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Explore Rick's presentation tips and topics below, and inquire about booking Rick for presentations by contacting him here.


Find a note from Rick on the creative possibilities and advantages of virtual professional development opportunities here.

Find an example recording of a keynote for teachers and parents here

Quick Notes for Professional Development and Conference Organizers:

1. All presentations are updated regularly as new information and insight become available.

2. The descriptions provided below have worked with multiple groups in many different situations around the world, but they can be augmented in whatever way you find most useful. Please inquire about combining topics and/or customizing workshops, seminars, and addresses, if those listed below do not work well for you by themselves. We don’t want to waste time with content your group already knows or does not need.

3. While many of these work as 60-75-minute concurrent sessions, many also work just as well or better as 3-hour (half-day) workshops, and more than a dozen of them are well-suited for full day or multi-day seminars that offer deeper and extended content as well as small group processing time. We can also turn many of these into virtual seminars if an in-person presentation is financially prohibitive, or if the professional development is for a smaller topic and shorter period of time. Again, inquire about what would work best for your group.

4. Many of the topics below can be customized for parent and School Board presentations if you are interested in Rick presenting to one or both of those groups during the day or evening before or after a faculty presentation, or if you want to offer the parent or School Board presentation virtually.

5. Yes, it’s okay to record presentations to use “in house only,” among your building and district faculty who cannot attend the live event or for use in training in the years ahead.  


6. Remember, you can add a free, virtual, follow-up, “Question and Answer” session with Rick a month or several months after the formal presentation in which Rick answers questions that faculty and leaders have after applying the ideas and practices in the initial professional development experience.


7. Descriptions for Keynote Addresses follow the Presentation descriptions. You can move directly to those descriptions here.

Jump to topics:

Assessments & Grading

Assessments & Grading

Accurate, Ethical, and Equitable Assessment and Grading: Principles and Practicalities

Most educators want to do right by their students and their profession, but when it comes to grading practices, they sometimes succumb to complacency, faculty politics, or the very real exhaustion from today’s teaching stresses.  And with diverse students, we wonder whether or not to require all students to learn on the same timeline, in the same manner, or to demonstrate evidence of learning via the same assessment tool as classmates, or somehow it’s not considered fair. Real student futures are built or denied based on grading practices, and our professional integrity is on the line. It’s worth becoming informed and conducting candid conversations about grading reform, including its principles and practical applications. Join us for a provocative and helpful, full-day session on these very elements: We’ll look at moving from grades as transactions to grades as communication as we explore the assessment and grading challenges that come with grading late work, conflating grades, becoming truly evidentiary, formative vs summative assessments, descriptive feedback techniques, alternative assessments, grading students identified as needing special education services, 100- vs 4.0 grading scales, averaging vs using mode, and 0’s on the 100-point scale turned into minimum 50’s of F.  We’ll also discuss grading (or not grading) homework, group projects, classwork, and notebooks, and we’ll do a deep dive into re-learning/re-assessing, what grades actually mean, gradebooks/report card design, extra credit, valedictorian, and college admissions.  Don’t miss this chance to bust grading myths and learn more about what elements in assessment and grading lead to real learning and success for every one of our students. Designed for both classroom practitioners and school leadership, bring your most candid questions and professional curiosity: Assessment and grading reforms are no longer on the horizon; they’re here today.  


Accurate, Ethical, and Equitable Grading Practices: Guiding the Individual and Whole Faculty Shift in Thinking

Large ships are hard to turn, but there are strategies that definitely flip the rudder and maintain the new course. Let’s pull the grading camera lens back to a wider view, noting the larger context in which we operate, while also exploring  specific activities and insights needed to help individual teachers as well as the larger teaching community walk a constructive, pedagogically aligned path with modern assessment and reporting practices. In this full-day session we’ll explore the behind-the-scenes thinking, operative tenents, proven faculty experiences, and practical insights on how to walk with teachers and the larger community as they shift their thinking when it comes to grading practices. We’ll include the six critical questions to answer, using scenarios/hypotheticals, reflective coaching about grading, how to respond to grading challenges, what to do in the first years of implementation, principles of andragogy, understanding the grieving process of letting go of the familiar, finding the, “why,” of sound grading practices, clarifying “muddy” elements of grading, creating Grading Philosophy Statements, and much more. And perhaps most useful, there will be time to reflect with colleagues on how we might move forward with these ideas. This session is designed for the education leaders and individual teachers who want specific wisdom on helping colleagues update their grading practices and improve student learning as a result. 

Accurate, Ethical Assessment and Grading

Most educators want to do right by their students and their profession, but when it comes to grading practices, they sometimes succumb to complacency, faculty politics, or the very real exhaustion from today’s teaching stresses. Real student futures are built or denied based on grading practices, however, and our professional integrity is on the line. It’s worth becoming informed and conducting candid conversations about grading reform, including principles and practical applications. Consider: Are there concerns about grades becoming mere transactions between teachers and students? Has the definition of fairness been corrupted? Is there unrecognized bias in assessment and grading? Do grades reflect compliance or evidence of learning? How do we report late deadlines and teach responsibility? Are we conflating the report of one thing with the report of something else? Are assessment formats getting in the way of accurate expressions of proficiency? What about alternative assessments and grading students needing special education services? What grading scales are most effective? Are teachers truly evidentiary? What about averaging vs mode, and 0’s on the 100-point scale turned into minimum 50’s of F? Should we grade homework, group projects, classwork, and notebooks? What about re-learning/re-assessing? Do our gradebooks and report cards need re-designing? What about extra credit, valedictorian, and college admissions? What leads to real learning and success for every one of our students? Don’t miss this chance to bust myths and explore the basic principles of accurate, ethical grading, and lighting the path for student and teacher success!


