When I started this ABCs of SPED series, I didn't want to solely focus on the IEP process. My goal was to shed light on common issues and misunderstandings, yes, but also to open your eyes to concepts that are general best-practice in the classroom.
This week's topic is one of those: Whole-Brain Teaching
Please resist the urge to move toward that "X" in the upper right-hand corner while thinking, "I'm not a teacher."
Are you a parent? You're a teacher.
Are you a caregiver? You're a teacher.
Are you a nagger? An introducer of new things? An activity-creator-to-get-this-child-out-of-my-hair-for-one-gosh-darn-minute? You're a teacher!
The concept of Whole-Brain Teaching, or WBT, is as beneficial at home as it is at school.
So what is WBT?
Whole-Brain Teaching is an instructional strategy to integrate and connect both right and left hemispheres of the brain which leads to more engaging and balanced learning. Research shows that using Whole-Brain Teaching can lead to better processing of information and increased communication skills!
The tenets of Whole-Brain Teaching include:
A great synopsis of how to use WBT in the classroom can be found here. But let's talk about four ways to practice these strategies at home!
1. Use call and response. In the classroom, this looks like the teacher saying, "Class?" and the students responding "Yes" at attention. At home, this may look like a parent saying, "Ready?" and a child responding "Ready!" when it's time to go, with the corresponding knowledge that the "ready" signal means shoes must be on, coat must be zipped, etc.
2. Use gestures. Do you ever feel like your child has selective hearing? I do! It's hard for kids to manage constant auditory input. A gesture is a prompt that provides a child with a direction visually. Gestures are also natural to children (think the Wheels on the Bus and the Itsy Bitsy Spider!). Gestures work great to indicate that you want a child to start something, you want them to stop something, you want them to get something, etc. An example of a gesture could be a peace sign to indicate the child has 2 minutes before it's time to go.
3. Use tracking tools. Working on a certain skill at home, like clearing dishes after meal time or putting shoes away (instead of strewn all over the floor)? Create a visual chart that shows progress toward a goal. We typically see charts like this for potty training-- every time the child uses the toilet they get a star, and after they get so many stars they get a prize. This works for ALL of us, no matter the age! Just switch out the skill, switch out the indicator, switch out the reward. You know those fundraising thermometers that show how much money has been raised? Exact same thing. Kids are motivated when they can see progress and know they're getting closer to the goal.
4. Practice emotional regulation. Have you ever been anxious and felt like you just needed to shake it out? That is an emotional regulation skill in action! It's also a great strategy for kids who are physical by nature (see point 2 above). The best thing we can do to teach our kids emotional regulation is to model it ourselves. This means 1) narrating our own feelings and 2) demonstrating how we deal with our feelings. For example, if I'm feeling stressed about being late, I may say out loud to my kids, "You know, this traffic is making me feel anxious. I'm worried we might be late." Then, I'm going to model how I deal with that stress. For me, this is typically self-talk and deep breathing. I might say, "I'm going to tell myself that this isn't something I can control. We'll get there when we get there. I'm going to take 4 deep breaths-- would you like to take some deep breaths with me?" It is imperative that our kids see us struggle and see how we react to big feelings. This is how THEY learn how to deal with big feelings!
If none of these examples feel right to you, another way to incorporate Whole-Brain Teaching is to think through the following questions:
How can I make this skill/learning opportunity more well rounded? How can I incorporate more than one learning style or type of intelligence? How can I use more than one of the five senses here?
These questions will guide how to extend and expand your interaction with your kid(s) so that they're getting the benefit of both sides of their brains interacting at the same time!
Do you have any experience with Whole-Brain Teaching? We'd love to hear about it! Share your thoughts over on the IEP Guru Facebook page!