UbD Planning Support

Good Spirit School Division’s 5 year PD Plan includes unpacking outcomes and planning units using Understanding by Design (UbD).  UbD forces us to examine curriculum, and come to agreements about what broad learnings our curriculum is trying to uncover.  Teachers collaborate to target essential outcomes in the curriculum–which are “need to know” outcomes, which are “nice to know”.  Through ongoing formative assessment, we may uncover gaps in students’ knowledge or prior learning, and because we practice responsive teaching  (RTI) we need to address those gaps.  Designating essential outcomes allows us a framework to make decisions about time spent addressing gaps in understanding.  What knowledge is essential for success at the next level?  Vertical math teams can help us make these decision.



An essential component of UbD is Backward Design.  This planning strategy has us ask ourselves at the outset “What will my students need to know and be able to do in order to demonstrate proficiency in this outcome? What evidence will I need to see? What does success criteria look like?”
At the beginning of each lesson we involve students in the backward design process by making them aware of the learning target for each lesson.  The learning target focuses teaching on the goal of the lesson, helps us choose resources and activities that target the learning we need to have happen, and also focuses students on their learning.  Sharing clear learning goals helps involve students in their learning and assessment, and is essential for student goal setting and self-tracking.


UbD is not a template or standardized way of reporting your unit and year plans.  It is a philosophy that helps focus any undertaking on the desired goal. It applies to many areas of work and life, not just curriculum planning for teaching and learning! 

UbD is part of a bigger picture, a contemporary model of teaching and learning that consists of targeted planning, responsive teaching by differentiating instruction and implementing RTI programs.  All these components fit together to create a learning environment that empowers students and teachers through involving students in their learning and assessment, using assessment as a way of supporting learning and as a way of developing lifelong learners that can set goals for themselves and be accountable for their own learning and progress.  Assessment policies that focus learning and hold students accountable contribute to a system where reporting student progress is authentic and students can develop a growth mindset.  Teacher collaboration and support is fundamental to nurturing our dream of classrooms where all students can succeed. 

21st centr


Here is a copy of the GSSD template for UbD unit planning

Good Spirit School Division UbD Unit Plan

GSSD has a guide that will help you work through the UbD process:

GSSD UBD Guide – Oct. 25

Another useful resource is “Understanding OutcomesUnd Outcomes


What are Big Ideas? Big Ideas are the “essence” of the topic.  What is the point of having this topic part of curriculum? What role does this topic play in K-12 education?
“An idea is “big” if it helps us make sense of lots of confusing experiences and seemingly isolated facts. It’s like the picture that connects the dots or a simple rule of thumb in a complex field.”-http://www.authenticeducation.org/ae_bigideas/article.lasso?artid=99

Here is a very useful document to help you determine big ideas in math:


Essential Questions are questions that probe for deeper meaning, and inspire further questioning.   They transend content minutia, and get at the deeper learning we are aiming for. Essential questions are open ended, often can’t be answered. They are food for thought! Some examples are:

How are the four basic operations related to one another?  What do numerals represent?   Why do we use variables?   What is the most appropriate way of communicating a mathematical idea in a particular situation?

It can be very hard to write good essential questions!  Here is a site that might give you some ideas:

150+ Essential Questions for Math   150 Essential Questions

Teaching for deeper understanding requires attending to Bloom’s taxonomy. Here is a version that is helpful for math teachers:


A committee of GSSD teachers working on outcomes based reporting has translated Grades 1-6 outcomes into student and parent friendly language:

Grade 1 Math Report Card Outcomes

Grade 2 Math Report Card Outcomes

Grade 3 Math Report Card Outcomes

Grade 4 Math Report Card Outcomes

Grade 5 Math Report Card Outcomes

Grade 6 Math Report Card Outcomes


Click here to see a sample Unit Plan in PreCalc 20, Unit Plan revised PreCalc 20 done by one of our GSSD math teachers.  Note that this pdf document has sticky notes and links to explain sections and provide resources.  Thanks Jessica Denbrok for sharing!

[notice][/notice]A caution.  We know we are just beginning this process. Perfection is not expected!  These units are a work in progress!!

In Oct 2014 a committee of teachers is working on rubric development for these outcomes. They will be shared when ready!

GSSD coaches support teachers in their UbD planning. Contact your math coach at cindy.smith@gssd.ca