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. It was difficult for me to choose only three techniques but my choices are based on the first three strategies that I feel will be most beneficial for my students with special needs.

    Example Poppers:
    Using the Example Popper, my students will have a gesture (hand to head) to pair with the concept of providing an example. Giving an example for a topic the students did not choose is difficult due to language delays. WBT’s Example Poppers is a way to model the strategy of giving examples with a gesture that is fun for kids. With the repetition that WBT provides my students they will learn what an example is and how to provide an example that has been modeled. Later using the Example Popper, the students will have the skills necessary to engage in critical thinking by providing new and creative examples independently.

    Because Clappers:
    With the Because Clapper I can help my students with special needs become critical thinkers. Using the Because Clapper to provide evidence the students will learn the strategy of using the word “because” (a clap) to cue them to give additional information to prove what they are saying. The Because Clapper can be extended by adding “therefore” (closed fist). Students develop critical thinking skills as they provide evidence in original ways using “because” and “therefore”.

    Story Gestures:
    Using gestures with WBT is very effective in teaching many basic skills. It only stands to reason that using gestures can also be a great tool for developing critical thinking skills. The idea of using gestures to tell or re-tell a story is powerful for all children including children with language delays or dyslexia. Gestures provide a concrete sign for an abstract concept that is necessary for many students with learning disabilities. It provides the foundation for any student to move beyond rote knowledge and provide new insights through critical thinking.

    Gaining strategies to teach critical thinking to my students is exciting. It is a subject that I have not had much hope of developing because I spend so much time remediating and teaching the basics. With WBT strategies, I can see now how to do both. I do feel like I’m off to Teacher Heaven this year.

    1. Kathy,
      Great choice of three fantastic Brain Toys! There are many readers who will appreciate your reflection from a SPED teacher's point of view! Here are 25 points and a 5 point Bonus!

  2. The three techniques described in Chapters 23 and 24 that I will definitely try in my room are “Because Clapper”, “Compare/Contrast”, and “Air Whiteboard”.

    Last year as a school, we worked on better answer techniques for open ended questions. Most students would typically give an answer with no support. I feel the using the “Because Clapper” will add fun to adding evidence along with reminding the students to add more. The clapping puts some movement into the answer also. This technique can be used with any subject matter from reading to science.

    “Compare/Contrast” is a huge skill in third grade; however, students often mix them up. The gestures of fist bumping and finger lacing will help them remember the definitions Students who can successfully compare and contrast concepts know the information that they are trying to learn, and they are more apt to remember it. This would be a good skill for characterization in reading, social studies, and science.

    The “Air Whiteboard” I think will just be fun for the students. We have whiteboards in our room, but they take time to get out, and then the students often start playing with them. The “Air Whiteboard” would eliminate a lot of the problems of traditional whiteboards.

    These are the three techniques that I would most assuredly try next school; however, I hope they’re not the only three.

    1. Cheryl,
      Nice selection and review of these three Brain Toys. In future posts, be more careful in editing. " I feel the using the “Because Clapper” will add fun to adding..."(the using) and "The gestures of fist bumping and finger lacing will help them remember the definitions"(no period) Here are 10 points.

  3. Last year I used and loved the "Because Clapper" to help my students think critically and creatively. My students were great at incorporating the "Example Popper" into their teaching as well. Therefore this year I look forward to introducing new Brain Toys to engage my students at an even higher level! Here are the three I will try first:

    Story Gestures:
    I like that this Brain Toy encourages the children to be active creators while reviewing, sequencing, or summarizing a story. While teaching their buddy about the story, they can use their hands to creatively act out the problem, events, and solution. I always have a large number of ELL students in my classroom, so using gestures in this meaningful, student-centered, visual way would greatly help them! We use Daily 5 in my classroom, so I would also have my students use Story Gestures when they are buddy reading and need to "check for understanding" after reading a page or two. I love that Story Gestures are naturally differentiated as each child creates their own instructional scenarios!

    I can see myself using this often, especially when I am introducing making connections between texts. I love that the gestures reinforce the meaning of these words. My students receive Scholastic News magazine each month and I could easily integrate the Compare/Contrast Brain Toy into these lessons. This would also build my students' paraphrasing skills!

