Tuesday, October 1, 2013

RIGOR in the Early Childhood Classroom

The Role of RIGOR in Early Childhood via PreK+K Sharing

RIGOR in Kindergarten and Preschool

This past weekend I gave my first Keynote for the annual FL-AEYC conference. BIG thrills! Big HAPPY thrills!!! Barely 24 hours later we began the transition of moving into our new-to-us, little home in Vero Beach, FL. It's good to be making new friends amid the palm trees. 

Just as exciting was the opportunity to hear the opening keynote by, Ronald Davis "Staying Positive in Negative Times." Mr. Davis had a lot to say on the topic. What resonated with me was his tangent about the importance of PLAY! He shared that he has a continual need to offer parent training on the topic, as he experiences so many parents bent on an academic experience for their preschool children. Of course he was 'preaching to the choir' and was often interrupted with applause. 

Surrounded by moving boxes, considering topic possibilities, his words and experience got me to thinking about the topic of RIGOR in early childhood, especially kindergarten. So to jumpstart my article for today, I asked through my various social networks what others felt about the topic of 'RIGOR' being bandied about so frequently these days. Here's the enthusiastic response I received in just a couple of hours. 

"Check out this post. It is very good about RIGOR!" 
~~ Amber Osterman

[***Note from the editor:  I just LOVE LOVE LOVE that Amber gives a link right back HERE to our collaborative blog, to an earlier article written by our own contributing author Jennifer Kadar.] 


"I found a PowerPoint last year by Barbara R. Blackburn 'Rigor is not a 4-letter Word': Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.' (Blackburn, page 16.) 
I think that those 'high levels' are relevant to the ability of the child."
~~ Ashley via my FB fanpage

[***BTW: Here's the link to Barbara R. Blackburn's site and blog.]

RIGOR in Kindergarten: Teacher's Share their Insight @PreK+K Sharing

"Rigor means to provide the students with opportunities to stretch their brains and require them to really think critically about the skills they are learning. It means to not get stuck on the lower level of Bloom's just because they are Littles. Branch out! Provide your students with engaging, hands on activities that go all the way to the top of Bloom's. Just because it is rigorous doesn't mean it can't be fun! Kindergarten is no longer 
'A is for apple.'

What does a paleontologist do? The role of RIGOR in ECE @PreK+K Sharing
Photo from Deanna Jump's Collection 

What does a paleontologist do? Hands on learning is fun. They had to dig for the bones. Clean them off and study them to determine which dinosaur they belonged to... a T-Rex or a Triceratops. Then after all of the pieces were cleaned off and sorted out they had to work in teams to put the dinosaur bones together! Rigorous and FUN!" 

~~ Deanna Jump

Rigor in the Classroom: The Kindergarten Experience @ PreK+K Sharing

"Even though Kindergarten is an animal all it's own when compared to other grades, rigor still applies. We still challenge our students to work their hardest, reach higher levels and achieve as much as they can. Rigor in kindergarten is simply different because there are no pencil-paper assessments in the end; it's all performance based." 
~~ Jennifer Gibbons

"Debbie you always ask questions that make me think, I love what Jennifer said. We have been talking about this in our PD. Rigor is not more math problems and bigger numbers. In Kindergarten just because a student can count to 100 does not mean that the student understands what that is, or the place value concepts involved. Rigor is being able to think through a problem and solve something new and different, using knowledge they have, and then being able to find the words to explain it. In Kindergarten we are continually adding to their simple knowledge base, then using what they know to challenge them to use that in a way to solve problems. The toughest part for a kinder kid is then finding the words to express what they did and what they were thinking. Their vocabulary is still so limited in that regard. Hands on problem solving, finding their own words to express themselves... that is rigor in Kindergarten. Far more important than if they are adding and subtracting numbers."

~~ Terri of Kindergarten Kapers

RIGOR in Early Education Today: Teachers Share their Experience at PreK+K Sharing

"Does rigor apply to kindergarten? Absolutely! Students are never too young to start learning and developing critical thinking skills. In this day and age of rigorous standardized tests, I have an obligation to my students to start preparing their thought process for the higher level thinking that will be required of them in the future. When you think of Blooms Taxonomy it can be applied to any age or grade, any subject matter or lesson. If I am going to help my students reach their highest potential, rigor must be apparent in my classroom."
~~ Amy Biddison

RIGOR and GLITTER in the Early Childhood Experience at PreK+K Sharing

***Those quoted above don't seem to have any particular 'distaste' for the word RIGOR when applied to kindergarten. HOLD THE PHONE. The conversation heated up as the morning unfolded. Here are some passionate educators with a different response to these same five letters. 

"Having a rigorous curriculum alongside exploratory learning permits ECE students to bloom! 
We need to find a balance!" 
-- Miss Sarah via Twitter {@MissAsKinder}

"A rigorous kindergarten classroom is one not filled with worksheets, simple mind-less tasks. A rigorous kindergarten classroom is filled with MEANINGFUL activity that is authentic with lots of real-world connections and uses. A rigorous kindergarten would have student exploring, questioning and creating. It would be about the "process" and not the "product." I believe a rigorous kinder classroom is one that 'opens the world' to the 5 and 6 year old, not one that places them in 'square holes.'While a kinder teacher needs to test in order to see where his/her students are academically so you can work from there to help build them up, but testing as a standard practice should be limited to say the least. Students don't learn more because they are tested more. A rigorous teacher is continually pushing them to deeper and deeper thinking and wondering, not more and more. Does that make any sense? I HATE the word rigorous for kinder.... I think it's part of what's wrong with our country. We continuously try to outdo other countries.... but that's comparing apples to oranges. All the great Americans were great because of their creative thinking, questioning, wondering ~~ not because they scored well on an exam." 

