Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book Club - Chapter 5 The Brain on WBT

To start at the beginning of this book club with me:

Chapter 5
This chapter is all about the brain research behind Whole Brain Teaching.

One of my classes in grad school was all about the brain research behind teaching and learning.  Also, my extensive training with Project GLAD has taught me the brain research behind language acquisition.  I know that students need to activate their prior knowledge in order to make sense of new information.  If they do not have something already in their brain to anchor it to, it will be harder to learn the concept.  I also know that through cooperative learning, students are better able to create new memories because they are using more parts of their brain than by just participating in an activity by themselves.

In chapter 5 of Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids we learn some of the nitty-gritty details about the brain:
  • Prefrontal cortex - controls reasoning, planning and decision making
  • Motor cortex - memory area
  • Visual cortex - most trustworthy memory area
  • Broca's area - crucial in speaking
  • Wernicke's area - hearing and understanding language
  • Limbic system - center of your emotions
The hippocampus, a region in the limbic system, is where memories are processed.  In order to learn something, you need many repetitions so that those memories can be processed many times and stored in the brain.  The more brain areas that are involved in those repetitions  the more places that information will be stored and the more you will remember it!

After learning all about the brain and the fascinating way it works, Biffle introduces The Big Seven of WBT:
  1. Class-Yes - WBT's attention getter that acivates the prefrontal cortex and gets the brain ready to learn.
  2. Teach-Okay - By using gestures and having students teach each other, five critical brain areas are activated: visual cortex (seeing), motor cortex (doing), Broca's area (saying), Wernicke's area (hearing), and the limbic system (emotional feeling).
  3. The Five Rules - these rules use the five main areas of the brain and are repeated several times a week.
  4. The Scoreboard - WBT's motivational system.  This replaces team points, marble jars, good behavior tickets, or other ways teachers use to employ good student behavior.  This speaks directly to the limbic system.
  5. Hands and Eyes - Another attention getter that uses the prefrontal cortex.  Use Hands and eyes right before you say something SUPER important that you really want kids to listen to.
  6. Switch - This helps students practice BOTH listening and speaking, instead of some mainly doing one or the other.
  7. Mirror - Many scientists believe we learn best by mirroring and mimicking others.  
The end of the chapter goes on a little bird-walk, but I whole-heartedly agree!!  Biffle states that in order for real change to occur in education, administrators and principals need to be proactive in making sure teachers have a handle on challenging students and classrooms instead of playing catch-up once the teacher is failing.  BRAVO, Chris!  You hit the nail on the head.  I feel like so many practices that happen at the admin level are reactionary.  Why don't we offer training, guidance, and support from the get-go instead of assigning growth-plans, transferring out under-performing teachers, or just plain ignoring teachers who are struggling?  Maybe if this happened, new teacher turn-over wouldn't be so high.  One day, I will be an administrator, and my teachers will be supported.  Mark my words :)


  1. When you are an administrator, I want to work for you!

    1. Aww, Linda, you are so sweet! I'll keep your name on a list of teachers to hire! ;)