    Sockless Hand Puppets:
    I think the possibilities are endless for having one hand puppet talk to the other hand puppet! I will teach my students how to have one hand puppet ask a question and the other hand puppet answer. We have Poetry Workshop every Friday and I love to use poems for two voices! What a great way to focus on reading comprehension and fluency!

    I really enjoyed the WBT Webcast on Brain Toys as well! It was very helpful to hear detailed explanations by Coach B!

    - Shelley Nizynski Reese

    1. Shelley,
      Nice job! Brain toys are fun,and they really raise the level of student engagement and critical thinking skills! Here are 25 points!

  4. I liked so many of the Brain Toys discussed in the readings and webcasts. Like Kathy, I found it difficult to choose just three to discuss. So, I tried to think of three that I would be likely to use with my Kindergarteners daily.

    The Because Clapper: The Because Clapper is one of my favorite Brain Toys. My Kindergarteners traditionally have difficulty explaining their thoughts in complete and fluid sentences. They tend to want to answer questions with as few words as possible and without any supporting detail. The Because Clapper emphasizes one of the most important words in critical thinking: because. “Because” introduces evidence to support a point. I can use the clapper to create a pattern of thought where my kiddos will always want to support their points. We can practice making strong and weak clappers in a way that is fun and whole brain engaging.

    The Example Popper: The Example Popper gesture mimics what is actually taking place inside of one’s mind. It makes the abstract process of thought seem visual. It’s as if you could actually reach out and grab someone’s example as it pops out of their mind. The Example Popper will help my kiddos not only in their expressive language but also in their written language. They will better build their skills to expand their ideas and support reasoning. I also like that other Brain Toys can easily be used with the Example Popper to indirectly teach things like conventions and syntax. For example, after the student pops the idea from their mind they give a little flick of the finger while saying “zoop” to represent a comma. What a fun way to experience a dependent clause!

    Two Finger, All Terrain, Action Figures with Anti-Gravity Boots: I knew that this Brain Toy was love at first sight when I watched Coach B demonstrate a story on the webcast. This reinforces parts of a story, setting, characters, plot, and retelling. The student begins the story using finger characters on one hand, moves up the arm towards the climax somewhere near the head, and then glides gracefully towards the end of the story down the other arm. It is a beautiful visual to the abstract “beginning”, “middle”, and “end” of a story. As teacher, it is easy to tell if the student comprehended the story by simply watching the interactions of their fingers. Students can even use this toy to act out a process. The Water Cycle and even solving mathematical equations comes to mind when picturing my students describing a process. Not to mention, it’s fun and free! Students love to play with their hands and fiddle around with their fingers. I see this Brain Toy as an excuse to twiddle your thumbs while colorfully expressing your thoughts.

    I’m so excited about being able to use these and other Brain Toys in my classroom. I feel that they will allow me to be able to challenge students’ minds. There will be more opportunities for critical thinking and higher order reasoning in an entertaining fashion. I love that things that were potential distracters in class magically turn into learning tools for language development and reasoning.

    1. Jennifer,
      Excellent thoughts about brain toys and critical thinking! Your kinders are going to have so much fun this year. Here are 25 certification points plus 5 BONUS POINTS!

    2. Thanks, Kate! I cannot even tell you how much I am looking forward to this year!

  5. I am looking forward to using these incredibly fun techniques all year long! Although I plan on using ALL of them throughout the course of the year, the three I will begin with include the Because Clappers, the Example Popper, and Vocabulary Candy.

    The Because Clapper immediately gives positive reinforcement as the child claps one hand on top of the other, giving himself a clap of applause when he thinks critically. The word “because” is very important in a critical thinking sentence. When a child uses this word “because”, he is providing evidence of his thinking. This is even more effective when followed with “therefore” and a gesture. With Common Core, students are often required to provide more evidence of their thinking than they have in the past. Having the students clapping on the word “because” encourages them to stop and think about their reasoning when answering questions. I will have the students use this in their oral writing throughout the day. I also plan to remind them to use this brain toy anytime they answer questions during lessons because I know this will eliminate the three word answers they often try to get by with. In addition, I plan to have students use this to prove whether answers are correct or incorrect, as in the Prove It game.