Formative Assessment, Descriptive Feedback and Summative Judgment: Principles and Practicalities

Teaching is not a "gotcha" enterprise, yet many assessment approaches fall into that category. Join us for a provocative workshop in which we identify fundamental elements of formative assessment and contrast them with elements of summative judgment. Critical to students' success, descriptive feedback from formative assessment will be emphasized as well. We will look at the validity of all three, busting a few myths along the way. We will emphasize clear and consistent evidence over time, rubric design, how teachers figure out what is important to teach, giving descriptive feedback, correlating assessments to objectives and dozens of formative assessment techniques. Use these principles and watch the dramatic, positive change in students' performance within days!


Specific Focus: Descriptive Feedback Techniques - Practical, Strategic, and Vital to Success

Facilitating descriptive and actionable feedback with students as agents of their own learning is one of the surest steps we take toward students’ self-efficacy in any grade level. Analyzing where we are in relation to our academic goals, and revising one’s learning in light of that are key to student success. Join us for a provocative session in which we explore practical feedback principles and techniques, busting myths along the way, and all done in full service of effective instruction and student maturity. Here, we’re helping students become active, not passive, in monitoring their growing proficiency and building agency. In the modern era, we do not declare student learning proficiencies as of one arbitrary calendar date from on high: Instead, we coach students to do the heavy-lifting, critiquing their own work against evaluative criteria and help inform the next steps in instruction. It fundamentally changes the way we think about lesson design, assessment, and how we interact with students, and it aligns directly with what we know about how students learn. Don’t miss it!   


Re-Learning & Re-Assessing: Principles and Practical Tips

We become competent teachers by teaching a lot. We teach, receive critique, revise our efforts and teach again. Real learning that moves to long-term memory is demanding and reiterative, and we need to extend the same opportunities to our students in all fields of learning. Instead of applying uniform, arbitrarily sequenced, and unresponsive instruction, we can build proficiency with repeated, revised and meaningful engagement with content. Join us for a 3-P’s session: principled, provocative, and practical, in which we explore the pedagogical ethics and logistics for students re-learning content when not learned properly, and then being re-assessed on that new learning for full credit, and in such a way as to increase student maturation and achievement over that which could be achieved with "No re-do's allowed" policies. Real competence, not incompetence, is the best preparation for the next grade level, work and life. Indeed, every single profession demands reiteration for its dedicated, competent members. Let's not abdicate our adult roles in students' learning—let's build and maintain a constructive approach to re-learning and re-assessing in the modern classroom!


Becoming Evidentiary: Evidence, Proficiency Scales, and Rubric Design

Proficiency Scales and Rubrics are not used to simply justify the grade tabulation at learning’s end. Most importantly, they are tools for students to self-monitor and own their learning. To be useful, however, teachers have to be clear-minded about evidence for excellence in what students are learning, inviting colleagues – and students – to build that understanding and compass for learning. And hey, how do we calibrate those expectations with subject-like colleagues, and how do we know our assessments really report accurate, helpful data about student proficiencies? Join us for a compelling and helpful session on specific do’s and don’t’s of proficiency scales, rubric design, and becoming truly evidentiary in our assessments and interactions with students.   


Rubric Design in Any Subject

It's not easy to design an effective rubric, but it gets easier with practical advice from veteran teachers, and they are often more accurate than percentage grades. With some rubrics, students learn a lot, but somehow their performance against the rubric does not reflect it, and with others, students learn little, but they smell like a rose on the rubric. Many rubrics can limit the next generation of thinkers, too, but judge them on the current generation's perception of excellence. In any subject, then, how do we design rubrics that provide accurate feedback, but also keep students advancing beyond their current teachers' sense of mastery? This workshop answers these questions while examining the differences between holistic and analytical rubrics, the practical do's and don'ts of rubric design, how to work smarter not harder with rubrics, the importance of professional conversation as we generate rubrics, and a rubric's advantages over other assessment and reporting tools. Don't miss this insightful workshop to launch and maintain rubrics in your classroom practice!


Moving to Smaller Grading Scales: Limitations of the 100.0 Scale, Advantages with Smaller Scales, and Yes, ‘Addressing Concerns Over 0’s Turned into Minimum-F 50’s

Just because the math is easy doesn’t mean it’s pedagogically correct or aligned with our ethical practices. In addition, the difference between an 89 and a 90 in a student’s score can be the difference between acceptance or denial into advanced coursework, thereby affecting student futures significantly, yet there is no discernable difference in mastery to this level of precision: It’s in the statistical margin of error for most classes – but so many of us there’s a difference that justifies this rigid sorting of students based on such a fragile premise? We’re better than this as a profession! Join us for a provocative and practical look at the limitations of the 100.0 grading scale and the advantages of smaller scales with which teachers can calibrate evidence and communicate levels of proficiency clearly and consistently. We’ll include a look at interval science, central tendencies, truly becoming evidentiary in assessment, which scale leads to students getting the most effective teacher responses to their learning needs, subjectivity/objectivity, and yes, one of the biggest challenges for educators and the public at large: Why a minimum F grade of 50 is actually far more accurate, does not lead to grade inflation, is more demanding of students than is keeping 0’s on the 100-point scale, and is a far more ethical a choice. Wow, don’t miss this session!  


