June 30, 2014

WBT's Classroom-Transforming Rules

What do you know about Whole Brain Teaching (WBT)? Until a few months ago, I didn't have a clue, although I had seen the term several times. Then I started noticing that every time someone on my Facebook page asked a question about classroom management, at least a dozen people would respond with "Check out Whole Brain Teaching!"

I was intrigued, so one day I decided to pose my own question - "Who can tell me about Whole Brain Teaching?" Holy Cow! Hundreds of teachers responded with glowing reviews of the program! I started looking into it myself, and began to see why everyone loved it. WBT strategies are exciting and engaging, and they address the needs of teachers with challenging students. Best of all, the the WBT website is full of amazing resources that are absolutely free! Even their national conference every June is free!

I decided to reach out to Chris Biffle, the director and mastermind behind Whole Brain Teaching, to ask him if he would be interested in writing a guest blog post for Corkboard Connections to help spread the word. Imagine how thrilled I was when he offered to write a SERIES of blog posts on the topic!

You might still be wondering, but what IS Whole Brain Teaching? In Chris's words, "With over 4,000,000 views on YouTube and 100,000 registered members, Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) is one of America's largest education reform movements. Based upon thousands of hours of classroom research over the last 15 years, WBT recognizes that students learn the most when they are engaged in lessons that involve seeing, hearing, doing, speaking, feeling ... and substantial quantities of educational tomfoolery."

Classroom-Transforming Rules Blog Post Series
An important component of Whole Brain Teaching is the Five Classroom Rules, so Chris will be writing a series of posts to explain each rule and how to introduce them to your students. These posts will be published about once a week with the last one ending in mid-August. As each post goes live, I'll update this one with a link to the article. Here's what you can look forward to in the coming weeks:
Rule 1:  The Secret to Lightning Fast Classroom Transitions
Rules 2 and 3:  Taming Blurters and Wanderers
Rule 4:  The Ancient Secret for Wise Decisions
Rule 5:  Halting Back Talkers in their Tracks!
These rules are so important that I decided to create a free set of colorful posters that you can print and display in your classroom. They are available in my TpT store by clicking my store link or the image above.

Whole Brain Teaching Resources
If you want to learn about these rules right now, you can purchase Chris's book Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids in which he explains everything you need to know about WBT. The book is easy to read, and once you get started, you won't want to stop! In addition to learning about the five rules, you'll learn the rationale for WBT and how the strategies activate different areas of the brain. You'll discover step-by-step directions for implementing all of the strategies shared in the book. Click the image on the right to find it on Amazon.com.

You can also find a wealth of free resources on the Whole Brain Teaching website including 18 helpful videos. To access all of the content, you'll have to register for the site, but the good news is that registration is free! Registering for the site will also allow you to participate in the online forum where you can share ideas with other fans of WBT.

Remember to check back tomorrow to read the first of Chris's four blog posts on the five Classroom-Transforming Rules. His posts are fun and full of the "educational tomfoolery" that's a hallmark of Whole Brain Teaching!

June 26, 2014

What Every New Teacher Needs to Know

Advice from Real Teachers

Stepping into a classroom for the very first time is both exciting and overwhelming! As veteran teachers know, college can't begin to prepare you for the experience of being responsible for several dozen students for 6 or 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Some things you have to figure out on your own, but many potential problems can be avoided if you follow a little advice from teachers who have traveled that road before you.

Today's Question
Kelsey, a fan of the Teaching Resources Facebook page, asked, "What's the one thing a new teacher needs to know?" Over 400 educators responded with insightful and relevant tips. Wow! I compiled the answers and removed duplicate responses, but so many were so good that I could not whittle the list down to any less than 50! So relax and enjoy this week's advice from real teachers!

