Last year, my principal was trained on a new “walk through” evaluation system that looked for ways to improve rigor in the classroom. As a result of his training, a teacher friend and I were the two lucky teachers who were used as guinea pigs! I was very nervous about the training and  didn’t know what to expect. I ended up learning quite a bit from the experience, and I realized that most administrators are just looking for best instructional practices which I have been implementing for years.

There are 4 key items an administrator is trained to look for in their walk throughs concerning rigor. They are:

  1. Classroom Organization
  2. Student Engagement
  3. Alignment of Instruction
  4. Rigor of Instruction

Administrative Walk Through Look Fors

Classroom Organization

What an administrator first sees when they walk into your classroom is very important. Remember the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”? Administrators visit a lot of classrooms and they quickly learn that most disorganized & chaotic classrooms are not that effective. There are signs that administrators look for to determine whether or not a classroom is organized, prepared, and rigorous.

Bad Signs
  • Clutter
  • Stacks of paper
  • Unorganized teaching equipment or instructional materials
Good Signs
  • Organized desk
  • Binders (labeled)
  • Organized student materials (use bins)
  • Bulletin boards or wall displays up dated
  • Centers with evidence of daily use
  • Classroom library
  • Well planned lesson



I found this awesome desk setup at The Bits of Brit. She is a HS English teacher with some really great ideas. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the desk towers!

I found this awesome desk setup at The Bits of Brit. She is a HS English teacher with some really great ideas. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the desk towers!


Student Engagement

Student engagement is one of the most important things that happen in a classroom.  If your students aren’t engaged, they aren’t learning.  Students can also be listening and watching but not fully engaged.  Here are some things administrators look for when judging student engagement:

  • Students should begin working as soon as they walk into the classroom
  • Transitions should happen quickly and efficiently
  • Students (not the teacher) should be doing most of the talking
  • The teacher should be facilitating the lesson
  • Questions/Tasks should require the students to give more than just simple answers or recollection of facts
  • Teachers should vary strategies


Improve Rigor with Engagement Strategies

Engagement Strategies
Popsicle Sticks
Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
Turn and Talk
Quick Write
Think Pair Share
Graphic Organizers
Numbered Heads Together
Talk Moves
Show Me the Answer (White boards)
Peer Tutoring
Student Developed Glossary
Student Generated Word Problems
Random Name Generator (for Questioning)


Alignment of Instruction

Alignment of instruction is a must in any classroom.  There are some specific clues administrators look for during classroom observations.

  • Objectives should be clearly posted in kid friendly language
  • Teacher collaboration
  • Student work displayed in the classroom
  • Teachers construct a common assessment

Students Discuss and Write about what they've learned to Improve Rigor

Rigor of Instruction

Administrators have started looking at the rigor of instruct and this is what my principal was being trained to look for in his walk throughs.  With the common core, students are required to use prior knowledge and think through problems.  Empty headed worksheets are a thing of the past!  In the training, I learned that rigor meets three criteria:

  • Lessons are designed so that students are given a scaffold of support until the student is able to demonstrate learning independently.
  • Because you never really understand something until you try to teach it to somebody else, lessons are designed to ensure that the students have many opportunities to explain their understanding of new concepts and new information to other people (Talk Moves!)
  • Students are challenged to process new information deeply and to apply new concepts in several different contexts.
  • Again, administrators have specific clues they look for when determining if the above three criteria have been met.
  • Teacher explanations are consistent, logical, and systematic
  • Students spend time discussing and writing about what they have learned
  • Assessments are challenging (open-ended or project based)
  • Teachers use interactive student notebooks, open-ended questions and help student organize what they are learning
  • Teacher facilitated activities rather than worksheets or textbook work
  • Students can explain what they are learning
  • Students can revise their work after teacher feedback before receiving a final grade


#ClassroomManagement #Rigor #TeacherObservation