Sunday, September 16, 2012


Whew!  That was intense!

I'd hardly settled into summer vaycay mode when it was time to get back to school!

A hectic but  joyous summer was filled with grandchildren taking up residence and engaged in summer camp-mode.  This meant grandma (yours truly) and grandpa became part of the systematic chauffeur-cook-play-and chauffeur some more team.

Hubby and I managed to get in our somewhat-annual sojourn to Williamsburg, VA and, summer cold aside, spent an enjoyable time catching up on all the archeological developments in the interactive learning centers of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.  I can't tell you why...especially given the early history of the country and its many inequalities but... I always have a sense of the possible when I visit these places.  The sense that the promise the founding fathers held out for a free and independent people, is still within our grasp.  If you have not visited these very special places you should do so.

Suffice it to say, as you note this, my first posting since way back in early July, there was hardly a moment to breath let alone reflect on the glories of WBT.  Some really good summer fun and professional development, however, was had logging into the WBT Webinars throughout the summer.

Our school system starts back earlier than most of the country and even our state.  So the second week of August found me returning to school and preparing to teach a new grade - Second! WBT was in full effect before the first student stepped through my door.


One of the first things I noticed upon my return to the schoolhouse was the increased number of teachers using WBT! It's kind of funny, really.... just last year if I'd said "Class! Class!" in the midst of a group of varied grade level students, I would have expected only a few to respond "Yes! Yes!".  This year it's a whole new ball game!  You can hear any number of WBT phrases echoing down our halls and on every floor, and most kids, whether they know me or not, know what to do when I say "Hands and Eyes!".  The WBT 5 Rules are in effect in a greater number of our classrooms and many teachers are employing other WBT techniques such as "Teach-OK!"  I'm very proud of my fellow grade 2 team members who have adopted Super Improvers Walls and put their own stamp on it. Links to WBT have been added to several our schoolhouse Edmodo groups.  Find out about these WBT signature techniques and basics at

WBTizzle in the Hizzle

Having taught 3rd grade for more than six years and wanting to see what I could contribute to the preparation of learners ready to meet the challenges of the grade 3 testing gateway, I requested the move to 2nd.  On this side of the grade 2 to grade 3 coin I can attest to the truth of the statement that it's a big leap from 2nd to 3rd.  There's quite the knowledge and skills gap to be overcome making what happens in all the grades leading up to 3rd incredibly important.  WBT is an essential tool in my instructional tool belt with which to work at this rather daunting challenge.

One of our first Super Speed 100 session.
Who knew learning those oh so important sight words
could be so much fun?
WBT Super Speed Math starts this week!
While our school has made the decision to fully launch Common Core in our Primary grades and use a phased approach in our Intermediate grades, we primary teachers must still instruct using our system's 'old' instructional guidelines and objectives WHILE we begin to implement Common Core.... a rather intriguing challenge wouldn't you say?

I see WBT as a means of really navigating these uncharted waters and right from the start of this school year have placed its ever-expanding models and techniques front and center in my Brainy Bunch 2.0 classroom.  There's just good, solid stuff in WBT with which to develop the foundational habits of mind and essential learning skills my second graders need to highlight and demonstrate their strengths while they push through, transcend and transform their learning deficits.


Mere words cannot express how impressed and excited I am about the new WBT Writing Game.  Again, WBT raises the bar on the creation of quality instructional material that responds to the real world needs of learners and teachers!  Coupled with "Red Marker/Green Marker" (I call it Red Dot, Green Dot with my learners), "Air Writing", and the "Genius Ladder",  I fully expect my 2nd graders to be expert writers well before the end of the school year.  (Way to put that 40+ years of teaching experience to good use, Coach B!) If the terms used above are sounding odd and unfamiliar you need  to head on over to and check out the archive of free webinars and downloadable ebooks and guides.....a veritable treasure trove of material all of which weaves the GTF - the Golden Thread of Fun - through learning.  Be careful though - you could get pleasurably "lost" for hours!

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Goodness!  It's been more than a month and a half since I last posted here! By way of explanation, the last month of school was filled to the brim with activity and unanticipated changes. (I'll be moving to second grade this coming year after teaching 3rd grade for the last six years.)  The last couple of weeks became a veritable whirlwind of tasks and responsibilities that just had to be completed in order to prepare for the coming school year.  Add to the mix, a bit of foot surgery, and planning for the visit of 4 of my 5 grandchildren, and things were decidedly hectic.

