Sunday, September 25, 2011

Genius Ladder in Third grade:
This week I had the opportunity to model the Genius ladder in a third grade class.

I took a quick pic of the board to share with you. (Ignore the "Prove It" in the top left corner- that is just the classroom reminder from the morning, and a whole other post!)

For those of you who are new to the Genius Ladder,  you can check it out at

We started at the bottom, with our "Blah Sentence", The dog ran. I asked them to orally subsitute the noun, and as partners they came up with many varieties and repetitions. For example, The kid ran. The mouse ran. The tiger ran. I heard some laughing, and one pair of boys said, The nose ran. Then, they readily backed it up with, "Nose is a noun, and you can have a runny nose!"

Calling the whole class back, we climbed to the next rung on the ladder, the "Spicy Sentence". I shared with the class that when I have pizza, I like it a little spicy, with pepperoni! We talked about adding an adjective to create a spicy sentence. Before I had them come up with their own "Spicy Sentences",  I needed to doublecheck to see if they all remembered what an adjective was. We agreed that an adjective was a describing word, and gave a few examples.  Our "Spicy Sentence" was The ugly dog ran. When the students brainstorm and create as many spicy sentences as they can think of with their partner, they use the capital letter gesture (One hand eye at head level-palm down, the other hand at chest level-palm up) and the gesture for period. (Some teachers use the hand up with a screech, like a car screeching to a stop, others use a one finger point with a tongue click). Both partners gesture throughout the exchange.

I called the class back, we shared a few "Spicy Sentences", and then moved up the next rung to the "Extender Sentence". This particular class had been working on prepositions last week, so not a lot of review was necessary here. In WBT, we tell the students that prepositions are "squirrel words". Have you ever watched a squirrel? They dash in, out, up, down, over under, through, etc. Those "squirrel words" are prepositions.  Our Extender Sentence was, The ugly dog ran across the road. Again, we brainstormed a few extenders, then turned to our partner to generate Extender Sentences. Do you notice how many oral repetitions the students are getting? Many opportunities for practice are essential when building the Genius Ladder.

The final rung on the Genius Ladder is the Genius Paragraph. The students helped generate the sentences as the teacher wrote. I am including our Genius paragraph below.

The ugly dog ran across the road. He was chasing the chicken because he liked to eat the white meat. Next, the chicken scurried into the tiny pen. Lastly, the sad, ugly dog wandered away.

This Genius Paragraph has a topic sentence, two adders, and a concluding sentence. Notice, the students used "because" in one of the adders, and no two sentences begin the same.

This day, the students did not write their own Genius Paragraph. In fact, the plan is to continue to model as a whole class for several days before the students write their own paragraph independently. However, this teacher is having a different student record the Genius Paragraph each day, and this is going in the writing center. Clever!

Best of all, the students are begging to do The Genius Ladder! Teacher Heaven!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Kindergarten Fun

People often ask me how quickly they can introduce WBT concepts at the beginning of the year, especially in Kinder.  Well, rather unexpectedly, I ended up subbing in Kindergarten on Thursday and Friday. They had already learned "Class, Yes" and "Hands and Eyes" from me when I had been in and out, giving baseline assessments and general assistance. On Thursday, we rehearsed the "Five Rules" throughout the day, I introduced the scoreboard, and I taught them how to "Turn to your neighbor".  Friday, I introduced "mirror" and they loved it! I taught them to use the triple repeat for lines, chairs, papers, etc. I used the WBT 5 Step lesson plan to teach the LA Power Pix "Author". We used air whiteboards to sequence the story of The Three Little Kittens.  The teacher's aide commented on how well the students participated, and that she liked how I made learning so much fun!
I will be stepping in for 2 weeks,  until our long term sub can take over. This week, we will learn the LA Power Pix for character, capital letter, sentence, period, and the math Power Pix sort and count.  So, how much can you introduce at the beginning of the year in Kinder? Quite a bit!!! The key is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, until they are meeting your expectations.
Guiding Kinder students in learning using WBT means no more unneccesary stacks of busywork for students during an unexpected absence by their teacher. Learning continues!!! Can I get an "Oh Yeah!"?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Coaching Fun in First

