Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Mattawa Conference and Critical Thinking with the Because Clapper and the Pity Pat

So I am finally getting around to blogging about my amazing Whole Brain Teaching conference in Mattawa, WA!!  My partner teacher and I traveled the 6 hours down to Mattawa on Tuesday night of last week!  I have to say we were awed by the beautiful scenery!!!  It was gorgeous weather - we were very lucky! OK - I can see the exclamation marks are getting out of control so I will tone it down:)

We pulled into Mattawa - located right next to the beautiful Columbia River and full of orchards - around 7:30.  Can I just say that they have the most beautiful high school. It was like a beacon of light for us - we had reached our destination.

After some inquiries, the lovely people of Mattawa directed us to some camp sites just down the road in Desert Aire.  We set up our tent in quite the wind storm but I was so proud of my little tent - it can stand up to anything!  Then we got some great food and had a lovely chat at R Place with some locals/vacationers.

We got up early the next day, had a coffee, took down the tent and made our way back to Mattawa just in time for the conference.  We walked into the school and we were greeted by the most beautiful atrium that any school could possibly ask for.  Then, we made our way to the auditorium only to find an amazing group of gifted and driven teachers - outside the box thinkers!  The student population, I am told, is completely ESL - lots of Spanish speaking families work on the orchards.  They have a challenge!!  

We went in and I found Chris.  It was so great to see him!!  He told me to sit up front and to be prepared for to teach some lessons on the fly.  I was his Vanna White for awhile and then he had me review the Core 4: Class/Yes!, Mirror, Scoreboard, and Teach/OK!  for the group.  Later on I taught everyone the 5 Rules Canadian style:)  Hey - I learned the rules by watching the videos - it is a little different in 3D, in person:).  

because clapper
When Chris began explaining the critical thinking part of the conference I was so excited.  He is taking it past the Brain Toys - WBT is entering a new level of critical thinking!  First, Chris talked about the Because Clapper as being the foundation of critical thinking.  

If students can explain why their ideas are valid then they are well on their way to reasoning critically.  Next, Chris discussed the difference between weak evidence and strong evidence.  He said, "We want our students to be able to reason about their own reasoning."

Now, there is the Because Clapper and the Pitty Pat - use 2 fingers instead of your whole hand to weakly pat your other hand.
Because Clapper = Strong Evidence
Pity Pat Because = Weak Evidence
During Oral Writing, have your students come up with ideas regarding a certain topic.  For example, you might be doing a unit on bears.  

1. First, using the Teach/OK!, have your students come up with opinions/ideas about bears.

Bears are strong animals.

2. Next, have students create example sentences (Example Poppers) about bears using the Pitty Pat Because followed by weak evidence to back it up.  

Bears are strong animals because (Pity Pat) they are big.

3. Make sure to have them explain to their neighbour why "they are big" is weak evidence.  For example:

"They are big" is weak evidence because lots of people are big - that does not mean they are strong.  Also, "big" is a weak example as to why bears are strong.  There is better information to back that idea up.

4. Then, have students create sentences about bears using the Because Clapper followed by strong evidence to back it up.

Bears are strong animals because they travel long distances in the mountains.
Bears are strong animals because they climb trees.
5.  Make sure to have them explain to their neighbour why "they travel long distances in the mountains" and "they climb trees" are both strong pieces of evidence.  For example:

"They travel long distances in the mountains" and "they climb trees" provides specific activities bears often do that would require great strength to achieve.

At the conference, Chris had us tag team back and forth providing weak and strong evidence for various ideas.  It was challenging and my brain was tired but I know if I set the bar high my students will reach it!  Also, it made me really excited about this coming school year.  No more sentences like - " I like school because it is fun!" or "Penguins are the best because they are cute!"  My students deserve quality education and quality critical thinking is a HUGE part of that!!  Their writing quality is going to go through the roof! Thanks Whole Brain Teaching!!!

We left Mattawa feeling filled to the brim with new ideas, amazing food (we ate lunch at La Popular - delicious Mexican food - yum!), and inspiration for a new school year.

P.S.  I made that Power Pix Wall Owl theme freebie with the Oh Photo Shoot! font:) Hope you enjoy!  Click on the picture below for your free copy!

Owl Theme, Wall Kit, freebie, whole brain teaching


  1. Oh how I wish I could have been at that conference! Washington is on my bucket list to visit, but it is a "little" further than 6 hours for me! It looks like you had a great time. I love all the new, expanded critical thinking components as well. Great job with everything you are doing!