But before I get into catching things up a bit, let me ask.... did you notice the graphic at the top?  I need to offer up some thanks to one of my fellow Wibbiters, the dynamic Miss L, who has awarded this blog with the "Liebster Award".  I am sincerely honored as Miss L's blog is an inspiration in its own right (  Full of spirit, visually appealing, offering great info and resources, you'll definitely want to visit regularly.  (Coming soon to my sidebar will be a set of other WBT blogoshpere hotspots to whom I'll be passing on Liebster awards in the very near future.)

Next Year and Next Steps with WBT....

So....the sun had hardly set on the last day of school when I began to muse about the coming school year and WBT. My first step was to begin digging into the Common Core State Standards (CCSSs) and our system's version of them.  While our staff was given one or two PD sessions about the CCSSs, they were pretty cursory.  Everything I heard and read about them suggested that I really needed to study them carefully and reflect on their impact on my teaching practices. (ASCD offers a set of free webinars featuring Grant Wiggins of Understanding by Design fame that offer a useful framework for exploring the standards critically and for developing units of instructions that align to them.

My summer plans also include tucking into the WBT video archives and doing some self-paced PD on and review of several of the strategies and tools that I want to add to my WBT portfolio during the coming year.

My early musings on the mesh of WBT and CCSSs led me to begin working on a matrix that I hope will help me align, at least broadly to start, WBT strategies/tools with the standards.  The screenshot below captures only a bit of what I've come up with so far and is by no means exhaustive.  (As I commence unit planning I'll be identifying the specific WBT "arrows" I'll use to help my learners hit their learning targets.) There are quite a few signature WBT instruction and assessment tools that will be added to the matrix, e.g., Genius Ladder, Air Writing, State Test Prep, and Power Pix, to name a few that I need to get schooled in.


WBT assessment tools are formative in nature and as such will play a central role in my plans to use standards based grading this coming year.

It's worth noting here that the matrix doesn't include the management components that will work in tandem with the instruction and assessment pieces to insure that students stay happily engaged and focused on meeting the standards.  Mapping out how the WBT Levels can be used to weave that 'Golden Thread of Fun' into learners' work is another aspect of my summer planning I look forward to digging into further.

New Opportunities to Build WBT Linkages


Just how habit forming WBT can be was highlighted for me recently.  A couple of weeks before school let out for the summer I received word that my application to the Smithsonian's "Teach-It-Forward" Institute (TIFI) ( was accepted.  Funded through a wonderful grant from the A. James Clark Excellence in History Teaching Program, the institute assists selected teachers from around the metropolitan Washington, DC area in learning how to use museum tools and resources to teach students Social Studies/History and Science.

The first day of orientation was most exciting and the institute staff did a great job of engaging us and modeling the work they want us to do in our classrooms in the course of the coming school year. (NOTE:  I've been a regular visitor to museums over the years and it's great to see how these institutions have become model learning institutions -  from the way exhibits are selected and displayed to the incorporation of best practices in education, museums are transforming the way they, and we, see and interact with history.)

During the TIFI session I thought of quite a few ways WBT would support and enrich the work.  Visions of students engaging in the Crazy Reading Professor Game as they read biographies of historical figures... learners engaged in Power Pix that help them understand social studies concepts...young researchers producing well-written reports as a result of climbing the Genius Ladder. It will be great fun!  I am currently working on my first TIFI lesson plan that is to be video taped for the institute and that I'll share in an upcoming post.

The Flipped Classroom offers learners rigor and Higher Order Thinking

Another WBT linkage opportunity I'm really excited about is the Flipped Classroom concept. Developed by former Colorado science teachers Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, the idea offers teachers a way to spend more in-class time working closely with learners at the application level of learning.  How? By having the learners acquire their background and foundational knowledge independently via the use of technology/media-based material.  (I'm busy learning how to create interactive screencasts, a critical tool in the flipped classroom.)

In some cases, students access web-based videos of lessons at home.  The videos provide direct instruction and/or practice in content areas; students can view the videos as often as needed, and are thus provided great differentiation. In it's initial conception, following students' viewing homework they then come to class where they get to apply their understanding of the material with teacher guidance and facilitation.

