Understanding by Design (UbD)

Understanding by Design (UbD)

Background: Understanding by Design (UbD) is intended to be an interconnected, backwards-design approach to planning UNITS of lessons versus discrete independent lessons in and of themselves. That being said, the UbD approach allows a teacher to refine their individual lesson planning in Stage 3 based on the decisions made in Stages 1 and 2. Below is a brief example of a possible UbD unit and lessons using LevelUp texts, based on McTighe’s UbD Unit Template 2.0.

Sample Lesson

Grade: K
Content: Science
  1. What I Hear
  2. What I See
  3. What I Smell
  4. What I Taste
  5. What I Touch
Additional Resources:
  1. http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/UbD_WhitePaper0312.pdf
  2. https://jaymctighe.com/resources/
  3. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/understanding-by-design/

Stage 1: Desired Results


Students will be able to independently use their learning to... make observations about the world around them using their five senses.


Essential Question : How do our senses help us to know about the world around us?

Students will understand that... using their five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) and thinking about their senses’ input will give the students insight into how the world works around them.


Students will know... the names of their five senses and the vocabulary to describe basic sensory input.

Students will be skilled at... thoughtfully using their five senses to discover and relay information about the world around them.

Stage 2: Evidence

Assessment Evidence:

Performance Task: Students will be presented with a low-stakes but authentic sensory challenge in the classroom to be met (for example: “How do we keep papers on our concrete wall, so they don’t fall down?”) Students will be given three or four possible sensory materials (for example: tape, sticky tack, Velcro dots), without explanation, and asked to use their senses to explore each of these items. Then they will work in groups collaboratively to make and test predictions about which of the materials would work best in the classroom.

Other Evidence: Sensory recording sheets, photographs, teacher analysis of group discussion

Stage 3: Learning Plan


A five-lesson strand based on a guided read-aloud of each of the LevelUp texts in the My Five Senses series. Students will read each text aloud with the teacher, engage in answering text-based questions as a group, become familiar with the vocabulary words in the text (for example: soft, rough, sticky, smooth, hard, cold, wet). They will then conduct an activity where they explore certain materials based on the sense in question and record their observations (for example, students can explore a cotton ball, a piece of sandpaper, or a snip of velvet after reading “What I Touch” together).

Click the attachment below to download a blank Understanding by Design (UbD) template.

Considerations for Distance or Hybrid Environments:
Read-alouds can be conducted together by sharing the teacher’s screen, having students follow along in their own electronic copies of the text, or both. Physical materials for this lesson can be mailed or dropped off ahead of time or replaced with a home-based scavenger hunt (for example, “Find something in your room that is soft!”), which can also serve as a check for understanding the concepts/vocabulary of the senses. The performance task can still be conducted, but the teacher will need to think about ways that she can act as a proxy for students who would normally conduct the task on their own. For example, she might have students vote on which material they think would best hold up a paper on her own wall at home, and then conduct an experiment in real time over Zoom that the students would observe and discuss.
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