Chapter 1

Revision questions
  1. Why is Backward Design more effective than other, more traditional, ways of lesson planning?
  2. What are the 3-steps in lesson planning using backward design?
  3. What are the two common types of traditional lesson planning? How and why are they deficient?
Reflection/discussion questions
  1. In view of what you have read about traditional and backward design, what kind of role, in your opinion, does the textbook have in these two different types of design? Discuss and try to think of examples from either your teaching practice or from the classroom practice you have witnessed (as a learner or as an observer).
  2. Try to think in what ways the backward design is more ‘learner-centered’ than other types of design? How do you understand this concept of ‘learner-centeredness’?
  3. Think about and discuss the role of assessment in backward design and more traditional types of lesson planning. The following questions may help guide your discussion:
  • How do you see the purpose of assessment in the backward design and more traditional forms of lesson planning?
  • Think about the role of learner and the teacher in assessment: how do you think they differ in two types of lesson plan design?
  • What types of assessment do you think are best suited to this type of lesson plan design?
Think of how you have been assessing your students until now, and how that might change when you adopt the backward design.

Chapter 2 (Understanding by Understanding)
Reflection questions
  1. In view of what you have read in Chapter 2, try and illustrate the difference between knowing and understanding using examples from a foreign language classroom. If you are a teacher, think of your own students and how what they do in the target language can serve as evidence of knowing or understanding.
  2. How do you understand the concept of transferability?
  • Can you think of some of your own transferable skills? Talk to your colleagues and think of what types of transferable skills or knowledge you may develop by the end of this workshop.
  1. What can we learn from student misunderstandings? Can you add to the examples on page 51 by using your own experience as a foreign language teacher? Where would you expect to find misunderstandings when teaching the target language?
  2. The authors suggest that “evidence of understanding requires that we test quite differently”. Can you think of some more traditional assessment tasks used in foreign language classrooms that do not provide evidence of understanding? Can you think of better alternatives that would elicit students’ understanding or misunderstanding of the target language more efficiently?

Chapter 3 (Gaining Clarity on Our Goals)
  1. In Chapter 3, you learned about the importance of standards for uncovering the big ideas at the heart of each discipline. Working in groups, take a look at the ACTFL Standards for Foreign Language Learning, and try and uncover the key concepts at the heart of foreign language learning. What are the understandings that you feel students need to acquire in a foreign language classroom and that they will be able to use across different disciplines and at later stages of their foreign language learning?
  2. a. Having learned about the importance of big ideas, has your view of teaching grammar or the way it is usually being taught changed to some extent? How do you see now the role of grammar teaching in a foreign language classroom?
  3. b. Imagine you have to teach the past tense in the target language, but your book is organized almost entirely around grammar points. How would you go about teaching the past tense, but having big, core ideas at the foreground of your lesson planning? Think about contextualization, integration, authenticity, culture, etc. to help you come up with activities that will focus more on big ideas rather than purely on the language skills (see ‘Misconception Alert’ box on page 76!)
  4. Choose one of the three common themes in a language classroom: Food, Clothing or Environment. These themes are not big ideas. Try to approach these with the aim of uncovering the big ideas with enduring ideas beyond the classroom. Use the tips for finding big ideas suggested on pages 73-75. Think of the essential questions, then try and think of the ways how you can present these themes so as to engage and motivate students


Chapter 4 (The Six Facets of Understanding)
  1. Think about the six facets of understanding that you have learned about in Chapter 4. How do you understand the difference between perspective and empathy? What are similarities and differences between these two types of understanding?
  2. Going back to the big ideas that you uncovered about the theme you chose in Question 3 from Chapter 3 (Food, Clothing or Environment), try and think how these six facets of understanding would manifest themselves in relation to those big ideas. What would you expect your students to be able to do if they had complete understanding of these ideas? How would you test for each of these facets? What activities would you use to bring about these understandings?
  3. Think about the target language you teach. In what situations would you expect students to show misunderstandings in some of the six facets that would lead to less than effective communication? Here are some examples of you might give thought to:
  • grammatical structures that may have different meanings in different contexts
  • structures or phrases that are similar on surface in the first and target languages but which are used differently
  • culture-appropriate and context-appropriate vocabulary, idioms and grammatical structures
  • grammar and vocabulary that may reveal the native speakers’ association with certain groups defined by geographic origin, sex, class etc.

Chapter 5 (Essential Questions)
  1. What makes a question essential? Discuss.
  2. In Question 3 of Chapter 3, you were asked to think of essential questions related to the big ideas you uncovered in relation to themes of Food, Clothing or Environment. Looking back at those questions, would you classify them as overarching essential questions or topical questions? Could you try and make your set of questions more balanced by including questions of both types?
  3. On page 112, the authors suggest that teacher of skill-focused disciplines, such as world languages, often struggle with formulating essential questions. Can you prove them wrong, and think of some essential questions that could be posed even when teaching other languages (other than your target language) or other disciplines?
  4. To what extent do you think that integration of culture into the language classroom helps teachers formulate essential questions? Discuss.
what is foreign? What happens when two cultures meet? Who are we? What is self-identity? How are we transformed by our study of languages and culture?
Who am I? who are you? How are we different? How are traditions preserved or changed? How can learning xx language help me become a productive citizen?