Like WBT, how the flipped classroom looks from one classroom to another can be quite different.  There are any number of adaptations of the model being used around the country, highlighting the concept's adaptability and its usefulness for differentiation.  I'm especially intrigued by the range of student-centered learning approaches and practices the flipped classroom model can support, accommodate and enrich including Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Project Based Learning  (PBL), Inquiry Learning, and Mastery. The concept certainly offers learners great opportunities to engage in rigorous work and higher order thinking.  WBT's classroom management tools go a long way in creating a safe, ordered, and engaging environment for learners in a flipped classroom, not to mention the usefulness of WBT instructional and assessment tools in such a setting.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The year is winding down but WBT goes on....This is the last week for our students and they've already displayed some antsy behaviors.

Thank goodness for the Super Improvers Wall! The SIW continues to hold its magic charm as students stay on task and attend to lessons  despite their clear awareness that they are nearing the end of the school year.  Several more students have made it to the Alpha level and find that climb onto the initial rung a worthwhile goal to work towards.  This past week marked the first student climb to the Beta rung.  (It was, in fact, the first student to make it onto the SIW.)  It's great to hear my learners celebrate each other for their achievements and take note of what steps they need to take to make their own progress.

It's time for our end of year evaluations and I'm including use of the SIW, Teach! OK!, The Scoreboard, and Mind Soccer as 'evidence' of meeting my instructional goals for "Establishing a culture of learning" and "Managing Student Behavior".

Two other saving graces that keep the learning going while offering outlets for energy are the Electronic Super Speed 100 and Crazy Reading Professor programs. Each has been useful in meeting my learners' kinesthetic needs while they exercise the little gray cells building sight word proficiency and, simultaneously, strengthen their reading and language skills.

This coming school year both these programs will be built into our routines right from the beginning of the year.  I'll be moving to second grade after teaching 3rd grade for six years.  I'm really looking forward to spreading WBT a little further in our building.

One of the things I'll be giving a lot of thought to this summer will be the best way to track and document the academic practices such as Yes! No Way! and QT.  (With a much firmer grasp of the State Test Prep process I'll "begin with the end in mind" and build my assessments using the process.) Yes! No Way! and QT are noted in the evaluation section of my lesson plans along with questions, of course, but I do need to try to note the outcomes more consistently in order to track student progress.

As my colleagues and I set out on the road to implementing Common Core, I feel so much more prepared now that I am making WBT the foundation of my instructional practice.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


The power of the SIW continues to reveal itself in my classroom.  This week a student made it onto the Alpha level - the first level - of the wall.  Although I've blurred his face for security purposes, you can see the ear-to-ear grin he's sporting says he thinks it's pretty special accomplishment.

His achievement earned him a 10-finger woo from the class as well and visibly inspired others.  As Franklin posed for his photo I could hear other students counting how far they had to go to get to that first level...not far for several as they only had one or two paws to earn.  Others, with fewer paws to their credit could be seen to buckle down and work with renewed focus and managed to earn a paw for their efforts.  It's also been wonderful to hear students remind each other that comparing how many paws you have with those of a neighbor is pretty useless.  As one student reminded another "Don't forget, you only have to beat yourself, not me."

Not only was it great to have the first student make it onto the wall it was especially gratifying that it was one of my students who struggles with his academics.  Just as the story of the two students points out, it's important that learners who don't often have academic success be able to be acknowledged for their strengths and abilities.  (BTW...what looks like other white cards in the pockets are actually glares. Although, before the end of the day, a second student had made it onto the wall.)

Striking a balance in the awarding of paws is the key, I think.  It's not easy to earn a paw but it's not rocket science either.  Still, only a few earn a paw each day. I'm pleased to report, however, that each day more and more of the class becomes more committed to striving for one.  (I'm reviewing the WBT archived lesson on SIW and the segment on the funny photo as a means to keep interest and effort up. Perhaps I'll introduce the funny photo along about the Gamma//third level.)

As SIW gains its sea-legs in my classroom the Scoreboard and Mind Soccer remain powerful tools as well.  It's one thing to remind my learners that I'm the coach and it's my way or the highway but, the loss of precious Mind Soccer time during a game due to quibbling or failing to give positive trash talk to the opposing team is even stronger inducement to stay focused.  In our last session I saw far more players coming to the 'field' with their notebooks, far greater use of resources around the room -  word wall, posters, etc.,  and far more team consultation.  (During lessons a reminder that good note taking and review will be useful for Mind Soccer often elicits greater concentration and effort.)

