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WBT Culture established the FIRST WEEK!

So this Friday concluded my first FULL week with my 9th graders, and it has been my most successful startup week yet (in my albeit short teaching career of going-on-three-years!). The kids DID laugh and giggle when I first introduced the Rules/ScoreBoard and Class/Yes....and still do sometimes if I use a silly voice for Class/Yes). But by now WBT really just feels like "the way we do things" in my class. It doesn't feel "gimmicky" (like it does at first to all of us, I think) to me or the kids. (I have 99% go-alongs, so that helps).

For example, at one point, I was introducing new vocabulary terms - "independent" versus"dependent" variables, and THEY actually called ME on the carpet for moving on before giving them gestures ("Mrs Molnar! Aren't you forgetting something? The GESTURES?") Now THAT's classroom culture for ya'!

Also, I had a different sort of "WBT Moment" when I was treated to an impromptu visit from former students. They were sent FROM CLASS by my Chemistry colleague across the hall, because she was reviewing the Scientific Method, and her kids (my students from last year, now sophomores) were doing the gestures I had taught them to help them remember! (And she wanted to know the "official" version of my gestures!)


I began this journey last year, coming off a difficult first year of teaching, and I began using some WBT strategies last Fall. In the Spring, I continued building on those, and now, finally, after little over a year, it's beginning to feel natural. And I'm even doing a decent job of micro-lecturing (with lots of Teach-Okay's mixed in), though I could do better, I know.

My PowerPix wall is coming along nicely, like Chris Rekstad promised it would ("rolling off like a printing press," I believe was his quote), and I do review of at least a few of the words every day to start off my lesson.

Since I have relatively easy-to-manage classes, I'm trying to figure out how to move my go-alongs up to to Alphas....and what exactly class leadership should look like at the high school level...

In conclusion, I'm not quite in teacher heaven yet, but I think I'm on my way!

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The First Three Days: What I Did

We started school last Wednesday, so I have now had my classes for a full three days. On Wednesday, I introduced the Class/Yes, Rules, ScoreBoard, and Teach/OK. I also had a brain model (thanks to our Anatomy & Physiology) and gave them an overview of WHY I teach the way I do. And I squeezed a demo in for my content (Physics). (It sounds like a lot, but I have 80 minute block classes).

I also started a PowerPix wall, though I had to cover up a whiteboard to do it. But it was one I wasn't using much, so maybe I won't miss it.

Thursday I taught them Teach/OK with SWITCH and continued with content. And on Friday, I told them they could only score points on the SCOREBOARD if I got 100% participation for Teach/OK.

How it Went, or, Mrs. Molnar Finally "Gets" the Leadership "Thing"
To summarize: This has been THE SMOOTHEST startup so far. (This will be my third year of teaching, and my second with WBT). And I think it's because this year I'm implementing the class evaluation method from WBT. Even though I haven't officially "scored" myself yet (its only been 3 days), as I walk around the room, I'm focusing more, at least right now, on whether my kids are engaged, than I am on the content itself.

Although it's taken awhile to sink in, I think I finally understand what Coach B means when he says we have to "unite the class behind our leadership." I wan the the kids telling EACH OTHER to get-with-the-program so that NO ONE ends up with the extra homework...(in other words, follow MY agenda, not the troublemaker who sits next to you).

So I'm really going to focus on MY leadership first. I am slowly implementing aspects of the Model WBT Classroom, but I have some doubts about using a "super Improvers Wall" at the high school level. It seems a bit childish. And it appears linked to SuperSpeeed Math and Super1000 reading, which I don't really do in Physics....I did, however, ask my kids to write down a goal for themselves (in their own notebook) for the year (about anything) and said we would revisit it from time to time to see how they are progressing.

