Upping the Academic Rigor of Your Classroom

Upping the
Academic Rigor of
Your Instruction!
Dacia Toll, Co-CEO, AF
National Charter Schools Conference
June 20, 2012
Whose School Is It?
Whose School Is It?
It’s Our School!
Not my school!
Not your school!
It’s our school. It’s our place.
It’s our chance to win this race.
We’re gonna work. We’re gonna care.
We’re gonna make this world more fair.
It’s up to us to see it through.
So watch and see what we can do!
Warm Up: “Totally Like Whatever, You Know?”
Warm Up: “Totally Like Whatever, You Know?”
A Poem by Taylor Mali
In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking
Or believe strongly in what you're like saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you
know?)'s and (you know what I’m saying)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of
our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like,
Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be
true, ya know? as opposed to other things that
were, like, totally…not.
They’ve been infected by this tragically cool and
totally hip interrogative tone?
As if I’m saying don’t think I’m a nerd just because
I've noticed this; ya know? this is just like what
I’ve heard, this is word on the street.
I have nothing personally invested in my own
opinions, I'm just inviting you to join me on the
bandwagon of my own uncertainty?
What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest? Ya know?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society just become so filled with these
conflicting feelings of, you know, duh,
that now we've just gotten to the point where
we’re just, like …totally…you know....um. . . just
like whatever!
So actually our disarticulationnnnn. . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . Um…sort of…you
know…uh…it’s a, it’s a thing to disguise the fact
that we are the most aggressively inarticulate
generation to come along since . . .
you know, a long time ago!
I implore you, I entreat you, and I challenge you:
To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that
bespeaks the determination with which you
believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper
sticker, it is not enough these days to simply
You gotta speak with it, too.
Getting to Know You
Are you a …
A. Teacher
B. Principal or assistant principal
C. Someone else who coaches, develops,
or trains teachers
D. None of the above – but you really
care about academic rigor
Getting to Know You
Do you primarily work with …
A. Elementary students (K-5)
B. Middle school students (6-8)
C. High school students (9-12)
D. I’m really crazy – my scope is K-12,
Please Do Now
Let’s start with
a little personal
reflection …
Academic Rigor
Getting to Know You
On your self-assessment, did you
answer ….
A.Mostly “1”s
B. Mostly “2”s
C. Mostly “3”s
D.Mostly “4”s
Session Aims and Agenda
Session Aims
 GTWBAT articulate the five
Academic Rigor essential
 GTWBAT use several
Academic Rigor “power
tools” to up the rigor in their
classrooms on three key
 GTWBAT reflect on where to
focus their own
development and develop a
plan to close their personal
implementation gap
Session Agenda:
 Self-Assessment, Why This Matters,
Survival, and An Intro to Academic
Rigor (25 min)
 Increasing the Rigor of Our Questions
& Tasks (50 min)
- BREAK  Increasing the Rigor of Our Standards
for Scholar Responses (40 min)
 Increasing the Rigor of Our Support
and Accountability for Quality Work
(20 min)
 Personal Reflection / Closing the
Implementation Gap (10 min)
Why This Matters: EU #1
EU #1: Truly
preparing our
scholars for success
in college will only
happen if our
scholars are
successfully doing
academically rigorous
work in every
subject, K-12
Where Most of Us Start: Survival
Low-level questions & clear, simple tasks
Calling only on students with hands in the air
Focus on classroom management and compliance with
teacher directions, not rigor and volume of work
Lots of teacher talk
Day-to-day lesson planning
Assessments designed after instruction
The Natural Order of Teacher Development
Classroom Management / Culture
Core Instructional Planning
Student Engagement
The Key Question
What are the students doing?!?!
Can You See Them Sweat? EU #2
EU #2: You can only assess the rigor of
instruction by looking at what the scholars
are doing – how much are they sweating?
What is the VOLUME and the RIGOR of what
they are being asked to do?
What is Academic Rigor? EU #3
EU #3: The Academic Rigor of your
instruction is a combination of:
The rigor of the questions or tasks you
are asking scholars to do
The rigor of your standards for scholar
The rigor of your support and
accountability for top-quality work
The First Step: Rigorous Questioning
Doug Lemov is a really smart guy 
Questioning Tools from Lemov’s Taxonomy
Stretch It reminds us not to stop with simple,
correct answers but rather to push students to
answer follow-up questions that extend
knowledge or test for reliability.
Ratio refers to how much cognitive work the
students do relative to how much you do as the
teacher. A successful lesson pushes the
cognitive work out to students as soon as they
are ready.
Power Questions to “Up” Your Ratio
 How Questions / Explain your Reasoning: “How did you
come up with that answer?”
