Thursday, October 30, 2014

Using Learning Targets and Backwards Design in Planning (Colorado, 4thgrade)

Every person goes through their own planning process. This is how I went through my planning process for the 4th grade Colorado unit. In this process, I use backwards design to write Learning Targets and inquiry questions.  I do this so my attention stays focused on student thinking rather than information. (Here are the final Learning Targets that you see me develop within this blog post.)

I began by creating a large poster that included the social studies disciplines that are in this unit.

I used the Unit Outline, which is available in CCAP Stage 3, to create a broad outline for the entire unit. With each "chunk" of learning, I added the social studies disciplines that I think we would elevate. This helps me to keep focus on skill and conceptual goals.

I created a list of the Big Ideas and Organizing Concepts in the unit. I can find these on Stage 1. This is just another way to stay focused on concepts within the unit. I might end up creating an anchor chart that includes these and our inquiry questions.  That way, our anchor chart stays focused on concepts. In the future, I'll be writing Learning Targets that are focused on skills and processes that students will learn and apply in their classroom work.

Some "chunks" of the unit need to broken down into smaller sections. This is helpful in planning the entire unit.

I start to add days to my unit plan. Days are general to start and I know that this may change as I go deeper into the planning process.

I use Stage 1 and focus on the section with skills and processes. I stay focused on this section because it helps me to think about the skills and processes in the unit. Historically, social studies has been about information. I know that 21st century learners must focus on how to use information and sources, and the "Students will be able to..." section provides that guidance. I also know that this helps me to understand rigor within the unit, and I also start to sense what type of modeling I will need so students can be successful with our Learning Targets.

Last, I want to elevate the conceptual goals. To do this, I use Essential Questions and redesign them so they are connected to the facts and skills that have been highlighted in the Learning Targets. I write a few questions that we can use as part of classroom conversations.

Here are my Learning Targets. I decided what a final Learning Target would be, and then I asked myself, "What additional Learning Targets can I write that will help students be successful with their final Learning Target?" Notice how I've established the number of days to accomplish the goals. In addition, notice how I've created different Learning Targets that feel like "the right steps" to be successful. 

My first Learning Targets focus on describing the location of Colorado in relation to other places.

My second Learning Targets focus on using geographic vocabulary to describe Colorado's physical regions.

My third Learning Target is related to comparing regions.

My inquiry questions are open-ended with broad answers. In addition, I've included a question that starts to point in the direction we are going for the unit.

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