Brain Blast: How to Increase Classroom Rigor

Academic rigor challenges students to deeply and creatively master skills and content. Here are 12 ways to make that happen in your classroom. 

DO NOW

Start class with a 5-10-min. exercise, where kids write answers to questions they “struggled with on the last interim assessment.” (Source: Connie Molony)

EXPAND VOCABULARY

“Expect them to use academic and domain-specific vocabulary. If they use words like ‘something,’ ‘you know,’ ‘that,’ or ‘like,’ prod them to come up with specifics. Like what? No I don't know.” (Source: Jacqui Murray)

SHOW YOUR WORK

Ask students to show their work & identify content area strengths and weaknesses.

MAKE TASKS AUTHENTIC

Engage kids in real-world problem solving & decision making. Let kids learn from mistakes and successes.

DON’T SETTLE…

. . .For rushed, half-baked work.  

INTRODUCE MESSY INQUIRY

Life isn’t as unambiguous as a bubble sheet. Have students generate questions, then answer them.

HAVE KIDS WRITE!

Writing is the most difficult thing you can ask the brain to do. (Source: Mel Levine)

USE TOOLS

Have kids “think, be flexible, change, and use a variety of tools to solve new problems.” (Source: Clay Parker, reported by Tony Wagner)

INTRODUCE ROBUST ACTIVITIES

Simulations, debates, student-led demonstrations…

ENCOURAGE HIGHER ORDER THINKING

Plan tasks that require higher order thinking.

ROLE PLAY

Dramatizations allow students to try on different identities.

CITE EVIDENCE

Have students support conclusions with evidence.

MASTER GENRES

Have student rhetorically analyze and write in different genres.

EXPLORE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

Give students time to answer essential questions individually, in teams, and as a class.

ADD CHALLENGES

Regularly Integrate challenge questions into assessments and daily work.

SCAFFOLD COMPLEX TEXTS

Help students work though challenging texts.

SAY A FEW WORDS

Ask students to orally synthesize information.

Todd Finley

Edutopia Blogger and Asst. Editor || ECU Ed Professor || Founder of Todd’s Brain at www.todd-finley.com || Books: Dinkytown Braves and Rethinking Classroom Design.

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