    The second brain toy I want to introduce is the Example Popper. I chose this because it also focuses on teaching the children to think critically. This will help them with both their reading and writing. I will begin by presenting a generalization as Coach Biffle suggested in the webcast (509). I will provide a large point or question that they can respond to, discuss, or support with a conclusion. In doing this, I will be providing them a way to give many examples, providing illustrations that show evidence of their thinking. The Example Popper is also the perfect tool to use when we work on persuasive writing this year.

    The third brain toy I plan to use is the Vocabulary Candy. I chose this because our school has decided to focus heavily on academic vocabulary this year. I love the idea of popping an imaginary piece of candy in their mouth so that they will immediately use a vocabulary word in their next sentence. This works well with the other two brain toys I will have already introduced, as we add a Because Clapper, and then the Example Popper to further define the vocabulary word! I already feel a sense of relief that I have an actual PLAN to teach their vocabulary this year by implementing these brain toys!

  6. Michelle,
    These are 3 good toys to start with. It is nice to have a plan in place isn't it? Here are 25 certification points for your!

  7. Oh sweet mama, I have found a new love-"Brain Toys!" I love, love, love the "Brain Toys!" I love all of them! They are so, so cool! The name, itself, is even awesome. The subject of history lends itself well to all of these wonderful tools, and it was extremely difficult to just choose three. I plan on introducing a new technique, at least, once a month, but the three I think I will keep in my back pocket and use most often include Air Whiteboard, Because Clappers, and Example Popper.

    1. Just the drawing of the Air Whiteboard and the "Eek, Eek, Eek" of wiping it clean gets students interested in the topic. Many teachers and students speak with their hands a lot, and the invisible board will allow students to use movement while they speak. It is a good variation to "Teach/Ok," too. This would be a great tool to use when introducing or reviewing U.S. and world geography, especially United States regions, states, and major cities. It would also be valuable when discussing the Great Plains, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Westward Movement, and even immigration. The board improves critical thinking skills because it gives students a visual. I can see students explaining more because they have to tell what they are drawing. It is using the Broca's speaking area of the brain, the Motor Cortex (making gestures on the air whiteboard), and the Visual Cortex (seeing gestures). I think this would improve critical thinking because students are explaining what they are drawing.

    2./3. The Because Clappers (BC) and Example Popper (EP) can go hand in hand. They both give students a fun way to explain their thinking. It is really a form of oral writing, too! I want my students to explain their thinking and not just "regurgitate the facts." By using the gestures for these two strategies students are activating their brain and explaining what they know. With practice, they will be speaking in complete sentences. I will use these two tools daily during "Teach/Ok" sessions. The combination of the two could be used during review sessions, as well. Students could even work together or individually and write their Because Clappers and Example Poppers in their interactive notebooks (a tool used to promote critical thinking). I plan on using student led "Teach/Ok" as well. By teaching the class their BC and EP, they are also improving critical thinking skills. By explain what they know and giving examples, my students will definitely be improving their critical thinking skills. Repetition of these two tools will help them remember to explain themselves and give details even when I'm not reminding them to do so.

    On a side note, I love Air Punctuation, too. I will definitely be using gestures for capital letters, commas, and periods.

    Melinda Sprinkle

  8. Melinda,
    I love your enthusiasm for the Brain Toys! You are right! Your students will not only have fun with them, they will improve their ability to think critically! Here are 25 points!

  9. It is hard to pick just three strategies to foster critical thinking skills. I chose Because Clappers, Adders, and Sockless Hand Puppets.

    “Because clappers” is a new strategy I will incorporate daily when teaching U.S. history. Students are accustomed to answering questions with one or two word answers. The “Because Clapper” will force students to validate their answer by inserting evidence as a conclusion. Students will “clap” once to show they are “building” their evidence. Now students will think more critically when answering because they have to add the evidence. This will allow students to make connections to historical facts.

    “Adders” will also be used daily to get students to add more content. Students will see that one/two word answers are not acceptable and will think critically before answering questions. Adding details will enhance students’ vocabulary for history.

    By using “Because Clappers” and “adders” students will be able to answer critical thinking questions on the state test with ease. These two strategies will help students apply what they have learned and not just factual recall.

