Please join fellow WBT educators in a lively discussion of Chris Biffle's latest book, "Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids"!
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Monday, June 3, 2013

Chapter 23-24: Whole Brain Teaching and Critical Thinking

Pick any three techniques described in these two chapters and describe how you would use them to improve the critical thinking skills of your students.

Pages 153-161
Full credit: 25 WBT Certification Points
Partial credit: 10 WBT Certification Points


  1. Chapter 23/24- Whole Brain Teaching and Critical Thinking

    In today's society, critical thinking is becoming crucial in the classroom. With the addition of common core curriculum, students are being asked to explain their thought processes and think beyond literal questioning. Critical thinking is crucial to student success in and out of the classroom. That being said, no teacher will argue that critical thinking should be taught in the classroom. However, several teachers would argue that it's boring, impossible, and "asking too much" of our students. Enter Brain Toys!
    "Brain Toys are gestures used to engage the prefrontal, visual, motor, and auditory cortex in original thinking, learning's highest level" (Biffle, 157). Best of all, they're FUN!
    The three Brain Toys used most frequently in my classroom are: the Because Clapper, Compare/Contrast, and Story Gestures.
    The Because Clapper is used to encourage students to speak in complete sentences and provide evidence to support their conclusions. Anytime a student uses the word “because,” he or she claps. This makes using “because” noticeable and fun! Students are forced to think about the “why” behind their answers. As students are sharing, teachers can informally assess whether or not the lesson needs to be retaught. If students are unable to provide a reason for their answer, they may not fully understand the subject at hand.
    Compare/Contrast: Comparing and contrasting is one of the highest level thinking skills. When students compare two subjects, they lace their fingers together. When contrasting, students bump fists together. Students enjoy finding similarities and differences when they can use a brain toy!
    Story Gestures: Simply put, students using this brain toy act out a story to their neighbor. This engages all levels of students in reading. Students who have a hard time with reading love to use this time to be active! By acting out the story after reading, students are required to recall the story, summarize it, and come up with gestures that go along with the events in the story! In my classroom, students who normally struggle with reading are able to comprehend and recall the story after acting it out and watching their neighbors act out the story. More than once, a lower student grasps a concept they missed through reading after they watch a neighbor act out the story.
    Thanks to Brain Toys, teachers can now engage students in critical thinking activities that will improve their achievements in academics and real life problem solving. Teacher Heaven!

    Madeline Mahan

    1. Madeline,
      I love the "Because Clapper" don't you? It really makes the child (and teacher) aware of deeper thinking opportunities! Here are 25 certification points!

  2. 1. Story Gestures – This is a fabulous way to teach students story recall and retelling stories. So many kids struggle with story retelling that this technique could revolutionize how this skills is taught.
    2. Infinity Sack – I love this idea for creative writing, kids can model the skill out loud for a time like show and tell, but with their partners and no real objects. Then they can use a similar concept for creative writing. Pulling out characters, objects and actions to put into their story to make it more interesting and fun.
    3. Compare/contrast – This is a great idea for social studies and science lessons. The concept of lacing the fingers for comparing like objects or bumping fists for contrasting objects is great for students to teach similarities and differences in the social studies and science concepts they will encounter. Using the gestures will also allow the students to experience the learning in different ways. This will complement the worksheets and open response tests in which the students will have to write the information down by giving them more information in their head and linking their knowledge to their gestures.

  3. Amanda,
    Story Gestures are one of my favorites! But, then again, I love them all! You chose some great ways to help your class become critical thinkers- here are 25 certification points!

  4. With much of the emphasis in schools today placed upon standardized test scores and student performance, critical thinking seems to simply be a “Fad Phrase”. According to Dr. Biffel, “…critical thinking involves creating strong evidence for clear-cut conclusions. (It is) creative thinking. Creative thinking is…new thinking, ideas you haven’t heard before.” Today’s schools try to teach children to analyze situations and to think creatively, but only creatively enough to score well on state tests.
    The Whole Brain Teaching technique has come up with many different strategies to teach and practice true creative thinking. Dr. Biffle calls these “Brain Toys”. "Brain Toys are gestures used to engage the prefrontal, visual, motor, and auditory cortex in original thinking, learning's highest level". Three Brain Toys that I will use in my classroom are: “Air Whiteboard”, “Story Gestures”, and “Because Clappers”.
    Air Whiteboards involves students pretending to illustrate, diagram, and explain new concepts. The instructor claps his hands twice and says, “Whiteboard!” The students then make the outlines of their boards in the air and begin to use them to create outlines, illustrate relationships between ideas, or anything else that can be drawn. Remind students to use their palms to erase any mistakes and clean their boards thoroughly. Students seem to really love this part.
    Story Gestures allow children to talk to their partners and use their hands to act out stories. By acting out stories after reading them, students are required to recall story details and components such as characters, setting, conflicts, etc… They must summarize the story, and come up with gestures to go along with the sequence of events in the story. Children have to use visual cues as well as verbal language to outline and retell stories using first, second, then, last, etc…until the story is conveyed in its entirety.
    Because Clappers are probably the most important and effective tool that can be used when teaching critical thinking. Creative thinking is based on “because” and “therefore” statements. “Because statements” provide evidence and “therefore statements” provide conclusions. The Because Clapper is used to encourage students to speak in complete sentences and provide evidence to support conclusions. When a student uses the word “because,” he or she claps. This makes using the word “because” noticeable and important. This is a powerful tool for students to use when they investigate and answer questions that they have never heard before.
    Brain Toys will allow teachers to provide tools that help their students to build skills and engage in critical thinking activities. These skills will not only improve a child's success in school; they will teach him life skills so that he is able to reason and solve problems in real-world situations.
    Julia Simons

    1. Julia,
      These are some of the best ways to really engage our students! These brain toys really take their thinking to the next level! Great job, here are 25 certification points!

  5. Julia Berry / Chapters 23-24 Assignments

    The three techniques I would like to incorporate into my daily lessons are Combos: Popper and Adders, Because Clapper and Adders, and Comparing and Contrasting with Adders.
    I teach creative and critical thinking skills everyday with my gifted classes. The Illustrious Brain Toys will give me a more creative outlet to actively engage the students.

    The Popper Adders Combo is an excellent ‘toy’ when introducing Productive Thinking (think of many, varied, unusual ideas, and keep adding details). My students will be asked to think outside the box for unique, one of a kind ideas. I will read them a story I wrote about,” The Dot Who Was Not… Just A Plain Old Dot“, as an introduction to the Popper Adders Toy. The students will then be asked to think of many, varied, and unusual ideas of what the dot could be, by adding details. They will demonstrate by taking their fingers and thumb to a point and pulling their unique ideas out of the top of their heads. Next, SCAMPER (substituting, combining, adapt, modify, put to other uses, eliminate and reverse), is another technique that will be added into the Combo. A couple of examples might be the dot could become a beach ball if made bigger. Also, the dot could become a manhole cover if modified. The dot could become a part of a bench press bar, by becoming the weights on each end.
    The Because Clapper will be used when the class is working on picking out key words in problems. They will circle in the air the key word they have chosen, and use the Because Clapper to explain their reasoning to the class. An example for first grade: The boy and girl made a list of items they needed from the store. The boy did not go to the store. He went to the movies instead. Boy is a key word Because it tells the gender and Not is a key word Because this would tells us the girl had to go to the store.

    Comparing and Contrasting Combo with Adders: Students will pull two objects out of a bag and be asked to compare and contrast the objects. When comparing they will lace their fingers and when contrasting they will bump fists. By rolling their fingers, they must come up with more detailed answers.

    I now have three more techniques that I can use to actively engage my class in Whole Brain Teaching!

    1. Julia,
      Thank you for providing such great examples of how you will use these brain toys! You have added your own tweaks and they sound wonderful! Here are 25 certification points!

  6. Kay Spencer
    Chapters 23-24

    I am confident that the creative, critical thinking techniques described in these chapters are going to encourage the higher order thinking that is so important in Common Core Curriculum.

    These are the three techniques that I will implement immediately.
    1. Because Clappers: My students will learn to give evidence for their thinking as they learn to clap while saying “because.” We will use this technique in our short response and extended response comprehension questions. We will also use it as we give evidence for our thinking during process writing.

    2. Sockless Hand Puppets: My first graders will enjoy the Sockless Hand Puppets. I’m planning to use this technique in our next reading story as we explore character traits. We will actually have the characters dialogue and then discuss the characters’ traits. We will also use our right and left hand Sockless Hand Puppets to compare and contrast.

    3. Story Gestures: My first graders will be better able to retell a story as they use Story Gestures. Story Gestures will make the story come to life. Gestures have been a huge component in Whole Brain Teaching, so I think it will be very natural to incorporate Story Gestures as we retell stories.

    I’m anxious to use these three techniques. These engaging brain toys will definitely take us to “learning’s highest level.”

    1. Kay,
      Critical thinking is so important and you have chosen three great tools to help move your students into "higher level thinkers"! Best of all- it is FUN! Here are 25 certification points!