You've just got to love the levels of WBT classroom management portfolio.  A year's worth of effective tools at teachers' disposal that are designed to be responsive to the range of learners likely to be found in those seats.  I'm also going back to review the recent lesson on the "Guff Counter".  Not yet sure that I'll introduce this one fully before the end of the year but, I've done a bit of 'bread-crumb' dropping with this one, too.  While it's true that my students rarely complain out loud, as one student did so recently about one of my instructions I simply mentioned "That sounds like guff to me."  I've used it a couple more times and the sounds of "Uh, oh." around the room lets me know students understand its not a good thing.  Even if I don't engage the Guff Counter this year, I know my 4th grade WBT counterparts will appreciate that I've primed the management pump for them by introducing the idea to the third graders they'll be receiving this coming August.

On that note, the sounds of "Class, class" is spreading around our building and working in school-wide gatherings even with those students whose teachers I know aren't using WBT in their individual classrooms as yet.  Yeah...WBT is powerful stuff.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

SIW Lift Off....Huston Are You There?

Last week I introduced the Super Improvers Wall to my growing class.  (It's been interesting to watch my newly-arrived students as my 'veteran' students engage in WBT practices.  Clearly, this is something different than they've experienced before.)

The PowerPoint I shared on a previous posting of this blog was revamped slightly to include opening slides of some the well-known walls of the world - Great Wall of China, Berlin Wall, and our playground wall where students who have lost recess spend the period reflecting on the behavior choices that landed them there. None of these walls, I told them, could compare to the wonders of the wall they were about to learn about.

A sense of mild intrigue floated about the room; it appears my students like the idea of the SIW's similarity to video games, the focus on having to beat only themselves, the ability to move through stages and up levels.  They also seem to like the idea of learning the Greek alphabet - they began using the level names right away.

There were questions from the class....always a good sign that some buy-in is being built.  "How many stages are there?"  "What happens after you get to Level 10?" One student was soundly corrected by his classmates when he tried to liken the wall and its color changes to the typical "green/yellow/red" behavior chart.  "No, man!", one student countered, "We're in third grade now.  We don't need that kind of thing anymore."  At least to some of my students then, the SIW was a signal that they were able to handle something a little more sophisticated.

Use of the the Teach!OK! elements in the presentation as well as the Yes! No way! questions demonstrated that the majority of the class understood the basics of the concept and, at that point, could explain how to track their own progression.

Let me back up just a bit here to explain that going in I knew I wasn't going to be able to do a full launch of SIW as I was scheduled to be away at a conference the remainder of the week.  So I did some "bread-crumbing" the previous week and during the two days of the introduction.  During the previous week I announced a behavior focus for the day (students who followed Rule #4).  I randomly roamed the room or used practice and independent work times to stamp a tiger paw in the agenda book of a student or two who was meeting the goal. "Great job meeting our goal for the day."

The next day my class was away on a field trip so there could be no face to face follow up.  In a bid to keep their interest via a bit of mystery, I had a set of students create strips of 10 paws to be placed on each student's desk.  Per the PowerPoint, a check mark will be made on a paw of the student who was caught meeting the goal.  While I wouldn't be there the next day I knew my students would be intrigued by the paw strips.  When I return to class on Monday, I'll transfer the paws I stamped in their agenda books last week to the strip and continue to recognize students for meeting the daily goals.  By the end of the week I expect that several students will have made it to the first level, the Alpha level and will be headed for the next one.

Houston...we have lift off but please stand by.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Back to the Future of WBT?

What would happen if all the classrooms in your school used WBT?

Back to school after a wonderfully relaxing and learning-filled Spring Break. Never mind that, for some reason, the day-shorter week ended up feeling like two; the week brought not only its share of multiple challenges but, also offered an opportunity to glimpse the possibilities of school-wide WBT. Here's what happened:

It's S.T.E.M. Fair time in our school/county. (What we used to call Science Fair is now Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Fair.) My class is doing a study on brain and memory and we were in need of study subjects. Our 4-member study Sample Team set off for the three 4th grade classes that made up the population from which we would select our sample. (I had talked, of course, with my colleagues about the visits before hand.) Our first stop went well enough and we got our sample but, the end of our visit also coincided with the 30 students needing to transition from one classroom to another.

The next 20-minute period reminded me of one of those French farces with pretty maids, screwball servants, and outraged fathers dashing through doors. The specialist who was supposed to take the class was no where to be found and a scramble ensued to find someone to take watch over the class. Until that someone could be found, I was the designated watcher. Here's where the beauty of WBT classroom management tools, and a glimpse of the promise of school-wide use of WBT, comes in.

