Rigor, (and its counterpart, text complexity), has been the focus of my latest professional quest. As teachers, we know that rigor is key to high standards and high performance, but how do we ensure appropriate rigor for each child in a class of diverse learners? Well, of course providing for that diversity is the continual challenge for teachers in so many areas every day in classrooms around the world.
This ongoing quest to ensure rigor sent me out into the twittersphere and beyond, where I ran across an upcoming webinar by Barbara Blackburn hosted by Eye on Education. As I did my usual online vetting before I spent an hour of my time, I saw that my favorite team, Ben Curran and Neil Wetherbee from Engaging Educators, had interviewed Blackburn some months back. That was a good sign in my book, so I registered.
It was worth the hour. She had some great ideas that could be used in your classroom tomorrow. Layering texts by starting with a simpler version, and then after background knowledge has been established, layering in a more complex text, is an effective strategy that I’ve used often. Using multiple texts for each student to investigate a topic provides opportunity for differentiated rigor, as well as possibilities for comparison and more complex thought. Her Question Matrix for Opening Focus is not only good for widening the class conversation, but a good way to teach thinking skills. She even provided a word problem template for math. And just like any good party, attendees left with a bag full of helpful downloads. I do not own Dr. Blackburn’s book, Rigor is Not a Four Letter Word (second edition), but looks like it may be a good guide and toolbox to increase rigor in your classroom.
The conversation about rigor and text complexity will no doubt continue in the many online Professional Learning Networks, so let’s make sure keep each other posted as we go!