    The other strategy I will incorporate in my history classroom is “Sockless Hand Puppets.” I have to teach over 52 individuals that have impacted American history in various decades. The “Sockless Hand Puppet” will allow students to carry on a conversation between two historical figures to illustrate different points of view, such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. Students can change their voice for each character. This is a fun way to demonstrate point of view. Other uses for this strategy are to compare and contrast or if you have an odd number of students, the Sockless Hand Puppet can become a partner.

    These are the strategies I will use to promote more critical thinking within my history classroom. I will also use “Air Whiteboards” I use interactive notebooks in which students have to illustrate historical concepts. “Air Whiteboards” will allow me to see what students will draw in their notebooks before it becomes a permanent fixture in their notebooks. I can clarify any misconceptions at this time. Also, students can show other students what is on their “Air Whiteboard” to expand the lesson. Sharing what they have drawn will help struggling students grasp concepts being studied.

    I love brain Toys. My class is going to be totally awesome this year. I cannot wait to get started.

  10. Debora,
    Great job! I have no doubt about the Funtricity coming to your classroom this year! Here are 25 points for you!

  11. Chapter 23 & 24 Whole Brain Thinking and Critical Thinking

    I am excited to use the WBT oral writing activities this upcoming school year. I can see how they would be of great benefit, especially as we prepare for state testing and students tire of the writing tasks involved.

    Story Gestures:
    Retelling is a wonderful technique to use in checking understanding. However, most students dread having to fill out story maps or write paragraph summaries. As a teacher, I dread having to read through 30 of these paragraphs. Retelling orally isn’t much better. Often, those listening to a story being retold zone out. I think using Story Gestures will bring some excitement into this important reading strategy and will engage the whole class. Students will talk to their neighbors using their hands to act out a story, an historical event, or even stages in the lifecycle of a butterfly.

    Example Popper:
    We are always asking the students to support their ideas. I am eager to use this in reading to practice providing supports for our extended response prompts. After reading the prompt, they will state their topic sentence orally followed by their examples of support. I can see how this can be used in small groups with the one person giving the topic sentence and the other students following up with examples. I especially love the focus on using complete sentences when giving the examples.

    Vocabulary Candy:
    We do gestures for our reading robust vocabulary but this takes it to a new level, followed by more levels! Each level of this brain toy is engaging and fun, as toys should be. What I like about this, and the other brain toys, is you can pull them out anywhere. If we are in the hallways during bathroom break or waiting for our music class to begin we can easily pop some candy in and spend this often squandered time practicing and reviewing.
    Catherine Cassaro

    1. Catherine,
      Great choices for critical thinking! Here are 25 certification points!

  12. In my classroom, I will try to implement as many of the brain toys as possible but I am really excited about employing the Because Clapper, the Air Whiteboard, and the Compare/Contrast strategies.

    The because clapper is a wonderful tool that requires students to explain why they arrived at their answer. I will ask students to use the because clapper when they are teaching their partner, answering questions orally, or when reading their writing aloud. Without the because clapper, a student’s answer to the question “What is the last step in the life cycle of a butterfly?” might have been “the adult butterfly”. With the because clapper, a student will answer, “The last step in the life cycle of a butterfly is the adult butterfly because it has gone through metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a chrysalis and ended as an adult butterfly.” Instead of being cognitive of the because clapper requiring them to think critically, students just think it is fun to clap your hands together when saying “because”. I love seeing the smile on my student’s faces when using the because clapper or when I say because and forget the because clapper.

    I am extremely excited about the air whiteboard because this requires students to use their imagination and gets all students engaged. I will use the air whiteboard for math problems, vocabulary review, and sentence capitalization/punctuation. Using the air whiteboard, students are visualizing what they would see if they were actually writing on a whiteboard. This requires a child to mentally process the problem they are being asked to complete. I can see my principal coming into my classroom now, watching my students writing in the air! This brain toy is so much more fun than writing on a real whiteboard!

    In second grade, we are always comparing/contrasting our state standards. To compare two life cycles, the students will lace their fingers together when teaching each other. To contrast two characters in our reading stories, the students will bump their fists together. The compare/contrast brain toy can be used in endless activities, some of which include weather discussions, Indian tribes, ancient lands, etc. Comparing/contrasting is a wonderful brain toy because it is making a difficult critical thinking skill easy and fun!

