Learn how to deconstruct standards with an example and template. First, list nouns to determine content. Second, analyze verbs to find what students must do. After that, look at additional words for guidance. Then you can develop a fresh, inviting unit of study.
Ms. Sneed Learns to Deconstruct Standards
In the early days of her career, our favorite fourth grade teacher did not understand how to deconstruct a standard. Instead, she heavily relied on her textbook. Fortunately, her mentor came to the rescue.
Breaking Away from the Textbook
During Ms. Sneed’s first year of teaching, she met with Mrs. Brown to plan instruction. Early in the year, the mentor helped her establish student starting points. However, as the school year progressed, the mentor noticed that her charge relied heavily on the textbook.
One Tuesday afternoon, as the pair sat together, Mrs. Brown decided to broach the subject. “How would you feel about creating a unit of your own?”
Ms. Sneed’s eyes flew open wide. “What?”
“You know, deconstruct standards to develop your own unit of study.”
Now Ms. Sneed’s eyes filled with tears. “Sure, I’d love to do that. I just don’t know where to start.”
Using a Simple Template to Deconstruct Standards
“Fortunately,” Mrs. Brown responded, “I have a free template right here. You can use it to deconstruct standards.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a one-page worksheet.
“It’s really quite simple,” she continued. “You write the standard at the top. Then you list nouns to pull out content, verbs for process, and other details for guidance. Finally, you pull them together to tell what kids should know and do. From there, you can pull supporting activities from your textbook and other resources.”
Mrs. Brown sighed. “Unfortunately, we can’t trust our textbooks to address the intent of our standards. Instead, that’s our job.”
Example of How to Deconstruct Standards
Next, Mrs. Brown pulled out another page. “Here you see a how to deconstruct standards example with a third grade standard. It’s written at the top:
CCSS 3.MD.A.1 Tell and write time to the nearest minute and measure time intervals in minutes. Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of time intervals in minutes, e.g., by representing the problem on a number line.
Ms. Sneed squirmed in her seat. “That sounds like a lot.”
“You’re right! But when we tackle it in an organized way, it becomes manageable.
“First, we pull out the nouns: time, time intervals, and word problems. That’s the content.
“Second, we find the verbs: tell, write, measure, and solve. These provide processes, or what kids will do.
“Finally, we look at additional details for guidance. For example, this standard specifies that kids should only work to the nearest minute, use addition and subtraction, and represent the problem on a number line. To extend this, we may differentiate for advanced students. Maybe they could work to the nearest second, for example.”
Unfortunately, Ms. Sneed still looked uncomfortable. “Here,” said Mrs. Brown, “I’ll cover the standard with a spare sheet of paper. If you look only at the nouns, verbs, and details, it’s not so bad.”
Deconstruct Standards to Discover What Kids Should Know and Do
“Now,” Mrs. Brown continued, “we use all of this to write learning objectives. Each will begin with a verb:
- Tell time to the nearest minute.
- Write time to the nearest minute.
- Measure time intervals (AKA elapsed time) to the nearest minute.
- Solve elapsed time problems involving addition and subtraction of time intervals in minutes.”
Ms. Sneed’s eyes softened. “I get it. You matched each verb with the other pieces.” Then she sighed. “But it’s still a lot.”
At that, Mrs. Brown chuckled. “Of course. It always is. But after the teacher deconstructs standards and writes objectives, she tackles them one by one. That way, it’s not so overwhelming.”
What Happens Next
“I’m hoping,” Mrs. Brown said, “that deconstructing standards becomes a welcome challenge for you. After you unwrap the core concepts, you will scaffold instruction to help every child in your class reach mastery.
“Additionally, you can consider connections to content in other subject areas. For example, I ask my students to figure elapsed time for December daylight hours in two locations. Since one is in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern, they begin to understand patterns of day and night. As a matter of fact, with this interdisciplinary activity, kids don’t even realize they’re doing math!
Mrs. Brown smiled kindly and looked into Ms. Sneed’s eyes. “Remember, this is only your first year. As you unwrap content and concepts, refer to the deconstruct standards example. Then, as time goes on, it will get easier. Additionally, you’ll gather more and more units of study. Until then, I’ll be here to help you.”