This blog post marks the first post since taking a summer break from blogging. I did not vaporize into the blogosphere. I have had a very full, busy and exciting summer (as documented on Instagram - @hellojenjones). Please be assured that maintaining this blog and sharing high value instructional best practices in literacy is my passion, and I am more fired up than ever to continue the mission of this blog:
...growing readers, one best practice at a time.
One of the take-aways I got from the TpT conference this summer in Vegas was the realization that I needed to tighten up my blog posts to be shorter in overall length and focused on one topic per post, so that is what I will try to do. With that said, I do plan to finish my Informational Standards Series, resuming with Standard #3. For now, I want to start a new series today called "Breaking Down Academic Buzzwords." Every so often I will take one academic buzzword and break it down, in my own words.
Let's begin with RIGOR.
It's a hot word right now, and has been, where you are a Common Core school/state or not. It's a word that districts and principals use with teachers constantly. They say "Your lessons must be rigorous" or "Your instruction must include rigor" and that's about all they say, not much else, and many teachers generally think one of two things, "Ok, I'll make my lessons harder or more challenging!" or "Ok, how do I do that?" without an explanation of RIGOR.
First and key, embedded in rigor is ENGAGEMENT.
Engagement is not a teacher behavior exactly, it is a student behavior, but highly influenced by the attitude, opportunity and structures provided by the teacher, from which students (hopefully) choose to engage in the learning because they see value in it, for them.
Then, embedded in engagement are the learning domains - AFFECTIVE & COGNITIVE.
A student's AFFECTIVE (growth in feelings or emotional areas; how one feels about themselves as a learner and general internal motivation and feelings about learning...anything) motivation and COGNITIVE (mental skills, knowledge; ability to think and problem-solve, evaluate and critique information, etc.) ability to see/feel/get positive results and real learning as a result of their engagement and effort/perseverance from having engaged in the learning, which makes students more likely to engage next time.
And last, embedded in affective and cognitive learning is AGENCY and INDEPENDENCE.
Agency is the motivation and urgency a student brings to the task no matter the content. Independence is the student's ability to be a self-regulated learner without teacher feedback or direction.
But that's not all, there's RELEVANCY and RELATIONSHIPS.
Take-Away: Rigor is just as much about students and their learning identities, as it is about teachers and knowing students well, choosing your attitude, showing real respect for students, building positive relationships with students, and planning for genuine, relevant learning. It's about embracing your role to providing classroom learning experiences that are more likely than less likely to encourage and invite engagement. It's about providing physical and classroom culture environments and believing that ALL students can learn at high levels when high expectations are clear and known AND that where students actually demonstrate learning at high levels. It's about making real school-life connections for students, and creating a sense of urgency that a student's choice to engage will have a positive take-away and intrinsic pay-off for them, which will no doubt give you a sense of teaching accomplishment, increase your likelihood to continue recreating rigorous classroom experiences in your class and affirm yet again that yes, you have been called to teaching because it is without a doubt, the most important job in the world.
Additional Reading: 4 Myths about Rigor