    1. Laken,
      These 3 toys go a long way in helping students think critically! Good choices. Here are 25 certification points!

  13. Brain Toys are a great way to enhance and cement those critical thinking skills. I can see ways to use all of them in my room. My favorites include the Infinity Sack, Sockless Hand Puppets, and Story Gestures.

    Infinity Sack: I often use props to illustrate concepts particularly with my lower grades but it can be hard to get and store million props. Enter the Infinity Sack. I can now pull out any prop any time I need to without having to acquire, hide, and then store the prop. Best of all, the kids all have their own Infinity Sack full of props too!

    Sockless Hand Puppets: What better way to make sure a student has a complete hold on a concept than use sockless hand puppets. A students can talk through a concept, retell a story, or even work out a social problem by themselves. They have to think of both sides and cannot rely on someone else to supply missing pieces. Students really have to THINK!

    Story Gestures: Gestures are a key element in WBT. Use of gestures to tell or re-tell a story is powerful for all children especially my ESOL students and those with language delays. Gestures provide a concrete sign for an abstract concept. Story Gestures can bridge from rote skills to deeper critical thinking.

    There are a lot of possibilities with Brain Toys plus the kids will enjoy the practice!

    Gwenn Weston

    1. Gwenn,
      These brain toys will serve your students' critical thinking well! Watch out for those pesky writing errors. ( can be hard to get and store million props.)(A students can talk through a concept, ...) Here are 10 certification points!

  14. “Brain Toys” foster independent, creative thinking and just in the name, “Brain Toys” stirs excitement in learning! I am excited about using many of the ideas, but a few that stick out to me that I can see using on a more consistent basis are “Story Gestures”, “Example Popper”, and “Compare/Contrast”.

    In using “Story Gestures”, students will talk to their neighbors and use their hands to act out a story. I find this incredibly helpful in retelling and summarizing after students have read a story. It activates the visual, motor and auditory cortex, fostering critical thinking on all levels.

    The “Example Popper” is a cute and effective way of illustrating an example with the use of gestures. I am always asking for students to come up with examples to back up or prove their answers. The act of showing an example pop from their brain creates a visual picture of what I am asking them to find, and involving the gesture activates the motor cortex of their brain, activating once again critical thinking!

    As an English teacher, I am always seeking my students to use the skills of comparing/contrasting. In analyzing the similarities and differences between two stories, articles, etc. students are critically thinking. This year, we will be focusing even more on comparing/contrasting fiction with related nonfiction pieces, so I see this becoming a staple gesture in my classroom this year! Adding the gestures adds the kinesthetic piece of learning and further emphasizes the critical thinking skills of students.

    I look forward to implementing these “Toys” in learning this year!
    Amanda Martin

    1. Amanda,
      Good choices for brain toys! Your kids will love them. Be careful of those pesky writing errors. (“Brain Toys” foster independent, creative thinking and just in the name, “Brain Toys” stirs excitement in learning!) and (I am always seeking my students to use the skills of comparing/contrasting.) Here are 10 certification points!

  15. The Because Clapper – I will use this to teach the first comprehension strategy we learn in fifth grade. Right away, on the very first day of school, we start learning how to make predictions. However, I want to take it a step further. In order for students to show they are comprehending and thinking about the text, they need to use The Because Clapper to explain their thinking and understanding. For example, I make them use this statement when making predictions: “I predict (with a gesture) blank will happen next because (with the clapper) blank.” We talk about how we can use pictures, understanding story sequence, previous information in the text, and other skills to support our predictions. By supporting their predictions with a “because statement,” I can easily assess comprehension and higher order thinking skills.

    Example Popper – When teaching my students how to write paragraphs, I always make them include at least one example to support their topic sentence. When we write stories together, do Interactive Writing, or oral writing (something I’ve never done, but that I am eager to try), I will have students talk with their partners and their classmates using gestures to give examples. This is how it will go:

    Teacher: Our topic sentence is, "The school lunch is unhealthy." Can we think of an example to help support this sentence? Talk with your neighbor about an example, using gestures, to support this sentence. Teach!
    Students: Okay!
    After giving them time, I would call on a few students to teach the class their examples while the class mirrored their gestures.
    Student: The school lunch is unhealthy. For example (with the gesture) – comma - (I have the students arc their hands in the air like a comma and whisper “comma” to show that after we write “For example,” we always need to place a comma afterward), sometimes there is milk given to us that is expired.

