Sunday, February 23, 2014

UbD in ECE

In ECE we have the benefit of using a new curriculum which has been exceptionally useful this year as we work towards backward design. It already lays out essential questions for our units of study and provides activities and a daily format in which to move towards more enduring understandings. The difficult task for ECE with UbD however is that these units of study are more tools or ways to build more universal understandings because ECE is less content driven and more about exposure and building background knowledge. This challenge is more apparent as I look towards these enduring understandings and developing assessments or checks for understanding. For example in our Clothing Unit, I was less interested in children knowing a great deal about clothing. It was rather just a vehicle for them to learn skills such as classfication based on what they knew about clothing. Ultimately my focus became more about the skills they developed during the unit with a basic understanding that clothing is deisgned and used for a purpose. My assessments then were more performance tasks based on fine motor and classification skills. 

During one of our PLC, we were asked to develop a UbD Template and develop essential questions. During this time, our team took the already laid out questions and developed our desired understandings and the key knowledge and skills we wanted our children to gain through the unit. We did this for our Clothes Unit at the time. When it came to our Reduce Reuse Recycle Unit, I worked to put together a similar template and identified what I wanted my students to understand and the skills I hoped for them to gain. To do this, I looked at the colorado Academic State Standards (ECE does not yet use Common Core) as well as our ECE assessment tool TS Gold to help me develop clear goals and intentions. Below is what I came up with...

At the time, I did not realize DPS provided a UbD like template on their Website. I only discovered it afterwards. I must admit however that by doing the exercise on my own, I gained a much better perspecitve and understanding on how I should approach UbD desgin for our future units. What I discovered comparing my template with DPS's is not surprising considering the grade level. While the big ideas vary and some of the enduring understandings are unit specific, truthfully the majority of the enduring understandings and key goals and skills are much the same within each unit of study. Again the study is more a vehicle for understanding very general big ideas. This is not surprising to me for our youngest learners since so much of what we do is building schema and basic skills.

Doing my own version first was beneficial for several reasons. It has made me more intentional and made me consider goals more personal for my students. I have been able to prioritize what I believe is best for my students and differentiate for their needs which ultimately makes for a more engaged learning experience for my students. It is therefore a practice I will continue with future units. 

Another benefit to doing a compare and contrast between my template and the DPS template was to see the scope of what I was missing in all other developmental domains of the unit. I was purely focused on skills in literacy and math whereas DPS has demonstrated in much  more detail everything my students should gain from social emotional, cognitive, language and physical development. Again so many of these skill developments are universal for all units of study but it made me consider the larger perspective and connections I needed to thread between these domains and how to do this authentically within my daily routines, lessons and activities. At this point, my goal is to strive to do this so it is more organic in my classroom and not forced. I have a long way to go, but the UbD design has been a very meaningful way to begin working towards this goal.

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