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Classroom Procedures

35 Classroom Procedures and Routines

Nonverbal Cues 

Setting Classroom Expectations to Improve Behavior 

5 Tips to Help Improve and Set Behavior Expectations

Here are 5 quick tips to establish consistent behavior expectations in your school or district:

1. Define your behavior expectations, along with rewards and consequences.

Invite key stakeholders from across your school to create your behavior expectations. Each desired behavior should be observable, measurable, objective and specific. Defining behaviors in this way also makes it much easier to model them for students, so they can see concrete examples of what they’re expected to do.

Next, establish a reward system for recognizing students who achieve these expectations, and establish consequences for expectations that are not met. Like the expectations, the rewards and consequences should be age-appropriate and consistent.

Finally, share these expectations and get buy-in from all teachers and staff members to ensure they’ll be implemented school-wide.

2. Clearly communicate your behavior expectations to students — and parents.  

One way to communicate consistent behavior expectations to students and parents is to put them in writing.

  • Create a handout, and distribute it to all students and parents.
  • Post the expectations on classroom walls or other prominent places so students can refer to them as often as needed. Even better, post the expectations in or near the area where the targeted behaviors are expected to take place (e.g. posting behavior expectations for the cafeteria on the cafeteria wall).
  • Post the expectations on the school website.
  • Include the expectations in the school handbook.

Then, read the expectations aloud to students. Explain what each expectation means, and why these are necessary and beneficial to everyone.

3. Show students what is meant by each expectation. Model and practice it.

To ensure students understand the behavior expectations, show them what they look like in action. Demonstrate what it looks like when a student is meeting the expectation.

4. Track student behaviors daily, and apply rewards and consequences consistently and equitably.

With Kickboard, you can easily collect, access, analyze, share and act on behavioral data in real-time. With behavior management tools such as one-click behavior tracking, you can easily track the positive behaviors that make up your ideal school culture, as well as inappropriate or negative behaviors that need improvement. In addition, you can motivate positive behaviors with goal-based incentives or rewards — such as behavior points, scholar dollars, student paychecks, or school store rewards — which are automatically tracked in Kickboard.

Teachers can help each other too, with one-click tools for behavior-specific notes, teacher-to-teacher comments, sharable dashboards, and room for reflection on student reports.

5. Review and reinforce these expectations throughout the year.

This keeps the behavior expectations top-of-mind for students and staff — and emphasizes how important they are to the culture of the entire school.

Clear, consistent behavior expectations, combined with real-time data tracking, are key components to building a safe, happy school where students and staff thrive. When students feel confident, respected, cared for and supported, disruptions and discipline incidents decline, learning increases, and academic achievement rises.

Women’s History Month

Oak Hill Middle School did an array of things to recognize women for Women’s History Month, including posting photographs of those who had done great things contributing to our world. In Fayette County, West Virginia we have so many women who do amazing things regularly to make life better for so many. Close to home in our school district we have many women who have taken on the role of principal to lead their schools in their communities to do everything possible to help our learners become all they can be. These leaders help their staff -and all stakeholders- come together to provide the best opportunities possible as we move our students forward.

Thanks for all you do!

Middle School Secrets

Middle School Secrets


Traits & Characteristics of Middle School Learners

By Lori Garrett-Hatfield

Middle school students have a unique set of wants and needs that separate them from the childhood years of elementary school but do not find them ready for the late adolescence of high school. They exhibit characteristics and behavior unique to early adolescence, and both teachers and parents should be aware of the differences.

Physical Characteristics

According to the California Department of Education, middle school students experience an acceleration of their growth and development. This may lead to enlarged noses, ears, arms or legs. Also, middle school students have fluctuations in their metabolism that may cause them to be nervously active sometimes and lethargic and sleepy at other times. says adolescents in middle school are maturing much faster than their parents or grandparents did and have to confront sexual topics at an earlier age. They are extremely concerned about their appearance and how they look to others within their peer group.