  7. Critical thinking is defined as “the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” Many students are great at surface level questioning yet lack the ability to actively use critical thinking skills to reach an answer. Students want the quick, fast, answer. In order to have students critically thinking we must arm them with the tools necessary to complete these tasks to the highest level. Brain tools are just the way to engage students thinking to be able to respond to their learning in critical thinking manners.

    In the past year, I have employed many of the Brain tools such as The Because Clapper, Air Whiteboards, Sockless Hand Puppets, Props, and Story Gestures. This year I plan to implement some new favorites. My new favorite Brain Tools are Vocabulary Candy, Two Finger, All Terrain, Action Figures with Anti-Gravity Boots, and Prove It.

    Vocabulary Candy: This ‘sweet’ game has teachers and students popping imaginary candy into their mouth shouting YUM! Instantly in the next sentence spoken is a vocabulary word, in context, with a because clapper and air punctuation. Oral writing at its sweetest moments! This activity is not exclusive to teachers, students teach the class as well. This can be extended as the year goes on to add complexity to simple vocabulary work. Students activate motor, pre-frontal visual and auditory cortex to engage in this game.

    Two Finger, All Terrain, Action Figures with Anti-Gravity Boots is a spin off of using story gestures. Students are able to tell a story using their fingers to fly through the air and the story. By activating a students pre-frontal, motor, auditory, and visual cortex, students will fly through story summarization! Their retelling, critical thinking and story reflection will SOAR as well.

    Prove It is a huge critical thinking activation. Students are given multiple-choice questions. Instead of just proving that one answer is correct, they also have to PROVE the other answers incorrect. This is HUGE! Students might have to go through more work, but they are showing their thinking and creating conceptual sense of their work. This elicits in depth thinking to prove answers correct and incorrect!

    All of these Brain Games make me excited, not burdened with teaching critical thinking. With the right tools we can deepen our students thinking!

    1. Krystal,
      You chose some wonderful tools to add to your classroom! They will all activate the limbic system and add the element of FUNtricity to your day! Here are 25 certification points and a 5 point bonus!

  8. Chapter 23-24: Whole Brain Teaching and Critical Thinking

    There are a number of techniques presented in these chapters that I would (and do) implement to assist in improving the critical thinking skills of my students. Three techniques that I would use in the classroom to improve students’ “creative” thinking skills include Vocabulary Candy, Because Clappers, and the Example Popper.

    I presently use Teach-Okay to introduce our weekly vocabulary on Monday. I will use Vocabulary Candy as an activity or “game,” on subsequent days to reinforce the vocabulary and to add some “funtricity” to the classroom. Students will have to use the Vocabulary Candy with the Because Clapper or the Example Popper (or both), to reinforce their learning, and to prove that they truly understand the meaning of the word.

    I have students use Because Clappers to provide evidence for their learning. Because Clappers also aid students in learning to speak in complete sentences (oral writing). The accompanying gesture enlists movement, along with speech and higher-order thinking that undoubtedly will build those delightful dendrites!

    The Example Popper is wonderful to use when you want students to support their answers with evidence. Students enjoy making the gesture; it reinforces the learning and certainly helps to turn critical thinking into “creative” thinking.

    Implementing any (all) of the techniques presented in these chapters, or any combination of techniques, will serve to develop and improve not only students’ critical thinking skills, but will help to hone their life skills, as well. Further, these techniques activate the limbic system (the formation of memories), and contribute to the “funtricity” factor in the classroom. Thanks to the techniques presented here, including Vocabulary Candy, life is certainly much sweeter in teacher heaven!

    Jacqueline Nessuno

    1. Jacqueline,
      Nice job! Bring on those dendrites! Here are 25 points!

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  11. It is difficult to choose only three of the techniques described in these chapters because they are so fun and motivating for students. Therefore, I have chosen 5 techniques that are especially useful in and ESOL classroom.
    1. because clapper
    2. props/story gestures
    3. example popper
    4. compare and contrast
    The because clapper is fun because after a few times practicing the clapper, students remember to add examples to their responses. All the teacher has to do to remind them is clap and students say “oh yeah” and expand their responses using the clapper. A typical exercise in my class is answering conversation questions. I often write a sentence starter on the board to help students think of an answer, but many times their answers are limited to “yes, no, I don’t know”, or “I like it”. The because clapper makes them think more in depth and give stronger responses that are more like real communication.
    Another great tool for my ESOL classes are the props and story gestures. After finishing our graded reader, we have to summarize the book and answer comprehension questions. The props and gestures help students reenact the story for their partner, forming their summaries orally before writing it down. Many students develop their oral language before written language, so this technique is a nice way to use strong oral skills to build writing.
    The example popper, like the because clapper, reminds the students to expand their responses. The teacher pulls an idea out of their head and students say “ oh yeah! For example…”
    Finally compare and contrast is a very important skill students need to develop in order to write effective essays and answer compare contrast questions on exams.

  12. Adrienne,
    I love your 5 choice critical thinking techniques. I don't know about you, but it seems that the students are using these techniques across many areas, even when they don't have to. I often find the because clapper and example popper being thrown into student discussion. This is the evidence that we are creating deeper thinkers. Here are your 25 certification points and 5 extra for your add ins.

  13. I would use the compare and contrast gestures in my classroom to help students create ideas in their own head before writing it down in a Venn diagram or even an essay. Giving students an alternative to the traditional writing with paper and pencil for ideas, allows them the opportunity to think with a partner and do it in an engaging way. Writing can be difficult to make exciting so I like this technique. In compare and contrast, the students also see the visual representation of things that are similar and different through the gestures they make for each. “Because” clappers are a wonderful technique too! I started to use this early on in my Whole Brain Teaching training and it has worked amazingly. Students have a tough time defending their answer and are used to simply stating an answer and moving on. The “because” clapper allows students to think about why their answer is a great choice with a reasoning to back themselves up. This strategy did take some time for students to become experts at it. They weren’t used to this way of thinking. Story gestures are another technique. It helps students brainstorm how they would write a summary from a story they read. Students are naming the few key points that happen in the story and doing it in a motivating way that is entertaining. All these techniques help improve critical thinking skills for students by allowing them to apply their imagination and giving them a motivator to enhance this way of thinking. It will also help partners who will remember key gestures and associate (recall) the responses.

    Liz Cheney

    1. Liz,
      Nice post! I appreciate how you point out the value of student teamwork in promoting critical thinking skills! Here are 25 points for you!

  14. Bethany Kirkland Chapter 23-24 WBT and Critical Thinking

    There are many great techniques in these chapters for improving critical thinking. The three I would like to try with my class are:

    Because/Therefore Clapper. This technique is excellent for improving language and written expression by encouraging students to elaborate on their thoughts by using logical analysis.

    Infinity Sack. “…the prop of all props!” On occasion, I run across the need for a prop with no clear gesture to use. I love the idea of the Infinity Sack where you can pull out anything you need. Talk about creative thinking!

    Sockless Hand Puppet. This is a good trick because it will have a fun element to it. Having the students use their hands as puppets and changing the puppet voices will add some comedy to the day!

    1. Bethany,
      I can't get through a lesson without the aid of the Because Clapper (several times)! It is unbelievable how effective it is! You choose some fun ways to enhance your critical thinking! Here are 25 certification points!

  15. There are many techniques that I look forward to using to improve critical thinking skills. Here are the three that I will use immediately:

    Story Gestures will benefit my students greatly since I have a read aloud everyday. The gestures will encourage my students to act out a part of the story with their partner. I can also use the first, next and last sequencing with this. Also, this is a fun way to keep students engaged!

    Because Clapper is a highly critical thinking skill. I will use the because clapper when I ask students to support or prove a point within a story or skill.

    The Example Popper can be used when the student needs to clarify a statement. It can be used with the teacher, but how powerful it would be if used with another student!

    1. Danah,
      These are wonderful tools! The Story Gestures are very effective when the kids are reading their own stories as well. From easy readers to very difficult text - they are very versatile! Here are 25 certification points.

  16. Critical thinking is a skill that can be developed. I find in my first grade class that students need a lot of encouragement to voice their thinking. They need to be trained to venture into the unknown and take a chance at being right. A welcoming climate within the room will enable students to become fearless as they attempt to think things through orally. Whole Brain Teaching classrooms set the stage for such bold attempts by making it fun to talk (using gestures) and with the “That’s cool!” response to a mistake.
    One powerful strategy for critical thinking is to use the “Because Clapper”. It naturally makes children think their reasoning through in order to back up what they have said. It helps make connections in their head. The beauty of the “Because Clapper” is that it can be used in any subject. The children will get lots of practice throughout the day using it to make connections and further their thinking.
    First graders have to do a lot of reading in order to get good at it. Using story gestures helps make this portion of the day a lot more fun! It also helps clarify what they are reading. They need to comprehend what they are reading in order to think up a gesture to go with it. It makes comprehension more fun and meaningful. How fun it is to see a whole class of readers using gestures as they interpret their stories.
    The Example Popper is another great aid in the classroom. This brain toy, like the “because clapper”, helps solidify understanding. If a child can give examples of something, it shows that they have an understanding of it. This is also a good indicator if a child does not understand a concept. Teachers can make quick assessments regarding the depth of knowledge by having students use the “Because Clapper” and the Example Popper.
    Liz Howard

    1. Liz,
      I haven't found anything that is more effective than these critical thinking tools! The Because Clapper works miracles- children begin speaking in complete sentences almost immediately! Nice job! Here are 25 certification points!

