Return to the Lesson Plan page

Lesson Plans

Backwards Design from Standards to Lesson Plans

Return to Mount Shasta home page

The Siskiyou County Office of Education (SCOE) has developed a Standards Implementation Project to "increase the academic achievement of all students" through the use of standards-based curriculum design (Holmes and Murphy-Shaw, 2000). To achieve their goals, SCOE promotes the use of "backwards design" when developing lesson plans (Holmes, 2001). Wiggins and McTighe (1999) is a key source for this process.

The first and most important aspect of backwards design is to become familiar with the Standards for the grade level and curriculum area being taught. The California Department of Education (CDE) has these Standards available in *.pdf format (see CDE Standards) for five core curriculum areas.

After the standard and benchmarks have been selected, the next step is to design an assessment that will measure the students' understanding of the standard. You will need to decide how you are going to measure student understanding (test or quiz, self-assessment, performance, product) of the selected standard. Bloom's Taxonomy (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation) is a nice tool to use to help design assessments or you can utilize the many "performance verbs" offered by Wiggins and McTighe (1999) under the following categories: explanation, interpretation, application, perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge.

Once you have selected the standard and determined the acceptable evidence that will demonstrate student achievement, then you can develop a lesson plan that will provide students with the opportunity to reach the desired objectives. Wiggins and McTighe (1999) utilize the "WHERE" approach in this stage of the process.

W stands for students knowing Where they are heading, Why they are heading there, What they know, Where they might go wrong in the process, and What is required of them.

H stands for Hooking the students on the topic of study.

E stands for students Exploring and Experiencing ideas and being Equipped with the necessary understanding to master the standard being taught.

R stands for providing opportunities for students to Rehearse, Revise, and Refine their work.

E stands for student Evaluation.

The rewarding part of the process comes next with the implemation of the lesson plan in the classroom. Any necessary changes or additions can be incorporated into your modified lesson plan.

After students have had the opportunity to learn the selected Standard, the students will need to be assessed to determine if they have successfully reached the desired goal. The student assessment can also be used to modify the original lesson plan.


Holmes, Karen and Marian Murphy-Shaw. More Than Aligned - One County's Journey. Building Success Conference, August 10, 2000.

Wiggins, Grant and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1999.


Geology ~ Environment ~ Native Americans ~ Folklore ~ History ~ Art ~ Literature
Recreation ~ Maps ~ Mount Shasta Collection ~ Bibliography ~ Lesson Plans ~ About Project