Important steps In Designing Units
Step 1: Determine & Unpack Standards
Step 2: Group Standards into Units
Step 3: Identify Enduring Understandings tied
Step 4: Decide Themes & Big Ideas to frame the
Step 5: Design Essential Questions within the
Step 6: Create Unit Performance Assessment to
Assess Priority Standards
Step 7: Write Lessons that Build Skills to the
Step 2: Group Standards into Units
The National Core Art Standards are beautifully designed in that the writers gave a lot of attention to the instinctive process artists use to create and experience art work as well as how the standards vertically align from one grade-level to the next. You will see a natural movement and progression of skills. Because of this, and the cyclic nature of the artistic process, sometimes it is hard to group standards into units. We want to include them all because we should be taking our students through each of the four processes of creating, presenting, responding, and connecting in each of our units. However, it then quickly becomes overwhelming to try to specifically teach to each of these standards in every unit. We must be slightly more selective.
As we developed units, we always started out unpacking each standard to get to know them better. We would then print out copies of the standards so that we could physically manipulate them and arrange them into groups that would become our units. The only stipulation we put on ourselves was that we should include at least one standard from each artistic process in every unit.
Create * Present * Respond * Connect
What we noticed after grouping the standards, was that certain standards were repeated multiple times across units. These standards that were naturally "bubbling up" to the surface as being important enough to be repeated in units became the starting place for our conversation about priority standards.
PRIORITY STANDARDS: a carefully selected subset of the total list of academic content and performance standards or learning outcomes within each content area that students must know and be able to do by the end of the school year so they are prepared to enter the next level of learning." Ainsworth, (2010).
In his book, Power Standards: Identifying the Standards That Matter the Most, Larry Ainsworth outlines what makes a standard essential. He is right to point out that just because you identify the standards that are the most essential, what he calls power standards or what others call priority standards, it "does not relieve teachers of the responsibility for teaching all the standards." In fact, it is important to make the distinction "which standards are critical for student success, and which other ones can be given less emphasis, taught and assessed as they relate to the concepts and skills within the identified Power Standards."
Deciding if standards are essential or "nice-to-know" is important because you need to build consensus as educators around what you will teach in-depth. In-depth instruction of priority standards is more effective that superficially "covering" every concept (Ainsworth, 2004).
Ainsworth quotes Heidi Hayes Jacobs saying, "Given the limited time you have with your students, curriculum design has become more and more an issue of deciding what you won't teach as well as what you will teach. You cannot do it all. As a designer you must choose the essential (2004)." So what do we use to help determine what is truly essential, or priority?
All too often we make up our own criteria for prioritizing the standards. And we do so in isolation. Educators need to be able to collaborate regularly and ask each other, "What knowledge and skills must I impart to my students this year so that they will enter next year's class with confidence and readiness for success?" A welcome set of criteria, often used, has been suggested by Dr. Douglas Reeves:
Ainsworth uses this question to guide his work with educators determining their priority standards:
"What do your students need for success -- in school this year, next year, and so on(leverage, readiness), in life (endurance), and on your state tests?"
To focus your conversations and to help your group agree, he suggests using these two other guiding questions:
1. What essential understandings and skills do our students need?
2. Which standards and/or indicators can be clustered or incorporated into others?
Using these criteria and questions, our curriculum design teams examine the groupings of standards and specifically the standards that are repeated in multiple groups. Although we aren't beholden to any state test, we do consider which standards would lend themselves to meaningful, authentic assessments. What type of authentic tasks do artists regularly participate in that helps develop skills and their craft? Which standards would help assess those tasks?
sketchbooks * art work * portfolios * artist statements
Ultimately, we look for those standards that repeat, have endurance, leverage, and readiness, and lend themselves to lifelong artistic habits. These become our priority standards. We try to limit the number to six or eight, depending on the length of the class, and try to identify at least one priority in each of the four artistic processes.