    Not only will example poppers make them better writers, but their critical thinking skills will improve because they are finding logical evidence to support their claims.

    Story Gestures – In fifth grade we have a problem with story elements, especially plot development. Using Story Gestures may help to eliminate this problem, and I am anxious to combine it with the Two-Finger, All-Terrain Action Figures with Anti-Gravity Boots. If the students can identify the protagonist and march their Action Figure through the important parts of the story, they will have a better understanding of how plot develops and works to tell the story. I think it would also be handy to have gestures for the particular plot elements such as rising action, climax, resolution, etc. Activating their motor cortexes and their prefrontal cortexes will boost not only understanding of story elements, but also their reasoning skills behind the motives, actions, and choices of a character or characters.

    Meredith Pearson

    1. Meredith,
      Great job explaining the brain toys you'll employ this year! Here are 25 certification points!

  16. 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, prefrontal, 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 prefrontal, 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,
      Great response! Here are 25 certification points!

  17. The Because Clapper will be introduced day one this year. This is such a great tool to use in the classroom because it forces the students to stop their train of thought and really think about what they want to say and why. The students I will work with this coming school year struggle with communication and critical thinking. They want to say whatever is on their mind and because in their heads it sounds logical, it is. The Because Clapper will aid these students in making sure they clarify their statements and really thinking about why they are saying what it is that they are saying.

    Prove It is another great concept. In addition to forcing my students to justify their oral responses, they will have the chance to prove their written answers. Using this method is going to give my students a chance to make sure they fully understand. On multiple choice tests or worksheets, the students will have to not only pick the correct answer but explain why all the other options are incorrect. This method will give them confidence and eliminate guessing on these kinds of assignments. On a short answer response question the students will use Prove It to come up with alternative responses to back up why the answer they wrote is the only way the question could be correct.

    Sockless Hand Puppets will help my students become comfortable talking to "someone" during a teach/okay without a lot of noise. Using these toys will let my students focus only on the space in front of them instead of becoming distracted by their classmates lively gestures. Once they are comfortable with the sensory elements around them they can join a live partner. The toy in general is a great addition to the classroom because a teacher can use it when someone needs a partner or are shy. The Puppets give the students a chance to think about the lesson given because the students can talk to their hand about the lecture or practice examples before sharing with the class. No one will raise their hands to answer a question and then say, "nevermind" because they have already had a chance to figure out the answer with their Puppet.

    1. Stephanie,
      You have chosen some great Brain Toys to use this year! Be careful when you proofread, you had a couple of errors: (classmates lively gestures), (someone needs a partner or are shy) and the spelling on "nevermind". Here are 10 certification points.

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

    August 21, 2013

    So many awesome choices to choose from in the Brain Toys chapters. I have not used Brain Toys before and I am very excited to introduce this idea to my students. The three techniques I will begin the year with are Props, the Because clapper, and the Sockless Hand Puppets. I chose these three because I think they will be the easiest for the students to understand, and then I will add more as the students and I become comfortable with these.

    The first one I chose was Props because I believe most of our kiddos have a hard time using their imagination. Last year, when I gave assignments to the class where they had to use their imagination, they struggled. They wanted to be told what to do and how to do it. I love the idea of having them pick up any object and bring it to life. The props can be used for students to retell a story or explain how to solve a math problem. By having students hold and move a prop in their hand(s), it will help open their minds and engage their imagination.

    The second one I chose was the Because Clapper. I have watched videos of students using the Because Clapper and have been impressed. Having the student add “because” to their oral writing will help them learn to provide evidence in their writing. The Because Clapper can be used to help a student explain their reasoning to a question, a comparison, or to contrast is just a few ways the Because Clapper works. There are so many possibilities. Providing evidence is an important piece on mandated tests.

    The last one I chose to implement at the beginning of the year is the Sockless Hand Puppets. I like this strategy to help shy students feel comfortable speaking out loud. Students are more apt to participate if they can begin by sharing with themselves and building their confidence. There are a variety of ways to introduce and use the Sockless Hand Puppet(s) such as when practicing the class rules, singing the songs that go with our curriculum, counting on the number chart, one hand could be the odd numbers and the other hand could be the even numbers, or to practice our spelling words. Our imagination will be the only thing stopping us.

