the Brain Based Science behind Class – Yes 

Class-Yes involves the prefrontal cortex which is the reasoning center of the brain. It is best to think of this area as a “light switch” that must be turned on in order for the rest of the brain to process information.