Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter Break

happy holidays

I'll be taking a break for a couple of weeks for the holiday season.  I hope that everyone has a restful winter break.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Excellent Teachers

"The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate 'apparently ordinary' people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people."   K. Patricia Cross

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another Resource for the Common Core

Timothy Shanahan's site is an excellent resource for literacy and the Common Core State Standards.  I've spoken with people who find him controversial, and I don't always agree 100% with his information, but it is a very useful site which provides key information about the CCSS. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

What Comes Next After the Common Core State Standards?

I was reading an email from a friend last week that included a transcript of a conversation about the Common Core.  In the midst of the conversation, someone asked, "But what comes next?  Aren't we paying any attention to instruction?"

I think it's important to pay attention to that question because it's at the heart of implementation of the CCSS.  The standards are an excellent foundation for increased rigor in our schools, but without rigorous instruction, we won't be able to meet the potential of truly rigorous education. 

How is your district or school dealing with the instructional aspects of rigor?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Effective Teachers

"We think of the effective teachers we have had over the years with a sense of recognition, but those who have touched our humanity we remember with a deep sense of gratitude."
Anonymous student

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Favorite Common Core Resource?

What is your favorite resource for the Common Core State Standards?  Which of the many websites, blogs, or books has been helpful to you?  Please share in the comments section!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Another Recommended Blog

Have you checked out Cool Cat Teacher?  Vickie Davis's site is filled with links to lesson plans, resources, and anything related to teachers.  It's definitely worth your time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Teacher's Heart

“The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fun with Vocabulary!

I'm often asked, "With increased accountability, how do you balance the pressure to teach to the test with what you feel is best for your students?"

As I work with teachers, I find there is not a simple answer. More than anything, I see teachers choosing to teach information that is related to the test, but also refusing to be limited by that. Whenever possible, they increase the rigor and engagement of activities that are test-related.

For example, one of my favorite activities is to have students write or explain a new vocabulary term in their own words. I increase rigor and engagement by asking them to write "Who Am I?" or "What Am I" riddles. By composing riddles and trying to solve them, students are excited and don't even realize they are making up original definitions to new vocabulary terms.
Since it's election season, here's a sample from Niko, Amy, Keith, Demetrius, and Cathy at Conway Middle School:
I am a college known as a party school.
My mascot changes all the time.
Popularity does not rule!
What am I?

Answer-- The electoral college!

What are some of your favorite rigorous activities to use in your classroom?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dealing with Setbacks

Have you ever dealt with a setback?  More importantly, have your students learned to deal with them?  I was recently reminded of this when a seemingly perfect opportunity presented itself.  Unfortunately, it did not work out, and I had to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start again.  This is a lesson that is critical for our students.  Too often, when they hit a bump in the road, they simply give up.  But part of a rigorous classroom is encouraging them to try again, and again, and again until they master the content. As teachers, this means we also have to be persistent, continuing to encourage them and help them succeed.  Who do you need to help today?

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Job of a Teacher

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job.”
Donald Quinn

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Another Resource for the Common Core

 8 Strategies for Designing Lesson Plans to Meet the CCSS Opinion and Argument Writing Requirements

8 Strategies for Designing Lesson Plans to Meet the CCSS Opinion and Argument Writing Requirements is a new white paper from Eye on Education.  Free registration is required, but it's well worth it. 

pinion and Argument Writing Requirements

Monday, November 12, 2012

Website for the Common Core State Standards

Have you seen EduCore from ASCD?  It's their repository of all resources related to the CCSS.  An excellent resource!

Friday, November 9, 2012

What is the purpose of education?