Equity in Grading (Alternative Title: Grading in Diverse Classrooms)

Very real student futures can be changed based on one percentage point in students’ grades, so we need to get this right - ethically, accurately, and equitably. Equity in grading can be tricky, however, as we wonder whether or not to require all students to learn on the same timeline, in the same manner, or to demonstrate evidence of learning via the same assessment tool as classmates. Some teachers lament, “But differentiating grading wouldn’t be fair,” revealing deeply flawed understandings of fairness. No one wants to, “water things down,” either, nor do we want to falsify grades, create anxiety/depression in students, or keep a kid from achieving because of an antiquated practice. We want to teach so that all students learn the intended material and are successful. Gosh, though, so many school procedures lock us into a one-size-fits-all sequence of learning. What’s the professional response here? Join us for a provocative and candid look at grading practices for diverse and not-so-diverse classrooms, including how we grade students identified for special needs services in the general education classroom. Our session will focus on the most helpful principles and practices that constructively address some of the most controversial elements when assessing and grading students who learn differently, reflecting modern pedagogical ethics and professionalism and aligning with modern assessment and grading thinking. Come, and get a lot of your most candid questions answered! 


Equity in Grading for Administrators

Very real student futures can be changed based on one percentage point in students’ grades, so we need to get this right - ethically, accurately, and equitably. Equity in grading can be tricky, however, as we wonder whether or not to require all students to learn on the same timeline, in the same manner, or to demonstrate evidence of learning via the same assessment tool as classmates. Some teachers lament, “But differentiating assessment and grading wouldn’t be fair,” revealing deeply flawed understandings of fairness.  No one wants to “water things down,” either, nor do we want to falsify grades, create anxiety/depression in students, or keep a kid from achieving because of an antiquated practice. We want to teach so that all students learn the intended material and are successful, but gosh, so many school procedures lock us into a one-size-fits-all sequence of learning. What’s the professional response here? Join us for a provocative and candid look at grading practices for diverse classrooms. Our session will focus on the most helpful principles and practices that constructively address some of the most controversial elements when assessing and grading students who learn differently. We’ll make sure that our responses to these situations reflect modern pedagogical ethics and professionalism, align with modern assessment and grading thinking, and lead to the most effective student learning. This session is offers the behind-the-scenes thinking for principals, assistant principals, administrators, Boards of Directors, instructional coaches, Superintendents, Deans, and other teacher leaders who want to get up to speed on the latest thinking on grading equity – and the insights and practices needed to lead the way.   

Education Leadership

Education Leadership and Professionalism

Leadership for Teacher Engagement and Cultural Shift in Schools

Large ships are hard to turn, but there are strategies that definitely flip the rudder and maintain the new course. Want your school to move toward differentiated practices? Accurate, ethical grading? Block-scheduling? A new literacy or math program? Should we get rid of cell phones in the classroom? Think of the exciting new directions your school could pursue if only your staff shared your excitement! Unfortunately, new building and district initiatives can be dead on arrival if teachers are cynical, fearful overworked, or suffering from low morale. Based on work with NASSP, ASCD affiliates, and in hundreds of school systems in the U.S. and around the world, this candid and compelling workshop provides new insights and dozens of practical strategies for leaders facilitating a shift in school culture regarding new initiatives and changes in policy and practice, even if educators are hesitant or going into it "kicking and screaming." Join us for a candid and inspiring look at how to get an entire faculty to set sail for the new horizon ahead.

Note: This session for leadership can be focused for specific cultural shifts the school is seeking, such as ethical grading, teacher professionalism, building tenacity, differentiated instruction, and social-emotional learning.


Principles First, Strategies Second: Minimizing our Hypocrisies

Effective teachers are principled first, strategic second. This requires pulling the camera lens back to a wider view, noting the larger context in which we operate, identifying the teaching/learning principles are in play. True expertise takes practice, reflection and strategic discernment. Without these processes, it is easy to blame the strategy or our students when something does not work, or to assume a new strategy will work with all students because it worked with a subset of them. Today's professional educator examines the underlying principles at any moment in classroom instruction, then gathers informed strategies to make an effective response. A child is not cooperating in a small group or a lesson is not working? What is really going on, and what can we do about it? What conventional practices are thrown out the window for a teacher who believes all students can learn but maybe at different paces, that parroting information does not demonstrate mastery, or fair isn’t always equal? What do we change if we believe that teachers are no longer the arbiter of knowledge for students, or that "carrot and stick" motivation programs don’t work, or that schools should drop averaging? And how do we make our principled beliefs actionable? Join us for a candid and provocative seminar in which we identify operating tenets and non-negotiable principles in our teaching philosophy, then figure out what they mean for classroom practice, if we were not hypocrites. Our goal is to raise the integrity between teaching beliefs and classroom decisions. As transformative as it is practical, this is not the professional development to skip. Join for a revealing look at the behind-the-scenes thinking of highly effective classrooms and schools.


Reflective Coaching: Insights and Practicalities on Helping Colleagues in their Professional Growth

When we critique and provide feedback to colleagues in such a manner that raises their defensive walls for self-preservation, there is little to be gained. The question, then, is how we turn such interactions with one another into supportive, analytical experiences that create thoughtful insights within the teacher instead of a sermon or a fight to justify one's actions. Let's empower our colleagues and leadership by building the skills for thoughtful coaching into our daily repertoire. The ultimate goal here is our self-efficacy: We can self-monitor/analyze/reflect, revise practices based on those reflections, grow professionally, and ultimately, improve student learning in our classrooms. And even better, we can use those skills to build that self-efficacy in our students—yes, they translate! Students having thoughtful, coaching, teachers and teachers with coaching colleagues are like all of us having an additional editor/muse/facilitator/encourager on board, an Obi-Wan Kenobi to our Padawan selves. This session provides dozens of practical tips for successful coaching interactions, and even more question/prompt stems to get teachers and students talking and analyzing, creating their own insights without feeling threatened. With reflective coaching, we learn to honor what the other person brings to the table and how to facilitate their discoveries rather than telegraph our judgments. In this, we take deeper dives into practice and develop tools of respectful discourse. Don't miss this chance to improve your practice and help colleagues and students do the same.


