4 Simple Ideas to Make Lessons MORE Rigorous

April 11, 2016

Rigorous lessons are ones where big things are expected of students. In rigorous lessons we as teachers set the bar high, but we also provide the structure and support students might need to meet and even exceed our expectations. My favorite way to do this is by adding images into lessons in ways that you might not expect.

I know it sounds strange, but by infusing images into lessons, you give students new opportunities to think critically, collaborate, and reflect on their learning. Using images can challenge students to think in ways that they may not be used to (or comfortable with), to broaden their knowledge base, and to push themselves to use their higher order thinking and problem-solving skills to complete tasks in novel ways. Asking them to summarize, describe, or apply something that they have learned in writing is great, but when you ask students to summarize and to THEN find images to represent what they want to say (and that other people understand), a whole new world of thinking opens up.

There’s even an added bonus if you use digital images!

In activities where you ask students to find images on their own, you get the chance to build up their information literacy and digital citizenship skills! Students must figure out where they should look for the images they need, if what they find is able to be used, and how to give credit to their sources.


• Have students retell a story, or a part of a story, that you might be reading in class using images. You can limit the number of images that they can use and require them to practice summarizing the story as well as to consider novel ways to represent it visually in a way other people will understand.

• Create a pair of images that are related (but not obviously)—my favorite pair is Abraham Lincoln and a tree standing alone in a field. Put them up on the board/screen or print and distribute them to students. Students can work in pairs to determine the relationship between the images. They can describe the relationship verbally, in writing, or with additional images.

• Have students complete a graphic organizer but use images. In a Venn diagram, students could compare two important historical figures or events, using images to represent the similarities and differences.

• Assign groups of students a person, a time period, or a big idea (for example, Abraham Lincoln, the Roaring Twenties, or Democracy). Ask each student to choose five images that best exemplify the person/time/idea and then have the group get together to determine the very best five. Groups can then share their best five with the class and see if the class can determine who or what they’re trying to describe. Note: Britannica ImageQuest is used as the resource in this last tip. If you like what you see but aren’t a subscriber, take a free trial!

Looking to learn more? Listen to our recorded webinar: Want to Make Lessons MORE Rigorous? Add Images!