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      Putting the standard under the lens

      Determine the how and what

   Look at the instructional strategies suitable to teach each standard

   Look at the content, skills, processes to be taught, or performances to be demonstrated  

First, the Curriculum Framework

What are Essential Understandings?

"moral of the (unit) story"

Full-sentence generalizations about the resultant learning

Clearly stated and usually can be transferred

"Big Picture" concepts

What are Essential Questions?

Questions at the heart of the learning

Usually can be argued

Often recur and should recur in learning

Can effectively provoke and sustain engaged inquiry and focus final performance

Often raise important conceptual or philosophical issues

Can provide purpose for learning

Types of Essential Questions


"In nature, do only the strong survive and what do we mean by ‘strong’?"


"How strong was President Bush in his address to Congress after the terrorist attack of our country?"

Finally, What are the Essential Knowledge & Skills?

The facts and just the facts

Support the understandings

The details that make clear the "big picture" ideas

The process skills that students must master to support the understandings

How to measure the SOL?

      Standards are not in measurable format

      Need to unpack them further

      Must establish from the SOL the

Goals of the standards

  • Broad vs. Narrow

  • General vs. Specific

  • Long vs. Short

  • Weeks vs. Days

  • Loosely connected vs. Tightly linked

Performance Objectives are Measurable Objectives

This format allows the teacher to focus on the what, the how, the expectations, and the level of performance.  The following must be determined:

  • Condition

  • Learning

  • Behavior

  • Performance Level

Example:  On an outline map of Virginia, the student will demonstrate knowledge of the regions of Virginia by drawing and labeling at least four of the five regions.

  • Condition--outline VA map

  • Learning--regions of Virginia

  • Behavior--draw and label

  • Performance Level--4 out of 5

The Condition raises or lowers the level of difficulty.  The level of support offered to students provides differentiation among students.

  • With notes, without

  • Timed, not timed

  • Alone, with Support

  • With or without paper

  • With or without a calculator


The learning is the actual content to be mastered (the standard).  This includes:

  • the standard

  • key vocabulary

  • the stem (often becomes a test question)

  • the language (stated so that students can understand the requirements)

Performance level is the judgement of the instructor.  It can be stated in terms of number of questions correct, percentage correct, score to be attained.  The instructor determines this and it should not always be the same figure.  Factors that impact this may include:  New material, review items, complexity, and other factors dealing specifically with the content.

Behavior is indicated by the VERB.  The level of Bloom’s Taxonomy that the student is required to attain to demonstrate mastery of the SOL.  The verbs are observable, specific and measurable.

 Teaching to performance objectives increases the chance the “right stuff” will be remembered and the SOL target will be attained.


The Target

Kinds of Teaching Targets

      Four types of targets

      Specific details that teachers should focus upon

      Only possible to hit the target if you know what it is

      Unpacking allows the teacher to identify the target

 Content Target

      Teaching of information




      Factual data


Skill Targets

      Basic steps for student to become proficient at a skill or activity


      Map skills

      Writing a sentence

      Analyzing the reasons for a particular result

Process Targets

      Teaching a series of related skills


      A  procedure resulting in a particular outcome

Product or Performance Target

      Teaching of skills and procedures for students to be able to design a unique reproduction of performance that demonstrates learning of specific teaching


Implications for Instruction

      Embedded in each SOL

      Guiding practice to select most effective instructional method

      Corresponds to the six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy


      Embedded in each SOL

      Information or skills that are prerequisite learning that lead to the SOL

      Proficiencies student must have in order to attain the target indicated by the SOL

      Prior knowledge that must be taught

Unpacking—Question 1

     What is the ultimate target that must be taught to achieve a standard?

Content, skill, process, product, or performance

Unpacking—Question 2

      How should the standard be taught to achieve the required level of cognitive processing?

      Determine the ultimate cognitive level (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, or evaluation) to which the standard must be taught

      Look at the VERB


      Be familiar with verbs classified among the levels of Bloom

      Determine the level of cognition that must be achieved

      Unpacking will focus you so that the student target will be achieved


      Important to unpack all of the SOL

      Some standards have several different parts

      Don’t be deceived by short list per grade level

      Standards are packed with knowledge, skills, products, and performances required of students

How to Unpack?

      Process should be quick and uncomplicated

      If know verbs—process is simple

      Translation into measurable targets

      Quick read to determine the what (learning and condition) and how (most suitable instructional method for reaching the cognitive level--behavior)

      Your judgment determines performance level

      Planning then becomes easier—know what is required

Why Unpack?

      Systematic approach

      Standards-based curriculum

      Provides the guide for instruction

      Results in measurable goals and objectives

      Teaching becomes more precise and efficient

      Student performance on the SOL assessments will improve


      Stiff, Helen Randolph.  “Unpacking the Standards.”  Virginia Journal of Education.  June, 1999, p. 11-14.

      Roland, Pam.  “Goals and Objectives.”  PowerPoint, Teaching for Standards Mastery.  UVA: January, 2000.

      National Archives and Records.

This page was updated on:  04/10/02