WBT Basics provides a simple starting point for teachers new to Whole Brain Teaching. Whole Brain Teaching is a type of teaching that uses the whole brain to engage students in learning.
Whole brain teaching is a philosophy of teaching and learning that aims to activate students’ brains for maximal involvement in the learning process. Whole brain teaching relies on precepts from neuroscience, or the study of brain anatomy in order to understand how best to reach children over the course of the school day. Overall, whole brain teaching asks that students and teachers work in synch and very actively all the time. The classroom that uses whole brain teaching is an engaged, synchronized, collaborative classroom. It might initially appear more structured than other contemporary classrooms because each aspect of structure and routine is aimed at appealing to a neurological, cognitive need. Whole brain teaching can reach difficult students as well as those who are already strong.
First developed in 1999, Whole Brain Teaching promotes a high-energy, hyper-focused method where teachers use game-like challenges, key words, and motivational methods, while eliciting continuous spoken responses from their students to keep them fully engaged every minute.
The Pros of Whole Brain Teaching Strategies
WBT classes are fast-paced. Students don’t know when the Class-Yes, Teach-OK, Mirror, or Scoreboard Game activities will require them to engage actively, so they constantly pay attention.
When you enter a class, you’ll feel the energy and enthusiasm as students become active participants in instruction. You might even think they’re playing games and having fun at the expense of learning. They are having fun, and it’s building a love of learning.
In a study that sought to evaluate the impact of Whole Brain Teaching on the behaviours of challenging students, nine types of student behaviours were evaluated with fifth grade students. The results of this study indicated a 50 percent decrease in student negative behaviours from the pre-observations to the post-observations after implementing Whole Brain Teaching (Palasigue, 2009). These results support student engagement theories that state that the more a student is engaged in the lesson, the less likely the student will engage in disruptive behaviours (Scott, Hirn, & Alter, 2014).
The Cons of Whole Brain Teaching Strategies
If you watch a WBT video and don’t recognize the WBT strategy, you could confuse the parroting with old-school memorization. It’s not, but teachers must know how to make that differentiation for this approach to work in their classes. In truth, if WBT is not delivered correctly, it seems like it could become rote drills. Teacher training, personal attitude, and direction to students can fix this.
Students are encouraged to respond in preprogrammed phrases and words rather than independently thinking out responses. The teacher must make it clear when responses are required and when higher-order thinking is what’s called for.
Shy students or those who are more reserved may be uncomfortable with so many hand and body gestures and the need to interact so often with classmates. Mostly this passes, but be aware of those students who have difficulty.
There are excellent training programs in Whole Brain Teaching. Take advantage of these to get teachers excited about this effective, unique learning strategy. Don’t be afraid to unpack WBT slowly if you’d like, as students get used to it.