Building Teacher Capacity for Creativity

​Some teachers give up. The student doesn't do any homework, and there is no parent support. I can't teach this child! Translated, this teacher is declaring, "I've exhausted my imagination, and I need a new catalyst." Unfortunately, teachers often get survival-mode tunnel vision, and they do not recognize the positive solutions that surround them. Some teacher preparation programs do not teach their graduates how to think divergently about instruction, solve problems or build intellectual versatility. In addition, teachers are often told what, when and how to teach, and all professional creativity atrophies. Effective teachers, however, learn how to build their own creativity and generate diverse responses to students and their instruction, and students achieve as a result. Join us for a workshop that shows us how to build teachers' personal/professional creativity and emancipate instructional ideas tethered by conventional thinking. Instructional challenges are resolved, students achieve and teachers are more engaged in classroom practice as a result. 'Special cameo appearances by innovation, divergent thinking, connective synergy, improvisation and assorted strangeness.


Get Published: How to Write and Publish Education Articles and Books

Believe it: Editors are looking for you! There are thousands of teachers, administrators and education editors across our country waiting to hear your wisdom and practical ideas. Have you been told that your strategy or viewpoint should be shared with others? Do you have ideas about teaching and learning, but you are not so sure about how to describe them in writing? Where do you start, and what can you expect on the way to publishing that first article or book? Grab a keyboard or pen and take the first steps toward meaningful contributions beyond the classroom while improving your own teaching practice at the same time. Join education columnist and awarding-winning author Rick Wormeli as he walks you through the writing/publishing process, including specific tips for translating what happens in your classroom or school into publishable material. Writing is more than a chance for extra income; it creates the opportunities to help others and shape our profession. Don't miss this opportunity to clarify your thinking, improve your professionalism and contribute to the field!


Constructive Response to Professional Failure

As highly accomplished professional educators, we seek to improve our practices every day. If we are truly progressing, however, we make mistakes along the way, and for some of us, we go through a grieving process that is surprisingly powerful. Some of us, too, are stymied by fear of embarrassment, and we can’t move on. Join us for a candid, supportive and practical look at teachers' personal/professional failures in the classroom and how to respond to those failures constructively so we bounce back stronger and more insightful than ever before.  This session helps us see the positives in teacher failure and model the perseverance and revision of thinking in light of new evidence that we hope to impart on the next generation. Bring those guilty moments from your teaching past as well as those yet to come, and learn how to handle them constructively.  

Classroom Tools

Learning/Teaching Tools and Practices

Summarization Techniques for Processing and Assessing Content Learning 

Ask students to summarize and they will volunteer to clean the classroom fish tank instead. In the modern era, however, students not only have to know facts—they must be skilled information managers as well. They must get the main idea as well as the supportive details, the principle argument as well as its evidence. Marzano (2018) and others have identified summarization as one of the nine most effective teaching strategies of all time. One of the greatest gifts we can teach students, then, is how to distill salient information, no matter what subject we teach or how it’s presented, and help all students, even those who learn differently, build a versatile agency through such tools. Even better, summarization is one of very few strategies that ensure long term retention of student learning. Join us for provocative and practical workshop in which we present dozens of updated, innovative, and easily differentiated summarization techniques for all subject areas, even those not typically associated with language arts. We’ll make the case for summarizing in every lesson, not just those lessons in which we finish a few minutes early. And just as powerful, almost all of the suggested strategies for summarization make excellent tools for both formative and summative assessments. Material for this session is based on the presenter's internationally best-selling book, ASCD's Summarization in Any Subject: 60 Innovative, Tech-Infused Strategies for Deeper Student Learning released in 2018. Don't miss it! Join us for an inspiring and practical session as we explore the power of innovative summarization!


Motivation Mosaic: Cultivating Engagement, Self-Discipline, and Efficacy in our Students

"No time for breakfast, Mom. I have to get to class on time. Today we open the box!" What is this…a Hollywood movie fantasy? No, it's from a real classroom with real students. Attitude can change a blob of sand into King Arthur's castle. Tenacity is a virtue, but the personal fortitude to stick with an arduous task takes time and experience to mature. Many students grow impatient with content not parsed into soundbites, and reading extended, logical rhetoric through each argument to its ultimate conclusion is almost unheard of. On the other hand, if the story is good, students will read books of more than 700 pages. They play online games working their way through 12 levels of difficulty for six hours, and they stay after school into the evening to practice for theater productions, get ready for sports tournaments and conduct fun science experiments for the public. Join us for a compelling session on the specific tiles to include in the strategic mosaic that helps students find the reserves to stick with projects and tasks, be they physical or intellectual. We will look at the role of dopamine, goal-setting, descriptive feedback that does not invoke ego, meaning-making, executive function, constructive responses to anxiety/depression, teacher-student relationships, agency, and more. There is no such thing as laziness; our students want to do demanding, complex learning, they want to persevere! To this, our students aspire; with this, our world was built. This generation is more than ready for what it takes to make the world their own. And what was in the box, you ask? Why, of course, it was a—Oh, darn. No more space. Join us to find out. 


Moving to Block Classes Changes Instructional Practice—Carpe Diem!