Emotional Characteristics

There are several emotional characteristics of middle school learners, according to the California Department of Education. One is that girls mature both physically and emotionally faster than boys. Adolescents are self-absorbed and tend to exaggerate a single occurrence as something far more dire and complex than it actually is. They are sensitive and easily offended. states that middle schoolers can be moody and feel alienated from people around them. They are also curious about the world around them and need time to explore safely.

Approach to Learning

Middle schoolers, according to the California Department of Education, are moving from merely thinking concretely to more abstract thinking skills. They are willing to learn if they feel the learning is meaningful. According to the National Education Association, middle school learners can hold between five to seven bits of information at a time, so teachers need to be sure not to overwhelm them with information. Middle schoolers are quick to distance themselves from adults — including teachers — who are insincere, or who they feel don’t respect their feelings and opinions. states that adolescent learners benefit from moving around and hands-on experiences or experiments that allow them to draw conclusions based on the data. They will challenge authority figures to ascertain boundaries.

Other Traits

The moral development of middle schoolers, according to the California Department of Education, begins with a sense of idealism, the feeling that human beings are inherently good. Adolescents also have a sense of wonder about the changes they see in themselves and in their peer group. They depend on parents, church leaders and adults they trust to help them establish moral boundaries. For this reason, it is important that students in middle school have good role models in place to emulate and look up to.

Young adolescence is a pivotal time of physical, intellectual, social and emotional development. Middle school learners experience more development at this age than any other stage in their lives with the exception of infancy. The development of middle school learners profoundly impact their educational experience. Therefore, it’s essential for middle school educators to acknowledge the unique characteristics of middle school learners in order to maximize their learning experience.


Middle school learners experience a wealth of physical changes. Although girls are often more physically advanced than boys, both boys and girls experience disproportionate bone and muscle growth that results in feelings of discomfort, awkwardness and restlessness. Students also experience frequent hormonal imbalances that lead to hunger, excitement or lethargy. When middle school educators are working with students, they should include a variety of activities that will appeal to their senses and keep them actively involved.


Middle school students have short-term memories as well as short attention spans. Consequently, students should be presented with limited amounts of new information, allowing them time to retain material. Teachers should also provide opportunities that will help to reinforce prior lessons and concepts. Middle school learners look for relationships between lessons and life, and they desire active involvement in learning. They will also begin to clarify their ideas and discuss thoughts with others. Although students can be argumentative and inquisitive, they do not have the ability to fully comprehend abstract ideas. Therefore, middle school teachers should assign activities

that will help students develop their problem solving and critical thinking skills.


Young adolescents generally desire more autonomy. However, students also crave social acceptance and interaction. Students will begin to interact with the opposite sex, but their same-sex relationships will supersede those with the opposite sex. During this time, middle school learners will challenge significant adults and educators by testing their limits. However, it’s important for all adult family members and educators to continue expressing their love along with rules and expectations. Despite their behavior, middle school learners yearn for adult role models and guidance.


Characteristics of Middle Schoolers & 10 Ways to Help Them Succeed

Middle school learners are usually self-conscious, persistently judging themselves by their physical appearance and development. Due to fluctuating moods, middle school students are easy to offend yet can be inconsiderate to others. In addition to this, middle school students often believe that their problems and experiences are unique to who they are. Despite adult interaction, students feel that adults can’t possibly understand what teens are going through. Overall, middle school students seek to find out who they are as individuals.

Written by Ryan Stanley

With new halls, new classes and plenty of new friends — middle school is an exciting time for many kids. 

But middle school brings new challenges as well, like learning how to be independent. There are also many physical and emotional changes your middle schooler will experience as they start their path to adulthood.

As a parent or guardian, you’re probably wondering how you can best support your middle schooler. Whether your child is starting out in 6th grade or already has their sights set on high school, we’ve got you covered in this article! 

