Curriculum Planning...

Backwards Design, & Learning Targets

Backwards Design

What is it?

  • Wipe the Slate Clean
  • Start from Essential Questions, Standards, Habits (Big picture, end goal)
  • I used to start with my content & match standards to it
  • Content is your vehicle, but not the end goal

Other Names: Understanding by Design (UbD)

People to look up: Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe

Why Use it?

  • This gets rid of anything not working toward your goals
  • Planning with purpose
  • Clarifies goals for students and for teacher, for community and administration

Video Resources to check out: (Jay McTighe) (Grant Wiggins Part 1) (Grant Wiggins Part 2)

Know Your Standards and What They Are Asking For

  1. We Started with the National Standards
  2. Circled the Verbs (key step that is often skipped)
  3. What action does each standard require?
  4. Go through and Highlight:
  • What are you currently teaching AND assessing for?
  • What are you currently teaching BUT not assessing for?
  • What are you not teaching?
5. Set Content Aside (start with a clean slate)
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Learning Targets

Once you REALLY know your standards...

Now you can write them in student friendly language

Sometimes called:

  • I can statements
  • Learning Targets
  • Learning Goals


Benchmark from National Standards:

VA: Cr1.1.5a Combine ideas to generate an innovative idea for art-making

I can statement I written from the Benchmark:

I can put two or more ideas together to make a great idea, that few people have thought of

Do this for all of your standards or benchmarks
If you have too many, feel free to combine some that are very similar

You can do this for standards or benchmarks (depending on your needs and goals for class)

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Learning Targets and Scales

Now that you have your standards written as learning targets (Student I can Statements)...

  • Write Scales
  • My Scales are 4 points
  • Meeting the standard is always a 3
  • To get to a 4 students must go above and beyond the standard
  • A 1 is always "with help some success at levels 2 and 3"
  • A 0 is always, "not yet" (to promote growth mindset)
  • I try to have about 9 scales for a quarter class

The Scale Below is Adapted from a Marzano Scale (see website in resources below)...
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What About Content?

  • Content Can now be rebuilt based on your goals, and the scales that you built from your standards
  • This way all of your content is directly related to a larger goal
  • Get rid of all the fluff...if it is not there to reach a goal, get rid of it
  • You can't have pet projects...unless they work towards a goal

Now, What are These Scales For?

Students and the Teacher Tracks Students Success for each Standard with the Scales

For Middle School & High School Students have the Learning Targets with Scales in their Sketchbooks & They are posted in the room, discussed, and used to give feedback

Students self assess with the scales:

  • when they turn in projects
  • on exit tickets

Teacher assesses with the scales:

  • when giving feedback
  • During one on one work with students
  • At the end of the term as summative assessment

For Elementary, Scales can be posted, discussed, students can self assess against the scale, and the teacher can give feedback related to the scale

All points, feedback, assessments, grades are aligned to the scales which are directly aligned to the standards

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How Do I Record Grades for All of This?

Standards Based Grading would be ideal (not averaged together)

My School does not yet have Standards Based Grading

I use a Traditional digital grade book, and cheat the system as much as I can:

I enter the standards as assignments

I put the due dates as the end of the quarter

I email parents and let them know a * means we haven't done it yet

I email parents and let them know a 0 means they have not completed or it is incomplete

Each grade in the grade book is 100 points

  • a 4 translates to 100 (A) **I adjusted this after we talked (this set up would be easiest)
  • a 3 translates to 89 (B)
  • a 2 translates to 79 (C)
  • a 1 translates to a 69 (D)
  • a zero gets entered as a 50 (F)

(I communicate this to my middle level and high school students so they understand what they are seeing)

When a student improves the score for that standard is replaced


  • Assignment: Artists Observe
  • Points 100
  • Due Date (End of the quarter)
  • Students first score: 79
  • Students next score (after feedback and practice): 89
  • The initial 79 is REPLACED with the 89
  • Wherever student is at when the quarter ends is their final summative score for that standard

Resources for Standards Based Grading & Scales

Rick Wormeli:

Rick Wormeli:


My Blog:

Jeremy Holien Perpich (he met with us, and facilitated this work)