Some teachers who switch to block-length classes exclaim, "Now I get to finally finish my lectures," and we watch their students whither. Fortunately, we can do better than this—a lot better. Block-length classes allow us to incorporate effective practices otherwise unusable. We have time to teach the way we have always wanted to teach, incorporating the latest thinking in pedagogy and teaching the young adolescent mind. To be successful, we do things differently than we do in 50-minute classes, of course, so what changes? What is effective, and what is death on linoleum? Instructional models, pacing, managing intellectual, physical, social, and emotional needs, breaking learning into meaningful chunks, what to do when students are absent, and so much more: Develop a block teacher's savvy with these practical and engaging ideas for success in extended-length classes!


Meaning Making

In the old joke, "Let's eat, Dad," versus, "Let's eat Dad," we see the direct, life-saving power of commas. Prior to this moment, commas to most students were one more convention over which to trip on their way to successful sentences. With this experience, however, strategic capacity with punctuation gains currency with students, affording its masters new status; this is meaning-making. The instructional content we deliver can make all the sense in the world, but it is rarely remembered unless it has meaning; yet most teachers stop at sense-making, thinking they do not have time or strategies for students to process content meaningfully. Join us for a practical and provocative look at the multiple ways to facilitate meaning-making in students' content experience, using specific curriculum examples. This is the stuff of real mastery and achievement, whatever the curriculum. In meaningful classrooms, students are no longer parrots rewarded for repeating what the textbook or teacher declared. Instead, they have built knowledge they can use to change the world.


Metaphors & Analogies: Practical Tools for Making Meaning and Processing Content in any Subject

Approximately every third sentence we use with students uses has an embedded metaphor, but sometimes students don’t understand what we are teaching, or carry it forward in long-term memory, because they do not perceive the analogies used. Students achieve an "A-HA!" moment, though, when we use just the right comparison that works for them. Even better, students move content into long-term memory when required to defend the construction and deconstruction of instructional metaphors. From the world of cognitive linguistics, metaphors are highly effective bridges between students' developmental stages and course content, helping them recode new learning in terms of familiar reference points or analogs. Since society relies on citizens to accept unperceived yet defined patterns and relationships on a daily basis, awareness and command of metaphors in subject disciplines is one of our exciting new currencies as learners. Join us for an inspiring and practical session as we explore how to use metaphors strategically in any subject and grade level to help students improve, deepen, process, and assess content and learning. Don't miss this opportunity to open your mind's eye!


Homework in the Modern World

Practice of what has been learned outside of the school day, i.e. homework, stirs strong emotions among faculty, students, and parents around the world, but we wonder in today’s age: What’s effective? What’s ethical and doable, and what gets in the way of student success? Join us for a candid and myth-busting look at effective homework principles and practices in the modern school. We’ll explore when and when not to assign homework, the latest thinking on homework’s impact, types of homework assignments that are particularly effective, how to make practice assignments more creative and compelling to students, how to respond to assessment and grading issues regarding homework, cognitive science principles applied to how we think about homework, and much more. Tonight's assignment? Put this session on your conference agenda!


Where Do We Find the Time?

"Breaking News: In a move of desperation, teachers nationwide have finally developed a 36-hour school day so they can teach all their students, not just the easiest ones." It would be nice to have such time to maximize every child's learning, but most of us are limited to 6.5 hours a day for 36 weeks of the year, one-sixth of which is removed by testing, absences and non-teaching moments. We embrace sound pedagogy, but we lack the time to implement its best ideas. So what does a conscientious teacher do? Join us for a very practical look at how to boost time with students when the regular classroom does not meet their needs as well as where to find time to do the planning and preparation necessary to build students' learning. This session wastes no time in releasing time's constraints—don't blink, and step with me into the TARDIS!


Practical Cognitive Science Principles for the Modern Classrooms

We have learned more about the mind and brain in the last 20 years than in all of history up to this point. With overwhelming amounts of research crossing our desks each month, it is hard to keep up, especially when some of it contradicts itself. One practitioner has done the sifting and sorting, and compiled the salient recommendations for elementary and secondary school classrooms. Our students need both a basic core of knowledge and a solid set of thinking strategies. This session provides numerous tools we can give students to get them to think rigorously and compassionately about substantive content. Turn your instructional practice into one that truly reflects modern effectiveness; learn to teach with your students' minds as your greatest ally.


Physical Academia—This Joint is Jumpin'!

There is nothing in our curriculum that is so abstract that we could not "physicalize" it. Students in middle and early high school need to move every 10 to 15 minutes to relieve bone growth plate stress. So, how do we enhance instruction by providing opportunities for physical movement in subjects not usually associated with such movement? Join us for a high-energy and active workshop in which we explore ways to incorporate physical movement into academia, and academia into movement. Skydiving optional!


Sparks and Conduits for Students Thinking Critically

Students need both a basic core of knowledge and a solid set of thinking strategies. Join us as we explore multiple tools to jumpstart and continue students' critical thinking with course content. Moving beyond superficial responses, students can think deeply, divergently and logically, and they can extend ideas, justify claims and make connections, which are all highly marketable skills for 21st century citizens. Practical and far-reaching, come and think!


Program Note: Some elements in this session are used in the summarization session, do do not put both on the same conference program.


Sponges and Warm-Up Activities

Promote the stuff and avoid the fluff with learning experiences that engage students in substantive ways with your lesson's content. Easy to design, tier and implement, sponges and warm-ups have dramatic impact on student learning and lesson momentum. Sponges are inserted anywhere in a lesson in which there is a lull in the lesson's momentum such as when we distribute papers, clean up, move from one place to another or wait in line. Warm-up's can be done as "early bird" work to review material or prime the brain for new learning. Both are used to keep students accessing neural pathways, thereby growing the dendrites needed for learning. Leave no classroom moment unclaimed: Live up to the promise of education by using all the time given to us. Join us for a fun and practical workshop on using sponges and warm-ups to keep students engaged and learning!


