Rigor, Not Rigor Mortis

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
from my curly classroom to yours, Suzanne

As I mentioned yesterday, our professional learning community is studying Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading.  While I was reading for our first meeting, chapter 3 received more that it's fair share of highlighting.  It is about something very near and dear to our hearts-- rigor.  Likely, that word evoked an emotion deep within you- fear, longing, eye rolling (maybe that's not an emotion, but it should be).  Before we get down to business, watch this:
It's worth your time- I guarantee it.

"Yes, my class is (air quote) rigorous."  I bet you can feel the pain of that teacher.  Rigor is a serious buzz word, but what does it look like in the classroom?  Are rigor and fun mutually exclusive, or do they go hand in hand?

In our discussion group, we were asked to share a quote that stuck out to us.  After a few sly smiles, I piped up and volunteered a quote that warranted an "Amen" in the margin:
"Rigor is not an attribute of a text but rather a characteristic of our behavior with that text.  Put another way, rigor resides in the energy and attention given to a text, not in the text itself" (20).

I feel like I'm preaching to the choir.  You are the ones who allow students to self-select books, pull targeted passages, and focus on skills over plot.  Kudos to you!  Consider this your virtual pat on the back.  But if your like me, every student is not being successful everyday.  So we continue on- looking for ways to improve, to add more tools to our toolbox.  And we want others to join us on this journey, but it's not easy.  We got into this job because we love the literature.  We have favorite authors, and a well-placed metaphor brings a smile to our face.  It's not easy to chop, trim and skim Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Steinbeck.

Notice and Note goes on to say, "The essential element in rigor is engagement" (22).  Rigorous assignments must be interesting and rewarding so that students will want to invest their energy in the work.  That comes through discussion, choice, and problem-solving.  Rigor is between the text and the reader and then among the readers.

Each chapter includes questions which make it perfect for a PLC.  One that we tackled was a checklist of what rigor was and was not.  Here's our (over-simplified) shot at it:
What rigor is not
What rigor is
-more work
-short texts and targeted passages
-novel units
-reading and rereading for a specific purpose
-Old English
-activities that minimize opting out

I know what you're thinking- "This is great stuff!  How can I get my hands on that book?"  Well, you could run to your nearest retailer where books are sold OR your could enter to win it in this weeks curly giveaway!  Tweet or share the news of our giveaway on Facebook for double entries daily!!

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