And, as I teach Science, I'm not sure about a Genius Laddder for writing....I'll have to give that some though. I'm thinking that, before our first writing assignment or lab, I might spend one day going over it, and my expectations for complete sentences in their writing. But, really, they should KNOW how to write paragraphs by ninth grade! (AND they get explicit instructionall year in English)

No Trouble-Makers Yet?
So, here's the suspicious thing...none of the usual cast of clowns, chatty-types, and other assorted "disruptors" have appeared yet. Could I be merely lucky? Could it be I've gotten them in order in just 3 days? (Maybe a combination?) And I'm not sure who the leaders are yet. There are the usual few in each class who raise their hands to answer every equestion, and who, in turn, aren't afraid to raise their hands to ask insightful questions. But, is this leadership potential? If so, how do I get them to influence those around them to follow their lead?

Other teachers tell me it's too early to tell, but in my (albeit limited) experience, I can usually tell in the first day or two who my problem-students will be....

Now, if I could only find a 1-minute hourglass egg-timer to help me keep from talking too much...!

How to Share your PowerPoints on the Internet for FREE!!!!

On the WBT forums, someone asked how, exactly, to create a PowerPix document. So, that got me thinking about developing my own. I'm not sure I'm ready to jump in whole hog with PowerPix this semester, but I can see they would be incredibly powerful tools for my classroom. So I"m going to take it one step at at time.

And Step 1 was to create my own PowerPix template. (I teach Science at the secondary level, so if I want PowerPix, I'm going to have to create my own that will be content-specific).

Well, it only took me about 5 minutes to create one in PowerPoint for "Physics."
But I wanted to share it with the WBT community. This, it turns out, is NOT-SO-EASY. Blogspot, along with most free website-hosting sites, doesn't allow document uploads. Neither does VERIZON, my ISP. (Apparently, there are many security issues with FTP, the way most people transfer files to these host sites).

Thus began my quest to find a place - ANY place! - that would:
a) Allow me to upload my documents AND...
b) Preserve the formatting AND...
c) Be completely FREE

Google Documents allows you to upload WORD and POWERPOINT docs (among others), but mangles the formatting in the process.

After several DAYS of searching and checking out MANY sites, I found ONE that allows people to upload their PowerPoints - WITHOUT changing the formatting! And it's FREE!

It's called SlideShare. You need a FaceBook account, or you can create your own free SlideShare account. To see my sample PowerPix slide, as well as to check out SlideShare, click on this link:

Try downloading it and let me know what you think, either here or on the WBT Forum where I also cross-posted this:


Girls on the Edge - Another Book Review

Yes, I have yet another book review. But soon I won't have time to read much (for myself), so I do try to pack them in over the summer.

This book, "Girls on the Edge," by Leonard Sax, was given to me by my brother-in-law last week, and I read it in a couple of hours. I was that absorbed. (And it's not long!)

Sax has written several best-selling books, but this was the first one I'd read by him. I was mostly curious as a parent of a 9-year-old girl, to see what he had to say about the challenges facing girls today. But I believe it is also extremely helpful for teachers, to inform our understanding of what our kids are dealing with outside of academics.

In this book, he chronicles four main factors influencing they mental and physical health of our young women today:

1) Sexual Identity - Girls trying to look older at a younger age
2) Obsessions - fixation on body, sports etc. due to a lack of strong sense of self
3) Environmental Toxins - Exposure to drug/alcohol abuse, anxiety, stress factors
4) Cyberbubble -The constant texting and messaging which causes teens/pre-teens to disengage from their true selves

As to the first topic, sexual identity, he does a TERRIFIC job of distinguishing between sexuality (a girl's growing understanding of her own body and what gives her pleasure) versus "sexualization" (performing/dressig for the pleasure of others). This articulation was EXTREMELY helpful for me as I try to navigate puberty with my daughter over the next few years. I DO want her to learn about and enjoy her own body, but WITHOUT feeling she has to perform/dress/be thin-pretty for others.....

The second topic, obsessions, helped me to see how dangerous fixating on one thing can be for teens. An obsession with FaceBook, or a sport, or an image, can become a false anchor a girl will cling to in lieu of doing the hard work of discovering her true self. Sax makes a good case that Eating Disorders, Cutting, Perfectionism, and Obsessive Athletes (to name a few) are all just symptoms of a malady of the soul - girls who cling to something outside themselves as an identity because at their centers they don't really know who they are.