Learn more about what to expect from your child as they progress through middle school and get 10 tips on how to best support them.

5 Common characteristics of middle schoolers

Compare your child’s first day at elementary school to their last. You likely saw some big changes as they learned to write, do basic math and develop their own interests.  

Just like elementary school, middle school is another huge milestone for your child’s development. Not only will your child’s learning advance, but they’ll also begin to show signs of maturity as they become teenagers. 

Developing a mature mindset takes a lot of learning, and parents should expect to see some new characteristics in a child’s behavior as they go through middle school.

Here are five common characteristics that many kids in middle school share.

1. They can sometimes exaggerate

With so much change going on in their lives, middle schoolers are starting to learn how to respond to the wider world. They’re also learning how to judge how important things are, which can lead them to exaggerate. You might hear them obsess over a new TV show as the “best thing ever” or say they absolutely need to have the latest smartphone or gadget. 

Exaggerating can also create conflict with kids at home and at school. In an argument, kids and preteens might use extreme words like “worst” to describe you, a teacher or a friend. Remember, they’re still learning and this is not a reflection of you — it’s how they’re processing their feelings.

 2. They might worry about what their friends think

As your child’s education goes up a gear in middle school, so does their social emotional learning.

Your middle schooler really values the opinions of their friends. Peer pressure is very influential as your child starts to find their identity in social groups — affecting what they wear, what they want and even what they say. This can cause them to overthink and stress over seemingly simple tasks like picking out an outfit. 

3. They can be insecure about changes in their bodies

It’s not just your child’s school and friendship groups that change as they start middle school. Their bodies do too. 

The middle school years can be challenging for many children as they become aware of their own bodies, especially if they enter puberty earlier or later than their friends do. These bodily changes can make them feel self-conscious about their appearance and affect their confidence levels

As their parent, you can support them through this journey. Discuss their body image with them and encourage them to feel positive about their body.

4. They desire to be taken seriously 

Middle school is a crucial turning point in your child’s maturity. 

As they learn, listen and become more self-reliant, they naturally expect parents to take them more seriously. Many won’t like being called a kid or child and may instead want to be seen as a young adult. They also expect their opinions to be validated.

Not taking their opinions or thoughts seriously can create emotional distance between you and your child. Don’t be afraid to answer your child’s more complex questions seriously — they will respect you for being a supportive parent

5. They crave independence

While you might be used to doing a lot for your child when they were in elementary school, middle schoolers expect some independence. Gaining independence is an important stage for your middle schooler’s development as it sets them up for high school and adulthood. 

Expect your middle schooler to want more independence over things like their choice of fashion, spending habits and how they spend their free time. 

How to help middle school students succeed

While children in middle school face new challenges that can affect their behavior, they don’t have to face them alone. As their parent, there are many things you can do to help your child or preteen succeed through middle school.

Here are 10 tips that will help your child thrive in middle school:

1. Attend school academic events

Academic events like parent teacher conferences are excellent ways to understand your child’s progress in middle school. These events help you understand your child’s academic performance and how they feel about middle school

If your child finds a particular subject hard, like mathacademic events will allow you to develop a strategy with your child’s teacher. These events are also a great platform to discuss supporting your child if you know or suspect they have a learning difficulty or disability. 

2. Meet with the school counselor 

The school counselor is an essential part of your child’s support system as they transition to middle school. They’re there to support your child for their emotional, psychological and academic needs, including challenges like bullying, bereavement and relationship struggles. 

Counselors are experienced professionals who help your child overcome obstacles in a safe and judgement-free environment. They also help deliver special education programs for students who experience challenges like anxiety or learning and behavioral difficulties. 

Even if you feel your child won’t need to see the counselor in middle school, make sure both you and your child know how to communicate with them

3. Know the school’s policies on discipline 

While no parent wants to hear that their child needs to be disciplined, knowing how discipline works at your child’s middle school can help keep them on the right track. It can also give you peace of mind that the school has a process ready if another child has misbehaved or been involved in bullying.