“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.”
Robert M. Hutchins

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Website Resources

Have you checked out my website lately? You'll find a variety of resources, including videos on the Common Core and leadership, activity templates to use with students, and articles for teachers and leaders.  Simply go to the website and click free resources.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Five Keys to Classroom Rigor

I'm often asked, "What does rigor look like in the classroom?"  Here are my five keys:

1.  There is a focus on student progress, as well as achievement.  Each small step toward higher levels of rigor is celebrated.
2.  Adult language is positive and encouraging.  Too often, we shut students down with our language (You've got to be kidding me!  You need help again?)
3.  High expectations are evidenced by higher order thinking questions, but they are also exemplified by expecting high level student responses.  For example, if a student responds to a higher order question with a one-word response, the teacher probes and asks "Why?" or "How did you come up with that answer?" or "Why do you think that is?"
4.  Appropriate support, such as modeling, chunking, use of graphic organizers, etc. is used to support student learning.
5.  Rather than students responding one at a time, each student is truly participating in learning.  Each student demonstrates their understanding throughout the lesson, either through pair-shares, clickers, or some other form of formative assessment.  In other words, all students are engaged throughout the lesson.

I hope these help create a better understanding of what a classroom environment related to rigor looks like!  Enjoy your day. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Value of Teachers

“Modern cynics and skeptics see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.”
John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How can I increase rigor without making it boring?

Rigor isn't just more work. Rigor means increasing expectations for higher learning, but also providing appropriate support.  And that doesn't mean boring.  You might increase rigor in your vocabulary review.  Instead of asking students to copy words and definitions and then writing their own definition,  ask them to write a riddle!  It's engaging, creative, and requires higher order thinking skills. And by the way, it's fun!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


My thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and all the related weather. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Is there a painless way to increase rigor?

Absolutely.  One of my favorites is to build on a common classroom activity:  pair-share.  After you have students turn and talk to their partner, ask them to share their partner's answer.  Not only does this require students to listen at a higher level, they also must be able to understand their partner's answer well enough to explain it to someone else.  This typically encourages higher order questions to the partner.

A second one is adjusting True-False tests.  Rather than students guessing at an answer, require them to rewrite all false answers into true statements.  This way, students must truly demonstrate their understanding.

Two quick and easy--and painless--ways to incorporate rigor in your classroom!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blog Postings

I hope your week is going well!  I wanted to let all my readers know that I'm scaling back a bit on my postings.  Rather than posting five days a week, I'll be writing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  As usual, Fridays will be a motivational tip or saying.  I enjoy writing on my blog, but I'm working on a brand new book and need to focus a bit more time there! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Common Core and Text Complexity

The Common Core State Standards are one of the hottest topics in education today, especially since they are designed to increase rigor in the classroom. Increasing text complexity, or the level of text students are expected to understand is embedded in the standards. It's important to keep in mind that text does not mean only books. The CCSS emphasize non-fiction, informational text materials that will prepare students for college and the workforce.

Choosing Appropriate Text

There are really three aspects to think about when choosing appropriate materials for students. First, consider the reading level and the complexity of the text. For example, a more difficult text is easier to read when there are support features, such as headings, charts, and bold-faced words that help a student chunk the information.
Next, reflect on your knowledge of your students. What is each student's current reading level, his or her interests, and his or her developmental level. Is this a text that is appropriate for your particular students? Finally, the purpose is important. Are students reading for fun or for instruction?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NEW! Revision of Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word

Just out this month is the revision of my best-selling Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word.  The Common Core is integrated throughout, and there are more technology examples and activities for elementary school.  Pre-order here!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Podcast: Tools for School Leaders

Barbara Blackburn provides five leadership tools and strategies that can be used immediately to improve your practice and help you become a more effective school leader in this segment. Dr. Blackburn’s ideas are easily executable and based on decades of experience as an educator, professor, and consultant. Among her many books, she is the co-author of The Principalship from A-to-Z.
Barbara Blackburn’s Five Leadership Tools covered in this segment: Name It, Claim It and Explain It; Getting Input From Stakeholders; Vision Letters; Learning Walks With a Twist; and You Really Are An Advocate.

