I discovered Whole Brain Teaching several years ago and one of the things that immediately got my attention was The Super Improvers’ Wall. I love it for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that every student has the opportunity to show growth and improvement. As teachers, we often focus on benchmark data and can inadvertently dismiss a child because they have not met benchmark while not realizing that they had significant growth. The Super Improvers’ Wall allows for students to set goals for themselves, track their goals, and see their growth. I do not follow the steps exactly as noted in the book, but I have the big idea. I will explain how I implement it in my classroom as well as provide you with a free download so that you too, can integrate The Super Improvers’ Wall into your instruction.
Super Improvers’ wall
Setting a Goal
The very first thing my students do, is set a goal for themselves. Any student can set a goal no matter their grade level. Primary grade students may need support in identifying a goal. The goal can be about any subject. As pictured below, this student’s goal was “to learn to take numbers apart.” At the time, we were working on the decomposition of numbers and this student was struggling with being able to use a number bond and understanding the relationship between addition and subtraction. By setting this goal, it was something that I was hyper aware of and could support the student in during intervention time or small group instruction.
The sheet pictured below is a resource/goal sheet I created for my students. My students take this sheet with them everywhere and use it constantly for reading, writing, and math. The goal portion as well as the lower portion with the phonics skills are inside the Target adhesive pockets that are found in the dollar spot. This resource sheet is free in my store, but the phonics skills sliders are a separate resource that are optional (I linked it below).
From Beginner to Genius
Students start out as beginners with their goals. The purpose is to move all the way up to Genius level. Note that each level has a different color. This will be very important because each student’s paper will be the color of the level they are on (I’ll explain more later). Because every student has a different goal, they are only competing against themselves and not anyone else.
The purpose is for them to work hard at IMPROVING and not necessarily at mastery.
Take a student that starts first grade without knowing the alphabet, for example. That student’s goal will be different than the student who is already reading fluently. If we were to set up the goal to be benchmark on a reading test, the student who is learning letters will always be behind the student who is reading and thereby be in competition with them. Whereas, if the student’s goal is to learn their letters, they will work had at learning the letters and they will see how they are improving in that area.
Our students need a sense of accomplishment. They need to know that they can work hard and see growth in themselves. Once that student learns their letters, they can then set another goal for themselves so there is always growth seeking. It is all about improvement.
I assign each student a number for confidentiality. Everyone starts as a beginner. The beginner papers have no color. All of the papers are taped on the wall as seen in the picture below (except at the beginning they will all be white). As students work towards their goal, I begin to color in stars for them. For example, one student’s goal may be to learn Fry’s first 100 words. If I spot them practicing them or I see them identifying some of the words or working towards the goal, I’ll color in a star for them. Once 3 stars are colored in, they move on to the next level which is learner. That means that they get to take their white paper home to show that they passed that level and I tape their green paper on the wall.
It is such an important visual for students to see their color changing because they know they are improving in whatever goal they have set for themselves.
There is no reward for moving up a level. The reward is intrinsic because it is the self-improvement that motivates them. After a while the wall will look like the one pictured below. There will be an assortment of colors and that’s ok because everyone has a different goal and is working at their own pace. Once someone reaches the top level, they can start over on white with a new goal. That’s why it doesn’t matter what color/level they are on in comparison to someone else because someone on white looks as though they have had no progress, but they may simply be on their 2nd or 3rd goal.
Organizing the student papers
At the beginning of the year, I print and cut out all of the numbers in all of the colors. You can either group by color or by numbers (grouping by color is easier and faster). I place them in a small container like the one pictured and I keep it close to the Super Improvers’ Wall because I can decide to color a star for a student at any point during the day. To use the same example, if a student’s goal is Fry’s first 100 words, I may only color in a star as they learn the words in increments of 5 or maybe I’ll color in stars if I see the student completing a Fry center consistently.
- Help students come up with goals but don’t give them goals without their input. Students will be much more motivated to reach goals when they’re involved in the process of choosing.
- After students come up with goals, decide together what steps they can take to work towards the goal. This will also help in deciding what actions will earn them stars.
- Emphasize on the intrinsic rewards of accomplishment. Students should know up front that there are no prize boxes involved in this process.
- Make sure students understand that it is not a competition. Someone else’s color does not mean one is beating the other.
- Encourage your students and show them you believe in them.
- Inform parents about the Super Improvers’ wall so they can also be involved at home in the work towards the goal. Parents can celebrate with their child when they bring home a color paper showing movement in the levels.
- Teach students to celebrate one another when they see that their color is changed. Color changes are often associated with things like a clip chart and can have a negative connotation. This color change is a positive one!
- Instill a growth mindset in your students. Remind them that they can do hard things.
Free Super Improvers Wall Materials and Goal Setting Sheets
I have packaged the materials pictured below as well as the goal setting/resource sheet and put them in my TPT shop for FREE. Click the picture below to find the resource. I hope that you have as much success with it as I have. Nothing like seeing students’ faces as they accomplish goals.
Note that the black and white border pictured is not included in the resource. I bought the border on Amazon.
show me your super improvers’ wall!
One of my favorite places to interact with teachers is on Instagram. Find me and let’s connect. I want to see your wall in action. Post a picture and tag me so I can share with others. I love this teaching community!