It so happens that the teacher of the class I unexpectedly was left to manage also uses WBT. Additionally, because several of the 4th graders in that class had been in my grade 3 room the previous year, they were familiar with some of the WBT 'moves'. Armed with that knowledge, I knew there were at least a few ways I could communicate with this set of students right off the bat and get a situation fraught with the possibility for chaos positively managed. "Class-class!", "Hands and Eyes" got everyone's attention and a call for Rule #1 not only got everyone ready to follow directions quickly but aware that I knew what their expectations were. I'm happy to report that the class of fourth graders performed rather flawlessly.

What was funny to watch were the faces of the 3rd graders who were there with me as well as those of the 4th graders whom I hadn't had in my class the previous year. My 3rd graders looked on in amazement at these "big" kids as if to say "Wow! These 4th graders are expected to do what we do - and they know how to do it." "Oh my gosh, we already know some 4th grade stuff!" The 4th graders looked equally amazed, as if to say "How does she know what to say to us to get us to do things?"

The minefield of an unexpected change in students' routine is one it's likely we've all experienced trying to safely navigate. (Edu-ethnographers will tell you that classrooms really do take on their own cultural identities and that routines and procedures have embedded cultural weight to which change does not come easily. As with other, larger social groups - tribes, communities - "Outsiders" coming in to classrooms (like substitutes) or changes in the cultural flow (an AWOL specials teacher) can lead to some serious acting-out. Yet, armed with a 5-pack of WBT Rules and a few other WBT management tools, I was able to help this set of 30+ students navigate the uncertainty. I think it also sent a message to both the 3rd and 4th grade students in this situation that expectations for their behavior stretched beyond their particular classrooms. I can imagine some of them were wondering if every teacher knew their rules. Were the eyes of the entire school on them?

Later, reflecting on the situation, my mind returned to our recent WBT professional development sessions and Coach B's encouragement to our principal and staff to seriously consider implementing WBT across the grade levels. After the day's events, I could see the power of the idea. Imagine welcoming students into your 3rd grade class at the start of the school year and knowing that most of them were trained up in 2nd grade and already knew your class rules and a number of other procedures! Also, it seems to me, the linkages from student behavior to the discipline model of the school would be made that much clearer to all involved. For example, any teacher in the building would know what to say to an unfamiliar student who was misbehaving -

TEACHER: "Rule #4 please."
STUDENT: "Make smart choices."
TEACHER: "What would be smarter than running down the hall?"
STUDENT: "I could walk."
TEACHER: "If you did that you'd really be doing an excellent job following Rule #5." "Rule #5?"
STUDENT: "Keep your dear teacher happy!"
TEACHER: "Now, let me see you walk down the hall and I'll let your teacher know about your smart choice."

In less than one minute's time the student can begin to realize that others hold the same expectations as their teacher. The student may also start to understand they are part of a wider community that is connected to their classroom in pretty key ways.

I'm seeing more and more evidence of the presence of WBT in our school house. Some teachers, having just been introduced to it, are getting their feet wet while others are ramping up their understanding and application of the practices. My episode with the 4th grade class unexpectedly left in my charge certainly illustrates the power of WBT if implemented across the schoolhouse. How about WBT in your school? Has it spread? Is it spreading? What is your lived-experience of WBT used across the grades or throughout a school?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

WBT Super Improvers Wall Lesson

I had hoped to post my WBT Super Improvers Wall (SIW) Lesson PowerPoint as an audio/video file. (I narrated and saved a version of the lesson for viewing here on MWBB. There are some kinks to work out on how to best do such a thing. If you have some experience with embedding audio/video files in Blogger, I'd love to hear from you.

At any rate we're ready to move forward with the SIW in my classroom now that we are back in school and I've made some decisions about management of the strategy. The lesson will engage my learners in some signature WBT techniques including "Teach! OK!", Full Turn Talks, 3-peats. To wrap up the lesson, I'll use the WBT Assessment Trio "Yes/No Way", "QT", and "Prove It!". (Visit the video archives and web site files at to learn about these tools.) I'll also do at least a couple of review lessons to help my learners get grounded in the SIW structure and process. Following those reviews, or as the review itself, I'll use appropriate variations on the assessment trio.

I'm really looking forward to getting SIW going. Check back here towards the end of this week for an update on how things are going.

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