backward mapping

Planning with Backward Mapping by Tyler Wood

I teach grade four ESL at Cheongwon Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea. We have recently started using a streamlined version of the Common Core State Standards in our English department. This is why I have chosen from those standards for this backward mapping (UbD) lesson. 

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The standard I am using for this lesson is a fourth grade literacy standard. 

Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text (CCSS, 2016).

Proficiencies - Using this standard, students will be able to reference details and examples from the text they read. They will be able to explain what the main idea of the text is, based on those details and examples. Also, they will be able to draw inferences from the details and examples to further the understanding of the text. 

Assessments - Students can be assessed on this skill in many ways. Simply asking students comprehension questions about a text can show how well they understood the text details and can restate them. They can underline or circle details that support the main idea of the text. They can rewrite the details that help explain the main idea and share them with the class. I would like to make an authentic project assessment using this standard, so I will also use a book report as an assessment of mastery for this skill along with the other assessments I mentioned. I am looking for transfer of knowledge and "transfer is about independent performance (McTighe, 2012)" In order to assess transfer, the student should be assessed on the skill in a new environment or with unfamiliar content and be able to show understanding of the skill on their own. The book report would show that well, but would be a summative assessment where as the others would be formative.  

Learning Experiences - The book report is the main learning experience to show knowledge of the skill transfer. However, there will be many other learning experiences to build to mastery with this skill. First, students can read informational text passages with a partner and find the main idea and details of the text. Working together helps students understand the process better because there will be three outcomes for them: 1. They verify their method by watching another student follow the same techniques to find the main idea and details. 2. They learn a better way to find the main idea and details by watching another student who is more successful at the skill, or 3. They help solidify their method by explaining it and teaching it to a student who is struggling with the skill. Second, students can practice drawing inferences with puzzles or riddles that force them to understand the skill to get a feel for it in a fun and motivating activity before applying it to less interesting textbook passages. This will sharpen their ability to draw inferences using the details they have learned to identify in the last lesson. Finally, putting them together, they can add a scene to a story. In order to accomplish this task, they would need to be able to identify and comprehend details from the original story. Then, they would need to draw conclusions about that story and use their own details to communicate their ideas. 



Common Core State Standards. (2016) Read the Standards. Retrieved from

McTighe, J. (2012). Common Core Big Idea 4: Map Backward From Intended Results. Edutopia. Retrieved from


Reflection by Tyler Wood

How does unpacking standards, backward mapping, and writing objectives help me apply standards?

I have worked on this before while I was attending Colorado State and getting my master's degree. My studying brought me to using standards, backward design, and how to write clear objectives. Previously, I compared standards to the road map for a curriculum. We need to know where we are going before we can make a plan on how to get there. Starting with standards means we have an end goal. Unpacking those standards is helpful because we get to know intimately what each standard entails. Standards can be general at times. I used a trip to Chicago before, so I will stick with that analogy. The standard says we are going to Chicago, but where in Chicago? What specific place in Chicago do I need to drive my car? Unpacking the standards is to pick apart the general statement that we need to get to Chicago and get all the relevant details about the specifics. What hotel, on which street, near what landmark? We need to find out the specific expectations for our students so we can best guide them to mastery of those big ideas and skills. 

Once we have figured out the details about Chicago, we need to figure out the best route for getting there. This is backward mapping. Just like doing a maze, when it was difficult, many of use started at the end and worked backward to find the correct path. Well, getting to Chicago (mastery) is not a maze for amusement, we do not need to spend our time enjoying the path, we need to find the best way to get there. Starting from Chicago and going backward will get us the best results for our trip. We should start with the expectations clearly leading the way. Once we have a path, we need to design the stops and sights we want to see along our trip route. Getting to Chicago might take a long time, we will need to plan specific places where we will need to stop for food, gas, or a night's rest. These details are like writing the objectives. The more detailed they are the easier it will be to follow them accurately. 

This process has helped me create much more streamlined learning objectives in my class without meandering. Each of my goals in class have a purpose because I know where we are heading. Even when there is a "teachable" moment, knowing where the students need to be can help me steer the conversation into productive territory without losing the students' interest in the organic moment we are having. It can help me connect the moment to the learning the students are involved in at the time or will be involved in later. Having the details flushed out from the beginning helps me apply the standards because I can make sure we are on-track at all times during the class. There is no more need for filler classes or throwing in something irrelevant because I have an extra worksheet I wanted to use. Everything is meaningful and leads to the end goal. 

My school has adopted a streamlined version of the Common Core standards and it has really helped organise my year. Each lesson has a purpose that is building to something more than it did before. I was teaching the same chapters in the book before, but I was not always sure what parts were important and what was something I could drop when I was out of time. Now, I know what to prioritize. Ideally, teaching everything would be the way to go, but realistically we do not have the time. However, now that we have set standards that we have unpacked for the details and pre-planned from the end how to get there, it is clear what parts of any lesson must be focused on. 

We use a mastery focused 'grading' system now that focuses on a student's ability to demonstrate their mastery of a skill. In this way, applying the standards is built right into every lesson. Once a teacher eliminates the need for a number grade or a test score as the focus, it becomes clear what lessons should look like. Just like a video game, each level is building to something where all the skills you learned will need to be used to succeed, teaching to the mastery mindset using standards and backward design helps students build to success and be aware that that is what they are doing. They are not blindly picking up information, they are collecting tools that will help them be a successful adult in our world.