To listen to the ten minute podcast, click here!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Building Success for Students

Building Blocks for Achieving Success

Students are motivated when they believe they have a chance to be successful. And that belief is built on four additional building blocks:
  • level of challenge
  • prior experiences
  • encouragement
  • beliefs about success.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Great Resource

Are you looking for a blog related to student engagement, learning, and technology?  Then the Engaging Educators' Blog is for you!  Check it out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Praising Ability or Effort?

In a recent workshop, a teacher commented, "My students who are high ability just take learning for granted.  Because of this, they seem lazy and unwilling to work."

I taught the student described in this statement.  He had always been the smartest student in the room, and his parents continually praised his ability.  However, over time, he felt like he was so smart, he didn't need to try anymore.  He assumed his ability would carry him through my class.

A recent study clarifies this situation.  The researchers found that if students are praised only for their ability, over time, their effort and achievement goes down.  But if you praise a student for effort, for working hard and being persistent, over time they increase their effort, and their achievement increases.  You can mix the two, but don't forget effort.  Over time, it does make a difference with your students. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

My students don't care!

Too often, we see students who just to seem to care.  They just aren't motivated!  But that's a myth...all students are motivated, just not by what we want them to be motivated!  The key is to look beyond the surface and determine their motivating factors.

Students are motivated by two things:  value and success.  So if they don't seem motivated, either they don't see the relevance of the subject, or they aren't interest in the types of learning activities, or they haven't connected with the teacher.  That's the value aspect.

Students also need to feel successful.  Many times, we teach students who have never been successful in an academic setting.  So we need to provide opportunities for them to experience success.  Giving them questions for which there is no wrong answer is one option, and chunking larger assignments into small bites is another. 

Remember, value and success.  That's the formula for motivating students!

Friday, October 5, 2012

How Should We Teach Today's Student?


If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s,
we rob them of tomorrow.

John Dewey

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Is Rigor Positive or Negative?

What do you think when you hear or read the word rigor? Does it carry a positive or negative connotation? When discussing rigor and its importance in the classroom, teachers and students often find themselves face-to-face with a seemingly impenetrable wall created by how their perceptions. So, rather than trying to penetrate the wall, let’s walk around it, or get a harness and some rope and climb it! Rigor, like this wall, presents a challenge, but not to the extent that students feel they must overcome insurmountable obstacles. Rather, it offers a challenge that, combined with strategic thinking and action, paves the way for success. 

When teachers combine challenge with instruction and encouragement to guide students toward success, students are more likely to view rigor as something that positively impacts their learning and their abilities to seek information. Too often, students resist challenges because they fear failure. So, we must rearrange our own perceptions of rigor. Instead of trying to “stump” students, we should invite them to take risks as learners, to think critically, to express themselves, and to experience the personal satisfaction and joy that accompanies genuine accomplishment.

What do you think? How do you help students take risks in your classroom?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review of Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word

Here's a review of Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word. 

Look for the second edition coming in early 2013. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Podcast on the Common Core and Rigor

An overlooked aspect of the new CCSS is that while the standards set rigorous benchmarks, their impact on student learning will depend entirely upon their implementation. We cannot assume that simply adopting the Common Core state standards will provide a rigorous environment for students. True rigor, as Dr. Barbara Blackburn explains in this segment, encompasses high expectations for student learning and increased support so students can learn at higher level.

To listen to the ten minute podcast, click here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Is teeaching a lost art?

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.

—Jacques Barzun

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Support for the Common Core State Standards

One of the areas of emphasis in the new Common Core State Standards is to move students to higher levels of text materials. Supporting students to read and learn at higher levels of text can be challenging, especially if you teach students who are reading below grade level. However, the Common Core State Standards require that we move students to higher levels of text. Providing extra help and scaffolding becomes a critical aspect of helping students succeed. There are three simple ways you can scaffold learning for your students.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How do students feel about rigor?

