Friday, November 18, 2011

"You Bet Your Homework Over the Break"

"You Bet Your Homework Over the Break" is what greeted the students today above our Scoreboard. The last thing in the world the kids want is homework over a great week long Thanksgiving break. Of course I told them what this meant and they were so focused that the day felt like the middle of September! Focused learning on a day that can typically make kids crazy! I saw many a classroom today a bit helter skelter...but not us, because the motivating power of the scoreboard!

The next time you need to have the kids focused, break out this version for just this special occasion. You may be surprised how focused they can get...while having an intensely fun time! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Rewards of the Scoreboard Game

One thing that I notice is the less marks at the end of the day, the less energy and following of the rules. This interests me quite often, because let's face it, sometimes you just have those days where you don't mark the score that often.

Well, let me just tell you...the marks are a crucial part of the energy each and every day. I can take a dull class to the next level just by getting some points on the scoreboard...positive and negative.

Yesterday we played for a bonus minute of Mind Soccer on Friday. They won and were so pumped! The most we can get on a Friday of Mind Soccer is three minutes, but now, maybe we could get four minutes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Power of the Genius Ladder

Okay so we have been doing the Genius ladder for several weeks now. I have been coming up with the Blah sentence and then of course the other ones also. Each time we spend a few moments with the kids working on each level. They add a new noun at the Blah level, they add their own adjective at the Spicey level and so on. This is all done orally and so we are getting many reps on grammar and good writing.

Just the other day, a student asks, "Are we ever going to be able to make our own Genius Ladder?"

Yes my friends...a student asking to do more work than what he has been doing! They want to write! Because of all the oral practice, they are now ready to write. Wow...teacher heaven.

My answer of course was, "We'll see...maybe in a couple of days." Inside I was excited because the kids all gave that low murmur of support when he asked.

We wrote their own the next day!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Three Star Homework...the Premier!

Homework traditionally has been a time for review of the work that was done in class. But let's face it, the kids usually don't bring it back and if they do it's done poorly...or not at all. With the WBT model of Three Star Homework, kids are motivated to do the work and the work that they are doing is high frequency work that is differentiated. WOW! Work that is motivating and will improve student work.

When I told my parents about this at Back-to-School-Night, they all felt like this was going to be great, for their kids and for them. (There is less haggling back and forth with this version of HW.)  One parent told me that her daughter would do the Three Star every night.

Later in the week when we were checking our homework, I asked that young lady about how it went. She said it was good, but I told her that I noticed she only did Two Star each night. I told her what her mom had said about her doing Three Star every night. She looked at me and said, "Mr. Rekstad, that's what my mom would do." And that was it...we'll see what happens next week!

Power to the Teacher!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oral Writing to Genius does it all work?

We have talked about several aspects of writing, but now how do you implement them and in what order? It's always good to get good ideas, but then we take them home and wonder, "how does this really look in my room...tomorrow?"

So this is how it feels to me right now. Don't forget that this is a totally new, fluid process,  this is right now, but that may change in the next few months.

I started with Oral Writing (OW) on the first day of school. We did some easy questions that they would know the answers to, and would have more than one sentence answers readily available in their summer zonked brains. I have since done OW with every possible scenario from "How do we walk to lunch?" to "What is a declarative sentence?". Whenever I want them thinking with a neighbor, we're doing it in the OW fashion. It can only help them be better thinkers!

That same day I introduced the Genius Ladder (GL). It's been a ride every day since. I really thought that I would have trouble coming up with the sentences, but I'm keeping them pretty simple and going from there. These two features are similar, but different. They both practice the concept of OW, but the GL really takes them to the next level.

Now you add 10 Minute Writing in there and you have the concrete writing aspect that so many of us feel we need to have...why? Tradition mostly...but I do know that we need to write, it's just that with these first two elements you get so many more practice sessions/repetitions per minute of in class time.

Try these three pieces out all at once, or add them in slowly like the seasoning on a good steak.

Power to the Teacher!

