Saturday, January 8, 2011

When the Bloom is Off the Rose

One of the many problems with reward systems is that they don't work over the long haul. As time goes on, kids get bored with the rewards they've already gotten and will require more as the price for their continued compliance. Of course, by that time they've forgotten what it feels like to be genuinely interested in learning.

Here's a post from "Newbie teaching in Gilroy, CA" from the Whole Brain Teaching website:

I already had knowledge of the basic scoreboard strategy. At the beginning of the year my students LOVED it and I saw student engagement soar. But right around November their interest/motivation seemed to plummet...

And a comment from another Whole Brain teacher:

Students are having a variety of reactions to my apparent change in personality. Some are lapping up all the sap I've been offering ... Some look exhausted from time-to-time. Even those tired looking students are easily re engaged with reminders to gesture or with a brief class rehearsal of expected behavior. I'm hoping this isn't just a honeymoon.

I can see that some kids might find WBT to be a novelty at first, and perhaps a welcome chance to move around and make a little noise during the school day. But can you imagine going to a WBT school, and looking at that damn scoreboard with the smilies and the frownies, and reciting those same stupid rules ("Keep your dear teacher happy!") for the 5th consecutive year? They'll have to put Prozac in the drinking water so the kids can cope.

If you read around on the WBT page, you find a lot of discussion of cute ways to change up the scoreboard, clearly a response to the basic tedium of the system. It's a glimpse of the trivial minds that get attracted to this stuff:

I've tried to make scoreboard parties a little more exciting for the students by changing them for the season. In October, we had "Spooky" / "Boohoo" and I even changed the frown face to one of a ghost. I'm looking for some November ideas. I have a new frownie of an Indian so I was thinking of something Thanksgiving related. I had thought about Gobble Gobble, but I'd like to have one for both and - any thoughts?

If you're not busy banging your head on the keyboard by now, let's look at one more comment:

I have begun making gestures for reading comprehension. ... Enjoy

This is followed by helpful pdf files containing gems like these:

Question: What are Text to Self Connections?
Answer: Connection that you make about yourself to a text.
Gesture: hold hands out like a book, point pointer fingers together then point to yourself.

Yeah, there's a definition I want my kid to memorize. How did people manage to comprehend reading before "text-to-self" was invented?


  1. PsychMom being totally flippant...

    If my child was in a class like that I know a couple of gestures that I'd probably want to teach her.

    Some nickels are starting to drop for daughter has hated French in our school since Kindergarten. She loves everything else. The teacher of French uses something akin to whole brain, in that she uses a type of sign language (maybe it's gestures)to go along with speaking French. It requires the kids to watch her as well as's a an actual method, used to teach French. I'll have to google it again. But maybe it's the method that is driving my child nuts.

  2. PsychMom, I think it might be the AIM method of second language teaching that you're referring to. (It stands for Accelerative Integrated Methodology.) It's used in a lot of the private schools here in Ontario, but not much in the public schools (to my knowledge). I've never understood why people consider it a good way to learn a second language, since to me it just complicates the process by forcing kids in effect to learn a third (sign) language at the same time. I don't think it has the ideological overtones of WBT, but I can see how it might be just as tedious and annoying for students. Anyway, Here's the link to the AIM website.

  3. Suburban Chicken FarmerJanuary 9, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Kids, the lesson for the day is; Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
    Deb Weigel of Desert View Charter School, Yuma Arizona and Biffle devotee, teaches first graders everything she knows about the human brain in the latest Whole Brain ad. Too bad all she knows she learned from Whole Brain Teachers.

  4. The students do get bored of it quickly; some don't care for it even in the beginning but they're truly powerless.

    I mean these kids must recite "lines, lines, lines, seats seats seats, papers, papers, papers," the rules and more all day, every day.
    Christ, when I was a kid, they wouldn't have dreamed of treating even the developmentally disadvantaged kids in my school with such contempt for their autonomy, as Whole Brain Teachers treat all children.

  5. I'll provide a true link:

    1st Grader Leads Lesson on Brain Structure!

    You know, if this is what passes for "content", I'll take the fuzzy progressives. What is the point in making kids memorize a bunch of inaccurate factoids about brain structure?

    Watching the kids, I'm not at all convinced that anyone but the "student leader" had even memorized the lines correctly.

  6. The Whole Brain system is so ridiculous. Intelligent teachers wouldn't fall for it. I've already explained to my daughter what bribery and extrinsic rewards systems are and she can spot a hokey reward system at 50 yards. These "educators" make me sick to my stomach.