Willy Wood’s Values and Commitments to You

I Value…

…Teachers who focus as much or more on the classroom community and the learning environment as they do on teaching the content and skills in the curriculum.  Students spend nearly as much time in our classrooms as they do in their own homes, so we need to do everything possible to give them the opportunity to live school lives full of purpose, achievement, and joy.

…Teachers who understand that extrinsic motivation is a myth and who work to build intrinsic motivation in their students by making learning joyful and relevant and by giving students choices to direct their learning whenever practical.

…Teachers who monitor student energy (arousal) levels constantly and use strategies to raise energy levels (through movement, peer social interactions, feel-good and pump-up music, celebrations, etc.) or to lower energy levels (through individual seat work, calming music, reflection time, etc.) when necessary to keep students in the optimal medium-arousal state that’s best for learning.

…Teachers who understand that all students are different, that students bring varying degrees of background knowledge and skills to any new learning, and that the only way to efficiently teach all students is to constantly pre-assess them before any new input and use the results to differentiate instruction so that all students are working consistently at a moderate level of challenge.

…Teachers who understand that constant input of content is counter-productive for learning and who design their lessons in such a way that students have regular opportunities to process the material and make relevant connections.

…Teachers who understand that students can’t be expected to keep their attention externally focused on the teacher for long stretches of time and who instead design lessons where students focus on new input from various sources (direct instruction, reading, film, audio, etc.), then are directed to shift their attention to reflect on or make deeper meaning of the new material before shifting their attention back to the teacher for the next chunk of new input.  Teachers who are masters at directing the flow of attention get more work, and higher quality work, out of their students.

…Teachers who understand that the quality of students’ initial interaction with any new material is crucial for forming solid, new memory traces of that material and who therefore design their direct instruction to be as engaging as possible, making the input multi-sensory, novel, relevant, and emotional and using stories whenever possible as frames or vehicles for delivering embedded content.

…Teachers who understand that good teaching is a careful balance, that we need to give students enough explanation and context so that they can make sense of new material without giving them so much explanation and context that they don’t have to think and make meaning for themselves.  The truly great teachers are those who develop students who can think for themselves (and enjoy doing so), not students who are dependent on a teacher to tell them what they should think.

…Teachers who understand that spacing learning out over time and interleaving different topics throughout their lessons and units requires students to think more deeply about their school work and helps them to commit the material more efficiently into long-term memory.

…Teachers who understand the importance of effortful retrieval for creating lasting long-term memory of content and who therefore design their lessons, units, and homework assignments to make maximum use of the testing effect to solidify learning.

…Teachers who build into their units opportunities for students to reflect on both what they have learned over time and how they have changed as learners.  Regular reflection and a systematic approach for archiving these reflections helps students develop a growth mindset and keeps the emphasis where it should be (long-term growth) instead of on short-term goals like grades.

My Commitments to You:

  1. To always base my workshops on the most up-to-date research from cognitive science and neuroscience and offer common sense “translations” from that research to educational practice. If I present information in a workshop, it’s not a “guess”; it’s research-based and classroom-tested.
  1. To always deliver workshop experiences that are as engaging as they are practical. My goal is to model the brain-compatible teaching strategies I cover, allowing attendees to fully experience the strategies by seeing them, hearing them, and participating in them. The goal is a hands-on, minds-on, hearts-on experience that leaves teachers with the feeling, “I can do that!”
  1. To always structure my workshops so that attendees commit the material to long-term memory. This is done by allowing time for attendees to input and then process the key strategies covered, by having them create notes from the workshop that can be used as mnemonics and study guides after the fact, and by providing resources for them to explore to further their learning on the topic. Even if I’m hired to present a “one-shot” workshop, I do everything I can to make the learning last.  Having said this, I always prefer to work with a school’s faculty multiple times stretched out over the course of a year or more.  This virtually guarantees that attendees will learn all the key material and gives them the necessary time to try to implement the strategies in class, get feedback, reflect, and continue to make changes until they have replaced old habits with new, more effective ones.