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).

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