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Stanwood-Camano School District

RDS March 25, 2008

Standards--unlike so

Unwrapping the Standards many passing trends

in education--are
here to stay.

“Unwrapping” the standards means to identify
the concepts and skills found in both the
standards (the general statements of learning
outcomes--what students need to know and be
able to do) and the indicators (the grade-specific
learning outcomes. It means to examine the
standards and the grade-specific indicators
listed beneath them to determine exactly what
students need to (1) know (the concepts or
content) and (2) be able to do (the skills)
through a (3) particular context (what
educators will use to teach students the
concepts and skills).

Concepts can be defined as abstract ideas that
point to a larger set of understandings, (e.g.,
peace, democracy, change, patterns, power,
etc). Content refers to the specific information
students need to know in a given standard, its
related indicators, or in an entire course of
study. Often educators use these terms Unwrapping the standards is looking for the
interchangeably when they are “unwrapping” important nouns, adjectives, and verbs.
standards. To simplify the definitions, think of
the concepts or content as being the important
nouns and noun phrases, and the skills as being
the verbs. Unwrapping is looking for the
important nouns, adjectives, and verbs!

Working with standards



๏ Select one particular grade in the ๏ Once you become familiar with the
health curriculum. Look over the “unwrapping” process, it is a logical
standards and grade-specific indictors next step to think about identifying all Once all the
listed underneath and decide which the related standards and indicators standards and
ones you wish to “unwrap.” one would target in an instructional indicators are
unit. For example, in a particular unit identified for a
๏ Start small. Choose one standard you on healthy choices and nutrition, you particular unit or set
are familiar with to begin this process. often want to find all of the standards
Ultimately, educators “unwrap” the and indictors related to those particular
of lessons, educators
specific standards and indicators topics, and collectively “unwrap” them. then collectively
targeted for an instructional unit. “unwrap” create
๏ These standards may not always be their graphic
UNDERLINE NOUNS, CIRCLE VERBS listed together in the standards organizer, and plan
๏ Carefully read through your selected documents, however. Often they
standard and related indicators, and as
instruction and
appear in several places within grade-
you do so, underline the key concepts assessment to
level or course-specific standards and
(important nouns and noun phrases) address all the
require “sleuthing” to find them all.
and circle the skills (the verbs). Educators do this because they want to concepts and skills
Remember, the concepts are what take a more holistic approach in their contained in the
students must know, and the skills or instructional planning, not just teaching standards.
performance verbs are what they must the standards in bits and pieces as they
be able to do. randomly appear in the standards
documents or in the textbook, but
grouping related ones together for
๏ A graphic organizer can be used to
more effective instruction and greater
support the process of “unwrapping”
student understanding.
the standards. It makes it easier.

Working with standards


Power Standards

WHAT ARE POWER STANDARDS? 1. What students need to know students become proficient on state
Power Standards are a subset of the and be able to do in school this assessments.
complete list of standards and year, next year, and so on.
indicators for each grade and for each 2. What students need to learn STANDARDS, NOT STANDARDIZATION
subject. They represent the “safety” net in the way of life skills. The process of “unwrapping” is a
of standards each teacher needs to powerful technique for managing
3. What students need to know
make sure that every student learns standards effectively. In seeking to
and be able to do on all high-stakes
before leaving the current grade. assessments. familiarize educators with this process,
Students who acquire this “safety net” the goal is not standardization of
of knowledge and skills will thus exit ESSENTIAL AND NICE TO KNOW teaching styles and techniques; the
one grade better prepared for the next Make distinctions between which goals is to effectively teach students the
grade. standards are “essential” and which standards. Educators may collectively
ones are “nice to know.” Teach the “unwrap” the same standard and
THE RATIONALE FOR POWER STANDARDS “essentials” for depth of student indicators in the same way, but they
There is a convincing rationale for understanding. Then teach the “nice to must always be encouraged to draw
differentiating standards as either know” standards as they relate to the upon their own individual talents,
“essential” or “nice to know.” The ones identified as “essential.” creativity, experience, and expertise in
consensus among educators nationwide helping their students gain a deep
is that in-de pth instruction of “UNWRAPPING” TESTED STANDARDS understanding of the concepts and
“essential” concepts and skills is more A question often brought forward is skills within the standards they have
effective than superficially “covering” “What if state assessment results “unwrapped.”
every concept in the textbook. Recent indicate that students are scoring low
research by Robert Marzano indicated on a particular standard or indicator
that we would have to change schooling that has not been designated a Power
from K-12 to K-22 to cover all the Standard?”
standards. He further indicated that Whether or not it is a Power
the sheer number of standards is the Standard makes no difference, If,
biggest impediment to implementing according to test results, students need
standards. more in-depth understanding of the
concepts and skills within a particular
CRITERIA FOR POWER STANDARDS standard or indicator, then what better
When considering which standards and way for teachers to really zero in on
indicators are “power,” think of the where students are having trouble than
ones that students need for success by “unwrapping” that tested standard
according to the following three or indicator? They can then plan
criteria: instruction and assessment to help

Working with standards


Big Ideas are Enduring Understandings: What will people remember for 40 years?


