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, March 30, 2012

Teachers Make a Difference

Last weekend I spent Saturday with a great group of teachers in Cleveland, Ohio.  They were passionate about making a difference for and with their students, and they were actively engaged in professional development---on a Saturday!---to accomplish their goals.  They reminded me of how much I believe in teachers, and the power of teachers to make a difference.  Thank you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More blogs!!!

Have you seen my blogs over at Eye on Education? Take a look!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rigor, Vigor, or ????

If you are a member of LinkedIn--or even if you aren't--I've just created a new discussion group for Rigor in EducationIt's a great opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, and meet other people who are also interested in the topic of rigor.  Please join us if you would like. The latest question? Rigor, vigor, or some other word. What do you think!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rigor is for Everyone

Do we really believe this? Or is rigor only for honors students, or gifted students, or AP students?  One of the strategies for increasing rigor is to move more students into those classes, and it is a strategy that works.  But if that is the only way to increase rigor, that means that none of the other teachers are capable of rigorous instruction.  And I am a passionate believer that each teacher can incorporate rigor in his or her classroom.  And...each student is capable of rigorous work, since rigor is moving to new levels of learning!  Have a great week.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rigor on the Radio

TONIGHT from 6-6:30 EST I'll be a guest on Engaging Educator's Radio Show.  Be sure to tune in! For more information, click here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coloring the World

Do you feel this way about the diversity of students you teach? Are they colorful or disruptive in your eyes? Remember, our expectations make a difference!

Don't forget to vote in the poll to the right.  What are your challenges related to the CCSS? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Radio Interview on Rigor

Monday from 6-6:30 EST I'll be a guest on Engaging Educator's Radio Show.  Be sure to tune in! For more information, click here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rigor Made Easy?!

Have you seen my new book, Rigor Made Easy? Here's a quick two-minute overview!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rigor in the Classroom

What does rigor look like in the classroom?  Here's my 3 minute description.  Any thoughts to add?  Don't forget to vote in the poll to the right. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rigor in Career/Tech Classes

I love listening to this marketing teacher from Tennessee.  He uses rigor, motivation, and engagement to lead his students to success!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Teachers Build the Future

My biggest challenge as a teacher was keeping myself motivated. I hope that you remember everyday that you build a future for your students, one they may not be able to see. 

Ultimately, motivating yourself is about making a choice every single day that you are going to do your best, and you are going to stay positive—no matter what. It may be just remembering that you do make a difference. Or it may be continuing to do your job; even when the crowd is yelling at you. It is going in every day to teach, even when you don’t see that you are making a difference. It’s believing the best, even when the students don’t act their best. One thing that great teachers have in common is that they keep themselves motivated and they do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Make the commitment now to starting every day off RIGHT!

R Remind yourself of why you do this.
I Invest energy in positive activities.
G  Grin—it’s contagious.
H  Hang out with positive people.
T Take time to reflect and renew.

Thanks for remembering to vote in the poll on the right!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is Instructional Rigor?

Take a look over at Suite101 for my next piece, and introduction to the concept of instructional rigor and classroom-based examples.

What is true instructional rigor? What are classroom-based strategies that are rigorous?
Instructional rigor has become a controversial topic. Educators disagree about the word itself, citing a dictionary definition of harsh or rigid. A friend of mine points out that if you look it up, the word rigor falls between rigamarole and rigor mortis.  True instructional rigor, however, is centered around student learning. 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 (2008)."

A Rigorous Environment

What would those concepts look like in a classroom? An environment of rigor includes a focus on progress for each student, in addition to meeting a standard of achievement. If your school has an honor roll, consider adding a progress roll, which recognizes the small steps that each student makes in order to reach the larger goal. Success breeds success, so as students make progress, they are encouraged to try for a higher level.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reviewing for Higher Levels of Learning

I used a pizza wheel to review material students are assigned to read prior to or during class. Each student writes a fact he or she learned in one of the pizza slices. Then, working in small groups, students pass their papers to the next group member, who also writes a fact. This continues around the circle until each pizza is full. Students can discuss the material, using the pizza wheels as a prompt. Then, ask students to write an extended response to a higher level question. For struggling students, one of the stumbling blocks to application-oriented questions is ensuring knowledge of basic facts.  This provides an instant go-to guide for a reference.

An added bonus is ensuring that each student participates, rather than certain students dominating group work. Although you can measure students’ understanding in an oral discussion, asking each student to write ensures that all students are involved in the lesson and provides an opportunity for every student to respond.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Have you seen my new Pinterest site? Also love to look at other educators' boards...contact me!

New March poll is also up (look to the right). What's your biggest challenge with the CCSS?

The Common Core State Standards and Text Complexity

I'm writing a new series of blogs over at Suite 101.  The newest one is on the increased emphasis in the Common Core State Standards and text complexity.Be sure to check it out!

The Common Core State Standards focus on increasing text complexity. What does that mean? How can we address that in the classroom?
The Common Core State Standards are one of the hottest topics in education today, especially since they are designed to increase rigor in the classroom. Increasing text complexity, or the level of text students are expected to understand is embedded in the standards. It's important to keep in mind that text does not mean only books. The CCSS emphasize non-fiction, informational text materials that will prepare students for college and the workforce.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Headed to NASSP!!

