Building The Foundation Of A Unit

  • "Before constructing the curricular units of study, it is necessary to first build a strong foundation. Otherwise, curriculum design teams are erecting a superstructure upon an uncertain base. Here is a brief description of each of the five foundational steps:

    1. Prioritize the Standards. Prioritize and vertically align from grade to grade and course to course the academic content standards (grade- or course specific CCSS and state standards) for selected content areas. These represent the “assured competencies” that students are to know and be able to do by the end of each academic school year so they are prepared to enter the next level of learning.
    2. Name the Units of Study. Name all of the specific units of study for each grade level and course in those selected content areas. Through these units of study, implemented during the year of course, students will learn and be assessed upon their understanding and application of the particular standards in focus.
    3. Assign Priority Standards and Supporting Standards. Assign Priority Standards and supporting standards to each unit of study, taking into account “learning progression” - those building blocks of concepts and skills that students need to learn before they can learn other ones. Confirm that every Priority Standard is assigned to more than one unit of study. Take care not to “overload” any one unit with too many standards, especially supporting standards.
    4. Prepare a Pacing Calendar. Referring to the school district master calendar, create a curriculum pacing calendar for implementing the units of study to ensure that all Priority Standards will be taught, assessed, retaught, and reassessed throughout the entire school year. Factor in a “buffer” week between units for the purpose of re-teaching and reassessing close-to-proficient students, intervening and reassessing far-from-proficient students, intervening and reassessing far-from-proficient students, and enriching proficient and above students. Decide which units will be implemented before and after state/national exams. Adjust the length and/or duration of each unit of study so that all units can be effectively implemented before the end of the school year.
    5. Construct the Unit Planning Organizer. Brainstorm a list of elements to include on a unit planning organizer that will be used to create each unit of study. Draft a sample template that includes all of these elements. Revise the template as needed while designing the curricular units."

    (Getting Started with Rigorous Curriculum Design p. 135)