Do you remember any particularly Big ideas are often called the “deep end of
challenging high school or college exams on the pool.” For the majority of educators,
which, despite their difficulty, you scored Bid Ideas do not come easily at first. Why? Enduring
quite well? If you were to take those same Because most confide that they themselves Understandings, or
test now, do you think you could do as well were not taught to think in terms of Big Big Ideas are the
today as you did then? Usually, once a test Ideas during their own educational important
was over, so is the retention of particular experience. understandings that
information. For too many students, Fortunately or unfortunately, it is not
information becomes “out of sight, out of enough simply to say to students, “Here’s
we want students to
mind.” the Bid Idea you need to know,” and then get inside of and
proceed to tell them what that Big Ideas is. retain after they’ve
Students need a large-scale mental If it were this easy, we could simply tell forgotten many of
organizer--enduring understandings, or “big students how everything relates to the details.
ideas” to help them organize and make everything else and be done with the
sense of the myriad facts they are expected challenge of helping them make these
to learn. The lessons from brain research discoveries on their own. We would never
have acknowledged the fact that the human see students engage in the struggle to make
brain organizes information according to their own connections between present an
patterns. Unless educators deliberately help past learning--the critical factor in the
their students connect the concepts and learning process that begins with not
skills being taught to prior learning through knowing.
some type of organizational structure, facts
will continue to come first with little chance
that some master pattern will eventually
emerge to bind the facts together in a way
that makes useful sense.

Working with standards


What are Big Ideas, Anyway?

What exactly are Big Ideas and how do we determining your own Bid Ideas from the
help students realize them? Big Ideas are standards and indicators you “unwrap.”
what Oprah Winfrey calls “light bulb ๏ Will this Big Idea apply to more
moments,” those sudden flashes of than one content area of learning?
illumination when a student says, “Oh, I get ๏ Will this Big Idea
it!” and goes on to articulate the meaning apply to more than one
she/he has suddenly derived. grade in school?
๏ Will this Big Idea
endure? Will it be as
Here are several statements that attempt to important in the future as
define what Big Ideas are. They are in it is now?
bulleted for and isolated for reflective
๏ Will this Big Idea be
purposes only. Often the criteria overlap. one that students
๏ Big Ideas are those “Aha!” remember long after
realizations, discoveries, or conclusions instruction ends?
students reach on their own either
during or after instruction. ATTRIBUTES OF BIG IDEAS
๏ Big Ideas are key generalizations ๏ Brevity--usually five to ten words.
students can articulate after their ๏ Conceptual--cannot be answered
sudden grasp of the “big picture.” factually or with a yes/no statement;
๏ Bid Ideas are the lasting goes beyond content to conjecture.
understandings students will take with ๏ Open-ended--allows for multiple
them on their forward educational perspectives; no one “right” answer.
journey. ๏ Enduring--a “timeless” idea that
๏ Bid Ideas are personally worded may apply to other fields of learning.
statements derived from a deep
understanding of the concepts under
investigation. If we want students
๏ B i g I d e a s a re o p e n - e n d e d , to really understand
enduring ideas that transfer a concept, then we
understanding from one subject to need to focus on
other areas of study. only three or four
Big Ideas for a
Here are a few guidelines adapted from
d i f f e re n t s o u rc e s t o a s s i s t yo u i n

Working with standards


ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS upfront the learning goals they expect

Which engages student attention more, students to meet. They then use the
questions or facts? Consider this fact: Essential Questions and “unwrapped”
“Fractions represent quantities less than, concepts and skills as instructional filters for
equal to, or greater than one whole.” selecting lessons and activities that will
Compare this statement to the following: advance student understanding toward
“What is a fraction?” “What is its those learning goals. As students move
relationship to a whole number?” Which through the lessons and activities, they are
invited students to think? Which clearly developing their understanding of the
advertised the learning expectations? Which “unwrapped” concepts and skills and
was a catalyst that will eventually lead formulating their responses to the Essential
students to understand for themselves what Questions
their teachers want them to learn?” Remember that the ultimate goal in
Essential Questions are no ordinary this regard is for students to be able to
questions. Because they are derived from answer the Essential Questions with
“unwrapped” standards and indicators, they the Big Ideas expressed in their own
are, in truth, standards-based questions. words.
Thus, educators can represent the essential
concepts and skills embedded in the WHY AND HOW
wording of the standards as thoughtfully Not all questions are equal. The five “W’s”
determined Essential Questions and then and an “H” who, what, where, when, why,
use these questions to drive both instruction and how are not weighted the same. The
and assessment. first four are lower level thinking questions.
“Why” and “How” questions require the
learner to apply the information in any
number of ways. “Should” and “Would”
When educators pose the Essential
also make Essential Questions more
Questions to students at the inception of an
complex in thinking.
instructional unit, they are advertising