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  18. There are so many good tools that Whole Brain Teaching provides to teachers. The best part is that they are quick, easy, and fun. Here are my three favorites:

    Because Clapper-
    The “Because Clapper” is something I have been using all year with my students. As a kindergarten teacher I think it’s great that my students are learning the habit of elaborating their thoughts. After a while, students have become competitive to see who can have the most reasons for what they think! Now we just have to avoid run-on sentences, but that’s not a bad problem to have!

    Example Popper-
    The “Example Popper” is a way of providing proof of ideas rather than just reasons. Not only is it good practice for when they will have to start writing constructed responses, but it’s also a good habit to have in life!

    Sockless Hand Puppets-
    “Sockless Hand Puppets” are perfect for kindergarten. Students can develop better comprehension by acting out parts of the story with a partner. While they’re having fun, the teacher can assess who understands the story by watching what the students do. The technique also helps reinforce story elements.

    -Josephine Kovach

    1. Josephine,
      It is wonderful that your kinders are using these tools to elaborate! I love your statement "After a while, students have become competitive to see who can have the most reasons for what they think!" I imagine their first grade teacher will be amazed at their critical thinking ability next year! Here are 25 certification points!

  19. Brandi Young Ch. 23-24 Creative and Critical Thinking Techniques

    These are the three techniques that I will implement immediately from these two chapters are:
    1. Because Clappers: My students will learn to support their thoughts by providing facts. They will do this as they learn to clap while saying “because.” We will use this technique when we respond to short answer questions and extended response questions in our science or social studies curriculum. We will also use it as we have our weekly class debates or when we are finding the answer to a multi-step math word problem.

    2. Sockless Hand Puppets: My second graders will take pleasure in using the Sockless Hand Puppets. We could use our right and left hand Sockless Hand Puppets to compare and contrast in all curricular areas. I would have my students pretend to be scientist and their “Sockless Hand Puppets” be the students. I would want the “Puppets” to come up with questions, good, solid, deep-thinking questions and my scientist to answer them.

    3. Two Finger, All Terrain, Action Figures with Anti-Gravity Boots: Like most students, my students love to play. Students will be able to tell a stories by using their fingers to fly through the air or jump over shapes. I used this one recently. I read the Greedy Triangle and my students had shapes on their desk that matched what was going on in the story using their shapes or they had to make the shape mentioned in the story themselves. After the story the students used their fingers to walk to the different shapes and explain the shape and what happened during that part of the story to their partner. All of my students were actively engaged and had some very creative summaries. There “Finger Figures” flying on shapes and running across the top of shapes. It was great fun for all.
    Brandi Young

    1. Brandi,
      Adding "Funtricity" and activating the limbic system makes for an enjoyable class full of critical thinkers! I like your ideas with the Two Finger, All Terrain, Action figures with Anti-Gravity Boots! Nice job! Here are 25 certification points!

  20. Chapter 23-24: Whole Brain Teaching and Critical Thinking

    These two chapters are very powerful with the shift to Common Core Curriculum and Standards and the creative, explaining, critical thinking approach.

    Three techniques that I will implement immediately are:

    1. The Because Clapper: This is crucial because students must give evidence and explain their choices and reasons. I have my students using it in every subject during the day including math to explain how they choose their answer or what operation to do to solve a problem. It is great to answer short and extended responses to comprehension questions. Also it assists in more creative elaborate answers in writing.

    2. Compare/Contrast: Comparing and contrasting information is always a difficult concept for students to grasp. They usually give very vague elementary answers and this is a great way for more elaboration and detail. I would start with modeling using hand signals and explaining with just pictures, then small paragraphs, then longer stories like they would have on state assessments. Love this technique!

    3. Air Whiteboard: I am kind of excited to teach my students about this technique. I think they will love to use this! I like the idea of having the students take their ideas and air draw. I think it will be powerful for even your struggling students since no one can “see” their drawings. Then you can “Teach” and share and they can have a better understanding before they write responses and put their thoughts on paper.

    These techniques only add to engaging the whole brain and having student’s being more critical thinkers in this 21st century learning world.

    1. Tonya,
      Nice work! These are three very strong strategies that will definitely increase critical thinking! Here are 25 certification points!

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  22. Chapters 23-24

    I love creative thinking vice critical thinking. My kids understand that, they know creativity. I love the sockless hand puppets, I can’t wait to try it in my class. What a great way to review and discuss the section of a story you just read. I can already hear the “creative” voices they will employ. Along with the hand puppets, I think the two finger, all terrain, action figures with anti-gravity boots will be a big hit. No props are needed, all you need are your fingers. Students will love taking their new “action figures” and acting out a story. Creative thinking at its best. Vocabulary candy will be a great way to emphasize the need to incorporate our new vocabulary into their everyday language. Just that simple reminder as you pop some vocab candy in your mouth and use the word in the next sentence is such a great tool. Can’t wait to pass out the vocabulary candy in my class.

    Steve Sublett

    1. Steve,
      Vocabulary candy is a great favorite, and a great tool to learn academic vocabulary in every subject! Here are 25 certification points!

  23. The first technique I use to improve critical thinking skills of my students is Compare and Contrast. We use the Einstein’s Triangle and hand gestures in all subjects in partners, small groups and whole group to increase student understanding.
    The second technique I use to improve critical thinking skills of my students is the Because Clapper. This technique helps my students formulate reasons for their position. This technique has helped my student improve their writing skills!
    The third technique I use to improve critical thinking skills of my students is the Adder. My Kindergarteners were used to giving one word answers. When I use the adder, students think of other reasons or examples to back up their position. They speak in complete sentences, and now they write in complete sentences. They will be ready to write a paragraph soon!

    Happy Mother's Day!!!

    Krissa White

    1. Krissa,
      I bet you are right, your kindergarteners will be writing paragraphs before 1st grade! Keep up the good work! Here are 25 certification points!

  24. Critical Thinking is a huge goal for all classroom lessons. Let’s face it, we want our students to be constantly reaching higher levels of thinking. There are many aspects of music education that naturally lend themselves to higher level thinking. We want our students to be able to think musically and improvise, compose, and ultimately to create their own music. However lack of experience with this type of teaching cause man music teachers to become stressed. A solution to this problem is combining the Orff’s method of music education and the new revolution of teaching, Whole Brain Teaching.
    In Whole Brain Teaching, we strive to have our students become excellent writers. To do so, we demand that they always speak in complete sentences. This oral writing pays off immediately and leads to better retention of information taught as well. To apply it to the music classroom we take a fundamental principle off the Orff Curriculum and we combine the two. The Orff approach to music education stresses the fundamental element of music - rhythm, as the foundation of music success. The Orff curriculum is very adamant about rhythm being taught from text. We begin with text and we eventually turn a simple line into a 4 part rhythmic canon. It is the Orff way. However what if we were able to apply this to the concept too? We would have music teacher gold.
    These two concepts pair well with each other. For starters we simply have to speak the text in ether duple or triple meter. This automatically creates a new chant ready to mold into a awesome rhythmic lesson. Lets take a simple rhyme for example,

    “Five little monkeys sitting on a fence, trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.”

    Once the rhyme has been taught (using mirror words and teach ok!) and the students have begun to audiate (hear inside their head) the beat we can apply Oral Writing air punctuation and hand gestures. This as we know helps students internalize the chant/song at a deeper level.
    From here, students can begin to creatively brainstorm using words or phrases of the rhyme to create new counter ostinatos. Here is the key, stress using Oral Writing. Oral writing and teach ok allow students brainstorm new ideas with each other before finalizing their final idea. An example one of my students came up with was “Should have bought a big old bank.” Another student came up with “These monkeys need a math teacher”. Since the students had already internalized the beat of the chant they were able to speak these new phrases in rhythm. If they do not guide the students into speaking their oral writing sentences with rhythm patterns. Once they are speaking full sentences in rhythm have the student come up with body percussion parts to accompany their new phrases. This creates new layers of musical texture for the chant. Once the students have explored new ideas have them perform their new counter melodies against the original rhyme. This is a win-win situation for both music and writing teachers. It allows the students to practice language arts skills while they are creating new rhythmic compositions from scratch, hence WIN-WIN.
    -Jason Thomashefsky

    1. Jason,
      You have found a creative way to combine music instruction with WBT and I'm sure you will reap the rewards as your students shine! Here are 25 certification points and a 5 point bonus!