As I began writing Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word, I wanted to hear what students would say, since they are the ones who are most directly impacted by the decision to increase rigor in the classroom. I asked, “How do you feel about rigor, or challenging work in school?” I received over 400 responses from students in grades two through twelve. Their replies reflect the tug-of-war of negative and positive perceptions.

Students’ Responses About Challenging Work
I would want to quit. I would need help. Robert
I really don’t mind it. I prefer to be challenged rather than bored. Tim
I don’t like work like that because if I spend a long time on just one problem and can’t find the answer I get stressed and that just makes it harder to do. Amy
I think it’s okay. I mean, I don’t prefer it, but it’s not as bad as most people think. Sometimes I prefer to have a little bit of a challenge. Kyle
It makes my head and hand hurt. Hayley
I don’t like doing rigor but everything in life isn’t easy so I just try my best to do it. Dominique
I feel that rigorous work needs to be explained better than normal work so I understand the material. Benjamin
I feel that challenging work would be better for people that think their work is too easy. Sumerlyn
OK, but if it’s hard, I want it to be fun too. Keith
I feel that rigorous work is made for some people and some people just might get frustrated and give up. I guess everyone should at least try it and if they can’t do it they don’t have to. Mason
I honestly don’t mind it every once in a while but not every hour of the day. Devon
I guess it’s ok if I’m in the mood for it. Kayla
It makes me feel stupid. I don’t ask anything and I just shake my head like I understand and say yes I get it. Emma
Sometimes I like it….sometimes I don’t. Joseph

Too often, we promote rigor as work that is only for advanced students, or work that is more (doubling the amount of homework) or harder (you already can’t do it, so here’s something that is even harder). That is NOT rigor. I’ve focused my attention on the things any teacher can do to increase the rigor of his or her class–whether it is for honors students or not. My definition of rigor: Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Monday, September 24, 2012

What is Instructional Rigor?

Instructional rigor has become a controversial topic. Educators disagree about the word itself, citing a dictionary definition of harsh or rigid. A friend of mine points out that if you look it up, the word rigor falls between rigamarole and rigor mortis.

True instructional rigor, however, is centered around student learning. Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.

Friday, September 21, 2012

What if students don't come to us prepared to learn?

If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. 

If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.

-Barbara Colorose

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Are you a new teacher?

If you are a new teacher, first, congratulations!  You are making a difference for students--even if it doesn't feel like it right now.  Next, you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed--that's normal.  I can't tell you the number of times I thought about quitting (usually after I made a mistake).  Hang in there.  Finally, here's a great resource full of ideas for you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rigor in an Alternative High School

A great guest post about rigor in high school!
Rigor in an Alternative High School:  Thoughts on Beginning
                  Today I began a new adventure on my journey as a teacher – I stood in front of a classroom as a full time high school teacher for the first time.  During the course of the day, I saw about 100 different students in six different social studies classes ranging from History to Sociology and everything in between.  How then can I presume to write about rigor when I have only just begun?  I have a couple different answers to that question.  I have served as a part time teacher in the same building running an evening program (3:30-8:45pm) for the last six years.  I have also spent significant amounts of time substitute teaching in a wide variety of classrooms for the last eight years.  Most importantly, I don’t pretend to have all (or maybe any) of the answers.  I do have some thoughts on the subject however, and this year will serve as a proving ground to see whether any of my ideas bear any fruit.
                  The program in which I work is an alternative high school, which means that we get the kids who don’t make it in a traditional building.  They may have had significant attendance issues from problems at home or may be in legal trouble or any of a variety of other reasons.  Whatever the cause of their arrival at my school, they tend to have much in common with each other.  They are typically behind in credits, typically have trouble attending regularly, and typically are exceptionally unmotivated.  How can we as teachers possibly ask for rigor from these students?  I believe that step one is to develop relationships with them as human beings.  I have found from my time in the evening program that they are willing to give some extra effort if they believe you care.  Step two is present the material in a way that grabs their attention.  It must interest them.  If it doesn’t, why should they bother?  This is a difficult task, but by no means insurmountable.  Step three goes hand in hand with step two.  It is to allow them freedom to grapple with the material themselves.  Listening to a teacher lecture did not serve them well in a traditional setting.  Why should it in an alternative setting?  Turn the reins over to them as much as your administrators, standards, and teaching style allow.  Let them wrestle with becoming learners and critical thinkers, but be there to help scaffold them along the way.

