Rigor is a word we use a lot—we know our lessons need it, but sometimes it’s hard to define… doubly so if you’re new to the profession.
We were working with some friends at TNTP last month, super smart folks supporting teachers in cities across the country. We came up with the idea of developing a “rigor checklist” a fast, simple tool that first year teachers could use to self-assess their lessons. The goal isn’t to be comprehensive, not “grad school in a bottle,” just a gut check. If none of these things are true about your lesson you should be concerned…. Or you should add one of them. We were imagining this as being especially useful in concert with training on building behavior and culture in the classroom. Brand new teachers need to establish a healthy, vibrant (and warm/strict) culture from day one so they can rely on it all year. That means training on a lot of behavioral techniques right from the outset. How do you very quickly and efficiently help them think about making sure that what all those kids are paying attention to is worthwhile and real and educational?
These were some of the top ideas from our short brainstorm. Of course it’s a draft… the only thing we know for sure is that it’s wrong. So…what would you add? change? drop?
Rigor Checklist: A rigorous lesson should include several of the following:
__ Students processing academic ideas in writing that requires complete sentences [add: “for at least 25% of the lesson”??]
__ Students discussing ideas using technical vocabulary.
__ The teacher asking at least five why/how Qs. [Five seems arbitrary, but does putting a # on it help teachers to keep track and make sure they’re doing it often.]
__ Students consistently giving evidence for their answers. [Could you make this measurable?]
__ Students reading challenging text and answering text-dependent questions about it [add: “for at least 15% of the lesson”?]
__ Teachers consistently asking students to improve and develop their own and their classmates’ initial answers. [personal favorite–can it be made measurable?]
__ Students doing cognitive work (writing, reading, problem solving) for at least half of the lesson. [add: “for at least X% of the lesson?”]