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Young Student Reading A BookIn education today, our goal as teachers is to increase rigor and learning in our classrooms. Rigorous instruction is instruction that is thorough and focused content. As an educator, it sounds awesome! Your lessons are already focused and well thought out. So how exactly do you go about doing this without adding more to your plate or to your students?

Essential Questions: For every lesson I teach, I post an essential question on my focus board. Let’s break that down:

-A focus board is an area in your classroom that is strictly for your students’ benefit. I used a small section of my white board. It lists off my current topic, essential questions, and key vocabulary. All of my students can do self-checks by looking at the board to answer the questions. If they can, they know they have mastered the standards.

-An essential question is a very specific question that your students should be able to answer at the end of your lesson: What is a noun? Who were the Exodusters? What is the difference between a chemical and physical change?


Focus and summarizing with wording: We all think about our wording while teaching: Did I say that right? Was there a better way? Did they really know what I wanted? Here is a simple way for your students to know exactly what it is that you want.

1. Begin your lesson by simply stating it! Don’t make it a mystery for them to ‘pick up on’ during the lesson.

2. Summarize at the end of your lesson. This clarifies for the students what the important information was.

For example, I’m currently teaching my 5th graders about the late 1800’s when people began moving West. So I could start my lesson with a simple phrase like, ” Today we are going to learn about the groups of people who moved West.” Then, make sure to follow up your lesson with a summarizing statement. “Today I taught you about the groups of people who moved West. Who can tell me what the 3 groups were?” or “Today I taught you that the Europeans, Exodusters, and white settlers from the East.”


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