Vocabulary Acquisition

Much of our capacity to make sense and find meaning in content, including connecting new material with prior knowledge, comes through the extent of our vocabulary and our dexterity with it. If our vocabulary is limited, however, so is our capacity to learn. Join us for a practical look at how to teach new vocabulary to today's students in engaging and effective ways. Yes, vocabulary for its own sake as well as subject-related vocabulary are both deeply valuable and teachable!


Coming to Know Through Writing

Provocative yet practical, this session opens minds to the power of writing in any subject. The best way to learn something is to teach it, and writing is teaching the reader what we know. Content-area teachers are writers and thinkers of their subjects, not just purveyors of knowledge. Workshop participants examine specific ways in which teachers can use writing to teach their subjects. The session includes special sections on paraphrasing and summarizing as well. Whether you are writing-phobic or prolific, we will explore highly effective writing practices that will increase your students' achievement.


Note to Planners: Some of this material is repeated in the summarization session. Do not put both on the same program.


Teaching Civics and Democracy: iCivics in the Classroom

Should we: Demand every citizen carry health insurance? Provide schooling for children of illegal immigrants? Teach evolution, creationism or intelligent design? Invade personal privacy in order to protect national security? View an employee's online history to monitor website visits? Allow religious protesters to picket military funerals? Question increasing violence in politics? Civics illiteracy has become the arteriosclerosis of our democratic circulatory system, effectively blocking understanding and progress, bringing us closer to, "civic stroke." We have become much more divisive, drawing reckless lines in the sand. Correlation is not causation, but obsessive focus on math and reading/writing performance on standardized tests over the past two decades at the expense of similar focus on civics performance coincides with the deepening decline of civic awareness and civil discourse.

Join us for a constructive response to this problem through Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's wonderful online civics education program, iCivics. Practical and provocative, this session explores multiple games, modules, videos, free teacher resources and standards integrations available through Innovative, substantive and reflecting the way today's students best learn, iCivics is one of the most teacher friendly and student effective tools we have. Hear Justice O'Connor’s caution: "These students will inherit our democracy, and we must empower them to preserve it. Knowledge of our system of government is not handed down through the gene pool. The habits of citizenship must be learned, and our public schools were founded to educate students for democratic participation…[D]ivisive rhetoric and a culture of sound bites threaten to drown out rational dialogue and debate. We cannot afford to continue to neglect the preparation of future generations for active and informed citizenship." Don't miss your chance to create a positive democratic future for all students—Join us for this session on iCivics!


Equity, Responsive Teaching (Differentiation)  & Constructive Responses to Racism

Responsive Teaching: The Framework Upon Which We Place the Flesh of Differentiation

Responsive teaching (differentiated instruction) for diverse students - and every classroom is diverse - can be overwhelming, especially when responding to varied student readiness, background, and personal challenge and/or difference. And hey, how do we incorporate the big ideas of fair not always being equal, instructional versatility, and teaching so that all students learn, not just those most comfortable with written and unwritten classroom expectations?  Join us for practical and compelling, “behind-the-scenes,” look at the basic template of responsive teaching, starting with what to do first in when planning instruction for diverse students, followed by the full and critical armature for differentiation success. Perhaps most importantly, though, will be the clear-eyed look at the, “flesh,” of responsiveness: The specific elements and insights for augmenting and revising instruction to meet diverse students – Tiering, Getting to Know our Students, Specialized focused area that inform instructional decisions, and more. This session respects the experienced educator’s background and earned insights while providing launch pads for the new educator’s first steps. Don’t miss the clarity, focus, and renewing Oxygen of responsive teaching!


Differentiated Instruction: Walking Through a Lesson from Scratch

In this workshop, we briefly review major differentiation principles, then put up a blank computer screen and carefully move through each step in the process of creating a differentiated lesson from scratch. While we provide an initial template, we explore ways to move beyond the template in order to meet the needs of teachers' specific realities.  We also share some frontline wisdom for each component gathered by seasoned veterans of differentiated lessons. Don't miss this chance to finally understand differentiated lesson designs!​


Executive Function: Bringing It Online for Adolescents and Young Adolescents

Any list of executive function issues can easily be mistaken for a list of the common characteristics of adolescent and young adolescent learners. Our brains develop from the back of the brain forward, leaving the prefrontal cortex and its executive function capacities behind the forehead to the vagaries of adolescent development. Among educators, executive function skills development is considered one of the most important keys to unlocking student success, not only in middle and high school, but in the years beyond as well. Executive Function capacities include: time management, working memory, sustained attention, prioritizing, persistence, moral and abstract reasoning, impulsivity control, organizational skills, responding appropriately to social situations, and more. Join us for a closer look at multiple, specific strategies to cultivate executive function maturation in students. "Oh, that's why they do that," and, "You mean, we can actually help them develop these capacities?" are just two of the comments teachers make once they study executive function in the brain. Make a difference in your students and your own teaching today by getting up to speed on executive function!


Tiering Assessments and Assignments

Some students are ready for the first steps of a topic and others are ready for advanced assignments and assessments in that topic—so how do we tier assignments and assessments to maximize their learning? Join us for a practical and thought-provoking look at what constitutes mastery, and how we can increase and decrease complexity in student assignments and assessments while meeting the needs of standards and their benchmarks, all within one class period. We will include two helpful lesson sequences: the Anchor and the Football, as well as great attention moves, student "orbitals," personal agendas, tips on how to get students to work autonomous to the teacher and much more. This is a "how-to" and "why-we-do-it" workshop for those just getting their feet wet with tiering assignments and assessments or those already swimming in differentiated instruction who want more ideas.


