A design by any other name…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at course design and creating a significant learning environment. Last week, I created a 3-Column table using ideas from Fink’s, A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. My focus was to design my next unit over US Government. This week, I’ve taken that same unit and used the Understanding by Design template.

After applying both to the same unit of instruction, I believe that for me, UbD helped me to really focus in on my overall goals for the lesson and tying them to the activities. The unit I created below is definitely still a work in progress but I think the process of UbD is something I can really utilize more effectively that the 3-Column table. In my classroom, we teach by unit and the UbD process helped me to better align my learning goals for the students, their performance tasks and then process how the learning activities would help them reach that goal.

I believe that if I was designing an entire course, such as an online staff development course, that I could use the 3 column table format more effectively. This is a goal I have by the end of the school year since I am on the technology integration team for my campus.

I plan on incorporating my UbD designed Unit 3 plan this fall. I am still reflecting on some of the learning activities in Step 3 to make sure they are aligning with the Desired results. I think that has definitely been a weakness of mine in the past but as with everything in this journey I’m always learning and growing.

My Unit 3 UbD Plan:


Unit Title: Unit 3 US Government
Established Goals:

Student will understand various ways in which people organize governments and that the nature of citizenship varies among societies.

    • 6.12C identify historical origins of democratic forms of government such as Ancient Greece
    • 6.13B explain how opportunities for citizens to participate in and influence the political process vary among various contemporary societies
    • 6.13C compare the role of citizens in the United States with the role of citizens from various contemporary societies with representative and non-representative governments
    • 6.23B use a decision-making process to identify a situation that requires a decision, gather information, identify options, predict consequences and take action to implement a decision

Understandings: Students will understand that…

  • Citizens in the United states have political rights and responsibilities
  • In the United States government is limited because freedom is a cultural value
  • Citizens participate in and influence the political process in various ways in contemporary societies



Essential Questions:

  • What are the roles and responsibilities of citizen’s in a democracy?
  • What kinds of things do “good” citizens do?
  • What is civic participation and how can I be involved?
  • What can I do to impact my government?
Students will know:

  • Ways in which a citizen can participate in the political process
  • Differences between rights, responsibilities and duties
  • The duty of civic participation in US society
  • Historical roots of democracy



Students will be able to:

  • Identify a problem
  • Gather information
  • List and consider options
  • Choose and implement a solution
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the solution
  • Defend a point of view on an issue
  • Communicate in written, oral or visual format




Performance Tasks:

Project Based Learning Project- Create a presentation of a solution to a community, state or local issue to present to government leader.

Students will self-assess and peer-assess presentations



Other Evidence:

Common Formative Assessment- Historic roots of democracy, rights and responsibilities of citizens

Socratic Seminar- using current event article regarding current issue

Writing Prompt- What are rights and responsibilities of US citizens?

Flipgrid- Online class discussion on importance of Civic Duty



Summary of Learning Activities:

1.     Begin with class discussion of what types of change would students like to see in their city, state or country? (H)

2.     Invite town mayor or council member to classes to discuss issues and civic involvement in government or arranged Skype meeting.  (H)

3.     Introduce Essential Questions and project based learning task for the unit. (W)

4.     Students will take Cornell notes over basic vocabulary and ideas for the unit using EdPuzzle video and interactive notebook (E)

5.     Students will read current event article regarding civic protests or other civic issue (E)

6.     Students will participate in Socratic Seminar to discuss ideas about government and civic participation (E-2, R)

7.     Pre AP students will complete mini-DBQ using primary sources. (E, T)

8.     Students will complete Common Formative Assessment over notes and vocabulary (E)

9.     Students will complete writing prompt over Right and responsibilities of citizens. They will self and peer assess their writing using ELA strategies. (R, E-2)

10.   Students will watch video news stories of citizens who have created changes in American government (H, E)

11.   Students will participate in online Flipgrid discussion about what and how they can create change over. (H, E)

12.   Students will work to identify the issues that they want to see change in and create a presentation of their choosing to send to a government official. They will be given opportunities to evaluate each other’s work through the process. (E. T)

13.   Students will complete an online evaluation of the effectiveness of their presentation, including any response from government officials. They will include any changes they might make to their presentations to make if more effective. (E-2, R)




Fink, L.D. (2003) A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


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