This week, I was observing in a first grade classroom, and the teacher was asking if a story was fiction or non-fiction. First of all, the teacher said, "Fiction is when a story is true, and non-fiction is when a story is fantasy". (I am pretty sure she knows the difference, but just said it backwards.) I began to walk up quietly, because as an instructional coach, I need to correct inaccurate information. She called on her top student, and the student repeated it the same way the teacher presented it, to which the teacher replied, "That's correct". Uh oh! I whispered to the teacher, and asked her if I could teach the kids a little trick to remember fiction/non-fiction. I then showed the students the gesture for fiction, (3 fingers on the forehead like 3 eyeballs), because if someone had 3 eyeballs it would definitely be fiction, or make-believe! We laughed, and asked each other, "What is fiction?", and answered, "Fiction is when a story is made up, it is not real" (with accompanying gesture of 3 fingers on the forehead). Then, I proceeded to teach them the gesture for non-fiction, (2 fingers right below the eyes), because a real person has 2 eyes. We then moved on to ask, "What is non-fiction?", and answered "Non-fiction is when a story is real, not made up" (with accompanying gesture of 2 fingers below the eyes).  I asked them if I could come back later and show them some pictures that would help them remember fiction and nonfiction, and we would play a game. They resoundingly responded "Yes!"
Later that day, I returned and brought the power pix for fiction, and non-fiction, and we played "Yes, No Way" and "QT". Oh, what fun!
This process took no more than 5 minutes each time, and the students got it!!!
I saw these students in line for lunch the next day, and they said, "Mrs. Weigel, I remember fiction and non-fiction" (with gestures).
I love my job!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mrs. Weigel, Mrs. Weigel, What Do You See?

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See" is a much loved children's book by the talented Eric Carle. I have read this book so may times, I am certain I could quote it from memory! On each page, the characters are asked, "What Do You See?", and they respond "I see a _____ looking at me".  I was reminded of this beloved children's book as I began my new role this year as an instructional coach. What do I see when I walk into classrooms? Do I see teachers working hard, but students not working hard? Do I see students engaged in learning? Do I see respect modeled? Do I see students being held accountable for their learning? Let me share with you a peek at what  WBT  techniques I have seen this week on our campus:

In Kinder: Students have learned Class-Yes, the 5 Rules, and Hands and Eyes. They are practicing "Tell your neighbor", which is a prelude to Teach-OK. The scoreboard has been introduced, and all are working hard at earning smilies. I am so proud of how much they have accomplished in a week!

In First: Class-Yes, the 5 Rules, Hands and Eyes, the Scoreboard, Teach-Ok, and Switch have all been introduced and practiced. The teachers are using the rules as cues to help manage behavior.  For example, when a student blurts out, the teacher cues "Rule 2", and the class says, "Raise your hand for permission to speak!" All this is one week's time!

In Second: Our second grade teachers have all commented how easy their transition has been, since all first grade classes used WBT last year. In fact, the students have probably been the biggest factor in our second grade team wanting to use WBT this year- since they are seeing the wonder of students who follow procedures and are engaged in learning. The teachers also shared that at Open House, many parents were asking if their children would be using WBT in the classroom this year, because they LOVED it in first grade!

In Third: Our third grade teachers are probably the most enthusiastic about embracing WBT as a whole team. I have observed them having students using air punctuation, rehearsing the rules, and lots of Teach-Ok. They are asking for training on the Genius Ladder.

In Fourth: One class is using WBT a bit, and the other 2 are still unsure of how WBT will work for them. Our fourth grade team was strong last year, and the students made great progress. I am going to introduce oral writing, the writing game, and prove it to them. I think they will find these tools useful this year.

In Fifth: I observed one class where the teacher was working extremely hard to teach types of sentences, but only a few students had hands up and were answering all the questions. After some whisper coaching, she began asking teams to read questions, and partners to discuss answers using the because clapper. By the end of the lesson, the class had teams "competing" to see if everyone on the team could get the answer- of course, helpsies were allowed! I witnessed the class transform from a handful of students engaged to a classroom of students practically begging the teacher to call on their group. Why?Because they were confident that their team each had the correct answer! Oh, did I mention that they incorporated air punctuation in their answers, with the whole class mirroring? Yes!!!

