Imagine that your district has recently adopted standards for student learning or your state has just published standards for your subject area. As you open the standards documents, you wonder “How do I make these standards part of my curriculum? What do they mean to me and my students? How will I know if my students have attained the standards?” Designing standards-based units of study is a process of answering these questions while creating a meaningful and rigorous classroom curriculum.
What Are Standards-Based Units of Study?
Standards-based units of study are designed with an explicit focus on standards. Cumulatively, the units ensure that all students can demonstrate the knowledge and skills identified by the standards. Standards-based units are significantly different from activity-based units (see Figure 3.1). For example, standards-based units of study build a clear relationship among at least seven components.
- Topic or essential question.
- The standards (taught and assessed within the unit).
- Tasks and activities (designed to teach and demonstrate knowledge and skills).
- Products and performances (the basis for assessment).
- Criteria for assessment (based on standards).
- Scoring guides (used to assess and communicate about student learning).
- Exemplars (collected over time to clarify expectations for student learning and aid in evaluating and revising the unit).