Professional Development by Bill Atwood

Bill Atwood, CEA Associate

Bill Atwood is a Collins Education Associate. He is a master teacher and is appreciated by his clients for his expertise, sense of humor, enthusiasm, and ability to focus on practical ideas to improve student performance.

Staff  development services offered by Bill can accommodate sessions of 1.5 to 6 hours in length. He also offers week long, three-credit graduate courses in collaboration with Castleton University. Contact Bill via email to learn more.

Consulting services include:

  • Whole staff presentations for full day, half day, or faculty meeting
  • Modeling strategies in classrooms followed by debriefing with staff
  • Small team follow-up meetings on implementation progress and related issues
  • Review of writing folders and samples of student progress by team, grade level, or individual
  • Coaching teachers individually or in pairs after attending a workshop or observing model lessons

His highly-energetic, fun workshops and model lessons focus on four areas of teaching:

General Workshops to Improve Teaching and Learning

Academic and Domain Specific Vocabulary: A Critical Component to Success in School ~ Grades K-12

This workshop will offer several practical, easy to use, engaging strategies for teaching academic vocabulary. These research driven, brain-based strategies will help all students attack higher order thinking tasks by better understanding key academic and domain specific vocabulary. Teachers will receive a list of critical vocabulary words arranged by grade level and access to free materials that can be used right away in classrooms. During the workshop, teachers will have the opportunity to both practice the strategies in depth as well as create materials that match the needs of their students. The workshop will be useful, fast-paced, and fun.

The Power of Frequent, Formative, in-the-Moment Assessments ~ Grades 2-12

In this age of the Iowa Assessments, Stanford 10, DIBELS, Common Core, PARCC, SAT, SAT II, ACT, AP exams and on and on … how can one possibly advocate for more testing? Doesn’t testing take up valuable classroom time and just confirm what we already know about student progress? In fact, research is showing that short, frequent assessments are powerful tools that drive both learning and teaching. In this workshop, teachers will learn how to design and use simple but effective assessments that can make a powerful difference in the classroom.

Boosting Engagement ~ Grades K-12

A recent study based on 1,500 classrooms found that in 85% of classrooms, fewer than one half of the students were paying attention. This workshop will present simple, research-proven techniques to engage students in every content area. Participants will walk away with many effective strategies such as Quick Writes, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, Pepper, and Present-It to help students take responsibility for their learning and be more involved in class.

Key to Success in School: Background Knowledge ~ Grades K-12

Research by Robert Marzano suggests that students with more academic background knowledge have a huge advantage in school. Without background knowledge—the key ideas and facts stored in long-term memory—critical thinking is difficult. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham said that critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving are intimately intertwined with background knowledge. But, how can teachers build and draw out the extensive factual knowledge so essential to academic success? In this presentation, teachers will learn strategies to activate, build, and reinforce academic background knowledge, and school leaders will learn how to support staff in this endeavor.

Building Thinking and Writing Skills Workshops

It’s All in the Design: Creating Cross-Curricular Writing Assignments ~ Grades K-12

So much of writing in schools has become just practice for state tests. Students are often required to respond to prompts that numb the mind and dry the soul. Great writing often starts with great assignments, and this workshop will be a first step.

In this full day workshop, teachers will learn how to design effective and motivating writing assignments that are relevant, useful, clear, and full of opportunities to develop the critical skills needed for both academic and career success. Particular emphasis will be on summarizing and comparing and contrasting as it relates to informative and argument/opinion writing.

Teachers will also pick up techniques for idea generation, reading for evidence, and note-taking that leads to voice. Teachers will learn how to model effective introductions and conclusions, use quotes and elaboration as well as transitions, sentence variety, and other editing and revision skills. Most importantly, teachers will be shown simple but powerful ways to give quick and constructive feedback so writers can improve. The workshop will be full of research-proven ideas that can be implemented right away plus time to align assignments with district goals.

Tell a Story About a Time: Improving Narrative Writing ~ Grades K-8

Narrative writing, whose primary purpose is to tell a story, is one of the most powerful forms of communication. Research shows that the human brain is wired to receive stories, and as a result, stories are often cited in political, religious, and even scientific essays. In this dynamic and extremely practical workshop, teachers learn how to dramatically improve narrative writing with powerful oral, kinesthetic, and written exercises that show all students (especially ELL) how to build an effective story. It’s a natural fit for Common Core Literacy Standards because the workshop uses text models to connect and develop reading, writing, and vocabulary skills. In the workshop, the presenter will describe four ideas to improve narrative writing, expand on those ideas with demonstrations and activities, and provide strategies that educators can apply to their writing lessons.

Make a Claim and Support It: Opinion and Argument Writing ~ Grades K-8

In this workshop teachers learn easy-to-use strategies that strengthen opinion and argument writing.  We will examine model texts to identify a set of critical skills important to writing arguments and develop authentic assignments that build these skills. Teachers will learn to apply practical strategies and give corrective, timely, and specific feedback. Participants will walk away with resources that help students develop a claim; use and explain evidence; and organize and clarify their writing by using effective transitions, introductions, and conclusions.

