Understanding By Design – Backwards Design Process
(Developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2002)
Stage 1 – Desired Results
Reading and Literature
7. Make inferences and draw conclusions based on explicit and implied
information from texts.
4. Evaluate the author’s decisions regarding word choice, point of view, style,
and literary elements.
Understanding (s)/goals Essential Question(s):
Students will understand that: Based on the character description,
Descriptive language is connotative— what is your overall understanding of
different words create actual the character? Do you like or dislike
emotional responses in readers, either the character?
positive or negative. Which particular words draw such a
The nature of language is complex— response from you? Why?
we link words, phrases, even letters to
abstract thought. Language, then, is
Student objectives (outcomes):
Identify words that hold particular connotations for them or for readers in general.
Discuss how words and phrases create their overall opinion of a character.
Include connotative words in their own writing.
Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence
Performance Task(s): Other Evidence:
Students will listen to descriptions of After the discussion, students will look
characters, equating each character over the beginnings of their short
with either light or darkness to varied stories in groups, helping one another
degrees. They will then identify the to add connotative words to deliver
words or phrases in the description additional information about their
that fueled their judgment of each characters.
character. Students will share their
opinions in class discussion, defending
their placement of the character on
the lightness scale.
Stage 3 – Learning Plan
A scale from white to black will be placed on the board with numbers from 1 to 5
beneath varying shades of gray. One is white, five is black. Students are asked to place
the 5 vowels in order according to their darkness—a seemingly absurd task. However,
when most people are asked to put the vowels in order according to their darkness, they
follow the general pattern U, O, A, E, I, with U being the darkest and I being the
lightest. Somehow we link concrete letters to abstractions in our minds. Language is
After discussing the interesting complexity of the link between letters and lightness and
darkness, a similar exercise is done with character descriptions from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
The Great Gatsby. Descriptions of Tom Buchanan, Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker, and
Jay Gatsby are read aloud twice. The first time, students are asked to place the
character on the likert scale based on the description—light, dark, or somewhere
between. During the second reading, students will be asked to identify key words or
phrases that justify their position on the scale. Students will then be asked to raise their
hands based on where they placed the characters on the scale. A few can share reasons
for placing characters, as well as the words that helped them to do so.
A description of Gatsby’s smile is given last, as a more complex example of connotation.
Here phrases connote, instead of just words.
The mini-lesson will lead into students forming in groups with their short stories. In
these small groups, students will help one another specifically with character
descriptions, adding words that have strong connotation to give more depth to
characters through implication.