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).

Monday, March 30, 2015

#Rigor 101

What are the basics of rigor (2 minute video)?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Celebrating #Rigor

I've been working with Monson Public Schools and they are doing some great things with rigor.  Take a look at a bulletin board from one of the schools.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Creative Alternatives in #Writing

Are you looking for alternatives that incorporate writing but are more creative and rigorous?  Try the RAFT Strategy.
Perhaps you would like your students to write a paragraph about the solar system (the topic you have been teaching in class). This is a standard, lower-level assignment that requires students to restate or summarize the information that you have covered. We can increase the rigor and teach point of view using the RAFT strategy (Santa, Havens, & Macumber, 1996). RAFT stands for role, audience, format, and topic. Using this strategy, students assume a role, such as an astronaut, and write from that perspective to a more authentic audience, such as a people who read his online blog. In this case, students are required to understand the topic at a higher level in order to complete the task.

                                                RAFT Examples

White Blood Cell

Red Blood Cell

Romantic Letter

I Will Keep You Safe

Prepositional Phrase


Persuasive Speech

How I Can Help You Express Yourself

US Supreme Court
Appeal Speech
Dred Scott Decision
Television Audience
Wonders of eggs
Treble Clef

A terrific example of RAFT in Action for math classrooms is found in this article.  It's really a great way to motivate students and engage them in understanding math concepts.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Successful People Who Failed First

One of the most important lessons we can teach students is that failure does not have to be a stop sign--it can be a sign pointing toward success.  A strategy I used was to profile famous people whoThis webpage describes 19 such people.
are considered successes, along with their failures.

For example, check out this profile of Taylor Swift:
She may have only been 11 years old at the time, but the young and driven TSwift struggled at first to find a record label in Nashville, Tennessee, that would sign her. During a middle school spring break, she took a demo CD of her singing karaoke covers of country stars Dolly Parton, the Dixie Chicks and LeAnn Rimes to Music Row and handed copies to as many music label receptionists as she could, but said she wasn't signed because "everyone in that town wanted to do what I wanted to do." She clearly found her niche, though -- this musical princess has since learned how to play quite a few instruments, taken over the country and pop-rock scene, and openly defied one the most popular music streaming companies.

For the entire list, click here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How Parents Can Help their Children Succeed

I recently ran across a report, Doing What Matters Most:  How Parents Can Help Their Children Succeed in School.  IN reviewing 30 years of research, they found four key things parents can do:

1.  Have high expectations,
2.  Talk about school at home,
3.  Help students develop positive attitudes about learning and a good work ethic, and
4.  Read with their sons and daughters.

Here's a tip sheet, designed for principals, with concrete suggestions for each of these four areas.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Encouraging Students to Ask Questions

I ran across this blog entry a couple of weeks ago.  It's a great description of using a questioning game to encourage students to ask questions.  Using the template below (by Sophie Wrobelgeist.avesophos.de) create cubes, put students in groups, and let them roll the die.  Then, as a review game, students create questions beginning with the prompt.  You're shifting ownership to students for the questioning, and at the same time, by giving them question stems, you are providing support.  An excellent idea for motivating students and raising the level of rigor in your classroom.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Effective #Rubrics

My newest e-newsletter on Effective Rubrics is out!  If you aren't receiving it, click to the right to sign up--I'm resending it daily for now.  It's about a five minute read, and includes a Principal's Corner.  Sign up now!

Monday, March 9, 2015

#Differentiation Through Text Selection

Teachers in one elementary school that I observed had an issue related to differentiation of content. About 75% of their students scored above grade level on state testing, and a large percentage of those students were in gifted classes. They were concerned that many of their students were not being challenged. The fifth-grade teachers typically chose one novel for all of the students to read each month. One teacher explained, “I’m not sure we’re really meeting anyone’s needs. The books are fun, but they are too hard for a few students, and I think they are probably too easy for a good portion of my students.”

The teachers wanted to read a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead of choosing one book, we found four biographies at varying levels of readability. The students were then organized in groups based on their abil- ity to read and discuss the novels. Each teacher met with one of the four groups to facilitate discussions and ensure understanding. Then, the students returned to their original classrooms and all of the teachers led whole-group discussions about Martin Luther King, Jr. A key element of this process was that each of the books contained some information that the other groups had not read. During the class discussion, the teachers asked ques- tions to elicit specific information from each group.

One of the benefits was that even students in the lowest reading group had information to contribute to the discussion, reinforcing everyone’s im- portance to the group. Students who could read at a higher level were challenged to do so. Finally, students were placed into new groups with others who had read different books so that they could create a final project about Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Differentiating by Layering Meaning

When I taught at-risk students, I used a strategy called layering meaning to help them read and understand our social studies textbook. Because my students were reading below grade level, they struggled with our textbook. So I would find an article or section from another book on the same topic that was easier to read. My students would read that material first, which helped them build background knowledge and learn some of the specialized vocabulary. Then, when we read the textbook, they were more successful. As we progressed through the year, some of my students no longer needed the extra step. Others, however, needed the continued support. Therefore, I differentiated the reading assignments based on the skill level of my students.  Layering meaning works especially well with students at grades four and up.  An excellent website to find sources of text is Newsela.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

#Differentiation Tips

Differentiation can be difficulty.  Just trying to meet all the varying needs of your students is challenging.  However, I recently found this set of tips to get started with differentiation with secondary students.  I also love this visual from Carol Ann Tomlinson as to what differentiation is...and is not.