Friday, 4 May 2012

ESL Students and Whole Brain Teaching

This week I have been focused on supporting one of my students who has an assistant for various reasons.  His mother wrote me a long e-mail wondering about everything that we were doing in the classroom to support his learning and requesting other concepts, strategies or resources she and her husband could work with or use with him at home.  In her e-mail she described him as an ESL student.  As I was describing to her the various ways Whole Brain Teaching helped her son with his learning in the classroom, I began to think about how WBT and ESL are connected!  ESL students are enormously supported by the techniques in Whole Brain Teaching.

ESL (English as a Second Language) students are students who speak a different language at home and therefore require additional support at school in order to reach their full learning potential in a primarily English speaking school system.  ESL students are mainly challenged by speaking, reading, and writing (

Whole Brain Teaching supports ESL students by encouraging a lot of communication between students and teacher, as well as student and student, during each lesson.  The Teach/OK! requires students to listen, repeat one another, help one another with language, etc.  Directions are given by teachers in short, succinct, usually one-word cues, that the students then repeat three times.  For example, the teacher may say, "Seats!" to which the students reply, "Seats, seats, seats!" Not only is this encouraging listening, it is providing English language practice three times!!!

Whole Brain Teaching programs such as Electronic Superspeed 100/1000 and Biffytoons support ESL learners by providing bright pictures and gestures along with sight words to helps students memorize new vocabulary.  The Crazy Professor Reading games requires students to read passages several times, ask one another questions regarding the text, and all in an entertaining manner.  This repetition and fun is excellent practice for ESL students.

The Whole Brain Teaching Genius Ladder encourages ESL students to speak orally in complete sentences while they build up their sentence complexity and eventually create their own Genius Paragraph.  Once this skill is mastered it can be translated into writing, providing added practice.

What makes Whole Brain Teaching different than other methods of support for ESL students?  Talking - WBT requires constant communication and repetition!!!!  Students not only listen, everyone is engaged and participating on a constant basis.  What could be better for an ESL student, then practicing the skill you need all the time?

When I first began teaching I remember my university professors and other teachers telling me the best thing to do for ESL learners was to sit them next to a student who loved to talk - students would pick up English in no time.  With WBT, think of all the extra talking that is encouraged throughout the day!!  Can I get an OOOOOhhhhhhh Yeahhhhh!!!!!!


  1. Oh, yeah!!!!! Great article! I can't talk enough about the effects of the Genius Ladder on my EL students this past year, orally and written! WBT methods create a secure environment for these students and other learners to "take chances" in. "It's cool!" We're a Team and we stand up for each other!!

  2. Thanks Nancy!! Love it, love it, love it!!!

  3. Apparently Roxi and I are on the same page!!

  4. I am finishing up my SEI endorsement and just had to script out an entire lesson plan for both ESL and ESS students. What did I use? WBT!! It was the perfect fit just as you described. I love how it came out and my students loved it as well.

    Think, Wonder, & Teach