Working with standards


The “One-Two Punch”


The “one-two punch” is a two-part ๏ What are linear equations? one sentence the most important idea
question. The first part asks students to How can we use them in real life? students need to grasp about the
demonstrate their recall of ๏ What does “working out” particular content they are studying. As
information. It is the first four in the mean? How does it help you? you review your Essential Questions
five “Ws” and an “H”. It validates the ๏ What is musical notation? with their corresponding Big Ideas,
need to acquire a knowledge base. The How does it help a performer sing decide if an additional Big Idea is
second part asks them to apply that or a musician play a particular needed.
information. It communicates the instrument? Big Ideas cannot be reduced to a
message that facts alone are not ๏ What are the elements of an “cookie cutter” process. There is always
enough; they must be utilized if they effective computer presentation? room for improvement, and this
are to be of real value. Here are a few Why is visual design important to naturally occurs with continued
examples from various contest areas: such a profession? practice. The same holds true for the
๏ What is the writing process? wording of Essential Questions.
Why do accomplished writers use ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS AND BIG IDEAS
it? Big ideas might only be written as a
factual statement, or seem to answer
๏ What is the difference
only one part of a two-part Essential
between oil and acrylic paints?
How does an artist decide which Question. Remember, the initial goal
medium to use? when writing a Big Idea is to capture in

Working with standards




✦ D i e t a r y re q u i re m e n t s va r y fo r ✦ What is healthful living? What is
individuals based on age, activity level, wellness? Why is it important?
weight, metabolism, and health. ✦ How does physical fitness relate to
✦ Participation in lifelong sports health?
promotes physical and mental health. ✦ What constitutes a lifelong sport?
✦ The comprehension of knowledge is ✦ When is physical activity good and not
related to health promotion and disease so good for your body? How do you
prevention. know?
✦ The ability to access valid health ✦ What strategies do the top performers
information and health promoting and teams use?
products and services impacts health. ✦ Is pain necessary for progress in
✦ The opportunity to practice health- conditioning? In athletics? To improve
enhancing behaviors can reduce health health?
risks. ✦ How do you achieve greater power
✦ Health is influenced by a variety of without losing control?
factors including culture, media and ✦ What type of feedback is best?
technology. ✦ How can you best use feedback to
✦ Health is enhanced by the ability to use improve performance?
interpersonal communication skills. ✦ What does it mean to be healthy? How
✦ Health is enhanced by the ability to use do you know you are healthy?
goal-setting and decision making skills. ✦ Why should people focus on mental
✦ A healthy person has the ability and and emotional health? How is this the
desire to advocate for personal, family same of different than physical health?
and community health. ✦ What does it mean to be healthy?

Working with standards

Established Goals (standard or standards):
All students will connect mathematics to other learning by understanding the interrelationship of mathematical ideas and the roles
that mathematics and mathematical modeling play in other disciplines and in life.

Stated or implied Big Ideas in the NOUNS and Stated or implied real-world performances in

★Mathematical modeling in various disciplines and life ★Examples of effective mathematical modeling of real-
life data or phenomena
★Critically review a mathematical model for its
appropriateness to a given real-life situation

Understandings (Big Ideas): Essential Questions:

Students will understand that...
★In what ways is mathematical modeling useful?
★Mathematical models simplify and connect phenomena ★How do you know if your model is a good one (for a
so that we might better understand them. particular situation)?
★Mathematical models must be viewed critically so that ★What are the limits of mathematical modeling? How do
they do not distort or mislead. you know?

Performance Task Ideas

★Have students create a mathematical model for a selected real-world situation (e.g., seasonal temperature).
★Have students critically review a mathematical model for its appropriateness to a given situation (e.g., the Mercator
Projection for representing the glove in two-dimensions).

The Collector, 1234 Main Street, Any Town, State 54321 | 123-456-7890 |
Established Goals (standard or standards):

Stated or implied Big Ideas in the NOUNS and Stated or implied real-world performances in

Understandings (Big Ideas): Essential Questions:

Students will understand that...

Performance Task Ideas

The Collector, 1234 Main Street, Any Town, State 54321 | 123-456-7890 |