M4U3A2 – Creating High-Performance Learning Environments


In this entry, I will be evaluating three different videos showcasing different teaching methods. I will be evaluating the methods based on academic expectations, behavior expectations, and norms and procedures. I will also address how I set high-performance expectations for my own students.

The first video features a roller coaster physics lesson for grades 5-8. From the outset, it seemed clear that the academic expectations are very high for this class. The students had a daunting design challenge to tackle: make a roller coaster with the longest ride while keeping the marble on the track. The students were put into groups and would choose a daily “chimer” to speak for them. The emphasis on collaboration was great, but the expectations went even higher with the requirement of individual sketches that would have to be “sold” to the group. The group would then come up with a consensus for their roller coaster design. There was a lot of emphasis on “systems thinking” and a high level of academic rigor.

In addition to high academic expectations, the behavior expectations were quite high as well. The students had to work in highly demanding group settings, so not doing your part would be readily apparent. The teacher worked many constraints into the project, including a budget, so students had to work well together and explain their choices to the teacher. The class was also able to run computer simulations of their designs, so the students had to logically assess their shortcomings and devise solutions. Another factor was how the students were able to choose which jobs they would have on their teams. This is a great idea and something I want to integrate into my classes whenever possible. The teacher’s norms and procedures promoting high academic and behavior standards were clearly already in place. The teacher acted as the facilitator and left a lot of the responsibility for success with the students.

The 2nd video showed a 3rd-grade Chinese math class. The class had reasonably high academic standards because students were expected to quickly solve math problems. These math problems seemed quite challenging for their age. The teacher used lots of signal phrases and chants to efficiently keep her class on task and focused. The students had also seemed to master an efficient counting system using either their hands, spoken numbers, or both. The only drawback was a lack of individual attention, especially for students seated in the back. The behavior standards were also high but not perfect, as students were allowed to be noisy and occasionally drift off if the class as a whole (or near whole) could solve the math problems. The teacher’s norms and procedures were centered around a rapid-fire, call and response type class. This appears to be a great strategy for young students, as it hardly gives them time to get bored or disruptive. The teacher can follow up by checking individual comprehension after the group lesson.

The last video featured “whole brain teaching.” In the video, the teacher demonstrated a high-energy, call and response type method. The teacher kept his students on excellent behavior by using signal phrases with lots of expressive hand motions mixed in. The academic expectations were also very high because the students had to teach their neighbors quite often. I liked how the class was very segmented and the teacher offered plenty of opportunities for reflection and learning by teaching. The biggest downside seemed to be the sheer amount of time one would have to put into all the hand motions and signal phrases. I don’t really see how a class without much scheduling leeway could pull it off.

Setting high-performance expectations among my students:

After researching whole brain teaching more, I found another useful strategy in lesson plan “power cards.” These cards divide the lesson into easily manageable chunks, with plenty of chances for students to teach each other and really reinforce the key points of the lesson. They’re something I’m going to look into more and consider experimenting with. I recognize and value signal phrases and keeping my classes’ attention, so I’d like to be able to learn the skills shown in videos two and three. While I may not have the chance to do an experiment like the one shown in video one, I loved how responsible the students were and how expertly the teacher acted as a facilitator. That’s something I strive for, but I run up against a lot of obstacles in the Korean education system since it’s more traditionally focused on teachers leading, students meekly absorbing knowledge. I teach 2nd, 4th, and 6th grade EFL, so the most immediately useful parts of these videos are the efficient management techniques shown in videos two and three.


Biffle, C. (Director). (2017, February 1). Whole Brain Teaching: Intro to Lesson Plan Power Cards [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqRK68zMNGg

Biffle, C. (Director). (2010, February 12). How to Begin Whole Brain Teaching [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJw9mzCtWbk

Chen, C. (Director). (2011, June 13). 3rd grade Chinese–math class [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7LseF6Db5g

Teaching Channel (Director). (n.d.). Roller Coaster Physics: STEM In Action [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teaching-stem-strategies

Wei, K. (2014, March 25). Explainer: what makes Chinese maths lessons so good? Retrieved March 6, 2017, from http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-makes-chinese-maths-lessons-so-good-24380




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