 Why Questions: “Why did you choose that operation?”
 Ask for evidence: “Where did you find support for that
answer in the text?”
 Half statement: “So the next step is to combine the
sentences with a … what?”
 What’s next?: “What do I do first? … Next?”
 Feign ignorance: Play dumb. Make mistakes. “I am the
 Test errors: Play back the tape for students (“You said …”)
or make an if/then statement: “If the slope were three
over four, that would mean up three, right four.”
Clip Notes: Stretch It & Ratio
Questions / strategies you saw the teacher use
The Importance of Planning: EU #4
• EU #4: Really upping the rigor of your
instruction requires careful planning.
Next Step: Higher-Order Tasks
Marzano’s Three Levels:
Type I: Tasks address basic details and
processes that are relatively easy for
Type II: Tasks address more complex ideas
and/or require higher-levels of student
Type III: Tasks address more complex ideas
and/or require higher-levels of student
thinking AND require students to apply
this thinking in a context different than
what was taught in class
Higher-Order Tasks: Bloom’s Verbs
Marzano’s Type II and Type III assignments come from the
top 4 levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Cognitive Level
Remembering previously
learned material, e.g.,
definitions, concepts, principles,
Aim Verbs
tell, list,
describe, relate,
locate, write,
find, state,
Sample Question Stems
What is…? How is…?
Where is…? When did…happen?
How did…happen? When did…? Can you recall…?
How would you show…? Can you select…?
Who were the main…? Can you list three…?
Which one…? Who was…?
Understanding the meaning of
remembered material, usually
demonstrated by explaining in
one's own words or citing
outline, discuss,
predict, restate,
How would you classify the type of…?
How would you compare…? contrast…?
Will you state or interpret in your own words…?
How would you rephrase the meaning…?
What facts or ideas show…?
What is the main idea of…?
Which statements support…?
Can you explain what is happening…? Why did…?
What can you say about…?
Which is the best answer…?
How would you summarize…?
Using information in a new
context to solve a problem, to
answer a question, or to perform
another task. The information
used may be rules, principles,
formulas, theories, concepts, or
solve, show,
use, illustrate,
How would you use…?
What examples can you find to…?
How would you solve…using what you have learned?
How would you organize…to show…?
How would you show your understanding of…?
How would you apply what you learned to develop…?
What other way would you plan to…?
What would result if…?
What facts would you select to show…?
Breaking a piece of material
into its parts and explaining the
relationship between the parts.
What are the parts or features of…?
How is…related to…?
Why do you think…?
What is the theme…?
Can you list the parts…?
What inference can you make…?
What conclusions can you draw…?
How would you classify…?
How is the function of…?
What evidence can you find…?
What is the relationship between…?
The Key to Student Success on Higher-Order Tasks
o They must be higher-level questions/tasks.
o They must require students to apply what they have
learned in a new context / situation.
HOWEVER, this does not mean ….
The Key to Student Success on Higher-Order Tasks
EU #5: You need to set scholars up for
success in performing academically
rigorous tasks – you have to scaffold the
learning. You need to teach/guide
students through the more advanced
thought process required by the higher
level tasks. Then you ask them to apply
these skills/concepts in a new context to
assess whether they can do it on their
Example: Type II (Guided) Task
A bird is sitting on a wire that is
suspended 9 meters above the beginning of
a 200 meter moving sidewalk. The sidewalk
moves from west to east with a constant
velocity of 1 m/s. A nutria rat that is 1 meter
long and 0.25 m tall enters the moving
sidewalk the wrong way walking at a
constant speed of 3 m/s relative to the earth.
Starting from the instant that the rat steps
onto the sidewalk, how much time must
elapse before the bird releases its bowels so
that the poop lands exactly on the middle of
the rat. Assume that birds have control of
their bowels.
Example: Type III (Independent) Task
The United Nations is seeking your assistance in a disaster
relief supply drop to Darfur. They need your help in
determining when to drop a box of supplies so that it falls
onto a moving disaster relief truck. Since Darfur is a hostile
area, the truck will be unable to make any stops and will be
traveling at a constant velocity. A helicopter will be used to
drop the needed supplies into the moving truck and will be
hovering a fixed distance above the drop zone ….
Elementary Example
Type II Task (Guided): Witches Convention
There were 20 witches who needed to get to the witches‘
convention in California. There were only 8 brooms, but no more
than 4 could fit on a broom and no less than 2. Explain with
pictures, words and/or numbers how you are going to get all the
witches to the convention.
