Whole Brain Teaching: Rules & Strategies

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Whole Brain Teaching is a type of teaching that uses the whole brain to engage students in learning. This lesson will teach you some of the basic rules and strategies of whole brain teaching.

What is Whole Brain Teaching?

Whole brain teaching is a philosophy of teaching and learning that aims to activate students' brains for maximal involvement in the learning process. Whole brain teaching relies on precepts from neuroscience, or the study of brain anatomy in order to understand how best to reach children over the course of the school day. Overall, whole brain teaching asks that students and teachers work in synch and very actively all the time. The classroom that uses whole brain teaching is an engaged, synchronized, collaborative classroom. It might initially appear more structured than other contemporary classrooms because each aspect of structure and routine is aimed at appealing to a neurological, cognitive need. Whole brain teaching can reach difficult students as well as those who are already strong.

In the rest of this lesson, you will follow along with fictional teacher Mr. Joel, who uses whole brain teaching with his fifth graders.

Seven Major Techniques

Mr. Joel understands that there are seven major techniques, or strategies, that are a major part of whole brain teaching.

    • Attention-Getting

Mr. Joel gets his students' attention by saying the word, Class! or Classity Class! Students are expected to respond, Yes! or Yessity Yes!

    • Rules

Each day, Mr. Joel practices his classroom rules along with gestures. More on the exact rules will follow, but the purpose of repeating rules is to make them an active part of classroom exchanges rather than just something that stays passively on the wall.

    • Activating

After Mr. Joel has used direct instruction or taught his students something directly and explicitly, he claps his hands several times and says the word, Teach! He asks his students to repeat his precise clapping pattern and say, Okay! Then, they turn to a neighbor and teach each other whatever Mr. Joel has just taught them, using hand gestures to incorporate their understanding into their body as well as their mind.

    • Motivation

Mr. Joel uses a scoreboard to keep his students motivated. The scoreboard is a smiley/frowny face diagram. When students are doing well, he marks a point on the smiling side, claps his hands, and says, Oh yeah! When students are doing poorly, he marks something near the frown and says, Aw! Mr. Joel is mindful never to let the difference between good and bad points exceed three. He gives his students a reward like a learning game if they receive 25 smiley points.

    • Unifying the Class

Mr. Joel uses a strategy called the mirror to get his class very involved. He holds up his hands and says, Mirror! Then the class repeats, Mirror! and imitates his gestures as he teaches. This maximizes their engagement.

    • Getting Students More Involved

Sometimes, when his students are doing Teach-Okay, Mr. Joel calls out Switch! This way, he makes sure that the students who are more likely to do the teaching, stop and do the listening as well, and vice versa.

    • Focusing

When Mr. Joel has an especially important point to make, he says, Hands and Eyes! His students understand that they should repeat, Hands and Eyes! Then, they should fold their hands and stare at him very intently.

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