50 Terrific Tips for New Teachers
Here are my picks for the top 50 tips for new teachers, in no particular order. If you would like to read all 400+ tips, you'll find that question here on the Teaching Resources Facebook page.
  1. Norma Baer - Be flexible...things are always changing and just when you think you have something figured out there will be a monkey wrench thrown into your plans. Don't think you will ever apply EVERYTHING you learned in college. I've always said college in no way prepared me for the real thing. You learn as you go and don't be afraid to seek advice from your fellow team. There's a lot more, but that's a good start:) Best wishes to you!!!
  2. Judy Clubine - Don't fall into the trap that the current trends suggest...DON'T reward bad behavior.  You will have those who will believe that by giving the bad actors "jobs,” that it will increase the child's self-worth to the point to where they won't act out.  With a select few, this will be true.  For the vast majority...It will merely reinforce the fact that "if I act out, I will continue to get to do these perks".  It also has a nasty side effect...The kids who are good all the time will see the bad actors getting perks for acting out and they will begin to act out in order to get those same perks.  I have gotten to witness this on a school-wide basis.  Don't go there.  You will create more problems than you will solve.
  3. Larry Cupit - Spend TONS of time teaching, practicing and reinforcing routines and procedures from day ONE! You may feel like you are wasting your time, but time spent early in the year will reap benefits later in the year. Practice, practice, practice for the first six weeks!
  4. Brianne Daigle - Be organized! Always over-plan and have a back-up plan :)
  5. Cheryl Heather - I think I'd take a page from Harry Wong's book, and say that the first day is extremely important. First impressions stick. Be organized, be welcoming, and most of all, be yourself. The other most important thing to remember is that every child in your class is some mom & dad's most beloved treasure - and you're with each child more than parents are (on school days) - so be comfortable with how you treat kids - this is their life, their reality. They need love & support & understanding.
  6. Rhonda Church - When a kid tells you they need to throw up...believe them!!
  7. Christy Hardy - I just finished my first year. First, find a mentor teacher you can ask advice, vent, and get ideas from. Second, don't be surprised when you realize college doesn't prepare you for many aspects of teaching.  Third, establish firm and consistent rules and boundaries. Without good classroom management you will struggle.  Finally, have fun! Don't beat yourself up. Learn with your students, be patient with them and yourself.  Teaching effectively will come with practice and building strong relationships with your students.
  8. Jenny Milton de Kock - Your degree only allows you to get the job. The real learning starts the day you walk into the classroom for the first time and it never stops. Experience is what turns you into a teacher
  9. Kristen Brown - You can't be your students’ friend. They can like and respect you, but you're not their friend.
  10. Amber Freshour - Patience will help you more than you know. I am a loud person, and It took me several years to learn that a calm  voice and demeanor is more effective than anything. When/if I do have to raise my voice, all eyes and ears are on me because it rarely happens. I felt like all I did my first years was yell. Management is the most important thing you can have. Attention signals work wonders (especially at elementary level). Have a procedure for EVERYTHING and TEACH the kids how to do them. If they don't feel safe and have a sense of routine, they will not learn as effectively.
  11. Jeff  Bedwell - Don't worry about all thing big things you plan on doing... CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT (setting up procedures for everything). Procedures for everything: passing paper out, going to the restroom, morning, leaving and entering the room, turning in assignments,  EVERYTHING. Don't assume they just know, show them.
  12. SarahAnn Lewis - Remember that all children learn at different paces and in different ways. It can be frustrating when you have already planned, but be flexible! Sometimes changing your lesson plans on the fly leads to a better lesson entirely, and helps the class understand.
  13. Sue Anderson - Begin much, much more firm than you think you need to be (with love and respect, of course). You can ease up later, but you really can't go back and reign things in.
  14. Gretchen McCue - Teach community! A child will remember how they felt in your class and especially how YOU made them feel all their lives. They may not, however, remember the lessons you taught them in L.A., Math, Science, and S.S. Make them feel safe and loved!
  15. Laura Letts -Wright Make friends with the custodial staff.
  16. Valerie Tuck - A new teacher needs to know how she will teach procedures and emphasis class rules.  She needs to establish clear rules and procedures and clear consequences that are consistently and fairly applied.  She needs to understand that in her class ALL children can learn and that NO child has the right to disrupt the teaching and learning environment.  This is her classroom where ALL children are respected and ALL children have a voice to be heard.
  17. Marie Roberts - Don't take everything personally. Learn to, "Let it go, let it go..."
  18. Barbara Gruener - Take good care of yourself: mind, heart, body and soul. And know that you've got an army of veteran teachers ready to assist you if only you ask for help when you need it.
  19. Fiona Graham - Sometimes, the most significant thing you will do will be to show up. Even on days when you feel you've achieved nothing, you've done that. Never underestimate how important the presence of a calm, positive, responsible and reliable adult can be in a child or young person's life.
  20. Emily Bowles - Always follow through with what you say. If you say they are going to get extra recess or a reward for something... DO IT!!  If you say you are taking away privileges...DO IT!!  They will know you mean business. Don't be afraid to ask your fellow teachers or principal for advice. Steal ideas from others!!
