UBD, part 2

Deeper and deeper: I’m filling out all kinds of forms, floundering through the Understanding by Design process, trying to remain open to what it can tell me about instructional design.

It’s similar in a way to composing, just hammering out a melody or harmony, trying to figure out what’s supposed to come next. Or, as Heidi Hayes Jacobs says, it’s creative writing, and like a novelist or short story writer, we don’t always know what comes next.

However, it’s not a comfortable feeling, is it? We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing and how it’s spozed to be.

One source of my discomfort is the fact that we do have so many standards to embed in the unit, and UBD isn’t really structured for that. I find myself focusing on the two or three that admit of the most “uncoverage,” and not really thinking about all the other social studies standards that are part of the original thought, and certainly not of the language arts standards that I’m fairly sure we can cover in this unit without recourse to a language arts textbook.

I’ve invited the third grade teachers to join me in working on this, but at this point no one has responded to my invitation to cooperate.

So what have I accomplished so far?

Students will know details of Douglass’s life; vocabulary dealing with U.S. history of the period, the character traits, and vocabulary generated from the reading selections (especially the NYT article); factual information about slavery.

Students will be able to compare obstacles in Douglass’s life to those in their own; reflect on the role of literacy in Douglass’s life, in Africa today (from the NYT article), and in their own lives; generate and answer questions about Douglass, slavery, and the Underground Railroad.

Students will understand how Douglass expanded rights and freedoms of all Americans through his personal triumph over social barriers; that slavery was an economic, social, and moral system that had negative impact on all members of society.

At this point, I’m thinking that my two previously proposed essential questions (What was the greatest obstacle Douglass had to overcome? and What in his life most helped him overcome that obstacle?) are still good for this unit.

For a culminating performance task, here’s what I’m thinking at the moment: The student will create a museum exhibit which explains to visitors the student’s response to the essential questions. This could be done in teams, of course.

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