Whole Brain Teaching

Picture 1The following is a guest post written by Katie Jarvis. She has been teaching art for nine years and currently teaches at Cameron Elementary in Alexandria, Virginia.

At the beginning of every year, art teacher’s everywhere make up a “rules poster” to review with students on the first day of classes. Throughout the year I would find that the students would claim to forget or not know the rules. While researching art room rules last year I came across a teacher on Youtube, Chris Biffle, a college professor who taught what he called Whole Brain Teaching.

How does it work? At the beginning of every class the students and I recite the art room rules. The rules have hand motions and each week we change the style in which we say them- squeaky voice, deep voice, sad, happy, fast, cowboy, etc. The kids love it! In fact if I try to skip over doing the rules even my 6th graders complain.

I created a video to illustrate how I teach these rules on the first day of art.  Trouble viewing video below? Click here.

KatieJarvis screenshotThere is also a scoreboard to help with classroom management. I mark “smiley faces” and  “sad faces” on the board as the class earns them (see monkeys in image on left). When the class earns a smile they get to cheer. When the class earns a sad face everyone groans.  The points are tallied at the end of each class and a gold paintbrush is awarded for more smiles than frowns, a silver paintbrush for an equal number of smiles and frowns, or no brush for more frowns than smiles. Four paintbrushes earn the class a free art day. Each silver brush is worth 1/2 a gold brush (2 silvers = 1 gold)

The most effective tool I’ve learned from Whole Brain Teaching is getting the students attention. When I say “Class” they say “Yes!” I vary the way I say class to keep them on their toes. For example if I say “Classsity, Class” they respond “Yessity, yes!”

Whole Brain Teaching involves lots of hand gestures and verbal responses from students to keep them engaged and entertained. Using WBT creates a “peaceful classroom full of orderly fun”. Students have more fun following my rules, since I switched to Whole Brain Teaching, rather than ignoring them.


  • October 1, 2009


    Oooooooh, interesting video!! I’m going to have to look into the whole brain training.

  • October 2, 2009


    This was really interesting and helpful. Pursuing an art education degree, I was unsure about how I would successfully establish rules in the classroom as a new teacher. This way makes reviewing the rules something fun to look forward to, while also helping the students to actually learn the rules. Awesome video and information! Thanks

  • October 6, 2009


    Thanks Mrs. Jarvis! I started using the WBT in my classroom this year and I love how you adapted the ‘rules’ to your art room. I’m planning on ‘stealing’ a couple of your changes to make my rules more clear. My K-3 grades need the review each time I see them and I’ve started having them lead the class in the rules. Next week, the ‘Scoreboard Game’ will begin.

  • October 10, 2009


    I tried this technique with an extremely challenging Kindergarten art class yesterday and it worked like a charm! I tied the Gold/Silver paintbrushes into the reward system that their classroom teacher uses (Gold= 5 “warm fuzzies”, Silver= 2 “warm fuzzies” that get put in a jar in the Kindergarten classroom) This way they knew that how they behaved in my room had a direct impact on their classroom reward system.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • January 11, 2010

    Beth Bachuss

    I am using this with not only K-5 students, but urban 9-12 graders – and it works! I am just starting, but already impressed with how well it works. I am blogging about using it on my Teaching Art in Alabama blog.

  • January 31, 2010

    amber Platowski

    I’ve been looking for information about Whole Brain Teaching. I have found a number of videos on you tube but have been given the website wholebrainteaching.com countless times and it seems to be no longer active. Does anyone know how to get more information about this? I’m a preservice teacher doing my final internship with 8th grade physical science. my email is amp1504@wildmail.com

  • […] out the whole brain teaching strategy described in a great guest post by art teacher Katie […]

  • June 15, 2011


    I love seeing how Whole Brain Teaching is being used in a special area class! That is so cool how you said that even the 6th graders WANT to practice the rules. Awesome!

    I posted about my WBT class rules on my blog as well: http://awholebrainteacher.blogspot.com/2011/04/class-rules.html

  • July 7, 2011


    What a great video! I have a question though – how does the paintbrush system work? Do the students bring the brush to their grade level teacher and she gives it back to the art teacher at the end of the day? Or do you just purchase a ton of paintbrushes? It seems silly, but I’m not sure how this works. I’d love to implement it in my classroom!

  • July 8, 2011

    Katie Jarvis

    I purchased a bunch of actual brushes from Home Depot. I tied a piece of ribbon on each brush. The teachers hang them outside their classroom door and return it the next time they had art. You could easily use paper cutouts and give one every time. I like having them return the actual brush so I and the classroom teacher have a reminder of how they did the previous class and can make a comment to the students about it.

  • November 28, 2011


    Love the whole brain teaching methods the teachers is modeling, however the paint brush reward system is not based on any substanial brain development models. Kids should not make the right choices for reward or prizes, we make the right choices(intrinsically) because it is the right thing to do!

  • May 6, 2013


    What a great post! I implemented the 6 rules, body movements and tally system in the art room.it works really well. I see the video is no longer available. If anyone wants to see the rules from this video written out they are on my blog http://www.k6art.com/2013/05/05/classroom-management-in-the-art-room/

  • May 30, 2013

    Art teacher

    The link to this video is dead. I am an art teacher who is just getting into WBL and would love to see this as well as hear from similar art teachers using WBL.

  • November 17, 2013

    Rhonda Gamboa

    As an elementary librarian, I was excited to see your post. Do you have a website with more WBT info? Also does your librarian or another specials teacher use WBT?

  • July 9, 2014


    Great stuff!! Love how this works. Can’t wait to try this with my children.

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