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Enduring Understandings
Essential Questions

The following resources reflect Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe's Understanding by Design model of "backwards design".   Use the collection of articles, explanations and standards to transform our standards into essential understandings.



Backward Design 101

This article reviews the differences between traditional curriculum and Backwards Design.  Please read and relate to your own classroom experiences. 

1.  What are the key differences between traditional and UBD-aligned curriculum?  How does it translate in the classroom?  What are the obstacles to this transformation?
2.   Why is curriculum mapping (based on Hedi Hayes Jacobs' work) essential to good curricular design and your work as a library media specialist? 

Identifying Enduring Understandings

1.  In your own words how would you define or describe a "big idea"?  Give an example.
2.  What can you do in your class to help your students recognize important ideas worth understanding?
3.   As a teacher how do you determine what knowledge is worth understanding?

 Essential Questions

Creating Essential Questions
The Galileo Educational Network explains the importance of essential questions
throughout history. It provides excellent examples of ongoing classroom projects.

1. What are the characteristics of an essential question and what makes
them important in designing meaningful, engaging learning environments?

 Using Essential Questions to Focus Teaching and Learning
Provides examples of universal understandings and essential questions.

       1.  Give an example of an essential question that transcends subject and grade-level.  How can it be tied the classroom learning experience?

Framing the Essential Question
Jamie MacKenzie, an authority on information literacy describes a movement away from the "topical research" process of going to the library to "look up" a topic. Essential questions engage and encourage students to take ownership of their own learning.

1. If answers to essential questions cannot be found, why bother to ask them?
2. How could dealing with essential questions change the way your students approach learning?


K-5 Examples of Essential Questions

Examples of Essential Questions
Once school district's development of essential questions / thematic units

Asking the Right Question - a WebQuest about Essential Questions

Intel - Teach to the Future Unit Index
Provides excellent projects that are framed by an essential question.

1. Based on your grade-level and a chosen subject area, write two essential questions?

Research Process & Essential Questions

 Asking the Essential Question
The "essential question" is always at the top of the research process. Imagining students as researchers is an excellent way of determining whether the question will be a valid essential question.

Asking Essential Questions and Curriculum Development

Inquiry-Based Research on the Internet
This ePaper provides the framework for the research process within the context of foundation and essential questions to guide the process.

1. How are essential questions central to the research process?

Learning Experiences and Outcomes

Information Problem-Solving and Essential Questions - Middle School Focus
Baltimore County Public Schools have aligned their curriculum around projects and essential questions. Provides some good examples of what can be developed.

Information Problem-solving and Essential Questions
- Elementary Focus

WebQuest Design Patterns
WebQuests, first designed by Bernie Dodge, are projects based on an inquiry-oriented,
higher-order thinking task. Students are posed with a question or task, are asked to
become investigators and make decisions, solve a problem, predict an outcome or
synthesize concepts to create new learning. The patterns described on this page reflect the best uses of WebQuests

Use the above links to select an appropriate Webquest or Information Problem-solving based on your grade-level and curriculum standards. How would these help to "uncover" meaning?

Greenwich Public Schools - Essential Questions
Greenwich Public Schools - 6th Grade Language Arts Essential Questions
(Skip Intro)

K-12 Curricular Goals and Standards
Start here for standards for any content area.

Greenwich Public Schools Information & Technology Literacy Framework
Provides the Connecticut State ITL framework aligned to Understanding by Design framework.

UBD Templates & Tools

See template created in Inspiration

NCREL Lesson Planner - provides a tool to plan essential understandings aligned to standards & print a final product.

Collaborative Planning Tool
Designed to be used as a tool for units designed in collaboration between the Library Media Specialist and classroom teacher.

Task Stream - The Tools of Engagement
A collaborative tool that enables teams educators to build units, assessments and learning experiences using the UBD template. Requires a password and subscription.

Any questions or comments, please contact Fran Kompar .  Last updated 7/17/2008.

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