Saturday, July 27, 2013

Thoughts on WBT

In my Confessions of a Shopaholic post, I mentioned that I finally caved and purchased the Whole Brain Teaching book from Amazon. Click the picture below to get yours.

I was skeptical for a few reasons. First, you can find pretty much anything you need to know about WBT on their webpage, youtube, teacher blogs, etc. for free. Last summer, I watched all the videos, downloaded all the files from the WBT website, and participated in a few live podcasts. And for my first year of implementing the program, I thought it went... OK. But I know there are things I messed up, and I know there are some gaping holes in my WBT self-education. Another reason (and perhaps the most influential) I didn't want to buy the book was because I HATE reading text books. HATE. The only professional text book I have ever read cover to cover without complaint was The Daily 5. I have an entire bookshelf (staring me down as I write this post) of professional text books of which I read one or two pages of the introduction, said "kill me now," and put back on the shelf. Boring. Too many words on the page. Print too small. "Ugh 259 pages in one chapter??!"

Well, I can happily report that after my first day of reading this book, I am already one third of the way done. Chris Biffle gets it. He wrote this book the same way he tells us to teach--in short, entertaining bursts that activate the emotional center of the brain. The chapters are quick and focused, while providing me with the important details I missed in my self-education. I thought it might be too "fluffy" without the nitty gritty do it THIS WAY kind of writing, but it is just right. If you are like me and not sure if a purchase will be worth it or not, I say GO FORTH and BUY AWAY!

Now. Onto my thoughts of what I've read so far.

Chapter 4 is all about Charting Progress. The teacher charts his/her own progress. I hadn't come across this in my independent study of WBT. I've already got some great ideas for graphic organizers I can make for my teacher binder. Being a Baldridge in Education school, there is a big focus on charting student and class progress. Why not chart some of my own. Especially if it helps me improve my teaching and student learning. I have to warn you that the Baldridge website it not very teacher friendly. The program was originally intended for businesses and then expanded/adapted for the education model. I think they need to do a little self-evaluating themselves... But I see a TON of Data Binder resources out there and Data Walls in classroom tours so I'm sure you are familiar with it, whether you call it Baldridge or something completely different.

Chapters 8-10 are about Teach-Okay. I know I did well when it came to attention-getters like Class-Yes and Hands and Eyes, but where I fell FLAT ON MY FACE last year was Teach-Okay. And I felt better when Biffle said many teachers have difficulty with this (pg. 46). Don't get me wrong. I'm all about the turn and talk. The hard part for my kids was the procedure (clap clap TEACH, clap clap OKAY, turn to neighbor, repeat what teacher said, use gestures, repeat over and over until CLASS YES). I'm sure we could have hammered out the procedure and gotten it down eventually, but there were things I had  difficulty with too. Mainly that you are supposed to "teach" in 30-50 second bursts, followed by Teach-Okay, then repeat. That's tricky. And I know all the research about less teacher talk and more student talk and blah blah blah. I agree. But my big question is this....

How do I do Teach-Okay ANNNNNNNNDDDDD teach using Inquiry???

Here's a quote from the text, "When you become adept at Teach-Okay, you will have eliminated all the non-educational chaff from your presentation, all the wandering, redundancy, stumbling, verbal fumbling about...We call this approach micro-lecturing.(pg. 47)"

Sounds great until you get to "micro-lecturing." Wait What? Micro-what? You mean, using this approach I still have to deliver my curriculum as a lecture? I get it, you chopped it down into smaller pieces of information with a lot of rehearsing and opportunities to transfer the info to long-term memory. I'm not denying this is an effective way to memorize material. But where is the inquiry? The student-led questions? The self-driven motivation to research and find out more? If I know exactly what my students will learn from the get go, and tell them so, there is no real inquiry. I'm putting an emphasis on the real because I've seen many activities advertised as "inquiry" that did not (in my opinion) earn that title. I'm not saying that I am the inquiry master or inquiry police, or even that everything I do involves inquiry, I still have a long way to go in that respect. But anyone who has experienced real-live inquiry cannot deny the POWER that kind of lesson has. If you want to see an example of what I consider an inquiry lesson to be check out my post about using primary sources, or doing research using the RAN system, or pretty much anything done by The Meek Moose (especially her fossils, economics, and digging in the dirt stuff).

Now, Biffle states that some teachers may raise some of the problems I just mentioned (although he didn't specifically reference inquiry) and says, "In chapter 21 we'll demonstrate how the Teach-Okay patterns can be used to teach original thinking, and not just paraphrasing the teacher's lesson (pg. 53)." It took all my self-control not to immediately turn to chapter 21 to find the answers. I told myself I would give it the benefit of the doubt for now, and read-on as Biffle intended so that I'm not totally confused by references to everything I skipped when I finally get there.

I hope I don't seem like I am "putting down" on WBT. There is great stuff to be had here! And I am a believer. But I am also a believer in inquiry and NEED to know that these two can co-exist daily in the same classroom. Also, I tend worry when people don't critically analyze or question a program they are using. I haven't seen anything but positive gushing about WBT on the blogs I follow, which is nice, but it isn't always helpful. To me at least.

So I'm signing off to read more. I'll revisit this when I finally make it to chapter 21!


  1. I need this book.
    I'm glad you said it was a good read. The Laney Sammons book is good too- but so meaty it is hard for me to read the amount I am accustomed to as an ex-English major.


  2. I have used some* WBT strategies in the past and will probably use some of them again this year. I enjoyed reading your opinion on teach-okay and will be curious to hear what you learn in chapter 21!
    Light A Fire in Third

  3. I am also reading WBT....have told myself NOT to watch the videos until after I read (to help ingrain some of this in my head!), but I read the e-books before from the website, just to make sure I needed to read the book. I agree with you - there are some things in there I'm like "wait..." but like you, I've been a good girl and not skipped ahead! I've also been terrible about blogging/doing the chapter summaries/questions on the book discussion group blog.

    It is VERY readable - I find myself on chapter 9 when I was just going to read a "couple"....and that's where I miss my "discussion" time! LOL Good luck and let me know how it goes so we can compare notes!

    I'll be using it with my collab. class this year for the first time and some of the reaction to my list is, "hmm, you have quite a crew there!"...good thing I'm doing this!

    Adventures in Second Grade

  4. LOL, I would have wanted to skip ahead, too! And I completely agree with all you said about wondering where the inquiry fits into the puzzle! I did bits of WBT this year but fell short with the TEach-OK, for sure. Maybe I need to check out the book! But I just started a new one about reader's notebooking! OY. Too much to learn. :)

    Teach On.