Rick Jackson is the Social Studies teacher at Discovery Alternative High School in Grand Rapids, MI.  You can take a sneak peek at his classroom at www.discoverysocial studies2.weebly.com and follow further educational musings at www.nightschoolrick.weebly.com.  You can follow Rick on Twitter @RickJackson10 and e-mail him at rjackson@kvilleps.org.  Rick earned a Bachelors in US History and Education from Principia College and is the process of completing a Masters of Teaching Mathematics from Western Governors University.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Incorporating Value into Your Classroom

Students are more likely to be intrinsically motivated to learn if they value what they are asked to do. There are five building blocks to add value to your classroom:
  1. Variety
  2. Attractiveness
  3. Locus of Control
  4. Utility
  5. Enjoyment

Friday, September 14, 2012

Moving from Negativity to Positivity

Are you in the middle of a fishbowl of negativity? 

Do the negative attitudes of others bring you down? 

Take a chance!  Find a fresh start! Go for a positive beginning!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How Can I Motivate My Students?

Do you teach a student who seems unmotivated? All students are motivated, just not by what we'd like them to be motivated by!  There are two keys to motivation:  value and success.  Students are more motivated when they see value in what they are doing and when they feel successful.  How can you help your students with these two areas today?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Classroom Arrangements

I was recently asked: “How should you arrange classroom (ie-teacher’s desk) to promote community…or does it matter?”

I'm not a big believer in "one" right way to do something, but it does make a difference. For example, the standard room with desks in a row and the teacher's desk front and center sends a message that the teacher is in charge, and the students are simply recipients of information. However, I was in a classroom set up like this, and it was a community, mainly because the teacher was never at his desk; he was always in the middle of his students, who also had flexibility to rearrange the desks. That's what is more important--do students feel like they are a part of things, or separate from the teacher? In my classroom, I tend to find that clustering desks/tables works better for me so I can facilitate groups. In my grad classes, though, if I have a small group (8-12), I tend to do a large, square U so everyone is together. In that instance, clusters of tables actually breaks community rather than building it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What are teachers doing?

From my great friend, research assistant, and former student Missy Miles:

A teacher will be some place in the world tonight preparing lessons to teach your children while you are watching tv. In the minute it takes you to read this, teachers all over the world are on their own time for your children's literacy, prosperity and future. If you can read this, then thank a teacher.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Think Positive Today!

It may be the end of a hard week for you, but it's still important to think positive. 

Our thoughts drive our actions, and if we aren't careful, our negative thoughts can take over our lives! 

So today, what is something positive that has happened to you?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Parent Guides for the Common Core State Standards

Another great set of resources for the Common Core.  The National PTA has released a set of parent guides (specific to grade levels K-8, and then a set for high school).  They include excellent information for parents, including focus areas for the year.  Well worth checking out.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Group Work and the Common Core Standards

A new and higher standard of rigor within the Common Core State Standards focuses on increasing skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. But when your students do group work, do they work together or just sit together? I use a cooperative learning rubric to help define and assess effective group work. Here's an excerpt from my book Classroom Instruction from A to Z.  You can download the rubric by visiting Free Resources at my website www.barbarablackburnonline.com.  Choose book templates/downloads and then Classroom Instruction from A to Z.  Scroll down to download the PDF.

Group work is one of the most effective ways to help students learn. It can increase student motivation and is an important life skill. When I was teaching, some of my students didn’t like to work in groups. They complained every day until I brought in a newspaper article that said the number one reason people were fired from their jobs was that they couldn’t get along with their coworkers. That was an eye-opener for my students.

