Planning Backward

What will students learn?

Sometimes backward planning is also called planning with the end in mind. In this case, "the end" is what students will learn, and how they will show they learned it. There are many, many ways teachers can start the conversation to identify the end that the students are working toward. Here are three:

Starting with Student Needs

What do your learners need? Maybe there is a concept or benchmark with which they are struggling. Maybe recent assessments indicate needing a new strategy for building writing skills. Beginning here, teacher teams have a conversation about the needs of their learners, based on evidence they see in their classrooms. Open the Student Needs and Evidence Chart.

Starting with Teacher Interest

Individual teachers in teacher teams bring a wide range of prior experiences, knowledge, and passion to their planning conversations. All teachers can benefit from a disciplined approach as they weigh the possibilities building  cross-content area connections for students. Open a template to guide you as you plan Intentional Connections.

Starting with Big Ideas and Essential Questions

Big ideas and essential questions can be rich places to begin conversations across disciplines. 

A big idea is a broad, multi-faceted idea that must be explored actively by the student in order to be understood. Here is a list to get you started. 

Essential Questions frame ongoing and important inquiries. They:

  • Cause genuine and relevant inquiry into the big ideas of core content,
  • Provoke deep thought, lively discussions, sustained inquiry, new understanding, more questions, and
  • Require students to consider alternatives, weigh evidence, support their ideas, and justify their answers.

For more on Big Ideas and Essential Questions, see Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2011). The Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.