The third factor, environmental toxins, was so well-documented, especially the research on BPA (bisphenol-A) that I will NEVER put my tupperware in my dishwasher EVER again! And no more plastic water bottles!!!! BPA mimics estrogen in the female body and has been implicated in early-onset of menarche, thus depriving girls of precious childhood years.... You will be shocked. Again, LOTS of great scientific studies cited on this one.

The fourth factor, the cyberbubble, ties in closely with Obsessions. For example, the data on FaceBook use was enlightening, to say the least. I had NO IDEA so many girls were spending literally HOURS maintaining their FaceBook accounts- at the expense of doing homework, and even of spending real face-time with friends. (Again, this ties into the theme of "performing for others" - all that energy devoted to maintaining a certain "image"....)

Indeed, my brother-in-law was so disturbed by the Facebook research that he has promised my niece (a rising Junior in high school) that if she stays completely off of Facebook,he'll give her a car at graduation! (A used one, but still....) After reading the book, I'm seriously considering the same....

In conclusion, as a science teacher, I was particularly impressed by Sax's use of exhaustive citations of the scientific literature. (He puts his footnotes and citations at the back of the book, and they occupy a good quarter of the total pages in the book). Whether you are a parent or a teacher of a young girl, I highly recommend this book. This is a book to be believed, and to be acted upon. (Did I mention Sax provides many practical suggestions for parents throughout the book?)

Anyway, since I am not a professional book critic, I encourage you to check out some "real" reviews on at

I've also posted a link under my "essential reading" list.


Book Review: Uncovering Student Ideas in Physical Science: 45 New Force and Motion Probes by Page Keeley

See my Recommended Reading Links for a Link to this Book at NSTA

What's In This Book: Assessments Geared for Secondary Teachers :-)

I bought this book, "Uncovering Student Ideas in Physical Science: 45 New Force and Motion Probes" last year at the NSTA National Conference in Philadelphia and dutifully put it in my bookcase and forgot it. I unearthed it the other day, while going through said bookcase during a rare fit of zealous decluttering. (Is it because I'm a teacher that books, even outdated ones, are so hard for me to let go of?)

Anyhow, Keely is well-known for her "Uncovering Student Ideas in Science" series of books, in which she deftly summarizes current research into common student misconceptions regarding key science concepts. From this review of the scientific literature, she then develops assessment probes designed to help us teachers "uncover" those ideas in our classrooms.

The problem for me, with the original series, is that the content ranged over many different scientific disciplines and seemed geared to the younger grades. There were maybe a handful of probes in each of the first three volumes that I thought might be useful to me, teaching Physics/Physical Science at the high school level. So I took a pass.

Perhaps Ms. Keely recognized that many other secondary science teachers were doing likewise. Or, perhaps she just had some great new ideas for assessments. Whatever the case, she is now developing a new series of volumes that will be discipline-specific.

The first of these is "Uncovering Student Ideas in Physical Science: Vol.1: 45 New Force and Motion Assessment Probes" which was published last year. (This year, she released one for Life Science as well)

I just now finished reading the book and I am very impressed with the Probes. They are written in the form of one-page handouts that pose a situation or problem requiring knowledge of a core scientific concept (say, the universality of gravity). Students must analyze the situation and select "best" answers (or solve the problem). Finally, she always leaves several blank lines on which students must justify their reasoning in writing.

The probes often include distractors designed to uncover common misconceptions, as determined in the research. This allows teachers to quickly hone in on EXACTLY what might be tripping up our students, and to quickly determine whether re-teaching is required (if administered post-instruction).

They can also be used pre-instruction to determine the beginning level of understanding and/or tell whether students mastered the material to previous grade level standards.

Finally, after each probe, Keely provides an Instructor's Guide that explains the specific standard/objective being taught, including detailed content explanations, suggested instruction strategies, how to adjust for higher/lower grades, and also citations to the specific research findings used to develop the Probe.

