121 – UbD with Jay McTighe

Professional Development – I was fortunate to be able to attend a two-day workshop with Jay McTighe, via the Coast Metro Consortium.  Jay’s working partner for many years was Grant Wiggins, who unexpectedly passed away in 2015.  McTighe and Wiggins’ books have been very formative for me, particularly Wiggins because of his blog.

I have a couple of McTighe and Wiggins’ books, Understanding by Design and Essential Questions: Opening doors to student understanding, so the content of the workshop wasn’t all that new to me.  However, it was a fantastic opportunity to hear about the more subtle aspects of UbD, the kind of thing you can only learn in person.  It was also a great chance to collaborate with like-minded people, I feel lucky to have attended.  Thanks go out to my Principal, Ranjit Bains, for getting me into the workshop!  With respect to my previous post on this blog, Jay really emphasized that “covering content” is not in the best interest of students and that he and Grant explicitly decided to focus on quality rather than quantity.  Sacrifices may need to be made in order to achieve the most important things in education.  I think that in terms of UbD this means that

To top things off, I was lucky enough to have Jay sit at our table for lunch the second day!  Four of us got the chance just to chat about education and share our interesting experiences.

The pictures above come from some collaborative work we did at our table, working on a financial literacy unit for Math 9.

Day 49: Body Systems and Key Questions



Science 8 – We are doing a short unit on Body Systems.  For this unit I have come up with 3 Essential Questions (called “Key Questions” for the students).  The key questions are:

  • Why does an apple look different when it goes in your body than when it comes out?
  • How are our body systems organized to ensure good health?
  • How do the circulatory and respiratory systems work together?

The unit plan (student version) can be downloaded from here: Body Systems Unit Plan

Students are showing good progress in creating answers to the first question.  However, when I ask the students to reflect on what they’ve learned and how it pertains to question 2, they get stumped.  Like, really stumped.  With a lot of prompting I started to coax answers from the students.  “Well, what happens if your small intestine is shortened?”  They finally decided that this would decrease the amount of nutrients that are absorbed.

While working through some new material on the circulatory system, I asked the students to come up to the side wall and add a sticky note to the key questions whenever they discovered a new idea that seemed to fit.  I think this activity is worthwhile, but we didn’t get very far before it was the end of the class.