  25. The three techniques that I plan to implement in my classroom are the following:
    1.) Because clappers - This technique is very important in that it has the kids introduce evidence for conclusions that they come up with. Can be used in any and all subject areas. Would be great in math especially when getting students to explain their answers to word problems.
    2.) Vocabulary Candy - This technique is great when you need students to practice using vocabulary words in a sentence. I think that this would be a great way to review over words and not to mention a fun way to review over vocabulary words. Can't wait to move on up the ladder to using the NO MORE STALE CANDY!
    3.) Example Popper - This technique is great because it has the students coming up with their own examples. I would use this in math when asking kids to come up with examples of even and odd numbers.
    Karlyn Davis

    1. Karlyn,
      You chose three of the most effective techniques! All of these will help students conquer even the most difficult of concepts! Oops, you had a couple of sentence fragments in your because clapper paragraph. Here are 20 certification points!

  26. To improve critical thinking skills of my students I use the word “because” and I have my students use the hand slap gesture as they use the “because” response. By using this response and the gesture the students are required to think and use reasoning to justify their responses. In other words, they have to state why they believe their statement is correct. Another technique that I use in the classroom is the compare and contrast gesture and response. To compare two items, or tell how each are alike, the students will clasp their hands together and state how two things are alike. They will clasp their hands together when they use the word alike. To contrast two things, or tell how they are different, I have my students place their fist together side by side. They will do this when they use the word contrast when contrasting two objects. Last, I use story gestures to act out stories in class. When my students and I read stories together we will act them out by using simple gestures to illustrate the story. I have found that this helps the students with comprehension.
    Irish Brown

    1. Irish,
      The because clapper and compare/contrast gestures will become second nature to your students and their critical thinking will soar! Here are 25 certification points!

    2. I have seen first hand how valuable the WBT are with my ESE students. Using as many parts of the brain to learn something just helps things stick. What might come easy to some does not always come easy to others. Having “brain toys” in my toolbox would give my students the opportunity to practice concepts in a way that engages all aspects of the brain.

      I have always had my students pretend to write in the air. The whiteboard technique has students outline a whiteboard in the air. Students can write or draw diagrams or illustrate vocabulary words without fear of making a mistake or being graded.

      The because clapper has been my favorite technique for getting my students ready for the FCAT. It reminds students to think and reinforces their ability to explain their thoughts to others. I had my students use this to tell why their answer was correct or why it was incorrect.

      I have not used the compare and contrast technique but plan to start today! It just makes so much sense. Students understand linking their fingers together because they can actually do it and see the relationship. Students understand fists bumping to represent the concept of not coming together or not agreeing. Students can easily use these gestures to assist them with the difficult skill of comparing and contrasting.

      Teaching students with learning difficulties is challenging. I have always loved the challenge and look forward to trying out all of the ‘brain toys’ that I read about in this chapter with my students.

      Lori Crigler

    3. Lori,
      These Brain Toys will really kick the learning up a notch in your classroom! Watch for small editing errors "how valuable the WBT are with" (is). Here are 20 certification points!

  27. Chapter 23-24: Whole Brain Teaching and Critical Thinking

    Pick any three techniques described in these two chapters and describe how you would use them to improve the critical thinking skills of your students.

    The Because Clapper is my favorite critical thinking technique. I enjoy watching the students develop the type of ‘because’ they will use. In the beginning, I would allow most anything as a ‘because’ if it was reasonable. However, as this technique became a consistent part of instruction children would try to out do one another with the best because evidence. This has worked well with science. It has given my students a deeper understanding of the supporting information for a concept, as well as improved the academic vocabulary.

    The Compare/Contrast gustier is excellent for critical thinking. When children understand how things are alike and how they are different, the child can connect to the information and create deeper understanding that allows the concept to be embedded in the brain. (I know the key next to the square key on my key ring unlocks my gate because I compared the square key to the square lock.) You can add the Connection to Compare and Contrast and this again helps the learner to make the same type of connection that I made to remember the gate key.

    Prove It! I cannot say enough positive things about Prove It! This skill fosters self-checking for correct answers by determining which answers are incorrect. My children love when I make a multiple-choice test and all the answers are correct except one. They have to prove why one answer is not correct. This task has become a favorite for my children. They are now reading the directions for each assignment. Imagine the surprise from the child who failed a test because he marked only correct answers and I was looking for the incorrect answer.

    These are my top three favorite critical thinking techniques. I can use them in any area from social skills to science. I cannot express the excitement children have when a student looks at another student and says PROVE IT I don’t agree, or when a student tell about student the because when giving an answer. Love it! Love it! Love It!

    1. Dian,
      I love your Prove it example! Providing those opportunities to tell why an answer is incorrect is invaluable! Oops, watch for those editing errors "The Compare/Contrast gustier is excellent" (gesture). Here are 20 points and a 5 point bonus for a great post!

  28. I believe that critical thinking is so important in education at all grade levels but I have never had a way to teach it until I recently found WBT. One technique that I have already started using is the because clapper. It means that students cannot just answer a question but that they have to have a reason for their answer. I have noticed that even in the few weeks that I have started using the because clapper, it has become more natural for the students and they are doing it independently. After reading the chapter, I plan to add therefore to bring it to the next level.
    Another technique that I have started using is adders. Adders encourage the students to keep giving more information. They don’t stop at the first simple answer but continue thinking of more to add to the information they shared.
    One technique that I have not tried is the example popper. I like the idea that the students have to use an example, to describe what they are saying.
    I think that these 3 techniques are a good place for me to start and improve before adding other techniques. I know that my students are enjoying learning new things and we are doing many repetitions of oral writing and practicing these skills. We are also practicing these skills during the genius ladder. I can see them doing more thinking and I am also seeing in show up in their writing and even homework without prompting from me. It is a little bit of teacher heaven!

    Mary Carlson

    1. Mary,
      Yes, it is Teacher Heaven! You will love hearing "For example, (zoop)" all day long! Here are 25 certification points! (zoop is the sound for the comma)

  29. Chapter 23 & 24 Anne Corrigan

    I love the idea of using creative techniques to enhance critical thinking skills of my students. One of the ones I would employ from Chris Biffle’s list of suggestions is the use of Story Gestures. The use of story gesture plays into a child’s innate need for make-believe and using their body to talk. Having them act out a story really makes the story come to life. This allows for comprehension of the story for children who are more of visual learners than auditory learners. By having a child hold up fingers for actions that happened in order, it can further emphasis first, next and last sequencing. Story Gestures is also extremely effective for keeping students engaged in the learning process. A second one I would utilize would be Because Clappers, which allow students to practice speaking in complete sentences and giving evidence for what they previously said. Having a physical gesture for the word “because” makes students aware of what they’re going to be saying by correlating a gesture to a certain word. Helping students learn the importance of the word “because” is crucial because it adds depth to their answers. One more technique I truly love is the Adders technique. I think this is a great one because the use of a silent gesture when prompting a student to elaborate on their answer won’t make them lose their train of thought like orally asking them to elaborate might. It is crucial for students to know they need details to back up their conclusions.

    1. Anne,
      These three Brain Toys will add FUNtricity to your classroom and a new level of critical thinking! Here are 25 certification points!

  30. Pick any three techniques described in these two chapters and describe how you would use them to improve the critical thinking skills of your students.

    1. Story Gestures: I already use gestures while my students are learning anything non-fiction. They are used to acting out vocabulary and concepts as it comes to them. I would love to now start incorporating this into more of my reading lessons. I could use this strategy to teach numerous reading skills that are presented in a given story.

    2. Example Popper: I love the idea of having students incorporate examples into their discussion. It will allow students to take ideas and concepts further and speak about them more in depth. We could use this across the curriculum, especially in response to reading.

    3. Compare/Contrast: This is something that I have briefly started teaching in my class but I can already see my students taking it to another level. We started simple with comparing and contrasting things like “cats and dogs” or “girls and boys”. Our next step is to start taking information, specifically non-fiction information, and comparing and contrasting what we have read. I think this allows the students to take information and respond to it in a fun and engaging way.

    1. Kasey,
      Great job! These are three important additions to your WBT classroom! You will find that the Compare/Contrast activities will raise the bar on learning in your classroom!

    2. Thank you :) Could you tell me how many points I earned?

    3. Why certainly :) Here are 25 certification points!! (Sorry I didn't add them above!)

  31. Ch. 23-24: Whole Brain Teaching and Critical Thinking

    Because Clappers: This is the technique that I like to use with my students because it lets me know whether or not the students really have an actual understanding of what they are being asked about. Students must give evidence and explain their choices and reasons.

    Teach-Okay: This is by far my favorite strategy. This strategy allows me to see if a student was able to grasp the information that was taught to them. If the student can explain a concept to another student, then you can be pretty sure that that student understands the concept themselves.

    Adders: These are used in my class frequently. The students like to challenge each other to be able to add even information to a student’s answer. I enjoy it because I can see just how much the student understood what it is they read. Comprehension is the key to reading and this is a great check.

