|FOR THE LOVE OF READING|
|FOR THE LOVE OF READING|
I am lucky to be a part of a wonderful studio where I strengthen my body. It is very challenging work and to add to the challenge, a few times a year, they have “Challenge Month”. During this month you get to put a sticker on a chart to keep track of how many times you attend class (yes, stickers and charts happen in real life too).
In the beginning, Challenge Month went like this; you came to class , you got a sticker, the people with the most stickers won. Only the person a sticker on every single day would win a prize. Only the people who were able to come every day were challenged.
At that time, I was a traveling teacher. There were times when I literally could not come to class. So, I quickly gave up on Challenge Month. I was not challenged because there was not equal opportunity for me to be challenged.
It’s Challenge Month again but the rules have changed. This time, every sticker means I get a dollar off my next studio package. Even if I miss a day or two, the challenge is still available. (I feel empowered to save money!) And I’m not the only one. I notice that many more people are filling up their chart. We are all challenged equally. It’s worth the risk.
Challenge is a funny thing. We want to “challenge” our students. Cognitive rigor is a hot topic is schools today based on the new expectations set forward by the Common Core Standards. But what do students need in order to be challenged and not defeated?
To start, they need a level playing field. We cannot extend challenging work to only those who have been deemed “able” to be challenged. Challenge needs to be presented in a way that all students have access to the kind of work that creates cognitive rigor. All students.
You see, all students are capable of thinking in deep and challenging ways. We need to structure our classrooms so that every student has access to this kind of work. So, what does that look like when every student is appropriately challenged?
It looks like a classroom where many ability levels are represented. The class is a community of learners who trust one another and listen to one another and stay together throughout their day. They are engaged in learning and thinking and being challenged, together. It is a dialogic community where daily conversation is vital and all voices are valued. Students respect, and need, each other’s opinions and thoughts.
Text is at a variety of levels and the teacher is very aware of the point at which each of her students is challenged based on ongoing study of all kinds of classroom data. All students have opportunities to access and work with text at a variety of levels. There are opportunities for conversation about text that supersedes any text level.
There are opportunities to practice being challenged in small and whole groups. Students and teacher all work together to create opportunities for challenge at every turn. They take risks, and it’s hard, so they talk about it and work through it together. The teacher is a guide, a coach, a facilitator.
Her voice is not heard as often as her students’ voices.
Because she wants students to be the challenge. To own it.
Challenge isn’t exclusive, but inclusive. It’s a part of life.
If you walked into this classroom you would not be able to tell the struggling learner from any other learner. All of their voices would hold equal weight and they wouldn’t be kept from the challenge for any reason.
Challenge is a part of life. Taking risks is a part of challenge. But there needs to be equal opportunity for all students to access the challenge and feel empowered to meet it.
This is possible. All students can be challenged to think deeply and take risks as they learn. All teachers can create learning communities that work like this. And we can do it with joy.
We can do it together.
Suzanne Hostrawser is a passionate learner and knowledgeable literacy coach who wants to share her passion with you. She is available to provide specialized, job-embedded professional development opportunities for your teachers and leaders.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.