Summer Conference Reflection 1: Rick Wormeli

A few weeks ago I attended the Olathe Summer Conference in Olathe, Kansas.  This conference is offered through my school district to provide some professional development at the end of the year.  It is optional to attend, but I don’t understand why anyone would turn down the opportunity to listen to a great speaker.  So with two pens and a spiral I attended some excellent sessions.  I used one color pen to take notes of the sessions and one color to make notes of ways I would incorporate this into my classes. 

The blog post this week is more for me than anyone else.  It is my way of processing the information from the sessions.  It may be interesting or it may not.  If anything it might give you insight into how I process after a conference like this. 

The first session I had the opportunity to attend was Dare Disturb the Universe: Get Students Thinking Critically! session presented by Rick Wormeli.  At the session I primarily learned ways to get students to think outside the box and look at things from a unique perspective.  He pointed out that one of the greatest guides for students should be doubt.  It’s important to teach students to question everything and formulate their own answers/solutions to life’s questions.  Students should learn that it’s ok to fail multiple times before they can succeed.   That’s ultimately my goal as a teacher.  I want to teach kids to find their own solutions.  There will be so many questions in the future that don’t even exist yet, so how could I ever provide students with all of the answers?  Instead I want to teach them to question everything and find the answers for themselves.

Another thing I learned is to teach students to know when a writing model is appropriate to use and when it is OK to break the rules.  Often they need the foundation first, and then they can feel comfortable breaking away from that.  When attacking a text students need to use multiple approaches including (defining words, looking at transitions, and looking at signal words).  They need to have a wide arsenal of strategies at their disposal when they come to something difficult. 

It was also interesting to see the visual showing creative thinking and critical thinking having many overlapping areas.  Creative thinking and critical thinking both involve deep thought about a topic and represent a quest toward an answer.  Creative thinking works with “yes and…” statements, and critical thinking works with “yes but…” statements.

The point that sticks with me the most is that students need to do both sense making AND meaning making.  The sense making helps clarify what they learned.  The meaning making helps lock it into memory.  To do this it is important to prime the brain before learning happens.


Here are some things I would like to implement into my classroom this fall:

  • Students will practice writing the same essay to several different audiences and note the changes
  • Students will write sentences that break a grammar rule, and then explain how it breaks the rule and why
  • I want to make a poster of the 10 Rules of Advanced Thinkers and hang it up in my classroom
  • I will pose more questions like the one in the study.  Give students a challenge and let them come up with a creative solution
  • Students will memorize poems next year
  • I will incorporate at least 1 piece of art with each novel
  • I will use more attention getting prereading strategies (one of my favorites was rewriting the “boring” background knowledge in a more interesting narrative form)
  • I will incorporate at least 1 primary source speech with the World War II novel unit
  • Students will memorize and identify text structure traits
  • Students will practice narrowing down topics until they get a good focus (narrow to 4, then narrow to 4 more, etc.)
  • Students will memorize more prefixes and suffixes
  • I will put the verbs list by my desk
  • Students will use the Line Up strategy to lineup as characters from True Confessions of Charlotte Doye according to how morally sound the character is
  • Students will write 6 word memoirs about Brian from Hatchet