    1. Karen,
      I love the because clappers - it is ALL about the evidence! We like to make a shhhhhhh sound as we roll our hands when we do adders (adds some funtricity!). Here are 25 certification points.

  32. Brain toys really jazz things up in the classroom! I can’t tell you how many times I used to look around my room and see bored faces. Even when I was animated, all of my kids weren’t engaged. I don’t have this problem anymore. Now my kids are wide awake and animated as they teach their partners with “Brain Toys.”

    The Because Clapper is the best thing ever! I love oral writing using the because clapper. It really helps my students to explain why they chose their answer. Reasoning is a difficult concept to learn. Most of my students have a hard time explaining why they picked their answer. Using the because clapper daily, brings fun into the classroom and makes it easier to explain “Why”.

    Story Gestures are also lots of fun. My students really like retelling a story using gestures. They get tired of writing summaries in their journals. This gives them another way to recall the story without writing. By using story gestures with a partner, all of the students are engaged in learning the story. No one is bored or ignored.

    Compare & Contrast is something we do a lot of in my class. Unfortunately, the repetition can get old. It is great to have a new way to practice an old reading skill. Again, the kids love talking to one another, instead of writing. Using the compare/contrast brain toy gives them a fun new way to explain different topics. This would also be fun to combine with the because clapper. My kids will go nuts with all this fun!

    I will also be using the Adders in my classroom to help students elaborate on ideas. I teach 4th grade and between all the writing we do and the common core, my students sometimes have a hard time coming up with supporting details. Using the Adders brain toy will certainly help them with this problem. I would eventually like to have my students use it with one another when they partner up. Then everyone is telling more. Giving more information to support their answers will make them spectacular critical thinkers!

    My students absolutely love mirror words and teach/ok. They also love the scoreboard and being timed to get their books out with the 3-peat. Actually, there hasn’t been anything with WBT that they haven’t loved and if we ever have a day where I forget to do some of them, my students are the first to ask, “Can we do some Whole Brain Teaching?” Of course, I always answer, “Yes!” I plan on trying all of the Brain Toys. These are just the ones that I know we will use a lot of in the classroom.

    Jackie Rabin

    1. Jackie,
      Brain Toys really jazz up every lesson don't they? I printed the Brain Toys posters off and have them in a binder, and every day I display a new one (to remind me) to use. The kids love the fun and excitement! Here are 25 certification points!

  33. Although I have only known about Whole Brain Teaching for a couple of months, I absolutely love it! I have never been so on fire for teaching, and the Brain Toys have to be one of my favorite parts of WBT. I only had time last year to try out a few, but two of my favorites are the Because Clapper and Story Gestures.

    I use the Because Clapper all of the time, especially in oral writing. It was also the first extender that I taught them when we began the Genius Ladder. My favorite place to use it, however, was in our opinion writing unit. The Because Clapper helped students to think about reasons (evidence) to support their views. This resulted naturally in discussions on strong versus weak evidence. Next year it will definitely be the first Brain Toy that I teach.

    I also really like Story Gestures. I began using them as part of the Crazy Professor Game, and when I saw how helpful they were to my students, I decided to give them a try with non-fiction text. Non-fiction text is generally much more difficult for students to understand than fiction, so I figured that if the gestures could work for fiction text, why not for non-fiction. I gave my students a text on an insect and how it protects itself. I asked my students to read the text silently and to think of gestures to match what they were reading. We then used Teach Okay, with Peanut Butters retelling and gesturing and Jellies mirroring. I switched my students' roles by using Uh Oh Switch. It was a total success! I could not believe how much better my students were at retelling with the use of the gestures.

    The Brain Toy that I want to try, but just never got to last year, is Vocabulary Candy. I really like the idea of students popping a pretend piece of candy into their mouth, and then speaking a sentence containing the vocabulary word that we are discussing. This is an engaging way to help students remember a new vocabulary word.

    Since we were only asked to discuss three, these are the three I chose; however, I do plan on using all of the Brain Toys in my room next year. I can not wait to see the results of a whole year of Brain Toys, especially when combined with all of the other great WBT techniques.

    1. Joyce,
      Brain Toys are some of my favorite WBT strategies! Your students will shine next year as you introduce more and more of them! Here are 25 certification points!

  34. I teach 8th grade science and creating a hypothesis is a very important part of the skill set for my students. The hypothesis actually involves the words if, then, because. I have always felt that the particular sequence of words doesn’t allow students to take their own thinking as far as they could. I am currently thinking about altering this ‘original’ hypothesis format to include because and therefore. I believe this will draw out more complex and thought out reasons from my students. Practicing this skill of creating a ‘hypothesis’ will be easy with the because clapper and therefore gestures. Once details are added the students will not only be practicing a science skill but also oral writing. What a great combination of creative thinking (i.e. critical thinking) skills for my students.
    I have used the majority of the games from Chapter 24. What I really came to realize last year is that the factor that makes these techniques most valuable is when you use them often. It ultimately becomes my fault when creative thinking takes a dip because I get away from using the mind games consistently. I would really like to focus on incorporating the ‘Prove It’ technique to many of the mind games that I use...whether it be the action figure, props, or sockless hand puppets.
    There are a few mind games I have yet to use. The one that I see as a must for incorporating in my classroom this year is the Compare/Contrast game. Students are asked so often to compare and contrast different topics and they definitely get tired of Venn Diagrams. I see this as being a fun and quick way for letting them get that practice in without them even realizing it! Reviewing all these techniques really does get me excited about another year that will be coming up soon!

    ~Jason McKinney

    1. Jason,
      I agree, they do get tired of the Venn Diagrams and other similar graphic organizers. The brain toys and critical thinking strategies help put the Funtricity back into the classroom! Here are 25 certification points!

  35. Chapters 23 & 24: Brain Toys and Critical Thinking

    The techniques, or brain toys, for critical thinking in chapters 23 & 24 are awesome! Some of them I have used before and some are new to me.

    The first technique I would teach my students is the Because Clapper. This technique introduces evidence for your conclusions. One way I would use the Because Clapper to improve critical thinking skills would be answering comprehension questions from a text. The Because Clapper would be used after the answer to provide text evidence. This technique correlates well with the common core!

    The second technique that I would use is the Sockless Hand Puppets. Not only will it enhance critical thinking by having students creating conversations between characters, comparing and contrasting, or representing different points of views, it could also be used as your procedure for a child whose turn & talk partner is absent for the day. Another way I would use this is with an extremely shy or second language student who doesn’t participate. Having these types of students use Sockless Hand Puppets may encourage them to open up, discuss, and participate if they were only talking to themselves. This would lead to critical thinking for these students.

    The third brain toy that I will teach my students is the Example Popper. I will start out using this in math, but will expand to other subject areas. In math I will have the students use the Example Popper to explain their answers. “The answer to the problem is 25. I know this because 17 + 8 = 25. For example (use Example Popper)…and the student would give an example of how he/she used mental math. Then another student could chime in, "For example" (use Example Popper) and explain another way you could solve the problem with mental math.

    These techniques and brain toys are wonderful. I am planning on sharing them with my staff the first week of school. I do feel like anyone can use these techniques even if they aren’t using whole brain teaching in their classroom!

    1. Heidi,
      I love the Brain Toys! Your students will be "because clapping" and "example popping" like pros before you know it! Here are 25 certification points!

  36. I read this chapter a while ago and did not quite understand exactly how the Brain Toys worked. I truly understood the Brain Toys when I went to the National Whole Brain Teaching Conference in Louisiana in June. Coach B referred to the Brain Toys as “Brainies.” I absolutely loved the Brainies and cannot wait to incorporate them into my daily teaching.

    The Brainies allow students to use their whole brains and think critically about the information they are learning. Three Brainies that I really enjoy are The Because Clapper, The Example Popper, and the Adder.

    The Because Clapper is a really powerful tool because I am always trying to get my students to back up their ideas and give reasons for thoughts they share in class. It is not just okay to give an opinion or state an observation students need to state why they believe something or what their evidence is.

    I also like the Example Popper. If students are able to provide an example and perhaps even a non-example they are able to show a new level of understanding for a particular topic. If students are able to describe a character in a book as funny, caring, and adventurous and provide an example from the book they are truly explaining their thoughts and they are able to give evidence to support their thoughts and reasoning.

    I also like the detail adder. The detail adder encourages students to add more information or more detail. At the Whole Brain Teaching Conference, Coach B talked about a way to help students learn how to do deep citations using the Brainies. The formula for that is “According to (insert name), (insert credentials), says, “(Insert quote from the person).” After the citation the student should go on and add details about why the quote is important or what the quote means. This is so powerful for students to give credit to sources and know instances when they need to expand on a thought. At the conference, one of the other teachers shared that it might be helpful if students practice making citations by sharing a quote from their specialist teacher after they return from specials. I have included an example below:

    Mrs. B, Gym teacher at My Oh My Elementary School, says, “You should exercise for at least thirty minutes everyday.” It is important to exercise because it gives you strong muscles, helps your heart rate, and makes you happy.

