Monday, June 20, 2011


As I reflect on the past year, deciding what worked and what did not, and what I will continue implementing in my classroom next year I found two distinct “keepers”: Classroom management and Vocabulary.

Classroom Management

Classroom management always seems to be an issue and I am a strong believer in the fact that if you lack classroom management you aren’t getting any teaching done; consequently students are not learning. I have been using The WBT Five Big Rules for three years now and while I have always prided myself on my classroom management, these five rules have catapulted my classroom into management heaven. This past year with the onset of the portable “scoreboard” I was able to manage all twenty-six kids’ behavior in and out of the classroom by a simple stroke of a whiteboard marker.

The occasional, “Oh, I am winning!” as I gave the frown side of the scoreboard a point, quickly brought all to attention and perfect performance as we made our way down the hall.

It was a thrill for me to have previous students come and visit my classroom the last couple of weeks of school. They would always comment on the Five Big Rules and were happy to see that I still use the rules. One student just loved walking in my room and calling out “CLASS?” just to see if the class would respond, and they did every time, “YES!”

We had such fun switching up the attention getter with favorites such as

Class- a-saurus Rex?”/”Yes – a- saurus Rex!”



I am anxious to try the other levels of the Scoreboard and I do see how this will re-energize my students and keep the Scoreboard fresh and exciting for them. I did, on occasion, implement the Independent Scoreboard, but it didn’t last for long … it wasn’t needed; kids hated that and worked to get off and be part of the team as soon as possible.

For more information on Whole Brain Teaching and The Five Big Rules:

Click on “1st Steps” and “five classroom rules”


Improving Vocabulary was a goal I set for myself this past year; I wanted to see improvement and have my students be successful in gaining and retaining new words and meanings. Many of my students are ELL students and I knew if I could increase their understanding of vocabulary then comprehension would follow and they would surely gain more enjoyment from the stories we were reading. I had the goal, I need the how…

In doing a random internet search (Ha! I seem to have great success with this method) I found Mrs. Maiolo’s site and her Picture Words.

I took her idea, tweaked it for the needs of my students, and made it my own. SUCCESS! … Almost. I did indeed see a renewed interest in vocabulary, the pictures were a hit and I got to use some of my own “talent” to enthuse the students. However, I wasn’t seeing the success in


Enter: Whole Brain Teaching!

I continued to use Picture Words for Vocabulary instruction but I added “Teach/Ok”,” Big Gestures”, and “Ah –Oh! Switch!” and as my students became more proficient with the routine I added The “Example Popper”. Suddenly Vocabulary became a favorite part of the day. If we didn’t review Vocabulary one day my students were asking for it.

My VP came in to observe my teaching and she happened in during Vocabulary Practice. She was amazed and pleased. Her comment on my evaluation was simply: “Mrs. Valdes conducts her classroom like an orchestra.”

My proudest moment came when I gave over the leadership of Vocabulary Review to a Student Leader. They took this new responsibility and ran with it. It was great to see my students being responsible, having fun, and learning.

Oh, and as for test scores … for three weeks in a row not one student missed a vocabulary question on their reading tests.

Lesson Learned!

I looked in the mirror and learned that when something isn’t working … “Ah-Oh! Switch!”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I first came across Whole Brain Teaching a few years ago during a random internet search … I was looking for a way to better reach all my students and to put some fun back into learning. Then it was called Power Teaching and I do indeed feel that it has given me more power as a teacher over the past three years that I have been implementing the practice in my classroom.

I plan to blog my way through the next school year as I continue to use Whole Brain Teaching, becoming more of an expert and learning and bettering my technique as I go. In his book Good to Great (2002) Jim Collins suggests how a great leader looks in the mirror, not out of the window for responsibility when things don’t go as planned. This approach allows for reflection and a shift as needed for optimum success. I believe in Whole Brain Teaching and will use this blog as my mirror.

Follow along and watch us LEARN!!

For more information on Whole Brain Teaching: