lp1_icon.gifLesson Planning Workshop - Backward Design

September 27, 2011

Last Update: 9/30/11
Location: Everett High School, 100 Elm Street, Everett, MA

**View Your Guiding Questions**

Project Evaluation Overview

Diane Schilder talked about:
  • The need for EVALUATION
  • The keys to a good lesson implementation experience
  • Creating an effective student ASSESSMENT
  • Project Surveys - Your responses are important and help improve the project
  • How do I earn my implementation stipend? ($650)
  • How do I communicate with Diane?

Download her presentation:


What is backward design?

Backward design begins with the end in mind:
  • What enduring understandings do I want my students to develop?
  • How will my students demonstrate their understanding when the unit is completed?
  • How will I ensure that students have the skills and understand the concepts required on the summative assessment?

These are the kinds of questions that teachers pose at the earliest stages of the backward design planning process. By beginning with the end in mind, teachers are able to avoid the common pitfall of planning forward from activity to activity, only to find that some students are prepared for the final assessment while others are not. Using backward design, teaching for understanding, and requiring students to apply and demonstrate their learning are not new concepts. Many of the best teachers have been using this approach, even if they didn't have a name for it. The resources on the linked web pages below attempt to explain the backward design planning process and show how it can be used to design thematic, multi-genre units that promote enduring understanding.


This lesson organizer shows the relationship of standards and the essential question to goals and objectives. The guiding questions should be written in a student-friendly format. After examining the sample below, complete an organizer for your lesson using the template.


(360 KB)

Backward Planning Graphic Organizer

Download Graphic Organizer (48 KB)


What is historical thinking? Why does it matter?

"Historical thinking matters. Not only does it matter, it needs to be learned."

"Boring names, facts, dates - this is history for a lot of people. But historians think about history differently. They see themselves as detectives, often unsure about what happened, what it means, and rarely able to agree amongst themselves. This process of trying to figure out things you don't already know is as different from mindless memorization as you can get."

LP1_09_hist_thinkFlash_thumb.jpgThe Historical Thinking Matters team provides a "framework that teaches students to read documents like historians. Using these 'habits of mind,' they will be able to interrogate historical sources and use them to form reasoned conclusions about the past. Equally important, they will become critical users of the vast historical archives on the web."
View the FLASH movie Why Historical Thinking Matters where
professor Sam Wineburg of Stanford University discusses how historians investigate what happened in the past.

Look at these Historical Thinking Benchmarks from the American Historical Association, in particular items 1, 2, 5, 6, 10 in their lists -- these are double starred and on pages 4-7 and 4-8 in your Project notebook. How can you incorporate these forms of historical thinking into your learning about history and lesson?

For another view, see the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA's "Standards in Historical Thinking" website. It gives an overview and detailed information about the definition and application of each of their historical standards.


As we think about backward design and your final product of a lesson, it seems helpful to give you a sense of the goals for the final lesson. Here is the review template for a completed lesson (student side) that historians will use when reviewing lessons in February.

What role does historical thinking and primary source documents play in lesson design, according to the review template?

The purpose of looking at this template now is that of any backward design process: to see what the end goals are, so you can plan. In general the historians have been very positively impressed by the BA participants' lessons!

Historian Review Template


Visit the following links to learn more.

Backward Design Process

Understanding by Design Overview Vanderbilt Center for Teaching
Understanding by Design Exchange Web site
If you join as a member (free) you can share with other faculty and develop online curriculum using their online instructional design templates.
Second chapter of "Understanding by Design"

Historical Thinking
Historical Thinking Matters
History Matters (Making Sense of Evidence) Scholars In Action presents case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence.
Analyzing 19th Century Letters (Written in 1846 and 1848 by labor activist, reformer, and entrepreneur Sarah Bagley who advocated on behalf of the young female workers employed in textile mills in Lowell to Angelique Martin, a prominent reformer and champion of women's rights.)
Overview of Standards in Historical Thinking
Picturing Modern America


Submit completed draft lesson template by September 27. (It's the exit ticket). Not all parts will be complete. It will be returned to you at the next lesson planning meeting.

Braintree -- please send copies via email to your Director Cathleen.

Standard Alignment and Guiding Questions


Write district, last name, and the grade level of the lesson you are developing on a 8x6" post-it note. Note the color code (below).
Write the guiding question from your Backward Planning GO in marker on the post-it note.
Green - 1st standard and guiding question choice
Orange - 2nd standard and guiding question choice
Post your notes on the large MA framework standards post-it sheets hanging around the room.
Kathy Grace explains how to fill out the lesson planning template.

Writing guiding questions

Braintree participants: Enter your information onto the Braintree LP1 Page and we will add your information to main posters.
Let us know what you're thinking (IM or speak into the Skype mic or call Cathleen if there are problems with the connection). Thanks!

Potential Lesson Guiding Questions

Posters with your guiding questions are available for review before the next Lesson Planning, LP2 (October 11, 2011).
Matt shares his guiding question.

Unit Teams Planning Page

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