The Book Commercial: Activities and Strategies to Strengthen Reading and Writing ~ Grades 2-8

Q: What is a repeatable, real world writing assignment that will motivate students, develop critical writing and speaking skills, and inspire a love for reading?
A: The Book Commercial.
In this workshop, teachers will learn how to implement The Book Commercial and teach the underlying skills of summarizing, evidence-based opinion writing, comparing and contrasting, and sentence combining. Time permitting, teachers will learn effective hooks, closers, transitions, and the critical vocabulary to strengthen argument writing.

Compare and Contrast: The Most Valuable Assignment? ~ Grades 2-8

In this workshop teachers learn why the compare and contrast assignment is essential. Next, teachers will learn how to both improve writing and deepen understanding by implementing several simple but powerful comparison strategies. Teachers will walk away with resources they can use right away that take students way beyond the Venn Diagram!

The Short Research Project: Little Project = Big Educational Return ~ Grades 2-8

According to the Common Core State Standards, students should: “Write routinely over extended time frames for research” and “Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects.” However, the skills involved in research are complex and challenging:

  • finding appropriate reading materials
  • note-taking
  • organizing
  • using one’s own words
  • creating clever introductions and conclusions
  • crafting body paragraphs
  • linking ideas with transitional devices

In this workshop, teachers will learn strategies to help overcome these challenges and ease students into short research projects.

Math Workshops

Math Vocabulary: A Critical Component to Problem Solving, Conceptual Understanding, and Math Fluency ~ Grades K8

This workshop will offer several practical, easy to use, engaging strategies for teaching math vocabulary. These research driven, brain-based strategies help all students build background knowledge, solidify understanding, and strengthen problem solving skills. Teachers will receive a list of 257 critical vocabulary words arranged by grade level and access to free materials that can be used right away in classrooms. During the workshop, teachers will have the opportunity to both practice the strategies in depth as well as create materials that match the needs of their students. The workshop will be useful, fast-paced, and fun.

Improving Open Response Answers in Math ~ Grades 2–12

Data from test scores suggest that some students know more than they show in their open response answers. For other students, open response questions can reveal a lack of deep understanding—an inability to go further up Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking. This workshop focuses on helping students develop comprehensive and thorough answers to open response questions in mathematics. Participants will learn techniques to get every student involved in thinking and taking responsibility for math learning. There will be a special emphasis on designing quick assessments, drawing out and building background knowledge, teaching reading strategies to attack the questions, and creating focused criteria to produce clear, precise, and accurate open response answers. Participants will come away with fast-paced, practical classroom strategies they can use right away.

Math: Explain and Retain

Math educators often find that they are teaching to students who seem to lack the necessary skills and understanding needed to make progress. They ask, “Shouldn’t the students already know some of this content from previous years? How can I be expected to teach this year’s standards when I have to re-teach last year’s standards?” The focus of this workshop will be on practices that check for understanding, deepen understanding, and promote active engagement that leads to the retention of ideas. Teachers will leave the workshop with powerful strategies that put students in the role of both problem solver and explainer.

Read It, Solve It, Show It: Reading and Writing Skills for Problem Solving in Math

Students often struggle with open-ended word problems in math because they lack the necessary reading, writing, vocabulary, and background knowledge. This skill gap causes students to feel frustrated and give up. In this workshop, participants will learn to teach students how to anticipate, preview, read, mark up, and clearly answer all parts of challenging word problems. Several strategies will be demonstrated that improve math vocabulary, break down the task of solving complex problems, and show ways to craft clear answers. The final segment of the workshop will show teachers a simple way to design great writing assignments in math that motivate and practice key skills.

Science Workshops

Improving Open Responses in Science without Test Prep

Open response questions in science that ask students to show, explain, predict, compare, defend, justify, or elaborate are often the most difficult questions for students to answer. But, they also present a unique window into student thinking.

  • Is the student having trouble reading the question?
  • Is it a vocabulary problem?
  • Is the student struggling to understand the science content?
  • Or does the student not have the writing skills to explain fully and clearly?

This workshop will explore strategies and activities that deepen student understanding in science so students will be able to engage in more rigorous thinking and show their ideas in writing. Participants will learn techniques to get every student involved in class and show students how to take more responsibility for learning.

The strategies are all research driven and brain-based and will help students build background knowledge, solidify conceptual understanding, and strengthen writing skills. There will be a special emphasis on designing quick assessments, improving science vocabulary, and reading and writing strategies. Teachers will learn ways to practice, develop, and review key ideas so students retain them longer. Participants will receive access to free classroom materials that can be used right away or personalized and developed over time. To make the workshop more useful, teachers should bring a list of key science terms and a sample of a written assessment from a current unit.

Preview these Bill Atwood Math Products, too!

 How Did You Get That?            Math Words in Motion

Download the complete list of math vocabulary from the Math Words in Motion DVD.