  21. Kelly Bergeron - I just finished my first year of teaching! I think the most important thing is being prepared and organized, and flexibility is equally important! Lessons won't always go as planned, school functions come at the most inopportune times, sometimes the internet is down and everything that can go wrong... Often times will! You have to go with the flow and remain composed. Teaching isn't always how it appears on Pinterest! The most important thing is making your kids feel safe and happy while engaged  in meaningful learning.  This can be done without picture perfect decorations and perfectly executed lessons so in times of panic remember your end goal and modify your situation accordingly! Good luck!
  22. Larissa Loua -You have to learn how to "disconnect" from the job. It is so difficult not to take the hardships of the children home with you. But setting boundaries between work and home is a very important thing to do. Takes some time! Good luck on your journey as an educator.
  23. Allie Kaul -You set the tone every day.
  24. Joell Wilkins - Don't be afraid to talk to other teachers for support, advice, and just to relate with an adult for a few minutes.
  25. Teach Ersik - Stay away from adult drama whether it is from parents or teachers. Just stay away from it and remember who you are there to teach.
  26. Pinky Ngo - The F-word in teaching is "Flexibility"!!!!
  27. Jessica Dauenhauer - Keep good communication with parents. They are more likely to stay on your side if they know you are trying and that you care about their kid.
  28. Linda Doering - Gravitate towards positive colleagues who inspire others & students alike.  Keep a journal, and for the first year really do reflections - in writing - on how lessons & activities go, how to improve or remove for the future.  Believe that ALL children can learn and that it IS your responsibility to know each & every one of them, how they learn, and to engage & build them up!  If you have children with special needs in your classroom please work closely - and with an open mind - to your Intervention Specialists & Paraprofessionals.  Work collaboratively for the success of ALL children.
  29. Jennifer Keough - The only two things you MUST get through every day are lunch & attendance. Anything else really can wait until tomorrow if something comes up.
  30. Geneva Goodney - Never be afraid to ask, to collaborate, to offer ideas and suggestions, or to trust your own instincts!
  31. Melisa James - You need to know that college didn't prepare you for what you are about to do!!!  ;) You need to be adaptable and ready for constructive criticism, because the first couple of years are trial and error. Listen to veteran teachers and take advice. No matter how long you teach, every year you'll find something you need to change or improve upon.
  32. Caitlin Riley - Document, Document, Document....it will help when parents/administrators ask why you gave a detention or why you did what you did.
  33. Nicole Larkman - Balance. You NEED to have a balance between work/home. It may seem impossible at times, but it needs to be done!
  34. Eva Bridgeforth - Don't be a martyr.  I've seen too many people sacrifice their health, sanity, and relationships for the job.  Prioritize and make the job sustainable...you will impact more lives by staying in the long run than by burning the midnight oil.
  35. Stefanie Geoghegan - Have several backup activities ready for the kids for when the schedule changes and you suddenly need to occupy fifteen minutes, or if a teacher or administration needs to talk to you for a few minutes. Kids should be know what they are and be able to get to work without any extra directions.
  36. Cara Cornell-Malone - Engage your students.  They should be reading, writing, and discussing every day.  Have a procedure for anything that will drive you crazy at some point during the school year.  Teach procedures and reteach procedures.
  37. Michelle Long - You will want to give up, but don't....find a positive person in your school and talk to them.
  38. Caitlyn Strange-Hendricks - It's hard...way harder than anyone thinks. But love your kids, and they will love you too.
  39. Linda La Bella - Don't send kids to the principal's office
  40. Tracy Gill - Have strict classroom management, but don't try to control every little thing the kids do. That will drive you nuts and push them to act out more. Let the little things slide while still holding them accountable for their actions.
  41. Sharnie Van Lith - Build relationships before you think you're going to teach them anything. Respect them and they'll respect yo
  42. Tracey Schimke - Expect the unexpected.
  43. Melissa Alvarez - Find a partner teacher who is willing to take a kid when you need a time out from them
  44. Rowena Hipol - Listen and learn from colleagues but trust your gut. Every day is a new day.
  45. Steve Miller - Make the custodians, facilities and office staff your BEST friends....they RUN the school and know HOW to get things done there.....we just work there!
  46. Maggie Kelly - It's all pointless without PASSION! You can sell them anything if you believe it and love it with your whole heart. That, and ALWAYS have a 'plan B'. Good luck!
  47. Crystal Holshouser - Classroom management does not mean straight and perfect rows of sparking clean desks and eager straight A students..... It means a warm, welcoming classroom with an environment conducive to learning...... Remember, if you dread going to work, your kids have already checked out......
  48. Jennifer Campbell - Being a new teacher doesn't make you any less capable, talented, or dedicated than more experienced teachers. Believe in yourself!
  49. Tippi Matherley - Don't forget to sleep. You are only as good as you last night's sleep.
  50. Amy Mcclain - Go with the flow. Flexibility is a key with little people. Of course that doesn't mean to not have plans and management but being able to change quickly and easily is important.
Question Connection - Advice from Real Teachers
Do you have a tip for new teachers that you would like to share? Please post it in a comment below. If you would like to submit a teacher question of your own, be sure to watch for the Question Connection announcement on Wednesday evenings at 8:30 pm ET on the Teaching Resources Facebook page. Even if you don't have a question, please follow me on Facebook and offer your advice when you see the questions come through!

