Planning Backwards to Jump Students Forward (Part 2)

As a review of where we paused in discussing Backward Lesson Design, thus far, we shared the importance of identifying core concepts, determining a lesson’s big ideas, and figuring out what skills and knowledge students should gain from a lesson. The key is to present it as a story, real-world question, idea, or scenario to make it as relevant as possible.

Is it now time to lesson plan? Not yet!  Right here is where the backwards part comes in – we must figure out the assessment first.

Setting an Assessment Plan

Once learning outcomes are determined, we need to create opportunities for students to show evidence for how they’ve mastered the objective you’ve set. It’s not enough for us to teach, we need to know what students have learned. “What will students produce to show mastery?” is the best guiding question on this section, and it’s a great idea to set this up before you plan the rest of your instruction so it can be your goalpost while planning.

Assessment plans usually involve a culminating project or end goal. They should return a student back to the hook by having students solve a problem, design a solution, analyze a perspective, or conduct some other high quality performance task. Other types of assessments can help students and teachers gauge where each individual student is on the journey to meet this culminating task.

The easiest trap to fall into at this stage is to add in projects because we think they’re cool or interesting, but without them serving a deeper purpose in pursuit of the learning objective. This is the difference between an assessor and an activity designer.

Use the table below to assess a project you’re considering:

Designing Learning Activities

Finally, we come to the end of our planning process and can now design lesson learning activities that support both the objectives and the assessment plan. An important thing to remember here is that this isn’t about what we as teachers want to accomplish; it’s about what the learner will need to achieve the desired knowledge and skills from Stage 1 and perform well on the tasks in Stage 2. 

This section can be broken down into three simple steps that can form the foundation for every lesson:

  • Engage: The beginning of the lesson is the time to put your story-telling skills into action and grab student attention with how the upcoming topic is relevant. Engage their curiosity, ask a question, present a real-world problem, or propose a funny scenario. 
  • Equip: Set up a simple “I do, We do, You do” to give students the skills necessary to go out and address the hook you set up in step 1. 
  • Evaluate: Build in opportunities throughout the lesson for students to self-evaluate progress and self-assess mastery. A map showing them the road to get to the culminating assessment with built-in checkpoints along the way is a great way to give students ownership.

With all the steps explained, you can put it all together and see how Backward Lesson Design works.  Every lesson starts with broad, core concepts and its detailed into big ideas with knowledge and skills.  Then, you shift into the performance task to know what needs to be assessed before you craft the first learning activity or real-world project.  Once the cycle has been completed, you then have data that may have you reteach the concept – meaning you get to start the process over.

To help you jump students forward with this model, we have a ready made template for your first time moving through Backward Lesson Design.  Simple click here to access our Free Resources Course and download that document.  

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