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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Backwards Planning Takes Thinking Ahead

Rebecca Alber

Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

Start with the end, a veteran teacher told me my first year teaching. In my young, inexperienced teacher mind, that meant "fun project." And though there's not a thing wrong with fun, the end assessment needs to be about the learning and not about the product. Starting with the end means we need to put the skills, knowledge, and concepts students will learn first, then the product second.

In our daily lives, think of all the ways we imagine something first (the end) and then next do the planning. Here's an example:

You have vacation time coming up. Do you want The Experience to be a whirlwind, stimulating, possibly educational one, or maybe tranquil, low maintenance, and stress free? If you pick the latter, you're probably heading for the countryside or to a beach. If you are all about the first one, you are gearing up for a city trip with many sites, museums, galleries, and possibly even a little night clubbing. Either way, you will plan accordingly: the mode of travel, accommodations, food, and any outings. The desired end result, the experience, will influence your planning.

So how does this look when we plan for our students?

  1. Look at standard(s).
  2. Make a list of the skills, concepts, and knowledge kids need to learn.
  3. Next, design the final assessment/project where students will demonstrate understanding to mastery of these skills, concepts, knowledge.
  4. Then, create a set of lessons that lead up to that end.
  5. Once you've done this, reflect on the set of lessons, making sure all the skills, concepts, and knowledge for student success with the end assessment are being taught.

Summer is a great time, if you haven't yet, to dive into the Common Core Standards and do some backwards planning. It's also a time to develop some really enriching, fun projects that you can justify as standards-based and rigorous (a popular word right now in education). Because let's face it, once the new school year starts, speaking of whirlwind...

What exciting and inspiring projects are you planning for your students this school year?

Rebecca Alber

Edutopia Consulting Online Editor
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