September 15, 2012

WBT: Getting Started with Mirror, Gestures, and Bubble

Why, has been almost a week since my last post.

Seriously people, how are you teaching and blogging!?  I come home during the week and crash.  I'm lucky if real food even makes it into my mouth for dinner.  I'm honestly in awe of all the bloggers out there that are teaching and posting regularly. AND...many of you are parents too.  Good grief... y'all are amazing and I completely salute you! Also, I would LOVE to know your secret.  :)

Today, I wanted to offer some advice for kicking off Whole Brain Teaching in your classroom.  I posted about Oral Writing several weeks ago and had several readers post questions about getting started.  One of the best things about WBT is that you can completely personalize it and make it work for you and your classroom.

I started using WBT at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012.  Click here to read my first post and see a great overview video. I'm by no means an expert but I have learned a few things along the way. I discovered the videos on YouTube and started using a few key strategies right away.
I actually started a little bit out of order.   I started with techniques that I found appealing and knew would be highly engaging to my students. This was a great place to start.

The first few things I taught them were mirror, gestures, and bubble.

I was not very technical when I started using this, I just threw it into my science lesson one day. Sometimes I think hopping into things is the best way to get started.  Mirror is very simple. Basically, your students mirror you. Now, normally mirrors don't talk, but in our classroom, mirrors do.  In fact, we talk a lot.

Here is an example of how I use Mirror in my class:

Teacher: Mirror on! (I always hold my hands up, so the stuents immediatly have a gesture to copy.)
Students: Mirror on! (Students copy exactly what you are doing. )

Teacher: An array... (use fingers to make a rectangle in the air.)
Students: An array... (copy gesture)

Teacher: a representation of multiplication (make a big X across your chest.)
Students: a representation of multiplication (copy gesture)

Teacher: An array... (use fingers to make a rectangle in the air.)
Students: An array... (copy gesture)

Teacher: made of columns (hold arms vertically) and rows (hold arms horizontally)
Students: made of columns and rows (copy gestures)

You get the idea. I continue talking slowly and purposfully while using gestures to explain. The bigger the gestures the better and changing voices to emphasize words is fun too. When I'm ready to turn mirror off, I just say "Mirror Off!"and make a safe sign with my hands indicating that we are finished.  Students repeat words and gestures. 

It is so much fun!  Plus, you have 4 parts of brain going: seeing (visual cortex), saying (Broca’s area), hearing (auditory cortex) and doing (motor cortex). 


If I only want students to copy my movement while I am teaching, I say gestures.  This is basically silent mirror and works well too.  I like to go back and forth between the two strategies. Once they understand mirror, gestures is a natural follow-up.  Although, sometimes they still try to talk.  Hehe.


This is actually a strategy I picked up while watching a video of a fabulous first grade teacher using WBT.  I love this because it helps kids give everyone more think time.  Again, this is very simple. 

Start by asking a question to the class.  It can be a true or false question or a computational question like 5x5? After asking the quesiton, instruct students to "blow the answer into your bubble."

Students hold up a fist to their mouth and blow their answer into their hand.  If some kids still need more time, delay the release of the bubble. Tell students to release.  Students will then hold up their arm over their head, open up their fist, and answer the question aloud.

This is a great to use if you have students that love to blurt out. It is also a great way to informally assess student understanding.  If you hear a variety of answers, you know not everyone is on board.  Students don't have time to look around and see what everyone else is going to say, they have to think for themselves and yelling out all at once feels safe.

Here is the video I first saw showcasing Class-Yes, Mirror, and Bubble.

Once my students and myself had these things down pat, I started adding on. I found it was easier for me to start adding things to my plate gradually.  These three techniques were easy to weave it into my daily routine pretty flawlessly even though I wasn't doing all the WBT stuff.

WBT absolutely saved me last year.  My class was full of kiddos with ADHD.  Now, I know what you are all thinking...everyone's class is full of kids with ADHD.  But, honestly, my room buzzed.  My room bounced.  My room could have powered the school if we could have channeled their energy correctly.

WBT worked wonders.  Using these teaching strategies my class became an even more interactive place to be. My kids loved mirroring me and for my students that were severely ADHD is gave them a chance to move all the time.  I noticed that some of them started gesturing me even if I didn't ask. They just watched me and followed me.  Before I had been fighting to get there attention! It was a complete 180.

This year my class does not buzz like it did last year.  I could survive without using WBT techniques, but I don't want to.  The benefits of using these strategies are priceless.  I highly recommend incorporating these strategies into your daily classroom routines.  I promise you, your kids will not be disappointed and you will be amazed at the level of engagement.

I hope you are able to take one or two or even all three of these strategies and try them out in the next few weeks.  I'd love to hear how it goes. Please come back and let me know what you and your students think


  1. I have been reading about wbt, but I want to learn more! I can't wait to check out the videos. Thanks for sharing. I'd also love for you to visit my blog and link up with my Fun Friday linky. It is all about the fun things we do in our classroom all week long.

    Teaching Fourth

    1. Hey Kelly! The videos for WBT are really helpful. I like seeing how every teacher takes the idea and makes it their own. It is definitely not a prescriptive program. I would love to join up with Fun Friday soon. Thanks for the invite.

  2. Due to your WBT posts all summer I have become extremely interested in the strategies. I have started doing some of the strategies. My super improver board is set up and I will start using it next week. I have also used mirror a couple of times. I definitely need to use it more. Thanks for sharing!


    1. I am so impressed that you already have your super improver board up. I haven't gotten there yet. Go you! I hope you are able to get mirror in the mix a bit more often now. It is one of my students favorites.

  3. Your post and that video were the push I needed to incorporate teach okay and gestures consistently in my class. I love the bubble idea too because this year I have a couple students that love to shout out answers. Thanks for the information.

    1. Hi Lauren! That's awesome. I love Teach-Ok too. It is one of my favorites and it is a another great way to informally assess student understanding. If they are really quiet when you tell them to turn and talk, obviously, they are a little lost. If they are loud and eager, they are understanding. Please let me know how it works in your class. Good luck!

  4. I am in awe at those bloggers to teach, parent, and blog all the time! LOL!

    I really need to look more into WBT!

  5. Oh my heck! I am trying this tomorrow!! I was just saying, "What the heck am I going to do with all these talkers?" Now I know. Keep them moving and talking. YES!!!

    Thanks for reposting this so that it caught my eye when I needed it most.

  6. I have heard so much about WBT and how wonderful it is. I really loved that video! How engaging!! I am a new follower and will definitely keep checking to see updates on WBT on your blog! Thanks for sharing!

    BTW - I saw your post on Rowdy in Room 300's giveaway! I am also hosting a laminator giveaway on my blog! Double up your chances! :) Come check it out if you get the chance!! :)

    Sensational Seconds


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