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).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Difference a Word Can Make (Part Two)

A word to remove from your classroom is can’t. Every time the word can’t is said, it is like a weight that drags everyone down. I did not allow anyone in my room to say can’t; it was one of our class rules. It was an impor- tant part of building a culture of high expectations. Anytime students began to say, “I can’t do this,” I would remind them of their strengths. This shifts the focus from the negative (what I cannot do) to the positive (what I can do). 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Difference a Word Can Make (Part One)

Have you ever thought about the difference that one word can make? Often, when I share ideas during a workshop at a school or in a school district, I’ll hear this type of comment: “That’s a great idea, but my students can’t....but my students won’t....but my principal wouldn’t like that....but I don’t think that would work in my class...” The word but can serve as a red light or a stop sign for progress. On the other hand, when I’m in a school that is making a difference with all of its students, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, poverty level, or background, I hear this: “That’s a great idea, and here’s how I can make it work with my students.” The word and is like a green light! As you work with your most challenging students, do you think in terms of but or and? 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Assessing Background Knowledge with Post-It Notes

Missy Miles describes an alternative approach to assessing background knowledge: “As students come into class I hand each of them their own sticky note (which they love). I have a question or other directions written on the board that ask the students to tell me what they know about the topic we are beginning that day in class. For example,
‘List five things you already know about William Shakespeare’ or ‘What do you know about the Holocaust?’ The students respond to the statement or question on their sticky notes and then place their notes on the board. After all students have responded, I read each of the sticky notes out loud, often times categorizing their responses into appropriate fields. By verbally acknowledging each sticky note, all students feel as though they have contributed to the ‘background knowledge board.’ More importantly, many students realize they know more about the topic than they first thought as they recognize other students’ responses. I hear whispers in the class such as ‘Oh, yeah,’ or ‘I knew that!” It causes students to feel as though they can be successful at learning this subject because they already know something about it.” 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rigor Made Easy for Kindergarten

Watch these kindergarten teachers discuss Rigor Made Easy.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rigor for Leaders

Did you miss my webinar (one hour) on Rigor and the Common Core State Standards:  Just the Beginning?  It's designed for school leaders and was sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.  If you are a teacher, pass this on to your principal!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Finishing the Year!

Have you received my latest newsletter?  This month it's on finishing the year effectively, with an update on my newest book, Rigor for Students with Special Needs.  If you aren't on my email list, click and sign up on the right.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

To all mothers, mothers-to-be, and substitute mothers (those who help and those who teach), have a wonderful day.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Active Learning in Action

What does a lesson look like when students are actively involved? Scott Bauserman, a teacher at Decatur Central High School in Indiana, asks his students to choose a topic from the social studies unit and design a game. The finished product must teach about the topic, use appropriate vocabulary and processes, and be fun to play. As he explains, “Students have to construct the game, the box, provide pieces and a board, and write the rules. I received a wide variety. One game I will always remember was about how a bill gets passed into law. We spent time [in class] talking about all the points where a bill in Congress or the state General Assembly could be killed, pigeon-holed, or defeated. The student took a box the size of a cereal box, set up a pathway with appropriate steps along the way, constructed question/answer cards, and found an array of tokens for game pieces. If a player answered a question correctly, he or she would roll a dice and move along the path to passage. But the student had cut trap doors at the points where a bill could be killed, and if a player landed on a trap door/bills topper, the player to the right could pull a string, making that player’s token disappear from the board. The player would have to start over. Not a bad game from a student who has fetal alcohol syndrome and is still struggling to pass his classes.” 
photo by xandert

Monday, May 6, 2013

Rigor for Students with Special Needs (Updated Information)

The new book, Rigor for Students with Special Needs, will be out at the end of May.  You can read an excerpt and see the table of contents here.  You can also preorder a copy!  I'm very excited about the book, because it responds to the number two question I hear.  The most popular question is, "What is rigor?" but second is, "How can I work with my students with special needs?"  I also have a fabulous co-author, Brad Witzel, whose specialty is students with learning disabilities.  I hope you enjoy the excerpt and find it useful.  

Active Learning for Students

The foundation of active learning is involvement by both the teacher and the student. I recently spoke with a teacher who wanted me to give her a list of active versus passive learning strategies. But it’s not that simple. For example, if a teacher lectures, is that a passive activity? Not necessarily. I’ve been on the receiving end of lectures that were very engaging; I was totally involved, taking notes and making connections to my prior
experiences and my current situation. When I was in college, though, I remember a professor who lectured throughout the entire course. I wrote on notepaper during class, so he thought that I was focused on his class. In reality, I was working on my homework from another course! It isn’t the strategy—it’s how you use the strategy that makes a difference.
Students who are actively involved in a lesson or activity exhibit several key characteristics:

A Attention
C Concentrated effort
T Thinking
I Involvement
V Variety
E Engagement 

photo by jppi

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Wise Teacher

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” –Khalil Gibran

(photo by niaonto)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rigor for Students with Special Needs

My newest book will be out by the end of May!