Chapter 6 (Crafting Understandings)
  1. Explain why educators can find it difficult to connect content standards and essential understandings.
  2. Write two overarching and two topical understanding for your curriculum or course of study. Use tips suggested on page 135 and try to frame the understandings using the phrase ‘Students should understand that…’ Be ready to explain what is enduring about these understandings, and why they would need to be uncovered rather than presented as facts.
  3. Now think of fact statements associated with the understanding statements. This exercise should help you see the distinction between facts and understandings drawn from the facts. See authors’ example on page 132.


Chapter 7 (Thinking like an Assessor)
  1. Go back to the essential questions you made after reading Chapter 5. Thinking of these as final essay prompts, as suggested on page 168, try to think of the proposed performance tasks. Use the GRASPS task design prompts to come up with authentic performance-based tasks. Don’t forget about the six facets of understanding!
  2. Analyze the following exercises which are often given to foreign language students. In view of what you have learned about authentic performance assessments, what would you say about these tasks? What understandings are teachers after in these tasks, if any? What understandings should they be after? Can you think of the more appropriate, contextualized and performance-based tasks that can reveal whether students are truly developing those understandings?
  • Write the Turkish equivalents for the following numbers:
  1. 45
  2. 67
  3. 89
  4. 34
  5. 56
  • Give the Persian translations for the words and expressions below:
  1. Tomorrow
  2. Next Wednesday
  3. Next week
  4. Tonight
  5. In two weeks’ time

3. Are performance-based tasks necessarily authentic? Can you think of a performance-based task that may not be authentic enough?
4. On page 169, the authors mention the “one-minute” essay. This is a form of self-assessment. What other types of self-assessment do you know or have used in your teaching
practice? Why do you think self-assessment is important and what can it reveal about students’ understandings that other forms of assessment may not?
5. Now go ahead and answer the one-minute essay questions yourselves:
  • What is the big point you learned in class today?
  • What is the main unanswered question you leave the class with today?




Chapter 8 (Criteria and Validity)
  1. How do you understand the concepts of validity and reliability? What does it mean for an assessment task to be valid? Can a task be reliable but lack validity? When? (Think about teaching for facts as opposed to teaching for understanding)
  2. Why do authors say that the backward design approach to designing assessment criteria and rubrics is a counterintuitive one?
  3. Try to think of as many reasons as you can why it is good to include a variety of assessment tasks, even on a same topic.
  4. Create a rubric for the assessment task that you created yesterday, after reading Chapter 7. Write performance descriptors for each level of the rubric. The descriptors should contain the most salient characteristics of a performance and be criterion-referenced.



Chapter 9 (Planning for Learning)
  1. Throughout the course of the workshop you have been thinking and have come up with many essential questions. Pick one or two of these, and try to think of the ways how you would hook students so as to engage them and motivate them to work towards big ideas. You may need to rephrase the questions to make them more appealing to your students.
  2. Think about integrating culture and how this can help ‘hook’ the learners. Give specific examples of where this would be particularly helpful.
  3. The authors mention ‘scaffolding’ on page 211. How do you understand this term? If you needed to help students transfer the understandings related to essential questions to new situations, what would ‘scaffolding’ entail?
  4. On page 221, the authors say that presenting basic facts and skills upfront is not how effective and long-lasting learning works. Why?

Chapter 8 (Criteria and Validity)
1. How do you understand the concepts of validity and reliability? What does it mean for an assessment task to be valid? Can a task be reliable but lack validity? When? (Think about teaching for facts as opposed to teaching for understanding).
2. Why do authors say that the backward design approach to designing assessment criteria and rubrics is a counterintuitive one?
3. Try to think of as many reasons as you can why it is good to include a variety of assessment tasks, even on a same topic.
4. Create a rubric for the assessment task that you created yesterday, after reading Chapter 7. Write performance descriptors for each level of the rubric. The descriptors should contain the most salient characteristics of a performance and be criterion-referenced.
Chapter 9 (Planning for Learning)
1. Throughout the course of the workshop you have been thinking and have come up with many essential questions. Pick one or two of these, and try to think of the ways how you would hook students so as to engage them and motivate them to work towards big ideas. You may need to rephrase the questions to make them more appealing to your students.
2. Think about integrating culture and how this can help ‘hook’ the learners. Give specific examples of where this would be particularly helpful.
3. The authors mention ‘scaffolding’ on page 211. How do you understand this term? If you needed to help students transfer the understandings related to essential questions to new situations, what would ‘scaffolding’ entail?
4. On page 221, the authors say that presenting basic facts and skills upfront is not how effective and long-lasting learning works. Why?