You can find information about the school’s discipline policies by:

  • Visiting the school’s or school district’s website
  • Asking your child’s teacher or school counselor
  • Reaching out to the school directly for more information
  • Reviewing the viewbook or parent information documents 

When reading the policies, identify the expectations your child’s school has for its students. Try to share some of these expectations at home too, as this makes it much easier for your child to follow them. 

4. Teach good organizational skills

Middle school brings a lot more independence than elementary school. Tasks like homework, school projects or having to move classrooms can be overwhelming. 

Teaching your child organizational skills like time and task management can lower their stress levels and keep their academic performance up. 

Time management is key for helping your child stay on top of their education and reduce stress. To help your child manage their time more effectively, you can:

  • Provide them with a planner or calendar
  • Help them set up astudy plan for tests
  • Teach them how to prioritize their tasks to meet deadlines

Task management is an important organizational skill for middle schoolers that teaches them how to get work done effectively. To help your child manage tasks, you can:

  • Give them a quiet study space to work without distraction
  • Make sure they have all the study materials they need for each task
  • Encourage them to break a big project into small, manageable tasks

Teaching your child how to organize their time and tasks will help them not just in middle school, but also as they enter high school and beyond.

5. Talk about school often

Whether catching up at dinner or chatting on the car ride to school, a check-in is a great way to understand how your child finds middle school and how to support them.

To start a check-in with your middle schooler, ask them open-ended questions. This will allow them to express their opinions and create a conversation. Ask questions like:

  • “What is your favorite class right now?”
  • “Who is your favorite teacher this year?”
  • “What did you learn about at school today?”
  • “What was the best and worst part of your day?”
  • “What is better and worse about middle school than elementary school?”

Check in with your child regularly and casually. Preteens are naturally more self-conscious than younger children and might find long sit-downs daunting, making them closed off instead of being open about school.

6. Speak about their feelings

Your child is likely experiencing a lot of new changes in middle school. This can generate some confusing and intense emotions.  

Encouraging your child to be open about their feelings isn’t always easy. Just like with check-ins, middle schoolers can feel uncomfortable and vulnerable when expressing their feelings. 

Here’s how to help your child speak up about their emotions:

  • Validate their feelings— Instead of trying to find a solution to their problems, recognize how they’re feeling and sympathize with them. Even small statements like, “I can imagine that must be tough,” will help your child feel more comfortable. 
  • Share your own feelings— Create a safe space for your child. Tell them about positive and negative events that happened to you and how they made you feel. 
  • Show trust and respect— Keep personal conversations with your child private when possible and let them know you respect them for sharing their feelings. 
  • Give them time and space— Preteens are learning to regulate their emotions and might need some time and space before they can properly express how they feel. 

7. Be involved in homework

As they become independent learners, middle schoolers are expected to manage tasks like homework on their own. But they may still need some help from time to time. 

If you notice your child is falling behind on homework, discuss this with them to find out why. They could be finding a subject hard to learn or not know how to plan their homework time. 

To support your child with their homework, arrange a time to go through it together. Encourage them to share what they’ve learned in class with you and tackle each section at a time.

And remember, if you don’t know how to answer a question — that’s totally okay! Parents aren’t expected to be homework experts, especially when you have other responsibilities. Simply let your child’s teacher know they find the task hard and may need some support.

8. Encourage healthy outdoor activity

With pressures like school and social media, it’s good for your child or preteen to disconnect and enjoy some fresh air.

Frequent exercise and activity supports your child’s physical development. Spending time outdoors also offers mental health benefits, especially if your child is learning remotely.

Try outdoor activities like:

  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Skating
  • Swimming
  • Team sports, like soccer and basketball

9.Help them explore their interests

Middle school is a great opportunity for your child to expand their horizons with new hobbies and interests. These interests will help them relax, make new friends and learn new skills for their future. 