    Notice how I included the citation, Because Clapper, and Detail Adder in that sentence! Oh sweet mama!

    Amber Hartzler

    1. Amber,
      I love your example of sharing quotes from other teachers! Put your Brainy posters up and refer to them often, your kids will be soaring with enthusiasm as they try to use them all day long! Here are 25 certification points!

  37. My students used the “because clapper” a lot last year. It was great seeing them pause and sometimes rephrase so they could use because correctly. Not only did it teach deeper thinking, it taught them how to use because grammatically correctly. Now I need to add the “therefore” gesture.

    I foresee the “example popper” as being very useful in science. Fifth graders have difficulty understanding the difference between a definition and an example. I think I’ll have them “open a book” with their hands to signify a definition to distinguish it from pulling out an example.

    Another one that will be useful in science plus reading is the” two finger, all terrain, action figure”. We do many processes: both learning nature cycles and activity directions. When reading, understanding sequence is often an important part of comprehension.

    It is easy to let students get by with a short oral answer. There is always so much to cover. The “adder” will help me remember to ask students to elaborate. Plus, it will encourage students to think deeper. I can also see them using it with each other during partner discussions.

    I’m excited to use more brain toys this year. I'm going to look into getting magnetic sheets to print the brainies on so they will stick to students desks. Students love to be moving. The brain toys add movement to the traditionally physically passive aspects of learning.

    Sheryl Larson
    P.S. I love moving, too!

    1. Sheryl,
      The more you model the brain toys, the more your students will use them. It is so fun to watch kiddos working with their partner and they automatically pull out those toys!! Great post! Here are your 25 certification points.

  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

  39. There were so many great and engaging brain toys that I found it difficult only to choose three of them. As I was reading these chapters, my mind was racing with all the ways that I could apply these techniques. I need to find or make a list to help me to remember them while I am planning.

    Here are the three brain toys that I chose to implement immediately.

    1. Because Clappers: My students will learn to give evidence for their thinking and their thinking process. I will use the “because clapper” throughout the day in my classroom. However, I am really excited to use the “because clapper” in science and math. Not only will we give evidence orally, but we will also be recording the evidence in our science/math journals.

    2. Sockless Hand Puppets: This will be amazing for kindergarten. By acting out parts of the story with a partner, they will develop better comprehension. They are going to have so much fun with this technique. Using character voices and gestures will make retelling a story fun. While they are having fun, I can assess who understands the story (or concept in other content areas). This technique also solves another problem in my class. Students can be their own partner. This will be wonderful when a partner is out of the room or area for any reason. The student will no longer be scrambling for his partner when one child is in the restroom. This will be a major time saver.

    3. Story Gestures: Since I began using Whole Brain Teaching, gestures have become a major part of our day. Using Story Gestures technique to retell a story will help the story come to life not only to the one retelling it, but also to the one listening to the person retelling the story. I cannot wait to see our comprehension skills soar!!!!!!!!

    Kim Kirkpatrick

    1. Kim,
      You have chosen three of my favorites! I made a Brain Toy PDF and copied them onto cardstock. I keep them on a circle ring and we use them for all kinds of things in class. Here is the link to my dropbox, if you want to use it.
      Here are your 25 certification points!

  40. Krystal,.
    These are AMAZING!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  41. Chapters 23 & 24 – HOTS

    I love the techniques described in these two chapters! I used a couple of them last year with great success and am excited to try many new ones.

    Because Clapper – I would use this technique to help students become aware of their own responses and using evidence to support them. When a student gives a response, they push themselves to think further, because (clap) they want to do the clap. It adds fun to the learning. I had 90% engagement with this technique last year. A few students would put the clap in brackets, like I did above, in their writing.

    Compare & Contrast – I would use this technique to introduce Venn diagrams. By orally thinking about comparing and contrasting a subject and using the fun gestures, students’ participation will increase as well as their HOTS. They will be wanting to find more and more similarities and differences just to use the gestures. You can move from the oral to adding it to a Venn, and then to writing.

    Adders – Once the students are used to using the Because clapper, I would add this strategy. It forces students to go further still with their explanations. Again, students enjoy the gestures and it encourages them to think deeper still. I would start by using it orally and once the student is competent with the skill they would move on to writing. I may have them underline or hi-light their ‘becauses’ and ‘adders’ for their own self-assessment.

    Example Popper – I introduced this at the end of last year with great success and funtricity. Students were digging further to be able to pull examples out of their heads. I found it very useful during science when we were studying water. For example: ‘Why is it dangerous for pollutants to get into the lake?” “It is dangerous for pollutants to get into the lake because it can kill the animals. For example, the fish could have eaten poisoned plants and then a bird could catch the fish.” Using this gesture helps students develop HOTS by going a step further with their responses.

    Vocabulary Candy – This is a new one to me and I am excited to try it out. I think I will use it with the weekly spelling words. It will be a great/fun way to introduce them and have the students playing with them. I am hoping they will be excited to go home and practice with their families. It will help develop HOTS by becoming more aware of the word and how to use it as well as further developing their skills of using ‘because’ and ‘adders’, and more.

    Students become aware of what a good answer is by using all of these techniques.

    1. Bonnie,
      Great job! My students wrote (clap) on many of their papers too - very funny! It shows that they are really "getting it" though, and having FUN! Here are 25 certification points!

  42. Some of these will work great in my music classes! I plan on using the following HOTS this year:

    Sockless Hand Puppet - I think one reason I like this idea is that I can monitor the class and listen in to the students. I will immediately be able to hear which students understand the concept completely. This will alleviate the issue of one student doing all of the work. They won't just be repeating the information, they will need to understand and verbally express the information.

    Infinity Sack - I love this idea especially for retelling a song. I use music lyrics to reinforce the retelling skills that the students use in reading time. Many times the music is about a different place or a different era. The infinity sack will give us the ability to go to many places and use many props to help act out the song lyrics.

    Vocabulary Candy - Music vocabulary is difficult for students to learn because the words are not easily used in various contexts. It will help make the student aware that the word is one that is important. It will also help to make a motion and use Mirror Mirror to help solidify the meaning of the word.

    I will begin using these in my 4th and 5th grade classes and once I become more comfortable using these and other Brain Toys then I will introduce them to second and third.

    1. Mitzi,
      It looks like you have a great plan! You are right, using these tools, the children aren't just repeating information, they are gaining deeper understanding! Here are 25 certification points!

  43. 1. Air Whiteboards are a perfect Brain Toy for my preschool students. I will have my children “draw” their whiteboards and do their air writing. These will be useful when practicing letter and number writing and spelling sight word.
    2. Story gestures will be a great way for my students to reenact stories being taught in class. My students love to move and make believe, this technique allows them to do both while learning.
    3. Because clappers will be used as we practice our oral sentences. This will be useful in preparing the students for writing. It will teach the children to support a conclusion with evidence.
    4. Adders will be used with my students to help them expand their thinking. It will encourage them to expand and develop their language and will eventually be applied to their writing.

    1. Melissa,
      The brain toys really go hand in hand with the teaching through play philosophy of early childhood! Nice choices! Here are 25 certification points!

  44. Chapters 23-24 Whole Brain Teaching and Critical Thinking
    As a school this year we are focusing on having students answer in complete sentences and to justify answers with reasons. In other words, we want students to “create strong evidence for clear-cut conclusions.”
    One technique I want to encourage teachers to use this year is the “because/therefore” statements using the hand gestures. “Because (handclap) I want students to get in the habit of creating evidence for their conclusions, therefore (closed fist) I will have them practice whenever possible.”
    Comparing and contrasting is another way to foster critical thinking in students. Comparing similarities (lacing fingers together) and contrasting differences (bumping fists) is an excellent way for students to get into the mental habit of identifying similarities and differences in all sorts of concepts and subjects.
    I also love the brain toys. One of my favorite is the “example popper”. Have students pull examples out of their head with their fingers and say, “For example . . . . . . .” is a very powerful tool and a great habit for students to get into.
    I like to think that we are working on developing mental habits with our young people. Mental habits that will last their whole life and help them be successful whatever they choose to do.
    Carl Rust 455 cp

    1. Carl,
      Your students will become pros with these brain toys very quickly! You will see their understanding (because of providing evidence) soar! Here are 25 certification points!

  45. Critical thinking is so very important, and I think sometimes the value of it is overlooked. So often I hear teachers telling their students about topics rather than allowing their kids' minds to be curious and given the freedom to ask questions and explore answers and opinions to those questions themselves. I intend to concentrate on improving the amount of critical thinking in my classroom in several ways. First, I am going to focus on incorporating more brain toys like sockless hand puppets into our discussions! The kids LOVE using them! I also see more reluctant students blossoming with these as it appears to them that the pressure/spotlight has been taken off of themselves (even though it really hasn't changed!), which allows them to open-up more to whomever they are speaking to. I am also making more of an effort for our discussions to include a "because clapper brainy" to strengthen their beliefs. Students picked-up on this one very quickly and are attuned to the word, ready to participate with their own clap, and cheering their classmates on! Thirdly, I am going to work on adding more "Prove-it!" talks to my daily lessons, especially as state testing comes closer, with a focus on why the wrong answers don't fit. I think it is very powerful for the kids to take control over their work and be able to explain why they feel something is a good answer and why the other choices can't be correct. This will also help them to catch themselves if they make a mistake.