Great Questions + Advice from Real Teachers = The Question Connection! Enjoy!

June 23, 2014

Supporting Self-Regulation in the Classroom

Guest post by Leah Kalish

Self-regulation is an on-going internal activity in which we are all participating all the time as we control and direct our feelings, thoughts, and actions. If we are good at self-regulating, we are able to sustain a feel-good, optimal state of attention; we can organize our thinking and coordinate our actions to accomplish desired goals; we can manage stress, navigate emotions, and control our impulses.

Self-regulation is not only an essential part of healthy emotional development, it is also vital for academic success. Many studies, like the 2010 research conducted by the University of Virginia’s Claire Cameron Ponitz and Oregon State University’s Megan McClelland, show that children with high levels of self-regulation do better on tests when compared to children with low levels of self-regulation. Some researchers even see the inability to self-regulate as the root cause of the economic achievement gap.

Self-regulation takes energy. That’s why when you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you are more irritable. Given the high levels of stimulation and stressors for most kids, the most important way you can support self-regulation in the classroom is to regularly and deeply relax. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, integrating sensory awareness, breath, and movement activities into your daily routine will not only improve self-regulation, it will increase productivity.

Classrooms that practice mindfulness activities such as breathing exercises, sensory explorations, guided imagery, yoga, Chi Gong, and music, show reduced stress and anxiety, better mood, and improved decision making, impulse control, attention and memory (all executive functions!). Whether you call it “brain breaks”, “time-in”, “yoga”, “meditation”, or “mindfulness,” participation enables kids to develop an awareness of their inner state and the ability to soothe and refresh themselves. Every time you support kids in consciously resetting and recharging their nervous systems is an investment in a more thoughtful, harmonious, and self-regulated classroom.

