Be prepared for something different when you step into Ryan Biamonte’s fifth grade classroom. Students are not sitting quietly at their desks completing worksheets or taking notes while their teacher lectures. Instead, they will probably be active, laughing and most important—engaged.
Mr. Biamonte’s classroom is built around something called “Whole Brain Teaching.”
In a letter he shared with his students’ parents, he explained that Whole Brain Teaching is built on research that says when kids use all areas of the brain, they remain engaged and retain much more information than the standard lecture-discussion model.
The basic idea behind Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) is that students need to actively participate (be engaged) in class.
Students learn through a blend of seeing, hearing and doing. Individual students may be stronger in one learning style than another, but the truth is that all students use all some measure of each. A lesson that includes all methods reaches all students, not just those who may be good note takers or can remember what is written on a blackboard.
Doing also means leading. Students often lead a lesson. As a leader, a student must understand the material, meaning he or she will learn and prepare for that time in front of the class.
Leading does not mean teaching new material; that is still Mr. Biamonte’s role. He delivers information to students in short “chunks.” Kids then teach what they have just learned to their partners, using hand-gestures to help remember specific vocabulary. While students teach each other, the teacher walks around the room to discover who understands the lesson and who needs more instruction.
WBT is also designed to keep learning fun. The last thing Mr. Biamonte wants is for a student to dread his class. That is a sure sign that the student will tune out. But do not be fooled by the laughter, classes are highly disciplined and tightly organized because students have more fun following the rules, than ignoring them.
For a look at WBT in action, check out this video from Mr. Biamonte’s class going over classroom rules.