You made it through last week. You have been inspired by your principal and developed professionally by the specialists. You have also reflected on these blogs, set up your classroom for success, mastered the skill of setting rules and procedures and GET the habits of highly effective teachers. And, today, you successfully welcomed your students to your classroom. Now, it’s time to design rigorous and relevant lessons or projects for your students.
Here’s another Wong bit of advice:
Learning has nothing to do with what the teacher covers.
Learning has to do with what the student accomplishes.
Let’s get ready to teach the knowledge and skills that students come to school to learn. According to the Wongs, “Student learning must be at the heart of all decisions made in the school.”
The curriculum specialists, guided by the Virginia Department of Education, have laid out a strong set of curriculum standards that are highly rigorous. The tests that your students will take at the end of the year are aligned with these rigorous standards. Teach these standards well, and there will be an increase in levels of achievement almost immediately, according to Mike Schmoker, author of Results: The Key to Continuous School Improvement.
Your district curriculum frameworks outline what students are to learn. How students learn in your classroom is left up to you. Our focus for the coming year continues to be on providing rigorous and relevant learning experiences for students, so that students develop the competence to think in complex ways and apply their knowledge and skills to solve problems and create solutions. This focus on rigor and relevance can be applied to no only the more-rigorous SOL tests but also extends beyond SOL testing to focus on teaching and learning significant content and 21st-century skills.
If you are not familiar with the rigor/relevance model established by the International Center for Leadership in Education, take a moment to familiarize yourself with it. “Rigor refers to academic rigor — learning in which students demonstrate a thorough, in-depth mastery of challenging tasks to develop cognitive skills through reflective thought, analysis, problem-solving, evaluation, or creativity.” Rigorous learning can occur at any grade and in any subject, regardless of the age or addresses of your students.
A handy way to define the level of rigor of curriculum objectives, instructional activities or assessments is the Knowledge Taxonomy verb list (see Page 6 of the pdf). The verb list can be used to create a desired level of expected student performance or to evaluate the level of existing curriculum, instruction or assessment.
When creating lesson plans and student objectives, selecting the proper verb from the Knowledge Taxonomy verb list can help describe the appropriate performance. Simply start with a verb from the desired level and finish the statement with a specific description of that skill or knowledge area.
Focus on teaching with academic rigor through critical thinking skills starting the first week of school. The enhanced critical thinking will address the higher-level rigor of the SOL tests but will also help students become college and career ready.
Please tell us how you will address rigor on the first week of school. And let’s cap off this week with words of encouragement to fellow teachers in your school through your shout-outs!
Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School. Mountain View, CA : Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.