    All of these strategies will activate many areas of the brain engaging my student’s creative and critical thinking skills and will bring funtricity into the classroom. These are important pieces of WBT.

    1. Terri,
      The three Brain Toys you chose should be a big help when your students are activating their imaginations! Be careful when proofreading, there were a couple of mistakes: "So many awesome choices to choose from in the Brain Toys chapters" (sentence fragment) and "help a student explain their reasoning to a question, a comparison, or to contrast is just a few ways".(is/are) Here are 10 points!

  19. There were three Brain Toy techniques I would just love to try with my students:

    I chose the Whiteboard for my first technique because my third grade students love to draw on the whiteboard in our classroom. I know they will embrace the Whiteboard technique with little prompting from me. When students draw on the Whiteboard the motor cortex and visual cortex are activated. If the drawing is paired with talking out loud about their doodles, the auditory and speech centers of the brain are also activated. Almost the whole brain is now engaged in the learning activity. The crowning glory comes when they are asked to think creatively about their drawings. The students can be asked to draw or diagram different objects or processes, and to use their imaginary drawings to find new ways to compare or contrast the object, and to come up with new solutions or conclusions. For example, a teacher can ask the students to use their Whiteboards to compare and contrast mammals and birds, or the sun and a planet, even Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. To keep students accountable they can be called on to share their thought processes with a because clapper and example poppers. The whole brain would be activated and involved in such a learning activity.

    The second technique I would like to implement, is the Sockless Hand Puppet. These puppets can be informal and fun as students engage in a conversation to spark their creative thinking skills. They can even be asked to come up with three silly comparisons for a pond and a lake, and then three simple comparisons, and then three super comparisons. These steps would guide their thinking from informal and elementary to more complex and creative. To keep it lighthearted and fun each “puppet” can take a turn to give a similarity or difference with its own voice and flair.

    Then last but not least, I would love to try out Vocab Candy. I have found that our vocabulary words get neglected throughout the week, unless I am more intentional about my approach. The Vocab Candy approach is so creative and fun that again my students will need little prompting to use this method. Students often memorize their vocabulary words and then never use them in conversation, because often they do not understand the meaning of the word. We all know what we don’t use, we lose. Therefore any time that students use their Vocab Candy, whether in casual conversations or in formal explanations, it is a higher level of thinking and speaking.

    Mariaan Carreiro

  20. Mariaan,
    Your choice of Brain Toys will certainly add Funtricity to your classroom! You provided some great examples of how to use them. Here are 25 certification points and a 5 point bonus!

  21. The three Brain Toys I chose are the Because Clapper, Example Popper, and Compare and Contrast. I believe these three will be beneficial in class discussions for all subjects and will improve students writing skills.

    Because Clapper-The Because Clapper is a Brain Toy I plan to use daily in all subjects. It is important because it reminds students to support their answers with evidence. One way I have successfully used the Because Clapper this year is by assigning homework in which students are to write sentences with their spelling words using the word because in each sentence. The next day students come in eager to share their sentences using the Because Clapper and air punctuation. We give “10 finger woos” and perform class cheers for outstanding work. After just three weeks of this, I have already seen an improvement in their writing. For science, it will be useful when asking students to make a prediction (“I predict _____ because….).

    Example Popper- Asking students to give examples is asking students to elaborate, something that is difficult for many students. I will also assign homework in which students must use, “for example,” then share the next day using air punctuation. Another way I plan to use the Example Popper is in Math. For example, students may be asked to define a property of multiplication then use an example popper to give examples of equations using the defined property.

    Compare/Contrast-In science, students will compare and contrast the results in experiments for the dependent and independent groups. For reading, we will compare and contrast characters, settings, plots, themes, genres, etc. When I Compare and Contrast the Brain Toys, I note that they will all improve writing, but each in a different way.

    I can’t wait until my students have enough experiences with Brain Toys to try the 360 degree Learning and Switch with Brain Toys written on the board.

    Jamie Rickman

  22. Jamie,
    Wonderful post! You have given many great examples of ways to use these strategies to increase critical (creative) thinking! Here are 25 certification points and a 5 point bonus!