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, September 24, 2009

Rigor for All Grade Levels

ACT recently released the report The Forgotten Middle: Ensuring that All Students Are on Target for College and Career Readiness before High School. It is the latest in a series of reports documenting the need for increased rigor. However, this one focuses on a key point: rigor is NOT just for high school. In fact, if we wait until high school to increase rigor for our students, we have failed. The authors of the report are clear: "Our research shows that, under current conditions, the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school."

Most teachers I work with know this already. At the end of one of my workshops on rigor, a first grade teacher in Baltimore shared how she planned to increase rigor when her students read The Three Little Pigs. She said, "After we read the story, I usually mention something about the three types of houses, but now I'm going to have my students do some basic research about houses built of straw, wood, and brick." Now that's the perfect formula for success: high expectations for students plus creative activities.

How are you increasing rigor in your classroom?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Resources for the Classroom

If you are looking for some of the templates from Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word, head over to my main website: http://www.barbarablackburnonline.com/rigor.html.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One of my Favorite Rigorous Activities!

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?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Having a Vision

When I was a young teacher, I was assigned a group of at-risk students...and we plunged into the world of state testing! Head over to my entry at Tales from a Teacher's Heart to see my story!