Allow your child to explore their interests independently. Some children may want to do group activities like going to drama club or playing on the soccer team. Others may instead want to do relaxed activities like computer or art clubs. 

As a parent, it’s healthy to encourage your child to take on activities and stick to them. But if you find your child isn’t interested in a club after several weeks, talk with them to find out why and discover what else catches their interest. 

Some middle schools offer electives or the option to choose what topics they study. Electives are a great way for your child to explore an interest and be an independent learner at the same time. Your child may even discover a passion for a subject they want to take further at high school!

10. Give them some independence

Don’t forget to recognize your child’s independence as they go through middle school. 

Learning how to balance respecting your child’s independence and taking care of them isn’t the easiest of tasks. But you can start to give them independence when it comes to: 

  • Communicating— Explain to your child that independence comes with lots of exciting opportunities, but also plenty of responsibility. Talk about your expectations of their independence and the consequences if your child deliberately doesn’t meet them.
  • Managing money— Consider giving your child a small monthly allowance and teaching them how to save and budget for things like new games, clothes and events. 
  • Socializing— Allow your child to make choices about who they spend time with. Instead of directly intervening in their social circles, listen to your child’s feelings and guide them on how to resolve the situation.

Depth of Knowledge Activities

Depth of Knowledge activities for any subject

From Prodigy – Written by Marcus Guido

A teacher stands at her whiteboard using one of the depth of knowledge levels to teach.

Level 1 DoK

Despite a question’s simplicity, you can still provide your class with many activities, having them finish a range of products.Depending on the question’s purpose, students can:

  • Paraphrase a passage or chapter of a book
  • Outline and re-iterate the main points of a recent lesson
  • Complete a quiz or series of questions that only requires fact recall or fluency
  • Make a timeline that maps historical or storybook events in relation to each other
  • Deliver a short presentation to classmates that doesn’t require independent research

While focusing on the first Depth of Knowledge level, you can differentiate your instruction by rotating through this blend of exercises.

Level 2 DoK

Requiring deeper thought than recollection and reproduction, there are many activities that stop just short of the third Depth of Knowledge level.Using questions as starting points, your class can:

  • Write blog, diary or journal entries
  • Review texts in pairs or small groups
  • Complete isolated, multi-step calculations
  • Synthesize an explanation of a complex concept
  • Create mind maps that show relationships between topics
  • Design a physical model to demonstrate a scientific concept or historical event

These activities are time-flexible, lending themselves to many kinds of lessons and assignments.

Level 3 DoK

Activities and products associated with the above questions shouldn’t inherently involve long-term research or drawing ideas from different subjects. That would extend into the final Depth of Knowledge level.Keeping this in mind, third-level activities include:

  • Writing an essay
  • Composing venn diagrams
  • Exploring a research question
  • Delivering a persuasive speech
  • Preparing and participating in a debate
  • Completing complex equations related to real-world problems

These may all seem like solo assignments, but some — such as preparing debate points — can involve cooperative learning.Keep this in mind if you feel classroom engagement dwindle due to lack of group work.

Level 4 DoK

Activities that require these longer periods of critical thought lend themselves to high school or older elementary students.But, with a few changes, you can offer similar activities to younger pupils. For example, students can work in small groups to form and test hypotheses under in-class supervision.They can also:

  • Debate on one side of a contentious issue
  • Partner or group with other students to complete a cross-subject research report and presentation
  • Apply lessons from different subjects to pinpoint a problem’s underlying issues, subsequently solving it

As they finish products, you’ll gain clear insight into each student’s distinct thought processes.

Additional Depth of Knowledge questioning strategies to apply in the classroom

A teacher stands at the front of class, pointing to students who have raised their hands to answer Webb's Depth of Knowledge questions.