Some of the probes ARE geared for lower grades, but in this volume, the vast majority can be used for Grades 6-12.

How to Use This Book with WBT

First, as we know, WBT is a toolbox of instructional strategies/classroom management that can be used with ANY content. But may of the probes in this book would lend themselves WONDERFULLY to WBT techniques such as Teach/OK, QT, and BrainToys. Many of the probes require the kids to JUSTIFY their reasoning, which definitely invites use of "Because Clapper."

The Importance of Concepts over Math and Proportional Reasoning

Finally, Keely really hit a nail on the head with me with this one. I hadn't been able to articulate it until I read it here in this book. She points out two key problems I've noticed with my kids:

1) They can crank through formulas (well, some of them can!) without really understanding the underlying concepts AND
2) They have MAJOR problems with "proportional reasoning" (as do many adults, according to the cited research)

I can't tell you how many of my kids can use a = F/m to solve acceleration problems. But if I give them a concrete situation and ask them to tell me how the acceleration of a given object will change when I REDUCE the net force on it (assuming mass stays constant, of course), they CAN"T TELL ME.

The more I thought about it, the more I see how proportional reasoning is a theme that runs through ALL of physics. So many physical quantities (at least in Newtonian mechanics) are expressed as proportions: Here are just a few:

Pressure = Force/Area Momentum = mass x velocity Average Speed = Distance/Time
Acceleration = Force/Mass

And let's not even get into Chemistry where they need it (proportional reasoning) to understand molarity and chemical reactions.....

(OK, Ms. Keely, you've convinced me: Forget the Standards! I've decided I would feel successful as a teacher if they learned NOTHING else from me but this one thing: Proportional Reasoning!)

(Hey Mr. V (my CEO) - if you're reading this, I'm just kidding about the standards ;p)

In Conclusion
If you are a teacher of Physical Science, or any Physics class at the secondary level, I highly recommend this book. It is full of practical formative assessments that you can put to use right away in your classroom and come away with a better understanding of YOUR kids' mis-understandings. I personally intend to use many of these in my classroom this year. (Just HOW, exactly, is what I need to decide next...)

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Welcome to my Blog about Whole Brain Teaching
at the high school level.

I teach ninth-grade Physics First (conceptual Physics) in an urban, Title 1 school in Northeast Philadelphia. I will be starting my 3rd full year of teaching this Fall, and my second year with Whole Brain Teaching (WBT). I started off fairly strong last year, but fizzled toward the end (falling into old habits is easy). I am the only teacher at my school actively using WBT techniques. When I try to explain what I'm doing to others, they still look askance at me. But hopefully they'll come around..eventually!

Anyway, I've started this blog with several goals in mind:
1) To keep me accountable (to the WBT community as well as myself) to consistently using WBT in my classroom - to this end, I pledge to blog at least once a week.
(I hope to do so more frequently, but don't want to make any promises I can't keep!)
2) To share my lesson plans/ideas/experiences with other WBT teachers, especially at the high school level.
( I feel like there needs to be more WBT resources for the secondary teachers "out there", so I'll start by making some contributions of my own)

Attending the National WBT Conference in Alexandria, LA this past June defninitely re-energized me. But now it's down to the nitty-gritty of planning for next year.

Speaking of the Conference, I'm really excited about the new 5-step WBT Lesson Planner. I don't think the 5-Step Lesson Format has been published in the Downloads area yet (except as part of the Conference packages). But here's a link to a forum discussion about it:

Also, I've created my own WORD document version for my planning purposes.
Check it out under my Links (at right), or directly at

My main goal this year will be to minimize the amount of time I am talking - really nail down the "micro-lecture" format. (Keep in mind my lesson planner is for non-lab days).

This goal implies making better use of "Teach-OK" as well, which I know I need practice with.

Now, if I can just hammer out a plan for my first soon as I do, I'll post it here. I'm not sure just how detailed to make my WBT lesson plans, but since this is a new format for me, I plant to err on the side of "more is better."