    -Brianne Betz
    Third grade, New Jersey

    1. Brianne,
      You have chosen three very powerful strategies that will bring fun and a higher level of critical thinking to your classroom - what a great combination! Here are 25 certification points!

  46. 1.) The Because Clapper- AHHHH! I am SO in LOVE with “The Because Clapper”. I started using it towards the end of last school year and have not looked back since. Supporting their thinking has become so automatic that I don’t even have to tell my kids to justify or explain. We use it multiple times during the day to support our thinking and answers. Using it verbally has also transferred to their writing! Students are eager to support their thinking; it’s a teacher’s dream come true. In fact I use it so frequently that I find myself wanting to use it outside of the classroom. EMBARRASING!
    2.) Compare/Contrast- I would like to implement this technique because it lines up with my state’s standards perfectly. Students must compare and contrast planets and stars, the types of clouds, Native American tribes…the list goes on and on.
    3.) Example Popper- Why? *BECAUSE* it is fun! I also like the idea of students being able to apply what they know about a topic and find examples to support their thinking.

    1. Shila,
      Don't feel bad, I think we've all used the Because Clapper outside the classroom more than once!! It becomes second nature doesn't it? Great choices! Here are 25 certification points!

  47. I teach sixth grade, so some of the mentioned techniques would not interest my students. There are many others, however, that peak my interest and that I would love to start using in my room. The three I have chosen to discuss are: compare and contrast, story gestures, and because/therefore.

    My favorite technique by far is compare and contrast. Multiple standards cover comparing and contrasting many things, whether it is ideas, characters, stories, solutions, or main ideas. Recently, we compared and contrasted two different types of media. My students had to choose from newspapers, magazines, flyers, billboards, radio, television, and Internet. They first made a Venn diagram to jot down some ideas and to help them really think about the similarities and differences between the two types of media they chose. After that, they wrote a two paragraph essay describing the similarities and differences between the two types of media. Normally I have them write at least three paragraphs, but this particular writing assignment was less demanding than the other writing assignments I usually have them do in class. One of the ideas I had before they started listing their ideas, was to have them discuss the similarities and differences with their buddy. Using the compare and contrast gesture would have really kept them engaged and it would have allowed them to use their mind and body to teach their buddy.

    Story gestures are so much fun! My students love using gestures. We use them for remembering vocabulary, expectations, and in-class procedures. I am excited to start using story gestures to review events that happen in a story! At my school, the sixth grade humanities teachers all do six huge units throughout the year. We read both fiction and non-fiction books with our students. The most recent unit we just completed was Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Mythology. We read Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief, as a class. There were some days when my students could not understand the plot and events happening in a particular chapter. These story gestures would have proved to be useful when trying to describe events in the story. Although I knew what was happening, it was sometimes hard to explain, in detail, what was happening to the kids. I will use story gestures when we are reading our fiction books during the six units to help explain events that are happening in the story, and to show character traits.

    Because/therefore is a wonderful tool for activating critical thinking. Students are encouraged to use statements that are simple, but that also hold meaning. This is by far the easiest technique to implement in my classroom. It is also, however, the most basic way to activate critical thinking. I will use because/therefore when I am discussing classroom expectations. For example, when students are not following classroom expectations, I can use because/therefore to remind them of the expectations and to remind them why there are rules in the first place! Because I want my students to remember how important the expectations are, therefore I have them rehearse the procedures and expectations and discuss why they are so important! Because I need my students to stay on task and work diligently to succeed, therefore I have them discuss better choices that can be made instead, and how the poor choices they made will affect their learning.

    1. Hannah,
      These are all quite effective in 5th/6th grade classrooms! You could easily add oral writing to enhance those compare/contrast essays and step the critical thinking up even more! Great job! Here are 25 certification points and a 5 point bonus


  48. Three techniques that I will immediately implement with great joy follow because I want my students to come up with amazing ideas that I never could have imagined.

    1) The Because Clapper- This is my favorite technique for kindergarten students. Students want to elaborate their thoughts in order to use the gestures. They also compete to see who can outdo each other. Watching the WBT videos introduced this to me. Watching my students use this is a touch of “teacher heaven.”
    2) Compare and Contrast-: Kindergarten students will reap from this technique. They elaborate their thoughts with greater detail. The gestures are vital and fun.
    3) Air Whiteboard- I think this will be the favorite of my students. I can imagine them drawing the perimeter of the board and erasing it clean before they use it to draw or write. I will definitely use it for site words. I will implement this when I return to teach in the fall. I can also use it to teach math.

    I look so forward to using these three techniques and of course many others to engage the whole brain of my students and the FUNTRICITY. We have been empowered as teachers with whole brain teaching! Our students will be empowered also!

    Regina-Champagne Babin

    1. Regina,
      Yes! We have certainly been empowered with these fun filled techniques. I'm sure your kindergartners find these not only fun, but very helpful as they are learning! Here are 25 certification points!

  49. In Spanish I employ creative thinking skills a bit more nontraditional then in the content area classroom. Some examples include creating riddles for vocabulary terms, planning a vacation, giving the weather forecast and creating a monster using body parts and color vocabulary. As a result, I would utilize the techniques that are language driven.

    Props- I often encourage the students to use props to enhance ideas and to solidify making connections between vocabulary and its meaning. For example, we have done a unit in 4th grade on building vocabulary about going to the beach. Each small group of students had a beach bag with a sentence frame in Spanish. Inside the bag were 5 items. The students read the sentence and completed the sentence frame as they pulled out each item from the bag.

    Story Gestures- Gestures accompany every new Spanish vocabulary term introduced in class. After an introduction with CLASS YES, MIRRORS, and TEACH OK, we include gestures in re telling short chunks of popular children’s stories that the students are already familiar with to reinforce the vocabulary. For example, for story practice with the days of the week, I introduce TPRS- total physical response story telling- with the Very Hungry Caterpillar. We use the picture cues and the learned vocabulary gestures for the days of the week to tell the story in Spanish. The children create their own gestures for the key terms in the story such as caterpillar, and He ate and he ate and he ate. The children re enact the story with their gestures. ** We also include props in TPRS activities such as this.**

    Vocabulary Candy- I have yet to try using this technique, but think that my students would enjoy the challenge of using newly introduced terms in Spanish sentences. Perhaps, this activity could be used to wrap up a lesson. I might also use this activity as a game and split the class into two teams and see which groups can use the most terms accurately.

    Air Whiteboard- In Spanish I would use this technique with my little ones to draw a picture of the vocabulary word I call out, or write on the board. Eventually, I could have another student call out or write the word on the board as the leader. I could also try the air whiteboard in reverse and draw or show a picture cue and have the children white the word in Spanish on the air whiteboard. I would vary the activity based on the unit and age level of the class.

    Bethann Barneman

    1. Bethann,
      You have such great ideas on how to use WBT strategies in your classroom. I smile when I read your responses. Your kiddos will enjoy using these tools to communicate their exceptional learning! Here are your 25 certification points and 5 bonus points! I can't wait to see you working your way up the WBT certification ladder! It is a fantastic accomplishment!

    2. Thank You Krystal! I am excited to move on in the WBT certification process.

  50. I love the Air Whiteboard! I could see my students having to explain their reasoning on these Air Whiteboards. A lot of history levels flow together but eight year olds can miss the connections between the events. I could have my students diagram the relationships between the events as well as an outline. Number talk would be fun using the Air Whiteboard as well. My students could use it to explain their reasoning for answers or the steps of how to solve a certain problem. The scientific process would reach another level as my students explain completed experiments using this.
    I can think of so many great uses for the Infinity Sack! My first thought moves to Social Studies because we are teaching third graders about things that are way before their time! This would be a great tool for Science and the concepts that we cover. Some of those topics are hard to create real world experiences for. It would bring some of those topics to life a little more. I am also thinking this would be great as a writing activity. It would be fun to say something like “I just got back from an expedition in the rain forest. Look what I brought back!” The students would have to write about what they saw you “take out” of the bag. The possibilities are endless!
    The two finger, all terrain, action figures with anti-gravity boots would be an engaging way for students to summarize stories that we have read. It would also be a great technique for the students to brainstorm a story that they are going to write. They would create the plot through the action figures. They could review a Social Studies lesson as well because they would be repeating the events.

    -Courtney Wood

    1. Courtney,
      I like your rain forest idea! There are so many ways to use these, it is an endless resource! Here are 25 certification points!

  51. There are several techniques, or Brain Toys, that I will definitely be using in my class this year to encourage and improve critical (or should I say creative?) thinking. One of the main goals of my school year is to help each child build their French vocabulary so that they are able to understand what is going on around them and express themselves appropriately. The following outlines my Brain Toys of choice and the way they will be used in my classroom to promote creative thinking in my students.

