by Barbara Blackburn, author of Rigor is not a 4-Letter Word
In this posting, we’ll look at options to increase the depth of your instruction. What you’ll notice throughout the activities is a shift to student ownership of learning, as well as the need to think at higher levels to complete the activities.
1. Design With Inquiry & Diversity
We often talk about the importance of real-life learning in the classroom. However, many times we have students complete application activities at the end of a lesson. In a rigorous classroom, we can flip this to apply the inductive model. Jessica Guidry, one of my former students, designed an ecology unit for her science classroom that applies this principle. Her students were introduced to the unit with the following task:
You are an ecologist from Rock Hill, South Carolina. Recently, members of the United Nations have come together and decided that they must eliminate one biome to make room for the world’s growing human population. You and a group of your peers have decided to take a stand. You will each choose one biome to present to the United Nations in New York City this April. It is very important that you persuade the members of the UN to keep your chosen biome alive!
The UN has asked that you write a persuasive essay to present to the audience. They also asked that you bring visuals and information about your references. You must be sure that you include how your biome benefits the world population. You need to include information about the habitats, populations, animals, plants, and food chains of your biome.
Throughout the unit, she integrated a variety of other open-ended projects, such as creating a flip book on their biome, participating in a debate, and creating food chains/webs in addition to the regular mix of lecture, guided discussion, and laboratory activities. However, since she began with the open-ended, authentic situation, her students were more engaged and challenged throughout the lessons.
2. Have Students Create Videos–From Beginning To End
One of my son’s favorite activities is recording his friends skateboarding and editing the clips. He used these techniques in one of his match classes to analyze the math skills used in skateboarding. Given a choice of assignments, he would rather create a video than write a paper.
Students can create a video report on a wide range of topics in almost any class. Simply start with a topic, ask students to choose a perspective, and start filming. I’ve seen this used for students to create character profiles, job descriptions, and mini-talk shows. It’s an engaging, motivating activity. However, as with all activities, provide structure and guidelines to ensure students move beyond a basic assignment to one that requires higher levels of thinking.
- Sample Video Reporting Activities
- Interview with a Historical Figure
- News Report of a Current or Past Event
- Profile of Math Applications of a Sport
- Demonstration of the Water Cycle
- Model Job Interview
3. Use Virtual Tours
Another effective way to use technology in the classroom is to conduct virtual field trips. In today’s budget-conscious schools, this is particularly helpful. Imagine the activities you can integrate into the classroom with a virtual tour of the Smithsonian. However, it’s important to remember that the field trip itself should not be the end result.
Any tour should be linked to your standards, and the activities should result in increased learning related to your objectives. In the sample below, a visit to the Louvre was linked to a study of Egyptian history in grade six. With adaptations of the assignments, it could easily be used in a high school art class.
Virtual Tour Example: The Louvre Visit
Today we are going to take an exciting trip to Paris, France! Your ticket is http://www.louvre.fr/en and your vehicle is your computer, tablet or phone. Please read the instructions carefully so your trip is not wasted. I want you to have fun and learn something new in the process. We will have a round-table discussion on our magnificent trip Friday. Have fun and I can’t wait to hear about your adventure!
As your tour guide, I suggest you learn some information about the Louvre Museum because you begin your tour. Start at the Collection and Louvre Palace link. Read the information about the history of The Louvre. You are in Paris and you call home to talk to someone your love. Tell them about the Louvre’s history in 3-5 sentences. Include why the museum was established and how it has been important to France.
Now you are ready to take your tour. Using the same link go to Online Tours. Choose following tour: Egyptian Antiquities, Walk around on the floor to several areas. Spend 10 minutes learning how to navigate through the museum floor. Go to the help menu for ways to better navigate the tour.
Choose one sculpture from your tour. Analyze how it reflects the culture of Egypt.
4. Interpret the artwork. Communicate the artist’s statement. Describe what you think the artist is trying to say through the work of art. Expound on the feeling conveyed by the artwork. Describe what the artwork means to you, and why. Explain what you feel is the artist’s intended purpose for creating that particular work of art. Examine why the artist made the choices in technique, materials and subject matter and how they relate to the intended purpose.
Your narrative should be approximately one page.
**Note—for more suggestions, visit http://www.wikihow.com/Critique-Artwork (the suggestions in number 4 are an excerpt from this site).
Ideas For Other Content Areas
Math: Students can plan the trip to the Louvre, look up the flight, and calculate the cost. Social Studies: Plan what to take and how to pack, discuss how to prepare to visit the country, learn about Paris, and the French government. Also discuss the history of Egypt and the symbolism of the historical time period.
Language Arts: How did the authors and poets of Egypt impact the culture? Also teach about critiques and writing the analysis.
A Final Note
Each of these shows how rigor can be a part of your instruction. You don’t need to throw out everything you are doing; rather, take what you are doing and step it up a notch. As I mentioned in discussing myths about rigor in the classroom, one easy way of creating more rigorous instruction is to ask students to write riddles about words, rather than having them simply write a definition. The simple change requires students to think at higher levels to complete the activity.
3 Simple Strategies For More Rigorous Instruction; Barbara is a best-selling author of 14 books, including Rigor Is Not A Four-Letter Word. A nationally recognized expert in the areas of rigor and motivation, she collaborates with schools and districts for professional development. Barbara can be reached through her website or her blog; image attribution flickr user vancouverfilmschool