Whole Brain Teaching: The Revolutionary Approach to Engage All Students


Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) is a comprehensive approach to instruction and classroom management that seeks to engage students in learning and foster positive behaviors. It incorporates various learning and teaching styles to activate all areas of the brain, thus enhancing memory retention, improving student attention, and making learning an interactive, enjoyable process. WBT seeks to answer the question What is the Purpose of Education?, by providing an all-rounded educational experience that encourages active participation and promotes critical thinking skills.

History of Whole Brain Teaching

Whole Brain Teaching was developed by Chris Biffle, a college professor, along with elementary school teachers Chris Rekstad and Jay Vanderfin, in the late 1990s. The trio sought to create a system that would address the diverse needs of students and foster active engagement in the classroom. Initially referred to as “Power Teaching,” the methodology eventually evolved into what is now known as Whole Brain Teaching. The approach quickly gained popularity due to its effectiveness and has since been implemented in countless classrooms worldwide. This evolution of teaching strategy mirrors a larger trend within the field of education, similar to other Historic Discoveries that Revolutionized Science Education.

Understanding Whole Brain Teaching

Whole Brain Teaching operates on the principle that effective learning engages all parts of the brain. It incorporates gestures, movement, and vocalizations to stimulate both the logical and creative hemispheres of the brain. At its core, WBT is centered on the idea of active engagement. Students are not just passive recipients of information but are actively involved in their learning process. It emphasizes student-teacher and student-student interactions, where students are often tasked to teach each other, encouraging a deeper understanding of the material. Its principles align closely with Multi-sensory Learning Techniques: Engaging More Senses for Better Understanding, as it seeks to engage multiple senses to facilitate learning. Through this innovative and holistic teaching strategy, Whole Brain Teaching not only enhances academic performance but also develops social, emotional, and communication skills.

Components of Whole Brain Teaching

Whole Brain Teaching is characterized by several core components, each playing a crucial role in fostering an engaging and efficient learning environment.


This component serves as the fundamental attention-getter in the classroom. The teacher says, “Class,” and the students respond, “Yes.” This call-and-response technique ensures that the teacher has the students’ full attention before imparting any instructions or information.

The Scoreboard

The Scoreboard is a tool for managing classroom behavior. It’s a simple chart divided into two sections: “smiley” and “frowny.” The teacher awards points to either side based on the students’ behavior. If the class follows the rules, they earn a smiley point. If not, they get a frowny point. The goal is to motivate students to earn more smiley points by adhering to classroom rules and exhibiting positive behaviors.


This is a cooperative learning technique where students are involved in teaching each other. The teacher delivers a chunk of information and then instructs the students to turn to their partners and say, “Teach!” followed by “Okay!” The students then take turns to explain and discuss the new information, reinforcing their understanding in the process.

The Five Classroom Rules

These are the basic rules that govern behavior in the classroom. They include listening when your teacher is talking, following directions quickly, respecting others, and keeping your dear teacher happy.

Hands and Eyes

This technique is used to focus student attention. When the teacher says, “Hands and Eyes,” students respond by putting their hands in their laps and focusing their eyes on the teacher, indicating they are ready to receive instruction.

Advantages of Whole Brain Teaching

Whole Brain Teaching offers numerous benefits that contribute to an enriching learning environment.

  • Enhanced Student Engagement: WBT techniques encourage active participation, keeping students engaged and attentive.
  • Promotion of Active Learning: The Teach-Okay component promotes peer teaching and learning, deepening comprehension and retention of information.
  • Development of Social-Emotional Skills: The cooperative learning aspect of WBT enhances social interaction and emotional intelligence.
  • Encouragement of Creativity and Critical Thinking: By involving all parts of the brain, WBT promotes creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

Evidence for Whole Brain Teaching Effectiveness

The effectiveness of Whole Brain Teaching is supported by numerous academic studies and anecdotal evidence from educators. Research suggests that WBT significantly improves student engagement, attention span, and academic performance. Teachers who implement WBT report increased classroom participation, improved student behavior, and higher achievement levels. These findings underline the effectiveness of WBT as a tool for enhancing the overall quality of education, transforming the traditional classroom into a dynamic, interactive, and productive learning environment.

Criticisms and Limitations of Whole Brain Teaching

Despite the many benefits associated with Whole Brain Teaching, some criticisms and limitations need to be considered.

  • Potential Overstimulation: The constant activity and engagement required by WBT could potentially overstimulate some students, making it difficult for them to focus on learning.
  • Need for Extensive Training: Effective implementation of WBT requires extensive training for educators to fully understand and appropriately apply the techniques.
  • Applicability across Age Groups and Subjects: Critics have questioned the suitability of WBT techniques for older students or certain subjects that require more independent and analytical thinking.

Whole Brain Teaching in Practice

Classroom Setup and Environment

To facilitate Whole Brain Teaching, the classroom environment must be conducive to active learning. This involves flexible seating arrangements to promote group activities and the prominent display of teaching aids such as the Scoreboard.

Lesson Planning and Execution

Teachers need to integrate WBT techniques into lesson plans effectively. This might involve using Teach-Okay for introducing new concepts or using Class-Yes to refocus students’ attention during transitions.

Teacher Preparation and Training

Implementing Whole Brain Teaching requires more than just understanding the basic techniques. Teachers need to undergo proper training to ensure they can adapt the method to different classroom situations and student needs.


Whole Brain Teaching represents a revolutionary approach to education. By engaging all parts of the brain, it promotes active learning, boosts student engagement, and fosters a positive classroom environment. Despite some criticisms and limitations, the potential benefits of this teaching strategy are considerable. With proper training and thoughtful application, Whole Brain Teaching can be a powerful tool for enhancing student learning and success.


  1. What is the Purpose of Education?
  2. Historic Discoveries that Revolutionized Science Education
  3. Multi-sensory Learning Techniques: Engaging More Senses for Better Understanding

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