Type II Task (Independent): Ten Feet Apartment
There is an apartment building called The Ten Feet Apartment
Building. The owner allows people and pets to rent apartments in
the building, but each family (including pets) can only have a total
of 10 feet living in its apartment. Find the different combinations
of people and pets that equal 10 feet. Draw pictures and write or
tell about your families.
Let’s Try Together
Type II (Guided) Assignment: Contrast the feelings
and beliefs of Character A and Character B and
how these different feelings and beliefs led them
to take different actions.
Type III (Independent) Assignment:
Now You Do This One …
Type II (Guided) Assignment: Evaluate whether this
lab procedure follows the scientific method and
explain why or why not.
Type III (Independent) Assignment:
What is Academic Rigor? EU #3
EU #3: The Academic Rigor of your
instruction is a combination of:
The rigor of the questions or tasks you
are asking scholars to do
The rigor of your standards for scholar
The rigor of your support and
accountability for top-quality work
High Standards for Oral Responses:
Right is Right
The quality of student responses is even more
important than the quality of the questions! You
need to make sure to keep the bar high.
Right is Right is about the difference between
partially right and all the way right, between pretty
good and 100%
o Be encouraging but hold out for college
prep answers
o What are examples of encouraging
Format Matters!
• Rich, detailed responses
• Use of appropriate vocabulary
• Complete sentences
• Correct grammar
• No Like!
Clip Notes: Right is Right
Evidence of Technique
What else do you like about this
Higher-Order Class Discussions
High Standards for Scholar Written Responses:
Criteria for Excellence & Exemplar Responses
• The rigor of your scholars’
responses will be driven by
the rigor of the
expectations you set for
• Setting your scholars up for
top-quality work has two
• Criteria for Excellence
• Exemplar scholar response
K Writing
High School Writing
Week 1 Response – Foreshadowing
AF Brooklyn High School Exemplary Response: Using specific
details from that passage, in a well-developed paragraph,
show how the author uses foreshadowing to develop the
In this passage, the author uses foreshadowing, which is a
literary device that hints at things later to come in a story, in
order to foretell of the terrible events that Weisel and his
family will suffer later in the memoir. Specifically, the author
foreshadows the death of his family members as he describes
the time when they are preparing to leave, a time at which
they are still unaware of their fate. As they are packing,
Moshe the Beadle comes to their house, cries, “I warned
you!” and flees without an answer. Wiesel includes this event
to reveal that Moshe’s warning—that the Jews were being
exterminated—was not heeded at the time but his word of
warning would predict their fate.
 Demonstrates a basic
understanding of the text
 Uses TIED format
 starts with a Topic
 frames example with a
sentence that Introduces the
 Cites at least ONE
specific and accurate piece of
Evidence of foreshadowing from
the text
 Describes the evidence
by explaining HOW the example
foreshadows later events
Additional Samples
• Middle School Writing- Model response
• Math Problem-Solving
•Visual anchor for word problems
•Actual Response
•Rubric for word-problem responses
Partner Evaluation Activity
•How does each example set a high
standard for written student
•What would you change to make
each example a stronger tool for
enabling scholars to complete high
quality written work?
What is Academic Rigor? EU #3
EU #3: The Academic Rigor of your
instruction is a combination of:
The rigor of the questions or tasks you
are asking scholars to do
The rigor of your standards for scholar
The rigor of your support and
accountability for top-quality work
The Value of a “Re-Do” Culture and Systems
Culture of Re-Do – and Systems to Support It
• Do students know that the only work you will accept
is rigorous, top-quality work?
• Strategies:
– “Re-Do” on the spot as you circulate during independent
– “Re-Do” of Exit Tickets (or other work) as additional
– Intervention group for scholars who “Re-Do” work during
lunch / after-school, etc.
– Students who fail weekly assessments need to re-take
until they receive a passing grade and/or they need to rework problems they missed for homework
– What else?
Creating a Culture of Re-Do
Creating a Culture of High Quality Work
The Implementation Gap
What we
What we
Closing the Implementation Gap
Set clear goals for yourself and commit to a
concrete next step. Examples:
Develop a rubric for class discussion and a
rubric for follow-up written responses
Ask at least 6 how & why questions per
Commit to having one Type II and one Type
III task in your next unit
Focus on this goal during your PLANNING
Watch yourself on video
Write down both the questions you ask AND
the student responses AND how you
respond to the student responses
Invite a coach or peer to observe your goal
in action
Commitment Time 
What is one specific way you are going to increase the
rigor of the questions/tasks you ask scholars to
complete this year?
What is one specific way you are going to increase the
rigor of the standards you have for scholar responses?
What is one specific way you are going to increase the
rigor of your support and accountability for top-quality
How are you going to close your implementation gap?

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