Recently, I was talking with a project manager, and I asked him about the importance of teamwork. He pointed out that knowing how to work with other people is critical. “The more successful you are, the more important it is to influence, motivate, and work with others. If you think about successful people, working with people becomes your job; that is what you do.”

That’s pretty insightful. For people who have achieved high levels of success in the workplace, no matter what the setting, teamwork isn’t part of their job, it is their job. As a teacher, this reminds me that if I believe I should prepare my students for life after school, then I need to teach them to work together.

Recently, I was in a classroom in which the teacher bragged to me that her students worked in groups all the time. When I asked her students, they told me that the desks are placed in groups, but they just read the book silently and answer questions individually. After thinking for a minute, one student said, “We can ask each other for help if we need to.” That’s not really group work. Effective group activities provide opportunities for your students to work together, either with a partner, a small group, or the entire class, to accomplish a task. In these instances, everyone has a specific role, and there are clear individual and shared responsibilities. Missy Miles uses a rubric for assessing each GROUP in her classroom.

You're a Team Player!
You're Working on It…
You're Flying Solo
Group dedication
The student is totally dedicated to his or her group, offering all of his or her attention by actively listening to peers and responding with ideas.
The student is partially dedicated to his or her group though sometimes becomes distracted by students or issues outside the group.
The student spends most of his or her time focusing on things outside the group; he or she is not available for discussion or group work.
The student shares responsibility equally with other group members and accepts his or her role in the group.
The student takes on responsibility but does not completely fulfill his or her obligations.
The student either tries to take over the group and does not share responsibilities or takes no part at all in the group work assigned.
Open communication
The student gives polite and constructive criticism to group members when necessary, welcomes feedback from peers, resolves conflict peacefully, and asks questions when a group goal is unclear.
The student gives criticism, though often in a blunt manner, reluctantly accepts criticism from peers, and may not resolve conflict peacefully all of the time.
The student is quick to point out the faults of other group members yet is unwilling to take any criticism in return; often, the students argues with peers rather than calmly coming to a consensus.
Utilization of Work Time
The student is always on task, working with group members to achieve goals, objectives, and deadlines.
The student is on task most of the time but occasionally takes time off from working with the group.
The student does not pay attention to the task at hand and frustrates other group members because of his or her inability to complete work in a timely fashion.

The student is observed sharing ideas, reporting research findings to the group, taking notes from other members, and offering assistance to his or her peers as needed.
The student sometimes shares ideas or reports findings openly but rarely takes notes from other group members.
This student does not openly share ideas or findings with the group, nor does he or she take notes on peers'

Friday, August 31, 2012

More on School Leadership Strategies for Increasing Rigor

Did you have a chance to listen to the podcast (blog entry below).  It's a short, ten minute interview with me talking about school leadership.  Today's bonus:  the accompanying white paper that goes further into those strategies and more!  Download it here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

School Leadership Strategies for Classroom Rigor

The new podcast is out!  Click here to listen to a ten minute conversation about school leadership and strategies leaders can use to impact classroom rigor.  It's a must hear!

Ready for school?

Are you ready for school?  My son started high school Monday; my nephew started middle school, and my nieces started fourth grade and kindergarten!  Life is full of changes, and starting school is one of them.  For me it's always a chance for a fresh start.  Enjoy the challenge....and the opportunity!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Setting Your Vision

At the start of a new school year, what is your vision for you and your students? Would you like your students to become independent learners? Would you like your students to learn at higher levels? Do you want to provide rigorous instruction and still have fun? The first step to a rigorous classroom is setting your vision. Try this activity:

Project that it is the last day of school and write a letter to a colleague or friend. Describe the school year that just happened (remember, you are imagining that the upcoming year has already happened). It was the best year ever....it far exceeded your expectations. What did you do? What happened with your students? How did they learn and grow and change? How did you?

