Whole Brain Teaching: What’s it All About?

Whole Brain Teaching: What’s it All About?

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The classroom is exploding with noise as children turn to each other and excitedly repeat what the teacher has just told them.  It looks like complete mayhem and a teacher’s worst nightmare.   How will things ever become calm and quiet again?   The teacher claps her hands and says, “Class. Class.”

Instantly, twenty three little bodies turn towards the front and twenty three little mouths respond with, “Yes. Yes.”

All is quiet.  All is still.  The kids are once again ready to learn.

Whole Brain Teaching

When I first stumbled upon the video posted below, I was amazed yet skeptical.

Maybe the kids were being good because they were being recorded.  Maybe the teacher was really on her game because she was being recorded.  It looked like a terrific session of learning, but was it really sustainable?

I decided to do some more digging.  I came across this video about “Who Let the Vowels Out” and decided to try it with  my own kids (ages 2-3).

The kids loved the song!  Not only were they totally engaged when I was teaching it and we were practicing it together, but I heard them singing it to themselves in the playroom and in the car.

Why?

I discovered that both of these videos were based in Whole Brain Teaching.. a new classroom method being adopted by many a teacher.

What is Whole Brain Teaching all about?

You can check out a group of adults learning the basics in this video.  As you can see, there’s a lot of repeating, call and response, and pre-programmed actions and procedures.  There isn’t a single stagnant moment. Basically, the idea is that challenging students are bored because their whole brain is not engaged.  Engage the whole brain and eliminate bad behavior.   Chris Biffle, pioneer of Whole Brain Teaching, writes, “We must involved our students’ whole brains in peaceable learning or lose them to their own dark entertainments.”

I have to admit, while it seems like a great idea in theory, the whole thing seems a bit over the top to me.  It’s almost theatrical.  Can kids really learn if we’re jumping and dancing and chanting all day long?  And is this even good for them?

When do kids learn to sit still?

Have we given that idea up?

I get that the old model of sit quiety and listen to the teacher doesn’t work anymore, but I just don’t know if I can get behind all this.   Doesn’t it seem like a little TOO much?

The Manual

I grabbed the Kindle version of Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: (and the rest of your class, too!) on Amazon (free to read with your Prime membership) and started learning.  It’s basically the back story of the Whole Brain Teaching movement along with ways to implement the theory in your own class.

Rule #1

The First Great Law of Whole Brain Teaching is:

The longer we talk, the more students we lose.

Even adults seem to tune out after 10 minutes of lecture-style presentations. Is there a better way?

That’s exactly what the author of this book set out to find out.  Chris teamed up with a couple of other teachers and had over 80 meetings over the course of a year to pound out the core of the Whole Brain Teaching program.  Today, tens of thousands of teachers are using the program with remarkable success.

Are You Setting Yourself up for Failure?

Even though I’m not completely sold on the program, I love how Chris really cuts through the crap in chapter three of his book (Seven Common Teaching Mistakes).    He explains that disorganized teachers breed chaotic classrooms and if you want your students to engage and behave, you have to put in some serious preparation time.  He states,

“Outstanding instruction involves huge, truly mountainous amounts of labor, preparing, practicing, researching, thinking through, and refining instructional units.  If you don’t pay the price before you step into the classroom, you’ll pay the price as your fumble through shoddy lessons.”

Been there.

On both sides of the coin, actually.

There have been times I’ve flown by the seat of my pants only to see a lesson disintegrate before my very eyes.

There have been times that I’ve had a genius idea and failed to follow through on gathering supplies or preparing properly, effectively cutting out my own legs from under me.

And there have been times when I’ve spent hours studying, praying, gathering supplies, practicing and refining in order to deliver a 20 minute lesson to a bunch of kids.   Even those these nights went great, I often wonder if I’m doing things right.  Should a stellar lesson really require that much prep?

Preparing for Lesson

According to this theory, yes.

In order to be effective teachers, we have to have kids engaged.  If you’ve been in the teaching business long, you’ll know that a common complaint among coworkers and fellow volunteers is behavior and classroom management issues.  Something must be broken.

But how do we fix it?  Is totally changing the face of teaching the answer?

Is scripted, animated, interaction saturated teaching the answer?

I’m not sure, but I’m willing to take a closer look.

What About You?

If you’re a teacher, do you think Whole Brain Teaching would work in your class?

If you’re a parent, would you want your child using Whole Brain Learning?

What about in Children’s Ministry?  Do you think it would work?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this or other classroom management strategies you love!

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Comments

  1. Thanks for stopping by, Donna. I agree– I think we do need to keep things fresh in the classroom. Without fun, learning often becomes such drudgery!

  2. It sounds like too much for me. I am not sure I would try it.
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