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Welcome, I'm Trisha Fyfe. And in today's video lesson I'm going to be exploring the topic of developing unit objectives and essential questions. As we learn about this topic, we will work towards several learning objectives, and together we'll answer the following questions in this video lesson. What do essential questions look like in a unit study? What do learning objectives look like in a unit study? And how can you reflect on your use of both essential questions and learning objectives in your units of study?
Let's start by looking at a sample lesson, and this lesson is in Understanding by Design format. So you can see, here, that the established goals of this lesson, or the standards, are a common core standard for math. Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. For example, find the width of a rectangular room given the area of the flooring and the length by viewing the area formula as a multiplication equation with an unknown factor.
So, here, our students will understand that perimeter and area are found using specific formulas. They will also understand that they will use this knowledge in different areas of their life-- measuring, building for projects, work, et cetera.
The essential questions for this unit are, how do perimeters and areas of similar shapes compare? And, when might you use these formulas for area and perimeter in your life?
Let's look at the lessons for this activity. Here we're going to present formulas for perimeter and area for squares and rectangles, and have students practice using these formulas in pairs. They will then use web tools like GeoGebra, and practice application with an interactive digital tool. Finally, they will work in pairs to create presentations showing their findings and understanding of how these formulas might be used in real life.
The unit objectives for this lesson, or the key knowledge and skills, are as follows. By the end of the unit, students will understand the terms perimeter and area, and formulas for finding perimeters and areas of basic shapes. As well as, by the end of the unit students will understand how to use these ideas and formulas in their daily lives, and understand connections.
These are the observable objectives. These are things that can be easily measured by the teacher by, possibly, using formative assessments, or discussions, or observations, as well as the information that the teacher will receive from the presentations that students complete. And the use of those digital tools, like GeoGebra.
Let's take a moment to go back to essential questions and talk about what exactly those questions are. Essential questions are extremely important to your units and for your students. Essential questions are important questions. They're encountered again and again in life. Students will see these questions over and over. These questions are critical within a certain topic or discipline. And they're questions that are essential to your students' understanding of what you are covering. All of those core ideas in the core content you're teaching.
Essential questions have many characteristics. And here's just a few. Essential questions promote inquiry into the big ideas. So they cover the main content of the concepts that you'll be covering. Essential questions require students to transfer their learning. They make connections with prior learning. They make connections with other experiences because of these questions, and thinking about them. Essential questions help students consider the evidence, and really justify ideas, and consider alternatives. Essential questions help students to make connections that are meaningful and powerful. And essential questions help promote new understanding, higher level thought, and lively discourse within your classrooms.
So let's look at our lesson and specifically at the relationship here between essential questions and our unit objectives, or our key knowledge and skills. And we'll look at the alignment of these, how closely they pair up.
Our first essential question is, how do perimeters and areas of similar shapes compare? And you can see here that our very first key knowledge and skills idea, or unit objective is, by the end of the unit, students will understand the terms perimeter and area, and formulas for these. So you can see the relationship between that essential question and the unit objectives that we are wanting to measure.
Our second essential question is, when might you use these formulas for area and perimeter in your life? And our second unit objective is, by the end of the unit, students will understand how to use these ideas and formulas in their daily lives. And they will understand the connections. Both of these go back to that common core standard of students knowing, and being able to relate to real world scenarios, area and perimeter for rectangles.
So let's talk about what we learned today. We answered the questions, what do essential questions look like in a unit study? And what do learning objectives look like in the unit study? We also asked the question, how can you reflect on your use of essential questions and learning objectives in your units of study?
Not only did we look at an example lesson and the essential questions and learning objectives and how closely aligned those were, but we also looked at the overall lesson. And we connected all of the elements within.
Now you're more familiar with these concepts, let's reflect. What did you learn that will assist you in bettering your essential learning questions and learning objectives? Do you currently use any of these strategies in your teaching?
Thanks for joining me today and discussing the lesson, Developing Unit Objectives and Essential Questions. I hope you found value in this video lesson and the ideas we discussed together. And I hope you're able to apply these ideas to your own teaching.
For more information on how to apply what you learned in the video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource.
Differentiated Instruction - Sites for Understanding Essential Questions
This is a concise handout for teachers on essential questions. In addition, links are provided for instructors to review essential learning questions that have been developed by other schools. This is a useful planning tool for UbD.
Developing the questions for project-based learning
This blog post by Melinda Kolk explains how to develop essential questions for Project Based Learning. Kolk provides simple steps for educators to follow as they design their projects and questions. In addition, she offers a link to see samples other districts have developed.