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, October 22, 2009

Lots of Resources...

Check out my website (www.barbarablackburnonline.com). In addition to the materials on rigor, you'll find activities related to student motivation and student engagement. Click on each book and look for the activity templates!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Group Work at a Higher Level

A new and higher standard of rigor is emerging that 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 and two printable pdfs of the rubric.

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'

You can find a PDF of the rubric by visiting   http://www.barbarablackburnonline.com/classroominstruction.htm   and using the drop down menu to choose the rubric.  (Excerpted from Classroom Instruction from A to Z, by Barbara R. Blackburn)

Next, choose the book Literacy from A to Z and use the drop down menu for a student cooperative learning rubric for grades K-2. (Excerpted from Literacy from A to Z, by Barbara R. Blackburn)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Primer of Resources on Rigor

The Hechinger Institute’s report, “Understanding and Reporting on Academic Rigor”was released on June 3, 2009, the 28-page report offers journalists an objective primer on the concept of rigor in education. I'm referenced in several places in the report.

The Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media is an effort built out of the Teacher’s College at Columbia University. Launched in 1996, the institute has since hosted 63 informational seminars for members of the media who cover educational topics.

Click here to read the full report.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Leading a Book Study of Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word?

If so, there's a free facilitator's guide over on my website. It's filled with engaging activities for you and your faculty!