The Power of Designing Your Lessons

Where Do I Go From Here?

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Alice wants to go somewhere, but she really isn’t sure where.  It takes much longer to get somewhere if you have no idea where you really want to be. How poignant is this in so many aspects of life, especially, when it comes to teaching and learning? Any journey that is to be taken is much easier to travel when you know where you are going.

When I recently went on a trip with the family, we sat down and planned out our adventure. This plan created a path for the experience.  Along the way we took detours, followed our hearts and eyes into some spectacular moments, but knowing our  final destination, having some great tools, and stopping at some essential check points made for a much smoother trip. Did things go wrong? Yes, of course, but the trip was one to remember and we achieved more than we expected.


Applying “Understanding by Design” or backward design to your classroom-

Consider what your desired outcome is and work backward to ensure you have thought out what has to take place to get the desired end.

In short, we need to know where we are heading before we begin the journey.

Move from content focus to results focus!

Stages of Design:

Stage 1: What is the larger purpose or what do I need my students to learn? –Identify what you want your students to be able to do at the end of the lesson or unit. Think about where your students are and what skills or knowledge they will have to understand to reach that ultimate goal. Thinking about the standards and goals is how you build the essential questions for your unit and ultimately develop your lessons.

Stage 2: How do I want them to show they learned? – What do you want the end product to be? Think about what skills will match up to that primary objective. Do they need to work on writing, critical thinking, creativity, how to collaborate, or do they need to work on communicating information learned? Students should not have a one-time test at the end of a unit. There should be ongoing inquiry and rethinking through things like exit slips, informal assessments like discussion, or quizzes.

Stage 3: What learning and teaching experiences will promote success in stage 2 and ultimately stage 1?

  • Will you use whole group, small group, partners?
  • Will it be synchronous (Live) or asynchronous (Different Times)? Can you use technology to develop the 4C’s?
  • What materials or resources would be best used to meet the learning goals? (videos, online platforms, concrete items, post-it notes, social media)
  • What digital tools have you seen that may engage them, make it more exciting for you to teach and them to learn, or will help meet the goals better?- See what will make you reach out of the box because it may stretch their thinking as well. Also, look for things that will help you get real-time data and will help you gauge your lesson effectiveness. Immediate feedback is vital to understanding. Keep feedback in mind in your digital tool selection. Will it meet your students needs?

Stop and reflect on the design- Think about how the lesson went, how the students did, what could be tweaked, and did the digital tool help or should you look for something else.

Start with where you want to go, plan the path to get there, then choose the tools for the adventure. Just do not forget to follow your heart.As always start small, take one unit at a time and work the details out.



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