In Sixth: I watched a teacher during reading, using Class-yes and Teach-ok. After the lesson, we chatted, and she shared that she was skeptical about trying WBT with 6th grade, but she did, and they love it! She is brand new to WBT, and only knows what I presented during orientation week, so I was encouraged to see her integrating WBT into her lessons.

"Mrs. Weigel, Mrs. Weigel, What do you see?" "I see classrooms of happy Teachers and Learners, looking at me!"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to School We Go...

"Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to school we go..." I find myself singing this familiar tune as I am getting ready to go back to school! But, for the first time, I am not setting up my own classroom. This year I will be serving as an instructional coach, assisting our teachers as we pursue excellence. I must admit, I still have mixed feelings about this transition. On the positive side, I am excited because I enjoy helping teachers, and will be able to spread the WBT joy amongst those who are embracing it. On the other hand, I KNOW I am going to miss the day to day interaction with my first graders! 

Oh no! I just realized I will not be able to wear my "Rule 5" button!!! I am wondering, can I adjust Rule 5 (to apply to the teachers)~ "Keep your coach happy"? Hmmm...

Many of our teachers are "dabbling" in WBT, and a few are fellow Wibbiteers! We even have two teachers who are participating in WBT's Model Classrooms.  How exciting!  Check out the ebook at

I am looking forward to hearing the sweet sound of students teaching each other as I weave in and out of classrooms across the campus.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to bed I go, BECAUSE tomorrow is the first day of school!!!!!!!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Oh, how I LOVE our Whole Brain Teaching Conferences! It is so exciting when groups of dedicated teachers come together to learn, plan, and share, while having fun! One thing I kept hearing over and over was, "I have tried bits and pieces of WBT, but I am ready for more".  This statement reminds me of when I was a young girl, and my grandmother taught me how to make a quilt. All of the "bits and pieces" fit together to create a unique, beautiful quilt. In WBT, the pieces in my first grade classroom may fit together a little differently than in a high school classroom, but both are "beautiful quilts of learning", so to speak. What kind of WBT masterpiece are you creating with your students this year?
Deb Weigel
Co- Director, WBT Model Classrooms

Saturday, June 18, 2011

National Convention for WBT

There is a certain synergy created when 500+ dedicated teachers are given 3 days together with our beloved "Coach B"...WOW!

I had the privilege of leading a daily breakout session with first and second grade. My observations are:

  • We have many brand new, excited teachers who are ready to change the world.
  • Joining our rookies are teachers with a variety of experiences, looking for new ways to engage students and increase learning.
  • WBT brings people together, regardless of backgrounds.
  • Whether one has used WBT for 1 minute or 5 years, there is always something new to learn and implement.
  • Teachers continue to believe that one person can make a difference.
  • Our new "Sentence Ladder" will be a key element in developing oral vocabulary and teaching students how to scaffold a sentence.
  • People met on the forum at seem like old friends.
  • It is OK to ask questions and ask for help.
  • Teachers using WBT have a renewed passion for teaching and learning!
Hop on over to to join a community of teachers who are done whining and are ready to change things for the sake of students!

WBT Team with New Interns

First and Second Grade Teachers-Breakout session

Photos from WBT National Convention

Friday, May 27, 2011

Out of the mouth of first graders...

Today was my last official day as a classroom teacher, as I have been asked to take on new responsibilities next year. As I shared with my students the changes, at first they were sad. I explained that I would be helping teachers, and that I would get a chance to see all of the students next year, not just one class. One of my sweet class leaders piped up, "I hope our second grade teacher does not know how to do Whole Brain Teaching, because then you will be in our class a lot, teaching the fun way!" Another student added, "But it's OK, because we can teach the second grade teachers all about the scoreboard and teach-OK and brain toys. She probably will catch on quick!" I love their thinking! Our goal is to equip our students to become Whole Brain Teachers, and my kiddos are ready for their next assignment! Woo Hoo!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Magnetic Attraction

Today I stood back and watched proudly as my students leaders were teaching their peers about magnets. We explored how like poles attract, but opposite poles repel. We experimented with force fields, and how amazing it is to see a magnet attract iron, even through water, wood, paper, or even a shirt! (LOL! Putting a magnet under your shirt was not in my lesson plan!) Several students were being pulled out of the room to complete make-up testing, and when they re-entered, my student leaders were teaching them the concepts, using key vocabulary and gestures! I even overheard one zealous student telling his group to take out their air blackboards and draw arrows and write "attract" and "repel". With just 5 days of school left, my students are engaged, learning, and teaching- NOT creating discipline problems!!! See what WBT can do? That, my friends, is a ten finger woo with a lightening sizzle!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New "Class-Yes"