Referencing question stems and activity lists are useful steps in designing lessons, but there are other helpful strategies for teaching at each Depth of Knowledge level. Consider:

Listing and reviewing activitiesAt week’s end, list each exercise you had your students do. Then, categorize them into the four Depth of Knowledge levels. This lets you reflect on how you structure your lessons, helping you target underrepresented thinking levels in upcoming classes.
Asking “Why?”If you spend too much time on the first level, ask “why?” more. This challenges students to think about the facts and concepts they’re recalling and reproducing. For example, if you’re teaching how to make a slideshow, ask students why they think it is or isn’t a viable supplement to presentations.
Allowing students to influence lesson structureYou know a lesson’s essential questions, but you may not know how each student would best approach them. So, once per week or month as a higher-order thinking activity, allow students to brainstorm the lesson’s hypothetical structure. Take their suggestions to deliver the ideal lesson the next day or week. This is a key element of experiential learning activities.
Switching, freely, between levelsThere’s a common misconception about applying Webb’s theory. That is, students must grow proficient in one level before reaching the next. Such falsehoods are counterproductive. An engaging third-level task can, for example, help students build skills aligned with the first and second levels. Plus, dwelling on a level can dull your class.

TIDE Writing Strategies Resources

TIDE Writing Strategies

The following text is from:

Teaching Writing Online: Using SRSD

By Cary Torres

We’ve all had students who stare at a blank page, not sure how to begin a writing task.  For many students, figuring out how to get started with a writing assignment can be overwhelming.  They may feel lost because they are not sure how to generate ideas, how to organize ideas, or how to approach the task.  This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and a dislike of writing in general.  To help students overcome these challenges, we can provide a structured approach to writing that breaks down the many complex tasks in writing.  Guiding students to approach this task one step at a time, can be crucial to addressing their barriers to writing.

When we write, we do many things in the background that we may not even realize. We generate and organize ideas, make decisions about what to include, and use various skills (vocabulary, grammar) to put our thoughts down on paper clearly. To chunk these processes and make them explicit to students as they develop writing skills, we can use  Self Regulated Strategy Development.

What is  Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) for Writing?

Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) for Writing is a framework for teaching writing that was developed by Karen Harris and Steve Graham.  It has been identified as an evidence-based practice for students with learning disabilities.  Research has demonstrated that SRSD can also benefit English language learners and other struggling writers.  

SRSD combines specific strategy instructiongenre-based instruction, and self-regulation.  The goal is to explicitly teach students the expectations of academic writing in different genres (informative, opinion/ argumentative, & narrative).  In addition, it addresses two very important factors: motivation and persistence with self-regulation strategies To do this, students set goals, graph results, learn to use self-statements that reinforce what to do throughout the writing process, and identify and acknowledge their own mastery of concepts

Below is a breakdown of the different parts of SRSD with explanations and 7 lessons that you can teach with examples of how it can be delivered through distance and online methods.

SRSD prepares students for success by following the gradual release of responsibility model, which begins with direct instruction and modeling.  Direct instruction and modeling is essential for writing, especially for struggling writers, including students with disabilities and culturally and linguistically diverse students, who may be used to different communication and writing styles.  Students benefit from seeing clear models of both the process and the product in addition to explicit instruction on what to do and how to do it.  

Lesson 1: Teach POW + genre-based mnemonic  

Explicit strategy instruction begins by teaching mnemonics for the writing process and the specific genre that you are teaching (focus on and teach one genre at a time).  As they learn a structured process for how to write, students analyze exemplar texts to develop a clear understanding of what the expectations of the genre that they are writing. 

