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Understanding By Design
Katherine Barwin
Understanding By Design
Your book will give you a lot of information
about UbD and DI. I am going to highlight
specific areas to pay particular attention to,
based on pre-assessment information.
Websites that I post on the wiki will give
you more examples.
Using everything that you get in this
course, you will create your own unit, which
we will do in June…
The first step, however, is to think…
Think about…
What are the topics/units that I have
to teach, according to our district
curriculum? (the “given”)
Then, think, “How is this topic/unit
relevant and important to my students,
in terms of their lives NOW? Is it
really, really important? What life
lesson will they take away from this
By the end of today’s session…
You have some beginning ideas of
topics/units that you might want to explore,
and think about, as you read the book
(beginning to think about the WHAT
students will be learning).
You will have some ideas about how to
think about your units, to make them
relevant to students.
(We will be working together in June to
start our unit designs).
Understanding By Design and DI
DI= Who, Where, How
UbD= What
Basic premise of UbD: Student
understanding is revealed when
students apply (transfer) knowledge in
authentic contexts.
Focus on what really matters in your
content. Have a sense of the “Big
Big Idea
A concept that can apply across
content areas (not just subject
An idea that is relevant across time.
Relates to the core concepts of the
An enduring message/ understanding
that students will hold onto in their life.
Story of my son…
Picture an 11th grade Chemistry
“How is learning this going to help
make me become a contributing
member of your version of a utopian
Life Lessons?
What “life lesson” will your unit impart
to your students?
An example of a Big Idea
Students are supposed to learn about
the Age of Exploration.
Big Idea, that can be applied across
contents, throughout time, might be:
“Exploration requires risk, results in
change, and that change may be
positive or negative, depending upon
one’s perspective.”
I cannot stress this step enough…
Really, really think about this…
How does this subject relate to kids in
the here/now?
How does this subject relate to the
21st century skills needed in a rapidly
changing world…
21st Century Skills of…
creativity and innovation, critical
thinking and problem-solving (real
problems), communication and
collaboration (beyond the walls of the
classroom), flexibility and adaptability,
initiative and self-direction, social and
cross-cultural skills, productivity and
accountability, leadership and
It’s what I like to call the “ReallyMatter-Meter.”
Some things that are not on the RMM
scale, but that we might hear:
“Doing this will teach you how to be a good
“You’ll use this when you are in (middle
school, high school, college).”
“It’s a standard/GE, and I have to teach
“I know it’s boring, but it’s only for two
more weeks, and then it will be over.”
Can you take something that you “have to teach” and
turn it into something that scores high on the ReallyMatter-Meter?
You have to. If it doesn’t really, really
matter, then WHY are you teaching
Really USE it.
What is the meaningful application?
And also layer in Rigor…
Functional and critical thinking skills in
the use and understanding of
information, media, and technology…
And… oh, by the way, do well on the
NECAP’s, as well as local
Oh, and let’s not forget the Common
Core coming up…
Recent visit to a high school…
Offered a mix of traditional classes
and technology offerings.
Technology Center: focus was on
Service Learning. “Use what you are
learning to solve a problem in the
community or world.”
I thought, “Why are we doing this just
in the tech center?”
Immigration Unit: What is the big deal
about immigration? What is the big idea
behind immigration? What life lesson can
come from it, for the kid who says, “I’m not
going to emigrate, I don’t care if there are
immigrants, and I’m adopted, so my
adopted parents’ story of immigration is
not REALLY my story.”
Example of Geometry made
As you watch this 10 minute video
clip, make note of what you see in
terms of relevancy and 21st century
How did this teacher make this really
matter for her students?
Common Core resources
Go to this common core website, and
pick a unit. Fill out the RMM
worksheet on it together, and share
Some things to think about…
How will you know what they really
learned? Some things to be thinking
When you come back in June…
Have a unit in mind that you want to
Be ready to tell me why this unit is
really going to matter to the kids.
Be ready to tell me what life lesson
they are going to take away from it.
The Big Idea.