Thursday, August 27, 2009

Slide Presentation BCS August 27, 2009

I had to upload the slide presentation to youtube in video format. If you want the slides, you'll need to email me at

Here's the link:

Tim's UbD Lesson Plan for BCS Workshop on Facets of Understanding

UbD Plan – BCS, August 26, 2009

EUs – A student’s understanding is essential to fulfilling the BCS mission.

Students understand in a multifaceted manner.

EQ – How does UbD support the BCS mission?

BCS EQs – How is Jesus Christ at the center of my life and learning?

Whose perspective does this represent and how does a belief system influence point of view?

How do I learn, live and serve with others?

Assessment - How will I know if you “UNDERSTOOD” the Enduring Understandings?

Group discussion will bring out ideas of how perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge give evidence of student understanding. Ideas will be recorded on the group report form and each group will pick the most important ONE.

Exit card information about the relationship between the BCS mission and UbD.

Activities –

Powerpoint review: Vision trumps all.

Introduction Dialogue: How does UbD support the BCS mission?

Video/Discussion: The three facets – perspective, empathy, self-knowledge

Each group fills out one report form and selects ONE important idea.

Summary: Show the UbD lesson plan & watch the video summary

Exit Card Feedback

Six Facets & Understandings: Tim's Prewriting

A draft introduction to Bellevue Chrisitan teachers written in early August

So why bother? I dare guess that some of the skeptics are still musing that the past few year’s focus on Understanding by Design has about run its course, and if I can hold on for just a bit longer, this too shall pass. To your consternation, I continue to argue it will stand, not simply because researchers verify that lesson design beginning with the end in mind produces better results, but more importantly because it treats students more like image bearers and less like commodities in a capitalistic market.

How so, you may ask?

Primarily UbD twists the focus of teaching and the outcome of learning one hundred eighty degrees about face. The focus is no longer on classroom teaching but on student learning and student learning is measured against common understandings instead of a comparison between students. Rather than norm-referenced rankings, a standards-based system measures each student against the concrete standard, instead of measuring how well the student performed compared to others. This is no longer a new idea as the outcome based education effort developed over twenty-five years ago after the Nation at Risk report of 1983, but controversy still hovers around like a news helicopter above a developing crisis. None-the-less, I hope to push you deeper still in your application of essential questions and enduring understandings so that student learning will be even more effective, robust and Christian.

In my thinking as a young teacher, standards based education was a foul idea because it originated in the secular school system and so I believed the standards would necessarily be secular in nature. My thinking has changed over time and one of the reasons is the progress made by Bellevue Christian. Bellevue Christian is applying the principles of Understanding by Design and the habits of heart and mind found in the Bellevue Christian Essential Questions to student learning. And, although this process has not guaranteed an essentially Christian education, it has provided the curriculum of educators for it to develop through an ongoing, facilitated conversation among teachers.

So as I have mentioned before, we are creators because “In the beginning God created” and we are made in His image. As Christian teachers our goal is to create a space in our classrooms where all learners flourish, where we help students understand the great diversity of gifts and abilities in His people, and where we challenge each one to discover and use his or her gifts to God’s glory. To do this in the current cultural is extremely hard work. Yet today you have again committed yourselves to that task. May God give you grace to do so as you begin this new school year.

Second attempt at an introduction (August 17):

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you a few ideas this morning. Our coming together is always a great joy for me as I am welcomed by so many smiles and kind greetings. However, I must tell you as honestly as I can that an anxious fear also creeps up on me as this day comes closer. As I prepare I know I will be judged not only on the content of this hour, which by the way is somewhat subscribed to me, but also by the balance in my delivery praxis where words or reflection move to action. It is only in your action that these words will become your words because we know, and rightly so, that we are not only hears but doers. And therein lies my most anxious moment: that by throwing out a small biblical phrase, even though it captures a great principle of Christian schooling, or of life for that matter, the principle that “knowing is doing”; that hearing by itself is only is a delusion; and in uttering these phrases I have somehow discharged my obligation to think and speak Christianly.

Today I would like to wonder openly, with you, if we would dare “be Christian” in the way we design lessons for our students. Or is designing a lesson a neutral activity like washing dishes? We may believe that backwardly designed lessons and curriculum mapping are busy work, something of no earthly good that the boss demands of us. UbD and assessment for learning are ideas we must endure; fads that ‘god willing’ will fade with time so I can get back to the real business of teaching.

Or is there a level of uncomfortable truth here that we would just as soon ignore? Do these contemporary ideas of the practice of teaching provide a more open framework for engaging the young image bearers you will face next week in your classrooms in their own quest to understand and evaluate and transform a broken, yet redeemed world. In assessment for learning, especially learning the big ideas inherent in every discipline, the scaffolding that shapes learning is made to be adjustable. So today as we think about the facets of our student’s understanding, our goal is not to somehow frost the secular cake of education with fluffy white Christian frosting. Our work should always be to understand and evaluate our own designing of lessons to see if they are in fact transforming the lives of our students. Are their minds finding renewal in your class? Because you see, a well designed and delivered lesson is no less “spiritual” than a well designed and delivered Sunday sermon.

Third Prewriting of an Intro, August 25, 2009

I find myself constrained as a teacher often is with 50 minutes. It is not uncommon in our current system of schooling to provide a teacher with 180 fifty-minute periods during which he or she imparts understanding to the wide-eyed class. I have fifty minutes to widen and deepen a teachers understanding about understandings, the big ideas we hope will catch fire in a student’s life.

This concept of enduring understandings, all that we want students to remember after they leave this place, is crucially important in a truly Christian school because, after the fear of the Lord, it is on principles like perspective, self-knowledge and empathy that wisdom is built. And when we apply these great truths to the task of learning, we help students develop habits of heart and mind that are aligned to our mission which is to understand, evaluate and transform God’s world into a place of reconciliation and shalom.

So in the next 48 minutes we will scratch the surface of understanding to catch a glimpse of what lies beneath. We will discover a gem with six faces. Of these facets, today we have time to look into only three: perspective, empathy and self-knowledge.

Questions for our dialogue:

What has BCS been doing with UbD over the past year? (sets context, we’re still working on this . . . beginning the 4th year of a 5+ year process)

I’m worried that UbD isn’t “philosophical” enough for some of the teachers at BCS, is my anxious feeling warranted, why or why not?

In what ways does UbD link lesson design to the BCS mission? Or does it?

How is lesson design a “spiritual” activity?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 33 - Summer is Slipping by Again

The Painter’s brush delicately strokes yellow, red and orange on the tips of maple trees. The morning air is cooler and sweeter. The sun’s rays work harder to push warmth into each new day. The rain falls sweeter still and washes away the haze that has gripped the distant landscape during the hot summer weeks.

The harvest will continue through the next few months as children return to school. Summer’s lessons of running on the beach, hiding in the forest and playing make believe give way to those in classrooms. Hopefully the imagination of teachers will find ways to conjoin the two. We tend to make learning more serious than it needs to be. Too often we make stern faces and talk with deeper voices because we have very important curriculum to teach. A teacher’s greatest challenge is to fan the coals of curiosity that precede serendipitous moments of learning and then gently and carefully lay the tinder of reading, writing and arithmetic on the embers so they too catch fire.