Create your vision..and then strive to live it! Have a great year!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Which students are capable?

Do you believe this?  Do we as an educational system?  Far too often, I hear comments like:
"Rigor is only for our honors students." "That student isn't capable of rigorous work." or "My class can't even do what we're doing now and you want me to increase it?"

I believe all students are capable of increased levels of rigor.  After all, rigor is simply about raising the level of learning to a new level.  Each student can move to a new level, it just may take some students longer, and some students are moving to different levels of rigor.  As we start a new school year, will you believe that each student is capable of more?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Teacher's Journey

What is your journey?  Where will you go this year?  Of course you have a map that you must follow, but when will you find those unexpected teachable moments that totally surprise you and the students? When will you take a detour to make sure that every student understands the lesson before you move on?  When will you take time at a rest stop to reflect on what is working....and what isn't?  Where will your journey end?  How many of your students will still be on the journey with you? How many will have become lost along the way?  Most importantly, was the journey worth it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Starting a New Year

Are you receiving my e-newsletter?  This month's is on Starting the New Year!  September's issue will be on Increasing Student Participation.  Every issue has quick tips, a Principal's Corner, and Recommended Resources. Sign up now using the link on the right.  I'll be resending the August issue early next week. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What is learning?

What is learning?  I've read the dictionary definition, but I'd like to propose something broader:

Learning is following one piece of information to multiple other sources to find out more.  Learning is when two people start talking about a topic and their enthusiasm leads to more knowledge for both.  Learning is when three or more pieces of information or texts are synthesized in a way that students pull new applications from the materials.  Learning is when a four-year old has the look of excitement on his or her face when he/she learns something new.  Learning is when five days a week, students leave your class excited to come back the next day.

What would you add to my list?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thanks to @KellyHines for sharing this on Twitter.  It is such a true statement about rigor.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Big Dreams Start Small

As a new year starts, I remember how excited and nervous I was every year.  I was excited and filled with hope for new possibilities for learning for my students.  But I was also nervous.  What if they didn't learn? What if I wasn't good enough? What if.......?

As you start a new year, remember that you can and will make a difference for your students.  As Walt Disney said, "I only hope that we never lost sight of one thing--that it all began with a mouse."
I only hope you never lose sight of one thing--this year you WILL make a difference for your students. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Beginnings

As some of you are starting (or thinking of) starting the school year, I'd like to remind you of something:

Beginnings cost you nothing.  Beginnings are full of potential.  Beginnings happen every year.  How will you begin the year?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Common Core--Math Guidelines

The publishers' guidelines for the math standards are now out.  They are the first item in the list.  If you haven't downloaded the ones for ELA, scroll down.  I've found these are helpful tools in addition to the standards and appendices. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Reflections

Have you taken time this summer for reflection?  To think about last year and how you were successful?  To make some plans for this year based on that?  If not, take a bit of time before the rush of another school year starts to think about it and then develop one or two goals for the coming year. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Importance of Persistence

I just read a blog about a new book coming out.  The material about the importance of persistence ties to Marzano's work about reinforcing effort.  I pre-ordered my copy, here's an excerpt of the blog entry:

In his new book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, author Paul Tough makes the case that persistence and grit are the biggest indicators of student success. Being resilient against failure, he says, is the fundamental quality we should be teaching kids, and he gives examples of where that’s being done.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Superstar Teachers

 What will it take for you to feel like this today?  I know that you make a difference, and that you do so everyday.  For example, today, somewhere, one of your former students is using something they learned from you.  For those teaching year-round, one of your current students is thinking about something you said.  And for many of you, your future students are thinking and wondering, what will my new teacher be like?  Don't forget--you are a star!
Super Teacher Accomplishing Results!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

E-Newletter on Vocabulary

Did you receive my June/July newsletter on vocabulary strategies? If not, sign up here.  I'll be sending it out again next week.