Bethany educator touts 'Whole Brain Teaching'
On her first day teaching kindergarten at Western Oaks Elementary School in Bethany, excited new teacher Stephanie Meder was terrified. There stood more than 20 5-year-olds, totally out of control, doing what 5-year-olds normally do. Meder had no idea what to do to get the kids in the circle, how to calm them down, how to get them to listen or even how to discipline in general.
So, what does a 21st-century brand-new schoolteacher do? She rushed to her laptop and Googled "Kindergarten Class Management." What she uncovered was the miracle she was looking for in a concept known as Whole Brain Teaching, aimed toward maximizing student engagement and focusing on the way the brain is designed to learn. The teaching method she found on YouTube was a session by Andrea Schindler, co-founder of Whole Brain Teaching, training her kindergarten students to teach one another.
That was 13 years ago. Now a second-grade teacher at Earl Harris Elementary School in Bethany, Meder has become a Whole Brain Teaching executive board member, the only Oklahoman on the national board. In March 2016, she became a certified trainer in the teaching process.
"Whole Brain Teaching has completely changed the way I teach," Meder said. "My students are engaged, using all parts of their brain, all while having fun. I see a huge improvement in my students’ comprehension as the year progresses.”
For a new teacher, going into his or her first classroom is a prospect that is both exciting and frightening. Training and practical experience under the tutelage of professors and experienced teachers is all well and good, Meder said, but they are not with you when they walk into that room and look into the expectant faces of your very own students. The methods you use can make your classroom experience enormously rewarding, or enormously stressful, often both at the same time, she said.
However, there are ways for teachers to approach their interaction with classes that can make the experience both more fun and less stressful for everyone, Meder said.
Whole Brain's flexible teaching method for K-12 student engagement is based on seven core components that teachers may introduce in their classes at their discretion.
• Celebrating Super Improvers, designed to motivate individual students — from special needs to gifted.
• Nourish Character Education, by teachers laying the foundation for acceptable behavior at the start of the school year. The goal is to give students basic behavior tools to help them grow into adults who are responsible, loving and nurturing.
• Mastering classroom basics, such as how to get kids to pay attention.
• Gamify classroom rules. There are five basic rules: Follow directions quickly; raise your hand for permission to speak; raise your hand for permission to leave your seat; make smart choices; and keep our dear learning community happy. There's also diamond rule: Keep your eyes on the target.
• Play the Scoreboard, as a class motivator to encourage and reward students as they meet expectations. Recommended rewards include a little less homework, the ability for students to choose their own seats, or time to play a game.
• Reform beloved rascals, to lessen those behaviors in the classroom.
• Activate Power Ups, designed to build leaders in the classroom.
Improvement for all
Meder said she's seen improvement in even the most difficult students through this teaching method.
“I’ve been blessed to have found Whole Brain Teaching so early in my teaching career," she said. "I see kids come to me with no confidence to kids with the highest academics. The best part is that they all improve in something."
Educators say they see merit in teaching methods that help kids to use their brain more.
“Brain-based learning is proving to be an increasingly important aspect of great teaching, but right now, access to this type of training varies from district to district. I’m sure our teachers want and need more professional development around the concept of WBT,” said Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president.
Amy Walls, program coordinator of Oklahoma Heart of a Teacher, said the teaching method is a unique instructional approach that maximizes student engagement by focusing on the way the brain is really designed to learn.
"Stephanie does an excellent job of introducing WBT to our teachers and the impact on classroom learning is evident,” she said.
Whole Brain Teaching Founder Chris Biffle said the organization started with 20 teachers. Now videos on the teaching method are viewed in 150 countries, and 50,000 educators representing 1.5 million students have attended free seminars.
"Nothing travels faster in education than instructional strategies that are powerful, fun and free," Biffle said.
More about Full Brain Teaching
To learn more about this approach, and connect with teachers who use Whole Brain Teaching, go to www.wholebrainteaching.com. All videos and e-books detailing this method are free to teachers.
For more information, contact Stephanie Meder at email@example.com.