Is anyone attending the NASSP conference in Tampa starting today?  If so, I'd love to see you.  Ron Williamson and I will be presenting Rigor in Your School: A Toolkit for Leaders at 2:30 on Saturday. Participants will be live tweeting at #EdRigor. I'll also be signing Rigor Made Easy, which makes its official debut at the conference.

Prior to my presentation on Saturday, I'm looking to connect with great leaders!  Contact me through my website or via Twitter @BarbBlackburn if you'd like to chat. 

I almost forgot...some other great sessions I'm looking at: Ron and Howard Johnston have an early Saturday morning session on social media, Eric Schessinger is presenting on Educational Leadership 2.0 on Saturday, and on Friday at 7:30, a group including Carolyn Guthrie (I was so impressed when I met her two years ago) is presenting "Creating a Rigorous School Culture".  Awesome choices!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reflective Questioning Guides for Rigor Made Easy

I always receive requests for guiding questions with my books.  This time, I created two. 

The first one is designed for teachers; the second one for leaders.

And if you missed it, I posted the link to a facilitator's handbook last weekend.  I love those activities, and they are easily adapted to the book of your choice.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Leaders Who Believe

Yesterday, I talked about working with teachers in Wellston, Ohio. Today, let's turn our attention to what great leaders do.  So often, I only have the opportunity to work with teachers, but in this case, I stayed a second day and spent the morning with principals and district leadership.  They demonstrated several actions that I think are critical for school leaders:
  • Actively participating in the activities during the full-day workshop;
  • Talking with and asking questions of their teachers throughout the day to ensure I could make any needed adjustments or answer questions; and
  • Meeting briefly with their teachers at the end of they day to provide an opportunity for anonymous feedback using post-it notes (this allowed for more honest comments).
The benefits of customized, long-term professional development are clear.  In this case, rather than viewing the workshop as a "one-time show", we partnered together to design a day that would be worthwhile, and adjusted during the day as needed.

The next day, we brainstormed what they could do in their schools for follow-up.  Ultimately, it's not what you do during that day...it's what you do afterward.  As a group, they decided to meet with teachers to discuss their vision letters.  Next, I asked teachers to choose one idea from our session or from my new book, Rigor Made Easy, since they each received a copy.  I will be back at the end of the month, so they are going to try or adapt one idea and implement it with their students.  Then, they can discuss with grade levels, departments, etc. the positives of the activity, as well as the challenges.  Leaders will take a look at samples of the students' works, so they can see what is happening.  Finally, the schools are doing a book study, and are using some of the resources I'll be discussing later this week.

What was my most important takeaway as I worked with some great leaders?  They believe!  They believe their students can learn.  They believe their teachers can add to what they are already doing in the classroom.  And, most importantly, they believe they can help teachers and students move to higher levels.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Great Teachers in Wellston, Ohio

One of my favorite activities is facilitating workshops with teachers.  Last week, I was in Wellston, Ohio, working with all teachers PK-12.  I was not surprised at their passion for reaching students--I see that most of the time, but I never take it for granted.  It was fun to watch them begin to build a true understanding of rigor (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), and realize they were already incorporating rigor in their classrooms.  However, it was also great to see them reflect on our activities, and decide how they would use the strategies in their classrooms. It was special for me, because they had copies of my new book, and they were able to refer to it throughout the day. Thanks to teachers in Wellston for making my day!

Teachers who are dedicated to helping their students succeed...priceless!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Facilitating Book Groups

Since Rigor Made Easy is now out, I wanted to share a few resources.  Have you ever been asked to facilitate a book group or book study?  This one is for you!  The format I prefer is activities to use before reading the book, ones for use while reading a book, and those appropriate for use after you have finished reading.  Even those these activities are specifically for Rigor Made Easy, they can easily be adapted for any book study. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Engaging Strategies for Research

Missy Miles uses content literacy in her research activities:

"For biographies, my students dress like their person and give a speech about themselves. When we do colonial research, they write a historical fiction picture book to retell the story of the colony they research. We play “Will the Real Christopher Columbus Please Stand Up” and hold an “Ole Winfrey” show for Spanish conquistadors."

Reading, writing, speaking, and listening combine to help students bring research to life. How do you incorporate literacy and technology to bring research to life?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Interpreting Visual Representations

Think for a minute about the visuals you read or write in your life. I made a quick list, and it included diagrams, figures, maps, menus, labels, captions, charts, schedules, timelines, and graphs. Then I scanned through my house and office to find text materials that included something more than words and letters. I found magazines, newspapers, ads, food containers, manuals, cards, and catalogs. Then, there’s what I can see on television and the Internet. We truly are surrounded by visuals, and it’s important for our students to understand how to interpret what they see.

One of the lessons that surprised my students was on advertising. I showed them a range of magazine ads about smoking, and we discussed what they saw. Their initial responses revolved around how pretty, handsome, successful, and happy the people appeared to be. That led to a discussion of advertising techniques and propaganda. Students quickly realized that it’s important to look beneath the surface to determine the real meaning of ads.

I was recently in Lynn Kelley’s classroom, where she did a similar activity. After teaching types of propaganda, her students created videos demonstrating the various techniques. As she said, “I think they will remember it when they see a question on the state test because they had to create their own examples.”