  • POW is the process for any type of writing.
    • (P) Pull apart the prompt
    • (O) Organize my notes
    • (W) Write and say more.  
  • Genre-based mnemonics are for the specific genre that you are teaching.
    • Informative – TIDE (T)Topic, (I)Important (D)Details, (E)Ending
    • Opinion – TREE (T)Topic, (R)Reasons – 3, (E)Ending, (E)Examine the parts
    • Narrative – WWW What + How (W)Who, (W)When, (W)Where, (What)What Happened, (How) How did the character feel

Lesson 2: Model identifying genre elements in an exemplar

Identifying genre elements in an exemplar helps students to understand the expectations of academic writing.  Complete a genre-specific graphic organizer with the elements to model for students how notes and an outline are connected to writing.  This is the reverse of what they will do when they write, but it helps them prepare by modeling what it looks like.  Repeat this lesson as needed.

Lesson 3: Review mnemonics & model identifying genre elements in a poor example 

Reinforce students’ understanding by analyzing a poor example. Model the identification of the genre elements in an exemplar until students really understand. Then, repeat the process and involve the students with a poor example and guide the students so that they begin to see what is missing or incorrect.  This is a structured way for them to see what checking and revising their work looks like and reinforces their understanding of the genre elements and writing structure.

    • How to review mnemonics and identify genre elements online?
      • Video of hand motions for each mnemonic (see Lesson #1 above)
      • Screencast of highlighting genre elements & completing online graphic organizer (see Lesson #2 above)

Lesson 4: Model the entire writing process from start to finish (yes, the whole thing!).

Students need to see and hear what happens from identifying key information in a text, making notes, writing, and then checking and revising their writing.  This is often skipped, but it is one of the most critical aspects of writing instruction.  This is especially critical in a distance or online environment where the teacher is not always there watching and seeing when students are confused or stuck.  

Think aloud while modeling.  This allows students to understand what they are supposed to be thinking about and what questions they can ask themselves during the writing process.  These think alouds should also include teachers modeling self-statements of what they do when they make a mistake or get stuck so that students can learn to internalize these to support their persistence through writing tasks.  Students should follow along with the teacher and complete all of the same tasks (analyzing the topic, taking notes, etc.) so that they are already comfortable with the process as the teacher begins to release some of the responsibility to them.  

Lesson 4 procedures:

  • Review the mnemonics (see Lesson #1)
  • Model taking notes from a source text on a visual or paper graphic organizer
  • Turning notes into sentences and a complete essay
  • Check work to see if all the genre elements are included
  • Model using self-statements to support persistence & success
  • Model graphing progress based on self-check

Repeat, Review, Reteach as needed!

It is important to note that these stages are iterative, and at any point in the time if students struggle, teachers can go back to previous lessons and re-model, re-teach, or review to ensure student understanding.  Teachers often note that they teach several lessons with SRSD before students even begin writing, and yes, this is how it should be!  If students have a very clear idea of what the expectations are and how to get there before they start, they are much more likely to be successful!

After modeling the whole process from start to finish, teachers can then guide students through the process by leading it but encouraging the students to supply the information.  As students are able to go through the process with guidance, teachers can move them to collaborative practice and then independent practice when students generalize the strategy and begin using it across other contexts.

Guided Practice

Lesson 5: Guide students to write collaboratively

Prompt the students through each stage of the writing process, but support the students to supply the information.  In person, you can lead the class in guided practice while they provide information and you scribe while the class follows along. In an online environment, you can do this in a synchronous class.  If you cannot meet synchronously, you can provide the prompts and have students collaborate in small groups to provide the information. 

Lead the writing process (all of the steps from Lesson #4) with the students helping to supply the information throughout.  Also, review self-statements to support persistence & success and encourage students to create their own, and remind them to graph their essay.  If students completed a writing prior to instruction, they can now graph that and see how much better they did by using the strategies.

Collaborative Practice 

Lesson 6: Support students to write collaboratively with more independence

Lead the students in the steps of the writing process (all of the steps from Lesson #4).  Monitor & support students to work collaboratively to:

  • Take notes from the source
  • Turn the notes into sentences
  • Check their own writing and graph 
  • Support each other to use self-statements

Independent Practice

Lesson 7 and Beyond: Support independent writing if students are ready

Support students to generalize and use the strategies in other subject areas and to write independently.

