This past week I attended an Understanding by Design (UbD) professional development that my county provided and I feel like 4 days of training have really transformed me as a teacher. It felt like I was back in college, taking that highly important course that provides so much information that it makes your brain hurt. I know how important it is for my students to understand what they learn but now I feel like all of the things we do as teachers to help them with those enduring understandings really matters. Posting those essential questions, providing meaningful learning experiences, and allowing students to evaluate their own learning are pertinent to the learning process.
If you're interested in being inspired by the (UbD) process, you can check out "UbD in a Nutshell" by clicking on the picture below. There are also a ton of resources out there that will help you plan each of your subjects in a way that your students will gain a deeper understanding of everything you teach. See the template below to guide your units. The UbD way of planning helps teachers to think about how you will assess your students at the end of the learning process and then plan your teaching from there. It stresses the importance of informing your students of where their learning is going so they are reflective throughout the process and are held responsible for their own learning. Students should be evaluating themselves each day by means of the essentials questions and again at the end of the unit as a culminating evaluation. See below for an example of an end of unit student self evaluation rubric.
My experience from this training helped me understand the importance of lesson design to help students walk away with an enduring understanding of what was taught. We as teachers know that students learn best when we make their learning experience FUN and we also make sure to explain how they will use those skills in the future. Students need to have a plan for their lives and it is our job to make sure they know how to get there. Even first graders are capable of having a life plan! Teachers need to go outside of the box and think about the things that we experience as adults. We need to share some of those experiences with our students so they are aware of WHY they NEED to learn a particular skill. In the UbD, this would be the Transfer Goal. When you are beginning to plan for a unit, think about the skills that you're teaching and how those skills will transfer into other areas. We did our UbD on Number Sense and Place Value so our Transfer Goal was that we wanted students to use their learning to utilize numbers in real world situations. If students have a deep understanding of numbers and place value, then they will be able to transfer that learning to various situations as they encounter them in life.
So as we planned our first unit, with my amazing first grade colleagues from around the county, all of the pieces finally fell together. We started with the enduring understandings: what we wanted students to walk away with. Then the essential questions: what students would be asked throughout the unit. Click on the picture below to access all of the essential question posters for FREE (the pictures look a lil funky but once you download them, they will look like this one).
Once we had the foundation set for where we wanted to go, we then thought about all of the learning that we wanted to take place. This is where the "design" part of UbD comes into play. The purpose is to "begin with the end in mind"! This was a recurring phrase throughout our training because if you don't have a "destination" then you may get "lost" along the way. Think of it like taking a road trip...if you don't know where you're going, then you may not get to the place that you want. It makes sense, right? So here is the assessment that was created as we thought of all of the skills that we wanted students to be able to UNDERSTAND throughout our Number Sense and Place Value unit. Click on the picture to access the entire test for FREE.
Once we finished the test, we were able to lay out the learning plan. This is where the lesson planning would go. This way of planning units seems to make total sense to me. I'm sure that a lot of us teachers use this method of planning anyway, but the UbD allowed us to team plan a unit that was well thought out so students can UNDERSTAND the content that we teach.
One more FREEBIE for you are the checklists that I like to use in my classroom to guide my teaching and it also helps me plan for my intervention groups. Each day I use formal and informal observations to judge whether a student has mastered a specific skill. I place a check under their name if they have mastered it. If they have not mastered it, then I pull small groups to make sure they receive the learning that they need to master that skill. Click on the picture below to download all of the checklists for Unit 1: Number Sense and Place Value.
These checklists also help me when it's time to fill out report cards. Our county has began "Standards Based Grading and Reporting" for math and it's basically like a huge checklist style report card. Instead of playing a guessing game each quarter, I take out the checklists that I have used throughout the quarter (along with other factors too) in order to complete my report cards.
Sorry for such a long post! I guess I'm just really passionate about this part of teaching. lol Enjoy the rest of your weekend and be sure to check back soon for a huge Data Notebook that I'm in the process of finishing.
P.S.-If you'd like a copy of the entire number sense and place value unit plan, please leave me a comment and I'll be glad to send that to you. Just leave me your email! :-)