Why do sensory and mindfulness activities that ask kids to tune into their internal awareness to observe and identify sensations, thoughts, and emotions without judgment enhance self-regulation? These activities...
  1. Soothe the lower, autonomic, non-verbal, sensing brain.
  2. Facilitate a physiological shift out of stress/fight or flight to greater presence/ receptivity.
  3. Develop self-awareness - the ability to track / monitor what one feels in one’s own body. 
  4. Require noticing/reflection, which cultivates executive functions and self-regulation. 
To support self-regulation in your classroom, I recommend implementing these 4 steps:
  1. Start the day with a silent or guided breathing or meditation technique that slows everyone’s inner speed and invites observation of sensations. 
  2. Direct students to then: (steps adapted from Dr. Reggie Melrose)
        a. connect /ground to earth (imagine being a tree or mountain)
        b. rest into the support of chair or floor (give in to gravity)
        c. breathe fully and slowly (in and out the nose)
        d. visualize something or someone they love (imaginary or real)
        e. notice how the previous steps shift their inner
                     sensations (what happened, where?)
  3. Explore and identify physical and emotional sensations as part of social-emotional learning to help students build an awareness of their internal states and how to observe, name and manage them. This process develops mindfulness and self-regulation because students are harnessing the overlapping social –emotional brain and the regulatory. 
  4. Drink Water every 20-30 minutes. 
  5. Before a new activity and as needed, pause and direct students through steps a - e. 
To continue to build strong neural pathways for self-regulation, remember the 5 R’s: 
  • Regularity – Schedule time to practice daily
  • Repetition – Builds neural pathways that become habits
  • Reflection – Noticing sensations strengthens neural pathways
  • Research - Support kids in becoming prescriptive with which tools work best for them
  • Reach Out to Families – Share tools with parents/ care-givers to use at home

Leah Kalish, MA, is a recognized expert in yoga, mindfulness, and social-emotional education. Through her company, Move with Me Action Adventures, she trains educators and produces classroom resources that enhance well-being, improve learning readiness, and lay a foundation for emotional stability.

June 6, 2014

5 Common Mistakes that Will Lead to an Out-of-Control Classroom

Guest post by Linda Kardamis at Teach 4 the Heart

My first year teaching was not very pretty. I thought I knew how to manage a class, but I made some critical errors that left me in the situation every teacher dreads – standing in front of an out-of-control classroom.

While I certainly don’t want to go back and repeat that first year, I’m very thankful for the lessons I learned. And once I learned from my mistakes and corrected them, the next year went much more smoothly.

Effective classroom management can be challenging, but the key is to keep learning and growing. So whether you’re a first-year-teacher or a veteran who’s facing challenges, here are some common mistakes that you definitely want to avoid:

5 Common Classroom Management Mistakes

1. Not having clear expectations and procedures. A well-managed classroom starts with clear expectations and procedures. So before you try to teach the kids how to behave, you need to know exactly what you’re going to expect. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to err on the side of higher expectations than lower – you can always loosen up later on, but raising your expectations in the middle of the year is very challenging. If you need any help in this area, The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong is the go-to book on this topic.

2. Waiting to deal with problems until they’re big. My first year teaching I let a lot of little things go because I didn’t think they were a big deal and I didn’t want to whack kids on the head for small things. But the problem is that if you don’t deal with problems while they’re small, they’re just going to escalate. I finally learned that I don’t have to give out a punishment for small issues, but I do need to address them. Every time.

3. Not requiring individual responsibility. Just telling the entire class to be quiet is not very effective. And it isn’t much better to offer group rewards or threaten group punishments. Yes, these can be a part of your classroom management plan, but individual responsibility is extremely important. Find a way to give individual warnings to students without interrupting your flow of teaching. (I share the method that made the biggest difference for me in my post “How to Calm a Disruptive Class”) And, of course, give individual praise as well.

4. Choosing between being kind and being firm. Too many teachers think this is an either-or situation, but the truth is that you need to be both kind and firm. Students need to know that you care, and kindness goes a long way towards earning their respect. At the same time, being kind and caring does not mean that you just let everything go. We need to care enough to be firm and to have high expectations of our students.

5. Lacking confidence. Nothing will kill your classroom management faster than a lack of confidence. The students can sense it and will quickly start to take advantage. The problem is that you can’t just snap your fingers and – bam! – you have more confidence. Confidence must be built, but you don’t have any time to waste. What you need to do is develop a plan for how you will deal with a variety of situations that you commonly face (or may face). Then, practice your responses in front of a mirror until you’re confident you’ll be able to deal with them effectively.

What other mistakes have you made and how did you correct them?

Linda Kardamis is a former teacher and writer who is passionate about helping teachers impact the next generation. You can find her at Teach 4 the Heart or on Pinterest.