How to increase rigor in the classroom with word choice

A huge component that leads to increased rigor in the classroom is culture. I define culture as the experience of students in the classroom. As a leader you shape culture though words, actions and habits. I recently came across an article written by Michael McDowell that gives tips to increase rigor by making specific adjustments to your culture. In the article, Michael gives 3 tips, but I would like to focus on the first one.

As a leader, your words have so much power. They create feelings and affect thinking. As a result, your choice of words is so important if you seek to increase rigor in the classroom. Here is an excerpt from the article that pertains to the power of your words and how you can use them to increase rigor in the classroom:

1. Word choice. Use verbs associated with surface, deep, and transfer levels of learning to build learning intentions and success criteria. When designing learning intentions, teachers should consider using transfer-level verbs. Transfer verbs include formulate, apply, generate, and hypothesize.

When designing success criteria, teachers may want to separate the criteria into different complexity-level expectations.

Learning intention: I will apply proportional relationships to solve and interpret multistep ratio and percent problems.

Surface: I will be successful when I…

  • define proportional relationship, multistep problems, ratios, and percentages
  • solve single-step ratio problems
  • solve multistep ratio problems
  • solve single-step percentage problems
  • solve multistep percentage problems

Deep: I will be successful when I…

  • compare and contrast ratio and percentage problems
  • predict and solve proportional-relationship problems
  • assess strategy and solution of oneself and others in solving multistep ratio and percentage problems
  • solve nonroutine proportional-relationship problems

Transfer: I will be successful when I…

  • generalize the importance of proportional relationships when solving multiple problems across contexts
  • evaluate the work of others and present suggested next steps to improve
  • hypothesize other situations that require solving and interpreting ratio and percent problems

I love the idea of being intentional when defining what success looks like. At times, it can be easy for students to get caught up in the idea of simply “completing assignments.” You can read the full article HERE. How do you increase rigor in the classroom? Please share your tips in the comments section below.


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