Get Your Students' Attention!

When you've tried everything to keep a class engaged and running smoothly, but nothing seems to work, try Whole Brain Teaching! #strategies #activities #ideas

I am currently teaching a 9th grade English class in a high needs school as a temporary assignment due to the school's need, my experience and my certification.

To say I was surprised to be "voluntold" to teach this is a complete understatement.  Theoretically, I am filling in until a permanent teacher can be hired.

This school is tough in more ways than one.  It is in the highest crime area and every single last student receives free breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the school.  It started off o.k. but then the behaviors began.  Having an extensive background in special needs, I began to dig into my toolkit.

Community building?  Check!
Creating agreements (rules) together?  Check!
Routines?  Check!
Breaking things down?  Check!
System for Recognition?  Check!

So why was I still having behavior troubles?  It wasn't as if the students were being malicious (well, most of them), but they just couldn't seem to focus - AT.ALL.  It was loud and I was constantly asking for the students' attention.  I tried mixing up the lessons with videos and using things like Pear Deck and other online tools.  No dice.

Then I remembered something I had learned about a few years ago - Whole Brain Teaching (WBT).  And I thought, why not give it a shot?

So first I needed to start back with our agreements.  I soon discovered that hardly any of the students could even remember what we agreed we needed to be successful!  I was shocked!  

We had agreed that we would need to be prompt, prepared, responsible and respectful in order to be successful.  I think that maybe this had been too vague for these students.

So I decided to clarify with WBT's 5 rules:

1.  Follow directions quickly.
2.  Raise your hand for permission to speak.
3.  Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat.
4.  Make smart choices.
5.  Keep our dear learning community happy.

I have to say taking the time to get the agreements down, was actually time well spent.  Now all I have to do is say Rule #1 and they know what I'm saying.  And that's all I have to say when someone is not complying.

Some kids think this is only for younger grades.  I asked them "Did it work back then to help you learn?"  The answer was yes.  So then I responded, "Well if it worked back then when you were younger and more inexperienced, think of how much better it can work now that you are older and wiser!"  I totally got the eye roll, but I don't care because I am already seeing improvements.

Using the "Teach, Ok" facet of WBT is really helping students pay attention and remember key details.  I'll admit I don't have 100% buy-in yet but when I ask one of these resistant students a question, they are able to repeat information - with a little help from their friends.  That shows them that this silly little thing works.  

So I am in for the long haul.  As long as I am teaching at this school, we will be WBT for sure!

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1 comment

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