bcschoolexam1912smTony Soprano once said, “Reminiscing is the lowest form of conversation.” I may not always agree with his methods, but on this one, Tony and I are seeing eye to eye. There’s no place for nostalgia in my classroom, so I avoid pressing my students for straight memorization whenever I can.

Students don’t need a one-week unit on citation when they have easybib.com anyway, right?

However, the test to the right is from 1912, when rote memorization was the primary method for education. See how many you answer. For me, none of them are very easy.

So where are we going wrong?

Another “R” word comes to mind. Instead of reminiscing, rigor needs to be a staple the classroom. If we’re not drilling recall into our students, we’ve got to engage them on a whole other level to help them learn.

Here are four ways I’m trying to increase rigor in my classroom.

  1. Technology:  By teaching kids how to use time-saving tools like easybib.com, we have more time to do things like attack databases with webquests and research contests.
  2. Change the expectation:  I’ve had students absent for half our classes ace high-level analysis of college texts because they had to. It was new to them. It challenged them to plan, write, and videotape a interview about a social problem and post it to their blog. Under that new umbrella of expectations, spelling the town you live in wrong becomes absurd for the student.
  3. Get students motivating each other: I’ve realized classroom discussions substitute potentially missing dinner-table discussions, the nonexistent analysis of PBS NewsHour with one’s older siblings, and they in fact may lead to more household debates for the students to lead at home.
  4. Spark curiosity by going beyond the typical points of reference: All our students already know about Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s follow Paul Tough’s advice from his book How Children Succeed and create some curiosity. Do our students know about Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, or Ai-jen Poo?