|Hand gestures and the "ten-fingered whoohoo" imperative in Whole Brain Teaching.|
Is the goal of education to make your "dear teacher happy"?
This is a "nuclear" goal if your school district using "Whole Brain Teaching". Several Missouri districts are using this method focusing on making students more engaged in the learning process:
I was ready to quit teaching for good. The stress and apathy of the students and parents had worn me down, robbed me of my love for teaching, and left me completely disillusioned with the career I loved. It was almost too much.
The thing that saved me is Whole Brain Teaching. This is an approach that began about ten years ago in Southern California.
Chris Biffle, a philosophy professor at Crafton Hills College, engaged the support of two former students, Jay Vanderfin, and Chris Reksted, both former students, who are now elementary teachers.
The three of them realized that a they all had the common problem of flagging student engagement, and worse, it was becoming epidemic. Everywhere they looked, everyone they talked to, the story was the same. Something had to be done.
They decided a radical change in approach was warranted. They set out to learn more about how students should learn as opposed to the traditional ways teachers typically use. Research into whole brain learning, and applying what they learned was the answer
Whole Brain Teaching was the result. Whole Brain Teaching is a method that integrates an effective classroom management system with learning approaches that tap the way your brain learns best. This approach is amazingly effective, and fun for both you the teacher, and the students.
Let's look at an "effective classroom management system" with the goal of making the "dear teacher happy". From wholebrainteaching.com:
The following are five classroom rules that will make your life amazingly easier. One of them is nuclear power in your hands!
If rules are only posted on your board they are not really a part of your class. You must have the rules running around in your students’ heads for them to be effective. It will also help you quiet extra talking in the class. Look for that as you read.
Teach them as follows:
In elementary school, rehearse the rules first thing in the morning,
after lunch and after each recess. When you call out the rule number,
your students respond with the rule itself and the correct gesture.
Make the rehearsals as entertaining as possible; use a variety of voices
(happy, robot, froggy) and tempos, fast, slow, super fast. For
additional fun, ask of your liveliest students to lead the rules
Now, let's think briefly, about how these five classroom rules relate to brain structure. The brain learns in five ways, by seeing, saying, hearing, doing and feeling. When you teach the rules with the Whole Brain signs, your students' brains are maximally operative. They see the signs, hear the rules, say the rules and make the gestures. If you are upbeat and entertaining in your presentation, and of course you are!, your students will also have the lovely feeling of having fun. Also note that for all five modes of brain learning to take place for your students, you have to engage in all five modes yourself. Whole Brain Teaching is as great for the instructor's brain as the students'!
Rule One: Follow directions quickly! (the gesture: make your hand shoot forward like a fish)
Rule Two: Raise your hand for permission to speak (the gesture: raise your hand, then pull it down next to your head and make a talking motion. This rule will be the most commonly violated. See below for how you stop this without criticism or negativity.)
Rule Three: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat. (the gesture: raise your hand, and then make a little walking figure with your index and middle finger.)
Rule Four: Make smart choices! (the gesture: tap one finger to your temple as you say each word.
Rule Five: Keep your dear teacher happy! (the gesture: hold up each thumb and index finger out like an “L” framing your face; bob your head back and forth with each word and smile really big!)
Rule Two will be the most commonly violated, duh. You do not have to call anyone down; you do not have to mention names. If you are addressing the class and some kids are talking, you stop, hold up two fingers and loudly say “RULE TWO!”Every kid in your class should repeat rule two energetically with gestures. This signals the violators to stop talking ... without you needing to scold them.
Rule Five is nuclear power. Think about it- keep your dear teacher happy. THERE IS NO LOOPHOLE! No student can convince you that they are making you happy. You are the world's greatest authority on what makes you happy. If they try to convince you they are making you happy, immediately inform them that does not make you happy.If a student complains that they don’t know how to make you happy, tell them that following the first four rules will be just dandy.
Rule Five has no loophole. (MEW note: Does this smack of emotional blackmail?)
If parents ask why their child should worry about making you happy, respond that you have the responsibility to teach their child and every other child in that class. The happier you are, the better you can do your job. (MEW note: Since when is it the student's responsibility to create and maintain teacher happiness? Why should teacher happiness be a prerequisite to perform his/her job?)
If you have a child in the Union, Sullivan, Silex or Joplin School Districts you might want to sit in on a class and watch the techniques. Contrived hand signals are to be done with certain movements. Did you watch any of the encounters in the OWS movement? Do you think "uptwinkles" and "downtwinkles" are effective means of communication or are you concerned about the "groupthink" mentality present in this movement? Is this a version of "groupthink" mentality in both of these movements?
Watch this youtube presentation of whole brain teaching taught in a kindergarten class. Make note of the "ten-fingered whoohoo" (around 3:20):
If a teacher's main goal is to control the classroom and receive rote answers, this is an example of how to accomplish these goals. If a teacher's goal is to create learning that is creative and allowing the child to learn intrinsic self-discipline, this is not the program to use.
If you as a parent disagree about this type of learning going on in your school district, take a deep breath and understand you might incur the wrath of the "dear teacher". But, unlike your 5 year old who doesn't have any idea what makes "the dear teacher happy", you are an adult and understand the teacher has a professional job to perform, regardless of his/her emotional state. His/her happiness is not the most important goal in your child's education.
Comments from the video:
I can't stand this method of teaching...the kids are acting like robots and are they really learning or just doing what the teacher says. this sucks :(
WOAH! Rule number 5! If students are taught to "please" their teacher they are not developing intrinsic self control. I wonder how they act when the dear teacher is not present? I guess this is the difference between teacher centered, and student centered education.
Where is the relationship with your individual and unique students? This is depressing and makes me sick.
I have omitted the comments from the teachers wanting to try it in their classrooms. They believe the students are engaged via "sing song" speech and uptwinkles. Welcome to Whole Brain Teaching.
For your viewing pleasure, here are OWS hand signals explained:
We'll have more on Whole Brain Teaching methods to older students in a subsequent post.