"Class-Yes" can be heard across our campus each day. It is our Attention Getter in WBT, and it is extremely effective. This week, Chris Biffle challenged me to try some levels for "Class-Yes". Oh boy, we were ready! I explained to my first graders that we would start the day at "Class-Yes", and as they responded quickly and worked hard, I would address them as "Team" instead of Class. Now, if the level was extremely focused and responsive, I would address them as "Winners". The ultimate level would be "Champions". I wrote Class-yes, Team-yes, Winners-yes, Champions-yes, in a list near my scoreboard, and put a magnet next to "Class-yes" to indicate where we were starting. The anticipation was electric, and they worked hard to get to Team, but then slipped up on focus and moved back to Class. That only lasted a few minutes, as the student leaders were all over their peers, encouraging them to focus and participate! We advanced back up to Team, and right after lunch, moved up to Winners! They were so excited! Today, we began again at Class, and once again, my student leaders instructed those who had been absent how the class was going to focus and respond. We made it to Winners before lunch, and stayed there all day! Imagine how wonderful it is to be called a Winner over and over again throughout the day!
A simple variation on "Class-Yes", with focus, quick response, and smiles as a result! Who said kids are unfocused and unmotivated the last few weeks of school? Visit a WBT classroom, and you will see winners! (And quite possibly, even a few Champions!) Woo Hoo!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Testing and WBT

Spring testing can bring added stress to both students and teachers. I am often asked how WBT prepares students for success on standardized tests. In my classroom, students have been immersed in wholebrainteaching since the first day of school. I was anxious to see how my students would perform on their ACUITY, our standardized math assessment. I smiled as I observed them using "air blackboards" to solve problems. After completing the assessment, they were all smiles. I asked them how they thought they did on the test, and they replied, "Some parts were hard, but I remembered the steps".  (We have worked extremely hard on steps to solve different types of math problems.) So...I received the class results...and 100% of my students scored in Tier 4 (80-100%), the highest level! Woo Hoo! Next week is our end of year reading assessment, and I am confident that my students will apply their learning and will demonstrate phenomenal growth!
WBT incorporates repetition, rote memorization of facts, and critical thinking skills. This powerful combination equips students, and teachers, for success! This success is being measured on standardized assessments, and is proving strong!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Scoreboard Success!

Today our morning was rough...the frownies were ahead three to zip, and it easily could have been twenty to zip, if you know what I mean! One of my more challenging students, however, came and sat in our circle, crisscross-applesauce, hands in his lap! Wow! I decided to give J. his own scoreboard. After writing his name on the board, the whole class celebrated as I awarded J. a point. A few minutes later, when we transitioned to our desks, J. walked quietly and sat down, ready to learn. Another point on his scoreboard and the class went crazy with excitement for him! He quietly raised his hand, (Rule 2), and generously said, "Mrs. Weigel, can I give my points to the class? I can always earn more, and they need my help!" So, the class received J.'s 2 points, and I awarded him the opportunity to be the energy captain, to encourage the class to earn more smilies! The class responded to J., and began to climb out of the dark hole into the sunlight!!!
What a difference tally marks under a simple smilie/frownie makes in a classroom! So simple, yet so effective!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sunny Saturday

I spent the morning online with some very dedicated teachers, viewing a live broadcast from Chris Biffle, the founder of Whole Brain Teaching. ( We laughed as we discussed how to get students to extend their sentences, using the "salute", the "because slapper", "adder" and the "conclusion".  Such fun! If you are a teacher, you really out to check out these Saturday morning broadcasts, direct from Biff's garage! It is almost as if you have the Professor himself in your family room!
Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to present Seminar 1 to teachers in the Dysart School District in Phoenix. What a great bunch! They actively participated, and shared ideas on how WBT is working in their classrooms. For some, WBT is brand new. Even so, they jumped in with both feet! I can hardly wait to hear how things are going back in their classrooms!

Time to get prepping for Easter dinner! The boys are all grown up, but are still begging for our traditional "empty tomb rolls"! Yum!