Differentiating Instruction: Answering Your Questions

Already know how to differentiate? Have the details about scaffolding, grading, tiering, respectful tasks, flexible grouping and compacting curriculum? This workshop is for you! Bring all your "What if…?" and "How do you handle…?" questions to this session. There is no handout or formal presentation, and there is no canned program to share. It is a Q&A session about differentiated instruction, responding with candid and practical solutions to any and all challenges. We will address any DI topic for discussion, controversial or not, offering straight forward, cut-to-the-chase wisdom from the teachers differentiating instruction in schools every day.


Interacting with Differentiated Instruction Scenarios

Articulating and defending one's thinking while debating classroom situations really transforms pedagogy. Join us as we debate more than two dozen real classroom scenarios and determine whether they are proper or improper examples of differentiated instruction, and if improper, how we could improve upon them, looking specifically at how highly accomplished differentiating teachers would respond successfully. It is the interactive debate that opens minds and possibilities!


Getting to Know Your Students So You Can Actually Differentiate Instruction

Differentiated Instruction is responsive teaching, but we can't respond to students we do not know. Join us for a practical look at the tools and methods for getting to know your students quickly and throughout the year so you can make informed responses to their learning differences, and enhance the classroom experience for both you and your students.​


Teaching Gifted or Advanced Students: What Works and What Does Not

They are gifted, so we will give them three book reports to do instead of just one, right? Wrong. Join us for a provocative and practical workshop that provides clear strategies for meeting the needs of gifted and advanced learners. We will examine social-emotional aspects as well as how to increase the complexity or change the nature of tasks in terms of depth, breadth, unusual and critical thinking, and performance. Cure cancer? Bring peace to the Middle East? Compose a concerto that would make Mozart weep for its simple beauty? Solve the Unified Field Theory? Reveal a new geometry paradigm that rivals Euclid's? Maybe, but they are still children who need well-prepared teachers.


The Middle School Learner: Perspective and Practices for Teaching Young Adolescents

Working with rapidly morphing humans is among the most intellectual and compassionate of professions, requiring expertise, humor, mental dexterity, and dedication. Let’s make sure, then, that we understand the unique nature of 10-15 year-olds, the age range recognized worldwide as early adolescence. Join us for a candid, information-packed session on what the nature of young adolescents means for classroom instruction and school programming: What’s developmentally appropriate and what is not appropriate, according to the latest research and frontline common sense? Topics include how the minds of middle schoolers learn best, equity, effective discipline, classroom dynamics, getting to know students, content from This We Believe: The Successful Middle School, and much more. Come with or without questions and add to your repertoire of responses with this provocative and practical presentation.


Emancipating the ELL Student in the Regular Classroom

Since oral and written expression are the usual methods of assessing students' learning, it can be hard to determine what our English Language Learner (ELL) students in regular classes know and can do. It is even harder for some teachers to keep from equating language proficiency with thinking proficiency. Can ELL students think abstractly and make complex responses to substantive content in the regular classroom? You bet they can! Join us for a session on creative and practical tips for regular education teachers on how they can increase ELL students' success in their classrooms.


Constructive Conversations on Racism, Homophobia, Muslimphobia, Politics, and More

It is uncomfortable to talk about race, gender, politics, sexual orientation, micro-aggressions, politics, and bias, among faculty colleagues. Many of us do not have constructive skills for such conversations, and we’re afraid that if we speak up for respectful conversation, racial equity, the rights of immigrants, transgender individuals, or others from a religion different from our own, that we may say something unintentionally offensive, incomplete or inexperienced, and we may lose friends and colleagues as a result; it’s easier to say nothing and get along. Racism, sexism, classism, bias, political/religious intolerance, and similar challenges are learned mindsets and behaviors, however, as no one is born racist, sexist, biased, and intolerant. One of our jobs as educators is to secure a non-prejudicial, hopeful future for all students, not just those who most resemble those in political office, societal influence, or religious leadership at the time. Our responses to racism and similar oppressions in our schools must be clear, compassionate, and immediate: Settling for indifference exacerbates the problem—a matter of unintentional yet real racism and oppression. Join us for a candid and practical look at how to begin and conduct conversations on these “third rail” topics that lead to greater communication and constructive responses in our schools and de-escalate those more strident tendencies. We’ll provide dozens of specific strategies to get these conversations started, and to figure out how to respond with civil discourse when things get uncomfortable. This is way beyond assuring every school has a diversity committee – We’re looking at the day in and day out interactions, formal and informal conversations, we conduct with one another that yield a powerful and unbiased future for ourselves and our students. Don’t be left thinking, “I should have said…,” and instead, get the tools for those constructive conversations right now, so your prepared when they occur. 



Innovation in Education: Letting Go, Reaching Forward, and Finding Oxygen

Teaching and its leadership are dynamic, not static, and in our schools right now, we’re in a whirlwind of intersecting forces, moving us towards – what? How will we see our way through the challenges and aspirations ahead? One of the clearest and most constructive paths forward is a direct focus on innovation. If we’re not careful, though, educators can develop survival-mode, tunnel vision, failing to recognize the positive solutions that come from divergent thinking, instructional versatility, and continued growth, despite the temptations to blanket in the familiar and the easy. In some cases, too, educators are told so much about what, when, how, and what not to teach, professional creativity atrophies. Join us for a dynamic address that opens the door to how we dismantle that which would tether us to education mediocrity and ineffectiveness. We’ll look at innovative elements in education that help us find educator, “Oxygen,” minimize hypocrisy, build stamina, and move us closer to the constructive force we want to be in students’ current learning and meaningful achievement. Come on in, the water’s fine, the current’s strong, the tools are there, and the timing couldn’t be better! 