Friday, August 26, 2011

10 Minute Writing

This writing technique is such a simple task to implement, and yet it is so powerful for the best results. Kids need massive repetitions with writing, we know this. The use of Oral Writing and the Genius Ladder gets kids the oral reps that they need, and now we are going to add the writing that will bring these together.

At the end of the day have the kids get out some paper and begin writing on the writing prompt that you give them. The first few times, let them write about what they want, and as time goes on, they should be responding to writing prompts that you choose, that could be from the state writing test if your state has one.

They are going to write for 10 minutes straight with no interruptions. As they begin, tell them you are only looking for neatness right now, today, and maybe even the next three days. You are going to walk around with a red pen and a green pen looking for neatness. Here's how an interaction may go;
       Me: That sentence is neat and exactly what I am looking for. (I make a green mark next to the         sentence.)
       Student: Thank you, Okay, Yes Sir/Ma'am...some type of statement that says, I heard you Mr. Rekstad. Kids are used to dissing teachers; no more. They will now take ownership for their work and respond in kind to your comment. Are we talking to hear ourselves talk? No...have them answer you, it'll feel so great.
       Next Student:
        Me: This part of the sentence needs to be neater please. (I make a red mark next to the sentence.)
        Student: Thanks Mr. Rekstad. (I move on to the next student.)
This goes on until I have gone all the way around the room. It is very quick and efficient. It doesn't take long to look at a students paper when you are looking for neatness.

The next day, you have them write again, but this time they are going to have yesterdays paper right next to them so that you can compare them. If they are making similar mistakes, make two red marks next to the problem.

As the weeks go one, you can start reading their papers for more grammatical things. So, by the end of the year they can write for 10 minutes and be working hard on all of the skills that you have been teaching.

Try it out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Hardest topic to Teach...Writing - Not any more!

Friends pay careful attention to these few words, and then the continuation of this content as the year progresses. I don't mean to sound haughty, I'm just trying to save you some time from the age old frustration of teaching kids writing. This will be the first in a series of writing posts so that you can see how this evolves as the year moves on.

We at WBT have found the Writing Solution! Do you have some tissue next to you? Here we go...

Step 1: Oral Writing--Get your kids to talk in paragraphs! Ask them a question. Have them answer it in a complete sentence, and then have them add another piece of information to it. Here is what is posted on my board right now;
The question: What is your favorite sport?
The answer: My favorite sport is baseball.
The adder: This is my favorite because I played it so much growing up.'re done! Get the kids to do this several times a day and they will become better at articulating what they are trying to say. As the year progresses, the question will be about core content and that way you'll get many more reps for the state test practice.

Next post...10 minute Writing!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The 7 Wonders of the Whole Brain World!

These wonders of the WBT world of course are the Big 7 Daily Instruction Techniques. Today was my first day of school, and I vowed that this is all that we would do....all day.Yes, teach the kids the Big 7 so that we can use them all day every day all year long. I may even do them all day again tomorrow.

You know the most frustrating thing for teachers is the whole concept of the kids don't listen and don't follow the rules. I'm going to give up a few days of instruction here in the beginning so that I can have some great learning times the rest of the year. Management is crucial these days and the WBT way will always get you what you need, just be patient with it.

My students today were on the edge of their seats all day, waiting for the next great wonder of the WBT world. Tomorrow will be more fun and learning!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Summer is winding down!

I have done three WBT conferences in the last seven days, and I'm seeing some extremely excited teachers ready for the new year! This in turn has made me a little more excited about starting the new year...more than usual.

You can always tell when a group of teachers are excited about's how. I'm talking about how we want kids to start changing their own behavior in level two, three and four of our system and before I can say, "Can I get an Oh Yeah!"...a teacher in the back says, "I hear that!", followed by a "Preach it Brother!".

You see fellow WBTer's, we are here to change the world, one classroom at a time! So come on board and join the WBT's free, but it'll change your life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What do you say on your first Blog?

What do you write in your first blog ever? Well, I don't really know, so I'm not going to put too much here yet until school starts. I'm posting things about my Whole Brain Teaching Model Classroom. This is an adventure that teachers all over the US are about to begin, so here we go!

Stay tuned as the beginning of the year gets closer!

Power to the Teacher!