Jeannie Partin 


"When education pundits and politicians use the word 'rigor' it makes me think: mortis. Rigor is a code word for the death of play-based education and the imposition of a direct instruction model consisting of worksheets and 'drill and kill'. The overwhelming preponderance of educational research shows that direct instruction models simply do not work with young children and result in far worse outcomes in the longer term, both educationally and socially." 

~~ Alec Duncan, Australia 

"Great comment Alec! The use of the term 'rigor' makes me think of pushing children toward adult dictated learning rather than following the natural drive to learn in the way brains learn best. Developing brains need opportunities to grow and mature in healthy ways through extensive play, free exploration, lots of movement, pretending and experimentation.... well before academics."

~~ Deborah McNelis

[***I asked for insight in a couple of different FB teacher groups. When you see that one contributor is replying to a previous comment -- that is how it unfolded.]
Here are the other interactions I received on Twitter.
You'll notice they are decidedly 'shorter' as limited by that format. These responses are from folks who are actively involved in the Monday #Kinderchat on Twitter. I have included their Twitter address for your ease in continuing a conversation with them directly.  

"Rigor evokes visions of drill and kill/worksheets. No fun learning." 
~~ Michelle @MauiMickey
"Rigor reminds me of dead people, getting stiff." 
~~William @wmchamberlin
"Rigor = Mortis" 
"I prefer VIGOR in regards to education."
"Rigor: rigid, inflexible, flat, difficult, harsh. 
Vigor: active, engaging, lively, challenging.
Rigor = death. Vigor = life." 
 ~~ Miss Night @happycampergirl
"Vigor not rigor." 
~~ Heidi @hechternacht
"Sharing what I found in a google search: 
'rigorous' curriculum is double edged sword.
I look 4 balance."
"Evokes harshness in teaching and learning." 
~~ Faige @DuboisEducator
"Rigor is often difficult for the sake of being difficult. Not the purpose" 
~~Matt @MattGomez 
MattBGomez Kindergarten Teacher

VIGOR in the Classroom: VITALITY in Early Childhood ~~ Discussion at PreK+K Sharing

I felt compelled to go back to the Picmonkey-drawing board and offer up at least one visual using the word 
after the substitution was made by more than one twitter contributor. 

Is this distinction in terminology nitpicking and splitting hairs or is it the very substance of two different camps, two different approaches, two different educational paradigms?  

RIGOR or VIGOR: Shades of Educational Philosophy Discussion at PreK+K Sharing

By all means please leave your thoughts in the comment section down below. 
How do you make the distinction? 
What age group do you work with?
Where do you fall on this continuum? 

What I know for sure? I'm all about the VIGOR! I also know that RIGOR in the 'right hands' can be an exceptional educational experience as well. Student first. Holistic. Play-based. Open-ended RIGOR that is. Can't you go at 'Reggio' in an extra-ordinary RIGOROUS way? That's what I'd do if I were queen of ECE! 

Brain Breaks: Get UP! Get Moving! with Debbie Clement

Wherever you fall on the continuum of 'RIGOR-to- VIGOR', I know for certain that children learn best when they are active, engaged, enthusiastic and MOVING! I put together a set of three of my 'brain break songs' into one zipped file. It is available at our Early Education Emporium, with all three songs in Mp3 format, with simple lyric sheets included. 

While in Orlando, the video below was filmed during my closing workshop..... which will give you 'complete' instructions for my circle dance "Higgeldy Biggeldy." A special gigglie-gaggle of a hug in appreciation to Danielle for her impromptu filming. She knows how rattled I get about technology and was a complete angel in ALL of her efforts on my behalf Saturday. 

AKKKKKKKKK video will not import properly from Facebook. Twill check and make every effort to insert it -- as soon as possible.

{Yes, this was the occasion when holding a water bottle in one hand and a microphone in the other, that I spoke into my water bottle as I proceeded with my presentation. Truly a first! I may have even called her by the wrong name in my exhaustion...... and yet she's still my super-fave!} 

Classroom Decor: The "CUTE" Conversation (RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

Have you seen any of my previous articles with oodles of teacher reflections included? Here's the one from my own blog where teachers discuss the importance of 'CUTE' in their classroom environment. 

Or the one on the 'ROLE of PLAY in K Today.'

The Role of PLAY in Kindergarten Today: Insight from Professionals -- candid thoughts and concerns at RainbowsWithinReach

Last month my article here was on the ABCs Crisis. 

Kindergarten ABC's: Apples, Bubbles, Crisis ~~ The Conversation at PreK+K Sharing

I've had a couple of happy favorite articles on my own blog in the past month you'll want to consider! 

Here's a super-clever article filled with APPLES and especially sweet use of graphs and estimation. 

Apples in Estimation and Charts via RainbowsWithinReach

The article on my blog currently is this one.....I'm really appreciative of this 'concept' in helping young children grasp the passage of time by documenting their Halloween costumes from year to year in a TIMELINE

Halloween Costume Timelines via RainbowsWithinReach

I just pulled together a RoundUP of Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom ideas. 

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom RoundUP of Ideas at RainbowWithinReach

Hope that you have an amazing month.

Today is October 1st! The annual 'pinking' of the calendar. Debbie Clement is a two time survivor of early Breast Cancer. She has gone from surviving to thriving and continues to pray for a CURE on behalf of all those whose lives have been forever altered due to BC.

She is thrilled to continue in her role as 'Editor-in-Chief' here at the collaboration and travels around the country sharing of this exciting group of contributors, writing about topics theat are near and dear to their hearts.

Follow her personal blog, "RainbowsWithinReach" where she shares her author/illustrator, music-lady adventures and join over 134,000 following her on Pinterest. She attempts to tweet and share via her FB fanpage, Sulia, Instagram,  Google+ and LinkedIN. 

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