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, October 31, 2012

How can I increase rigor without making it boring?

Rigor isn't just more work. Rigor means increasing expectations for higher learning, but also providing appropriate support.  And that doesn't mean boring.  You might increase rigor in your vocabulary review.  Instead of asking students to copy words and definitions and then writing their own definition,  ask them to write a riddle!  It's engaging, creative, and requires higher order thinking skills. And by the way, it's fun!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


My thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and all the related weather. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Is there a painless way to increase rigor?

Absolutely.  One of my favorites is to build on a common classroom activity:  pair-share.  After you have students turn and talk to their partner, ask them to share their partner's answer.  Not only does this require students to listen at a higher level, they also must be able to understand their partner's answer well enough to explain it to someone else.  This typically encourages higher order questions to the partner.

A second one is adjusting True-False tests.  Rather than students guessing at an answer, require them to rewrite all false answers into true statements.  This way, students must truly demonstrate their understanding.

Two quick and easy--and painless--ways to incorporate rigor in your classroom!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blog Postings

I hope your week is going well!  I wanted to let all my readers know that I'm scaling back a bit on my postings.  Rather than posting five days a week, I'll be writing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  As usual, Fridays will be a motivational tip or saying.  I enjoy writing on my blog, but I'm working on a brand new book and need to focus a bit more time there! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Common Core and Text Complexity

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.

Choosing Appropriate Text

There are really three aspects to think about when choosing appropriate materials for students. First, consider the reading level and the complexity of the text. For example, a more difficult text is easier to read when there are support features, such as headings, charts, and bold-faced words that help a student chunk the information.
Next, reflect on your knowledge of your students. What is each student's current reading level, his or her interests, and his or her developmental level. Is this a text that is appropriate for your particular students? Finally, the purpose is important. Are students reading for fun or for instruction?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NEW! Revision of Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word

Just out this month is the revision of my best-selling Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word.  The Common Core is integrated throughout, and there are more technology examples and activities for elementary school.  Pre-order here!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Podcast: Tools for School Leaders

Barbara Blackburn provides five leadership tools and strategies that can be used immediately to improve your practice and help you become a more effective school leader in this segment. Dr. Blackburn’s ideas are easily executable and based on decades of experience as an educator, professor, and consultant. Among her many books, she is the co-author of The Principalship from A-to-Z.
Barbara Blackburn’s Five Leadership Tools covered in this segment: Name It, Claim It and Explain It; Getting Input From Stakeholders; Vision Letters; Learning Walks With a Twist; and You Really Are An Advocate.

To listen to the ten minute podcast, click here!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Building Success for Students

Building Blocks for Achieving Success

Students are motivated when they believe they have a chance to be successful. And that belief is built on four additional building blocks:
  • level of challenge
  • prior experiences
  • encouragement
  • beliefs about success.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Great Resource

Are you looking for a blog related to student engagement, learning, and technology?  Then the Engaging Educators' Blog is for you!  Check it out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Praising Ability or Effort?

In a recent workshop, a teacher commented, "My students who are high ability just take learning for granted.  Because of this, they seem lazy and unwilling to work."

I taught the student described in this statement.  He had always been the smartest student in the room, and his parents continually praised his ability.  However, over time, he felt like he was so smart, he didn't need to try anymore.  He assumed his ability would carry him through my class.

A recent study clarifies this situation.  The researchers found that if students are praised only for their ability, over time, their effort and achievement goes down.  But if you praise a student for effort, for working hard and being persistent, over time they increase their effort, and their achievement increases.  You can mix the two, but don't forget effort.  Over time, it does make a difference with your students. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

My students don't care!

Too often, we see students who just to seem to care.  They just aren't motivated!  But that's a myth...all students are motivated, just not by what we want them to be motivated!  The key is to look beyond the surface and determine their motivating factors.

Students are motivated by two things:  value and success.  So if they don't seem motivated, either they don't see the relevance of the subject, or they aren't interest in the types of learning activities, or they haven't connected with the teacher.  That's the value aspect.

Students also need to feel successful.  Many times, we teach students who have never been successful in an academic setting.  So we need to provide opportunities for them to experience success.  Giving them questions for which there is no wrong answer is one option, and chunking larger assignments into small bites is another. 

Remember, value and success.  That's the formula for motivating students!

Friday, October 5, 2012

How Should We Teach Today's Student?


If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s,
we rob them of tomorrow.

John Dewey

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Is Rigor Positive or Negative?

What do you think when you hear or read the word rigor? Does it carry a positive or negative connotation? When discussing rigor and its importance in the classroom, teachers and students often find themselves face-to-face with a seemingly impenetrable wall created by how their perceptions. So, rather than trying to penetrate the wall, let’s walk around it, or get a harness and some rope and climb it! Rigor, like this wall, presents a challenge, but not to the extent that students feel they must overcome insurmountable obstacles. Rather, it offers a challenge that, combined with strategic thinking and action, paves the way for success. 

When teachers combine challenge with instruction and encouragement to guide students toward success, students are more likely to view rigor as something that positively impacts their learning and their abilities to seek information. Too often, students resist challenges because they fear failure. So, we must rearrange our own perceptions of rigor. Instead of trying to “stump” students, we should invite them to take risks as learners, to think critically, to express themselves, and to experience the personal satisfaction and joy that accompanies genuine accomplishment.

What do you think? How do you help students take risks in your classroom?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review of Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word

Here's a review of Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word. 

Look for the second edition coming in early 2013. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Podcast on the Common Core and Rigor

An overlooked aspect of the new CCSS is that while the standards set rigorous benchmarks, their impact on student learning will depend entirely upon their implementation. We cannot assume that simply adopting the Common Core state standards will provide a rigorous environment for students. True rigor, as Dr. Barbara Blackburn explains in this segment, encompasses high expectations for student learning and increased support so students can learn at higher level.

To listen to the ten minute podcast, click here.