    Story gestures: I often use gestures to ensure understanding as I am reading stories aloud and giving instructions. The logical next step would be to have the students use gestures during the Teach-Okay activity. They will be encouraged to use/invent their own gestures and/or use mine as they are “teaching” their partner. This will push them to think about what they are saying and what gesture would best convey the meaning.

    Because Clappers: I will be using this technique to encourage my students not only to speak in complete sentences but also to incorporate new words into their day-to-day speech. The students will need to think not only about the message they are trying to convey but also the meaning of the words they are trying to incorporate into this message.

    Vocabulary Candy: This will be another way for me to encourage incorporating new vocabulary into everyday activities. Each month, I introduce new vocabulary based on a given theme. This activity will make it fun for the students to incorporate this new vocabulary into their everyday speech.

    Two Finger, all Terrain, Action Figures with Anti-Gravity Boots: I will use this activity when I ask students to repeat instructions. Before saying “Teach-Okay”, I will tell the students how many steps there were in the instructions. As Partner One is teaching and walking his/her fingers down his/her arm, Partner Two can be counting the steps to see if all of the information has been included. This can also be used when writing a story orally. Each story would have three steps, one step each for the beginning, the middle and the end of the story.

    Compare/Contrast: I will incorporate this technique after Christmas. By this time, students should have enough vocabulary to begin to express their observations and opinions. Comparing and contrasting various common items, stories, etc. will require the students to not only observe closely that which is being compared but also to search their growing French vocabulary for the correct words to express their ideas.

    1. Christina,
      You will have a tool belt full of wonderful WBT elements that your students will embrace with joy! They will love the fun games! Here are 25 certification points!

  52. I will definitely be using more than three of the critical thinking techniques. As teachers, we are required to have students explain their thinking frequently in class.
    I will start with Because Clappers. It is often difficult for primary students to describe their thinking. Because Clappers is a great way to start. I believe some modeling will definitely need to happen, and we will start with some easier reasoning answers and build from there.
    The next step I will use will be Example Poppers. I like how this method helps students learn to illustrate the point they are making.
    Another critical thinking technique I will use is Story Gestures. We can use this in both large and small groups during Reading. It also could be used to retell details from science or social studies texts. Finally, students could read a story they have written to a partner, and the partner could retell it back using the story gestures.

    1. Susan,
      Those story gestures will be very helpful in science and social studies! I love to watch the room full of students as they use them, they are so engaged! Here are 25 certification points!

  53. Where does one begin!! These are some of my favorites and I look forward to implementing the ones that I have yet to try!!

    Because Clapper- I teach this early on in kindergarten. I use it initially with oral writing. We say a short sentence of what they like and they use the because clapper to extend their sentence. This then flows awesome when we move into the extender sentence on the genius ladder. We also use the adder in oral writing.. I show them the 2 pointed figure role if I want them to tell me more. We also use college talk please and answer in a complete sentence.

    Compare and contrast with gestures- love love this one. We compare and contrast all the time!! We compared Pete the Cat stories the first week of school. We have used this to tell about a friend using the gestures to tell how they are alike and different. We mainly use it this early in the year to compare stories and read a louds.

    Air Whiteboard- years ago I started saying 'write it in your palm pilot" and it is the same thing:) Now I use air white board to have them model letters/ numbers/ small checkins I need to see.

    Story Element gestures-- I can't wait to use this more. As I have been using WBT I find myself using gestures when I am reading aloud to them :) I love the idea of teaching them to retell a story using first, next, last and use gestures in their retell. Great idea.

    There are so many to put in your pocket and pull out!!!!! Its hard to remember them all. I think I need to make them into cards and put on a ring so I have them at my fingertips!!!!

    1. Wendy,
      You are right, there are so many to remember, but how wonderful to have them! I printed them off, laminated them and put them in a three ring binder. Then, I just invert the binder on my table to show the one we are focusing on that day. It's been really helpful! AnthonyLutz's blog (Whole Brain Teaching is for Everyone) has some really cute slides of each of these that you can print (free of course). One small typo "2 pointed figure role" (finger). Here are 25 certification points!

  54. For writing I always use College talk with air punctuation, starting each sentence with a capital letter, because, and, comma and of course to make my sentences longer I use a for example.
    In math I have only started with my brainies and my students know addition, subtraction, multiplication, factor, product, equal and place value. As the year progresses I plan on using more brainies with my students.
    In my Language Arts blocks I plan on using gestures with the stories such as characters, introduction, fiction and non-fiction and closing. As the year progresses I will integrate sock –less puppets with college talk to encourage oral writing with my character development.
    This is the first year I have done this method with integrity and my students being special needs are adjusting to this new way of instruction. It is slower in my self-contained group than my resource but it give my heart so much joy to see former students who sat in the background now have the confidence to come up and teach the class. Leaders and teachers are emerging.

    1. Chris,
      I love to hear that your students are already adjusting to using WBT! It is amazing the results that we see when we do use it with integrity! Oops you had one small typo "but it give my heart" (gives). Here are 25 certification points!

  55. I find that I frequently use the Because Clapper, Adders, and Example Popper. Therefore, I would like to focus on three Brain Toys that are new to me and explain how I could use them.

    Vocabulary Candy: I think this technique could be used in any subject with new vocabulary terms. Nine times out of ten, students can memorize and match a definition and term with 100% accuracy; however, I find that when students are expected to apply the word in context, some seem to struggle. This strategy allows students to construct sentences verbally with their new words. While students are using this technique with mirrors to teach their class or neighbor, they are also reinforcing their mechanics by using the Brainies.

    Infinity Sack: I LOVE this! Can you just imagine what might be pulled out of this imaginary sack? This technique, known as the “Prop of all Props”, could be used with any subject. I can only imagine the conversations when students are teaching one another, pulling out their props, and explaining their creative thoughts about a topic.

    Two Finger, All Terrain, Action Figures with Anti-Gravity Boots: There is no doubt in my mind that this strategy will give my boys an opportunity to connect with their dramatic side…something my girls definitely do not struggle with at all! I can already hear the sound effects as their action figures are jumping, running, flying, etc. I think this would be a perfect technique to use with the sequencing of events or retelling of a story.

    Kelly Avery
    WBT Intern

    1. Kelly,
      I agree, the boys turn on the sound effects and the drama when they use the Two Finger, All Terrain, Action Figures with Anti-Gravity Boots! It is fun to watch the engagement in action! Here are 25 certification points!

  56. The three techniques I would use to build critical thinking skills in my classroom are the Because Clapper, The Sockless Hand Puppets, and Story Gestures. First, I think that the Because Clapper is a great tool for students to be able to use because (clap) it forces them to think why the answer is true or not and to not only take information at face value. It teaches students to think more deeply about subjects to discover why things happen the way they do. Second, Sockless Hand Puppets could have a great conversation with each other detailing key aspects of any content area! They can teach each other about content forcing students to see two points of the subject area. Students would have to explain the content to someone which further deepens understanding. Last, Teach Okay will be used almost daily in my classroom. Teach Okay allows students to use their whole brain to explore concepts. Using all the areas of the brain, students are able to process information on a deeper level. Utilizing these techniques, and many others, will help to build the necessary critical thinking skills in my students.

    Geni Ainge

    1. Geni,
      These are such fun, and all have the benefit of helping our students retain the information we are helping them learn! Here are 25 certification points!

  57. 1. Air Whiteboard – I have used this Brain Toy before and found that my children love it. The first step is, of course, to clean that dirty left hand corner (insert squeaking noise). I use the air whiteboard in the same way I use ‘Teach – Okay’, except instead of saying, “Teach,” I say, “Air Whiteboards.” The children respond with, “Okay.” Then they begin teaching their neighbour by explaining what they are drawing on their invisible whiteboard and, more importantly, why they are drawing those things. This is done using the most important word in the critical thinking repertoire – because.

    2. The ‘Because‘ Clapper – the most important word in critical thinking is ‘because’, because it introduces evidence for all you have said previously. This is an essential skill for young children to learn because they have a tendency to make statements without any attempt to corroborate what they have said with any form of proof. I encourage my children to clap their hands every single time they use the word ‘because’ to emphasise the importance of the word and highlight the importance of the next few words they are about to utter.

    3. Example Popper – This is another wonderful Brain Toy to encourage several desirable habits in children. It forces children to back up their statements with factual evidence. It teaches children how to speak in complete sentences, and it demonstrates how to correctly punctuate a sentence which starts with the phrase, “For example,...” I ensure this by encouraging the class to use ‘Brainies gestures’ when talking. They use gestures for capital letter, for comma (zoop), and then they use an air period to end the sentence.

    Quentin Dalrymple
    3/4th grade
    Perthshire, Scotland

    1. Quentin,
      I can't imagine teaching without the Because Clapper and the Example Popper! It makes a world of difference in their critical thinking, and I love to hear them providing evidence as they speak! Here are 25 certification points!