Worth Repeating: Rigor = Epic Teaching and Learning

#oneccpsYou 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.”

got curriculum frameworks

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.

rigor and relevance verb listA 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!

Best wishes for a great first week of teaching!   We believe in you. We believe in ourbest wishes students. And we have high expectations for learning!

Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School. Mountain View, CA : Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.

About donnadalton

Currently, I am honored to serve as the Chief Academic Officer for Chesterfield County Public Schools. This year begins my 41st year in public education and my final year in Chesterfield. Prior to this position, I served as the Director of Professional Development, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Mathematics Instructional Specialist. I have taught mathematics at the elementary, middle and high school levels. I have been married for 40 years to my husband, Bob, and our house is ruled by our sweet dog, Bella. We have one son and a daughter-in-law and are proud grandparents to Tyler and Kinsley!
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2 Responses to Worth Repeating: Rigor = Epic Teaching and Learning

  1. Karen Hoover says:

    We were in year 4 of ICLE’s Rigor and relevance framework initiative at my former district in Texas. The tool (framework) was very helpful for our teachers! I highly recommend learning more about it if you haven’t already.

  2. Jacob Mertz says:

    I have addressed rigor through the singing games I have played with children. I don’t want to play singing games, where I’m helping them with my voice, so I’m being more conscious about the mechanics of their voices. We physically warm up, then use some sort of vocal exploration to engage our voices.

    The reason we instruct our students is so they can take those skills and use them in their lives outside of school. I’m trying to fill in the scaffolding they need to reach that destination. –Harrowgate

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