What Is Whole Brain Teaching and How Does It Work?

The modern educational system faces more and more challenges every year, and not all of these challenges are easy to address. As a result, many teachers get disappointed in the existing approaches that fail to solve problems that have existed for many years. Corporal punishment hasn’t been used for many years, and now teachers also have to stop using withholding recess as punishment, as well. Maintaining discipline and keeping kids engaged becomes more difficult than ever. A quickly growing number of kids diagnosed with ADHD, autism, and ADD makes the situation even more challenging for teachers.

There’s no surprise that many educators feel frustrated when seeing college freshmen who are completely unprepared for their higher education. As for the elementary teachers, they are happy to use any methods that can help them keep the classroom engaged, no matter how well these methods fulfill the students’ educational needs. For many teachers, students being cooperative and sitting still behind their desks is what they want but rarely see in reality.

Experienced teachers are always happy to learn about new methods that promise an opportunity to improve discipline in class. At the same time, experienced teachers always take the news about another revolutionary approach with a grain of salt. Fortunately, sometimes, new approaches actually help solve some common issues in the classroom, and this is the case with whole brain teaching strategies.

Whole brain teaching was developed by three teachers from California who addressed some problems familiar to thousands of teachers from all over the world. This approach is aimed to make children not only listen to what you say but also move with you and stay engaged. Lots of engaging activities allow teachers to use whole brain teaching for challenging kids, while whole brain teaching classroom rules make this approach perfect for teachers who struggle with maintaining discipline.

What Is Whole Brain Teaching?

This is an instructional method that became very popular thanks to the popularity of social-emotional learning. Whole brain teaching makes the learning process much more energetic and engaging. The learning process to a large extent relies on mimicry and it’s based on the neuroscientific features of the human brain. The more boring the lessons, the less effective they are. The whole brain teaching definition is perfectly reflected in the very name of this approach because it’s aimed to engage every area of a child’s brain. 

Generally, this approach is based on authority. Students are constantly reminded that their teacher is the ultimate authority. Teachers answer any of their students’ questions and facilitate the learning process, but whole brain teaching is generally teacher-centered. Of course, establishing authority in class is a common challenge, so the whole brain teaching approach utilizes several effective techniques. For instance, the class should be immediately introduced to the “Class Yes” technique.

Thanks to “Class Yess,” students get used to answering the teacher immediately, at any given moment. The teacher says “Class,” and all students should immediately answer “Yes.” Students should also use the same tone as their teacher. If the teacher shouts “Class!,” all students must shout “Yes!,” and if the teacher speaks quietly, all students should also answer quietly. 

Although such an approach may look a little silly, this is exactly what makes it effective. According to the creator of this method Chris Biffle, teachers should make their classes more engaging and less boring by delivering unexpected moments of fun and joy. Briffle also describes many useful games in his whole brain teaching book. “Class Yes” not only makes lessons less boring but also gives teachers a great opportunity to immediately get their students’ attention whenever they need it. The high engagement of this approach is a reason why many educators use whole brain teaching in kindergarten. 

How to Implement Whole Brain Teaching?

We’ve already mentioned the “Class Yes” technique so let’s take a look at other strategies used in whole brain teaching.

  • Mirror Words

The teacher says “Mirror Words” and lifts their hands. The students repeat the phrase and lift their hands too. After this, they repeat the teacher’s words and mimic their gestures. This is a great example of the whole brain teaching principle that implies engaging multiple areas of students’ brains at once.

  • Direct Instruction

The more you talk to the students, the less focused they become. The Direct Instruction technique is all about presenting information in an engaging and digestible way. For instance, you can present one point at a time, using very short lessons. You can also go through a list of bullet points. You can also use Mirror Words and Class Yes to summarize the material of a lesson, and illustrate your material with slides so that students will retain more information.

  • Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning means that students get knowledge and instructions not only from their teacher but also from each other, as well. The collaborative learning principle of whole brain teaching can be illustrated by one of its distinctive techniques Teach Okay. When the teacher says “Teach,” students respond “okay” and start teaching each other, using large gestures. This technique enables students to train their oral skills and to better comprehend the material they’ve just learned from the teacher.

  • Character Education

When the teacher says “Please,” students respond “Okay.” When the teacher says “Thank you,” students reply “You’re welcome.” When the teacher praises the students’ work, they say “Thank you.” The same approach used in Class Yes and Teach Okay can help teach children mutual respect and help in character development.

What Are the Rules of Whole Brain Teaching?

If you do some whole brain teaching research and watch whole brain teaching videos, you will quickly realize that this approach is not only about having fun but also about strict rules that ensure discipline and connect teachers and students. A teacher should do rule call out from time to time so that students will memorize and repeat the rules. Whenever a certain rule is broken, the whole class recites this rule. This practice eliminates the element of conflict while also uniting the students behind the teacher’s leadership.

  1. Follow directions quickly
  2. Raise your hand to speak
  3. Raise your hand to leave your seat
  4. Make smart choices
  5. Make our dear team stronger
  6. Keep your eye on the target

While most of these rules are self-explanatory, rules four and five deserve more attention. Rule four is very powerful, and it refers to all areas of students’ lives, including lessons, the time they spend at home, and the time they spend on the internet. Children should always look for the smartest solutions, making smart choices.

Rule five is mostly intended for the students who question the rest of the rules. No matter what rule is broken, students will often say that they didn’t do anything wrong. Rebels may think that they make smart choices, and they may argue with you. Therefore, you need the main rule that cannot be disputed under any circumstances. Children should understand that, if they deny breaking whole brain teaching rules or argue with you, they don’t make the team stronger. This rule will help you stop any argument.

Wrapping Up

Whole brain teaching is a very effective approach because it’s engaging and well-structured. The whole brain teaching techniques can help teachers address many common issues and make sure that all students remain actively involved in the learning process.

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