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).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Professional Development...and More Resources

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Monday, December 14, 2015

#Rigor Through Discovering Errors

Another easy way to increase rigor when beginning a lesson, ask students to discover errors.  For the topic you will be teaching today, create a webpage or blog entry that mimics an online encyclopedia entry.  Include at least four content errors.  Ask students to compare the webpage to a credible site, such as the National Geographic Channel.  Their task is to correct the mistakes.  This is a great way to build some prior knowledge and hone students’ analysis skills.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Quick #Rigor Activity to Start a Lesson

A quick way to increase rigor, while introducing a concept or topic for the day, use a picture.  Rather than showing the entire picture to students, cut the picture into multiple pieces, and show them one at a time, requiring them to discern elements and infer the topic.  You can also use technology to either show pieces or uncover pieces of the picture.  I was in a primary classroom where the teacher used a simple folder to complete this activity. On the front of the folder, a face with a smile was cut
out.  The picture was inserted inside the folder, and students determined the picture with just the portion seen through the face.  It’s a simple way to complete this activity, and a quick and easy way to add rigor to your lesson.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Standards on the Board--A Rote Activity?

Many teachers write the standard for the day on the board.  Students are then expected to either read the standard, write the standard, or the teacher reads the standard aloud.  Too often, this becomes a rote activity that carries no real meaning for students.  In order to activate learning, turn the statement into a question.  Explain to students that the focus of the day is for them to be able to answer the question at the end of the lesson.  Then, as a final activity for the day, ask them to write the answer and turn it in. It's far more rigorous than just copying the standard.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Real-Life Learning for #Rigor

We often talk about the importance of real-life learning in the classroom.  However, many times we have students complete application activities at the end of a lesson.  In a rigorous classroom, we want students to think at higher levels.  Jessica Guidry, one of my former students, designed an ecology unit for her science classroom that applies this principle. Her students were introduced to the unit with the following task:
You are an ecologist from Rock Hill, South Carolina. Recently, members of the United Nations have come together and decided that they must eliminate one biome to make room for the world’s growing human population. You and a group of your peers have decided to take a stand. You will each choose one biome to present to the United Nations in New York City this April. It is very important that you persuade the members of the UN to keep your chosen biome alive! The UN has asked that you write a persuasive essay to present to the audience. They also asked that you bring visuals and information about your references. You must be sure that you include how your biome benefits the world population. You need to include information about the habitats, populations, animals, plants, and food chains of your biome.

Throughout the unit, she integrated a variety of other open-ended projects, such as creating a flip book on their biome, participating in a debate, and creating food chains/webs in addition to the regular mix of lecture, guided discussion, and laboratory activities. However, since she began with the open-ended, authentic situation, her students were more engaged and challenged throughout the lessons.

Monday, November 30, 2015

High Expectations Lead to High Achievement!

Do you believe that high expectations are a precursor to high achievement?  I do.  Students live up to or down to our expectations.  If we believe a student can do something, they try to achieve it.  If we believe they can't, they will prove us right.  You may feel like you don't have control of anything these days--other people tell you what to teach, how to teach, etc.  But you do control your expectations, and only you control them.  Are your expectations high enough for your students?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Should Students Be Required to Complete Work?

Another part of high expectations is requiring students to complete their work, especially major assignments or assessments.  If something is important enough for you to assign it, then it should be important enough for a student to complete it. Let me clarify a key point. This is not just about the student’s responsibility. You play a major role in his or her success. First, it means we design assignments that are valuable, not just busy work. In addition to helping students understand the value of the work, we hold them responsible for completion.
           When I was teaching, that meant that students who did not complete an assignment stayed with me during lunch and completed it while eating. You don’t have to give up your lunchtime, but requiring students to complete something means you also provide a structure and support to ensure they finish. I was recently in a high school where the teachers posted office hours for students to receive extra help. That’s a great idea, but the students who need the most help usually don’t voluntarily seek it. Another school in the same district offered specified times for help, but it was required for any student who failed a test. The teachers sent a clear message that learning was not a choice.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

#Rigor: No Excuses

One aspect of rigor is high expectations.  A key part of high expectations is communicating that learning is not optional.  Many students think it’s okay to “take a zero”, and in a rigorous classroom, that is not acceptable.  I used two specific strategies to communicate high expectations with teachers, and with students.  
I took several teachers and the principal from a local school to visit a high-poverty school in a neighboring state. The school had a strong reputation for closing achievement gaps, despite the challenging student population. Bob Heath, the principal of a local middle school, described his experience.
The option to not do work was not there. If as adults, we accept that students cannot do work, we are not doing the kids any service at all. This comes out in several ways, starting with our vocabulary. If we say “students just won’t do the work,” we are part of the problem. We have to get those words out of our vocabulary. They won’t do because we don’t make them do
            When I was teaching, my students’ default response to assignments was, “I can’t do that.”  It became so automatic to them, that they would answer “I can’t” before I asked them to do something.  Finally, I added it to our classroom rules:  You are not allowed to use the word can’t.  It took about six weeks, but students stopped using the word.    I was in an elementary school in Cleveland, Ohio, and a teacher shared her response to the same issue.  Each student took a can, and filled it with sheets of paper noting all the things they couldn’t do.  Then, they buried their “can’ts” and started fresh.

Do you use the words can't and won't?  Do your students?  How can you remove those from your vocabulary?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rigor and Different Perspectives

My newest e-newsletter is out, and topic is looking at different perspectives to increase rigor.  If you are interested, sign up on the right.  I'll be resending it later this week.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Applying Webb's Depth of Knowledge

In my last post, I described Webb's Depth of Knowledge, recommending it as a stronger alternative to Bloom's Taxonomy.  Today, let's look at sample activities taken from Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Guide Career and Technical Education Definitions.

Sample Activities
DOK Level
Possible Activities
Level One
Develop a concept map showing a process or describing a topic.
Write in your own words.
Make a cartoon strip showing the sequence.
Paraphrase a chapter.
Outline the main points.
Basic measurement tasks that involve one step.
Use a simple formula where at least one of the unknowns are provided.
Locating information in mapts, charts, tables, graphs, and drawings.
Level Two
Construct a model to demonstrate how it looks or works.
Write a diary/blog entry.
Make a topographic map.
Write an explanation about this topic for others.
Stating relationships among a number of concepts and/or principles.
Multi-step calculation tasks.
Aggregating/organizing data collected in a basic presentation form.
Level Three
Use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast.
Make a flow chart to show critical stages.
Write a letter to the editor after an evaluation product.
Prepare a case to present your view about a topic.
Explain abstract terms and concepts.
Complex calculation problems that draw on multiple processes.
Create graphs, tables, and charts where students must reason and organize information with teacher prompts.
Level Four
Applying information to solve ill-defined problems in novel situations.
Writing/research tasks that involve formulating and testing hypotheses over time.
Perspective taking and collaboration with a group.
Creating graphs, tables, and charts where students must reason through and organize information without teacher prompts.
Writing tasks with a strong element of persuasion.

Samples from: http://www.aps.edu/rda/documents/resources/Webbs_DOK_Guide.pdf