What We Can Do When We Are Brave Together

FDR once declared, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgment that something else is more important than that fear." In education, what do we judge as more important than our fear of rejection, being embarrassed, making mistakes or the confusion that may come? This address affirms and provokes listeners with compelling questions about contemporary practices and specific actions to consider if having enough courage was not a factor. When we are brave, we find the freedom, language, and spirit to confront complacency and ineffective practice, and, even better, to do something about them. Liberating and affirming, and pushing all of us closer to the kind of educators we want to be, we examine the practices that cultivate pedagogical and andragogical courage best, especially in a world that leans towards divisiveness and anxiety. Radical to some, validating to others, and all based in modern professionalism, this address is updated monthly with specific bold actions we can take today that lead to better learning for students. Rest assured, we’ll be teaching and leading in unfamiliar territory for years to come, but there’s hope and practicality here! Leave timidity at the door, and join us for a clear-eyed look at being a brave educator in times of significant change, dealing with doubts and imposter syndrome, and how to summon the courage to minimize crippling hypocrisies while maximizing alignment with our values and building the stamina for the road ahead.  


Leading the Change in Grading Reform

The ultimate goal in education reform is improved student learning and achievement, and a compassionate and competent society, but keys to all of that are found in collective and individual teacher efficacy, particularly in assessment and grading reform. Assessment and grading practices imbue almost everything we are as educators: student interactions, instructional design, equity measures, the lens through which we consider new research, how we spend our time and energy, how we cultivate student motivation and maturity, our core values as teachers and how we see our roles in the classroom, and much more. We wonder weekly: Are we concerned about grades becoming so transactional? Has the definition of fairness been corrupted? Is there unrecognized bias in assessment and grading? Do grades reflect compliance with tasks or evidence of learning? How do we report lateness and teach responsibility? Are we conflating the report of one thing with the report of something else? Are assessment formats getting in the way of accurate expressions of proficiency? What is the role of agency and student self-monitoring of academic progress? What leads to real learning and success for every one of our students?  Dauntingly, though, our current practices and the answers to these questions are often the fragile gatekeepers for lives of dreams fulfilled - or deferred (Hughes). There is great urgency, yes, but critiquing and changing these practices is a prickly-steep climb. Join us for this session for specific insights on how to build capacity for teacher acceptance and empowerment for assessment and grading reform. We’ll look at specific elements to consider when moving from that which tethers us to ineffective and hurtful practices towards that which aligns with modern pedagogy, student success, and professional ethics. Come, find the stamina needed to minimize hypocrisies and to find the mechanics of grading reform that elude us initially. Let’s not spend today just hearing about evidence-based assessment and reporting practices and their reform: Let’s lead the changes needed to make them happen.


Cultivating Personal Creativity in Teachers and Students

Too often teachers and principals limit themselves to their current operating metaphors, seeing only one thing at a time and in a narrow dichotomy: we teach this way or we teach that way; we are higher or lower in some criterion; we use this technology and not that one. If we are not careful, we become trapped in an echo chamber of our own creation, thinking this is all there is, blind to the new democratization of knowledge. As students navigate a large and complex world, however, they need teachers who transcend linear and dichotomous thinking. More impactful than many building initiatives, cultivating teacher creativity helps teachers build resilience and solve instructional problems rather than succumb to complacency or blaming others.  Join us for a fascinating and practical address in which we share specific elements of personal creativity and how to cultivate it in others.


​Differentiated Instruction in a World of Standards and Accountability

Differentiated instruction is a nice idea, but what happens when it comes to grading students or those high-stakes, standardized tests? Do we really believe what is fair isn't always equal, and it's okay to do different things for different students? Being sensitive to students' readiness levels and learning styles while holding them accountable for the same standards can be a challenge. What works? Join us for a provocative and entertaining address that examines differentiating instruction for diverse learners while also meeting the needs of standards and accountability. Affirming and confronting, the presentation busts differentiated instruction myths and gets to our core beliefs as educators.


Sure Footing in a Shaky World: Best Practices in Today's Classrooms that Stand the Test of Time

Decades in the future, what in teaching will we look back to today and declare, "Wow, we had that right," or, "Whoa, how could we have been so blind to students' learning?". Join us as the advanced-age version of Rick Wormeli in the year 2075 travels through a time vortex back to the current year. As his older and younger selves, Rick reminisces on the teaching and learning practices of today's classrooms that will stand the test of time to his contemporary world in 2075. With wigged out hair and an ever-young and creative mind, Rick rifts on educational salience, lifting those teaching/learning elements in modern practice that are sure to last into the decades ahead.


​For Laughing Out Loud—This Is a Great Profession!

From its humorous opening to its closing video "mockumentary" of teaching, this address shares funny, real-life situations that have occurred in schools that help us laugh at ourselves. Woven through the stories are practical tips about students and teaching that make the address more than just entertaining. Laughter is great way to create camaraderie as an education community, and it helps all of us manage the stress of teaching when we see the humor in our daily professional lives. Participants leave smiling, glad to be teachers and packing a few new perspectives and practical ideas for accomplished teaching.


Note to Program Planners: This keynote has substance, but it is the least substantive in terms of modern pedagogical content and research of the keynote addresses offered. It is meant primarily as to find humor, satire, and similar in our education efforts and to build camaraderie while incorporating robust, education ideas along the way. It's light-hearted and fun, which is valuable to all of us, of course, but it is more “observant comedy” than it is esoteric education research.

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