How to Unpack a Standard

Any standard, including Common Core tells the teacher what to teach, it does not tell us how to teach. Thus, any good teacher can work it for the student’s success! What the standards do is show the expectations of what needs to be learned at what level and grade. They are the ends, not the pedagogy of how. How we get the students to think deeper. How we unpack a standard will affect and effect the depth and success of the learning experiences for our students. Thus, we have to creatively plan and set goals to be effective. The teacher needs to plan out the standards for the semester, as they will take many lessons to teach. Such as, identify the “what” from the concepts, the skills, targets and the how into the time frame for teaching.

What to do:

  • First, examine the Standard and think through the what ways are students expected to show mastery.
  • Then rewrite it in clear wording and or define it.
  • Then, bring out the Big Ideas.
  • Then, what are the skills and Concepts the students need to learn.
  • Then, write out the Goals, Targets, and use Bloom’s taxonomy and capability verbs. 
  • Then, what will be the Practices which they need to use and do?
  • Then, any Essential Questions they need to ask, be answered or for you to ask.
  • Then, any Vocabulary they need to know.
  • Finally, how will you do an Assessment?

Let’s look at a CC fourth grade standard. “CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.”

A worksheet to use:

Clear wording and or define: Have students read an assigned text from a worksheet or book, such as, “Look into Anne Frank’s Life.” Then, engage the key lesson objective, the observation and tracking of important details from the text.

Student tasks, goals, expectations:

  • Know a main idea of a text. Have students Read a paragraph. Then, Reread each sentence of the that paragraph. Have students locate the main idea of the text, by asking a key question, “What is this paragraph mostly about?”
  • Explain how that idea is supported. Have students underline key words and information from the text. This will help students discover the “how” and key details that support the main idea. By focusing on the analysis will help them gain mastery of important comprehension skills.
  • Discover key details. Have students be able to explain how that idea is supported by key details. This will reinforce the main idea and their mastery of comprehension. 
  • Summarize the text. Have students recap the text by placing the story in their own words. By describing and or comparing what they need to know will reinforce comprehension skills.

Remember, a Common Core standard tells the teacher what to teach to predetermined content standards what students need to do and know. What we do is find the key information that our students need to understand and be able to do. There are “clusters” of related standards or connect to another to look at too. These give the details to allow the teacher to know, so we know what the students need to know.

Look at 2nd grade standard: “Identify the use of rhythm and rhyme and alliteration in poetry.”

First, identify the “what,” the concepts. This is the skill and the how.

Identify the use of rhythm in poetry.

Identify the use of rhyme in poetry.

Identify the use of alliteration in poetry.

Do we teach each one individually or all three at once? Depends on your class and teaching style. The goal is that the student after the lesson needs to identify these concepts in a poem in print. Can they do that? Because this is second grade, you use a low level “Bloom” verb, like Identify or Find.

Look at a fifth grade math: “Order and compare whole numbers to 1,000 by using the symbols <,=,>.”

Order whole numbers to 1,000 by using the symbols <,=,>.

Compare whole numbers to 1,000 by using the symbols <,=,>.

First look at the concept, the “what.” What do I do with the skill, here it is, order and compare. So, your leaning target is a Bloom taxonomy of “Compare and Contrast.”

7 grade science: “Students know plants and animals have levels of organization for structure and function, including cells, tissues, organs, organ systems and the whole organism.”

The big ideas are that they will need to “describe” and or “compare” what they need to know.

Students are to know that plants have levels of organization for structure and function, including cells, tissues, organs, organ systems and the whole organism.

Students know animals have levels of organization for structure and function, including cells, tissues, organs, organ systems and the whole organism.

Need to plan learning objectives and several lessons to accomplish this standard.

12 grade government standard: “Analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the 3 branches of government established by the US constitution.” The key word is Analyze.

Analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the Judicial branch of government established by the US constitution (can also break about unique roles and responsibilities).

Analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the legislative branch of government established by the US constitution.

Analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the Executive branch of government established by the US constitution.

Unpacking will reveal what we know and show what we need to know in order to effectively teach.

Keep in mind that it is challenging to teach more than one standard per lesson. Because you may not be able to frame and support the lesson, so everyone gets it as many students need. So, be discerning and cover what is needed for them to move on.  Also, be aware that each standard builds on the previous standard, called scaffolding. We are to take the standards, create goals for student success. Also, consider what it take to build a successful class or set up student engagement for students’ success.

More ideas:

Worksheet you can use to unpack learning standards:

Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher, seasoned Special Education teacher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a STEAM teacher and a father of a son with autism.

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