In order to better understand the implications of each standard, it must be "unwrapped." What does this mean? Another term for "unwrap" is "dissect." You have to take the standard apart and think hard about what it's telling your students (and you) to do.
Many districts have taken the time to unwrap the standards for their teachers, and this becomes a handy tool. In my experience, however, the actual act of unwrapping provides a deeper understanding of what my students need to know and be able to do. As I study the standards, a million connections go through my head, which allows me to feel confident in the materials, activities, and assessments I choose for my students.
With that in mind, I recommend that every teacher spend time studying and unwrapping the standards. It's not something that you can do in one day, but for every unit you tackle, it's the first step.
How can a standard be unwrapped? You can start with these simple steps:
- Read the standard.
- Underline nouns that tell what students must know.
- Circle verbs that tell what students must be able to do.
- Pay attention to other important directions given in the standard.
For example, I've been working on a unit for RL.4.9. Here's how my brain processed the standard.
As you go through this process, other instructional tenets will pop up. You'll naturally begin to think about higher order thinking skills associated with each of the standards. You'll wonder about the "Big Ideas" that connect standards and subject areas. You'll consider the types of differentiation that may occur as you teach the standard. Jotting down all of your ideas may help when you're ready to plan units of study.
Check out these resources for more information on unwrapping the standards:
- Larry Ainsworth, author of Unwrapping the Standards: A Simple Process to Make Standards Manageable, has posted his presentation notes, which summarize the process of unwrapping and finding Big Ideas.
- This nine-minute video outlines a five-step process for unwrapping the standards. The presenter emphasizes Bloom's Taxonomy.