For more information on digital tools to support writing, visit the Digital Tools for Action and Expression page.

Citation: Torres, C. (2020). Teaching writing online: Using SRSD.

Backwards Design

Understanding by Design

by Ryan S. BowenPrint Version
Cite this guide:  Bowen, R. S.  (2017). Understanding by Design. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [todaysdate] from


Understanding by Design is a book written by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe that offers a framework for designing courses and content units called “Backward Design.” Instructors typically approach course design in a “forward design” manner, meaning they consider the learning activities (how to teach the content), develop assessments around their learning activities, then attempt to draw connections to the learning goals of the course. In contrast, the backward design approach has instructors consider the learning goals of the course first. These learning goals embody the knowledge and skills instructors want their students to have learned when they leave the course. Once the learning goals have been established, the second stage involves consideration of assessment. The backward design framework suggests that instructors should consider these overarching learning goals and how students will be assessed prior to consideration of how to teach the content. For this reason, backward design is considered a much more intentional approach to course design than traditional methods of design.

This teaching guide will explain the benefits of incorporating backward design. Then it will elaborate on the three stages that backward design encompasses. Finally, an overview of a backward design template is provided with links to blank template pages for convenience.

The Benefits of Using Backward Design

“Our lessons, units, and courses should be logically inferred from the results sought, not derived from the methods, books, and activities with which we are most comfortable. Curriculum should lay out the most effective ways of achieving specific results… in short, the best designs derive backward from the learnings sought.”

In Understanding by Design, Wiggins and McTighe argue that backward design is focused primarily on student learning and understanding. When teachers are designing lessons, units, or courses, they often focus on the activities and instruction rather than the outputs of the instruction. Therefore, it can be stated that teachers often focus more on teaching rather than learning. This perspective can lead to the misconception that learning is the activity when, in fact, learning is derived from a careful consideration of the meaning of the activity.

As previously stated, backward design is beneficial to instructors because it innately encourages intentionality during the design process. It continually encourages the instructor to establish the purpose of doing something before implementing it into the curriculum. Therefore, backward design is an effective way of providing guidance for instruction and designing lessons, units, and courses. Once the learning goals, or desired results, have been identified, instructors will have an easier time developing assessments and instruction around grounded learning outcomes.

The incorporation of backward design also lends itself to transparent and explicit instruction. If the teacher has explicitly defined the learning goals of the course, then they have a better idea of what they want the students to get out of learning activities. Furthermore, if done thoroughly, it eliminates the possibility of doing certain activities and tasks for the sake of doing them. Every task and piece of instruction has a purpose that fits in with the overarching goals and goals of the course.

As the quote below highlights, teaching is not just about engaging students in content. It is also about ensuring students have the resources necessary to understand. Student learning and understanding can be gauged more accurately through a backward design approach since it leverages what students will need to know and understand during the design process in order to progress.

“In teaching students for understanding, we must grasp the key idea that we are coaches of their ability to play the ‘game’ of performing with understanding, not tellers of our understanding to them on the sidelines.”

The Three Stages of Backward Design

“Deliberate and focused instructional design requires us as teachers and curriculum writers to make an important shift in our thinking about the nature of our job. The shift involves thinking a great deal, first, about the specific learnings sought, and the evidence of such learnings, before thinking about what we, as the teacher, will do or provide in teaching and learning activities.”

Stage One

Stage Two

Stage Three

The Backward Design Template

A link to the blank backward design template is provided here (, and it is referred to as UbD Template 2.0. The older version (version 1.0) can also be downloaded at that site as well as other resources relevant to Understanding by Design. The template walks individuals through the stages of backward design. However, if you are need of the template with descriptions of each section, please see the table below. There is also a link to the document containing the template with descriptions provided below and can be downloaded for free.

Backward Design Template with Descriptions (click link for template with descriptions).