Reflections on Applying Standards, SMART Objectives, and Backwards Mapping

Achievement for every student. It’s a lofty goal, and a lofty claim that standards will help push that success. But they can, and do, help ensure that each child receives the same rigor in their education. And they can, certainly, help teachers plan engaging and intellectually challenging lessons. But this is only possible if the teacher knows how to incorporate the standards into their lesson plans. The last three activities have helped me think differently about incorporating the standards into my lesson plans and about the benefits of backwards mapping.

I felt that the first activity, in which we made a Prezi analyzing two standards, was the most beneficial for me. I have been exposed to goal-writing and backwards mapping in the past, and I’ve written unit plans based on SMART-type objectives before, but I had not analyzed a standard as thoroughly as we did here. The curriculum at my school comes with built-in lessons which I am expected to follow fairly closely, so I’ve had very little thorough lesson planning to do this school year. It was super helpful for me to learn how to pick out the key details in a standard, analyze its level on the Bloom’s Taxonomy, and apply it to my curriculum. Breaking down a standard by its verbs and its big ideas was extremely useful, and I’m planning on figuring out how my curriculum matches the Common Core standards so that I can teach with the larger standard in mind.

I also really appreciated the reminder of the importance of creating clear, SMART goals for my lessons when I created the infographic describing 5 SMART objectives to meet a specific standard. Though much of the planning is done for me, it’s still helpful to study my curriculum more thoroughly so that I become intimately familiar with the objective and how it is taught in the lesson. The lessons are Specific in their goal, with clear instructions given for completion; easily Measurable, so that both teachers and students know if they met the standard; definitely Achievable at grade-level skills; certainly Relevant to the curriculum and Results-oriented. It is the last one – Targeted – that I need to spend more time focusing on. The curriculum does a great job of building a SMAR lesson, but if I want it to be specifically tailored and Targeted to my students, I need to do that myself. I’ve achieved that in some subjects, like Reading, Science and History, but in other subjects, like Math, I definitely need to improve in adapting the curriculum to fit the needs of my class.

Backwards mapping, or the process of creating a lesson based on the standards and objectives one is trying to help students achieve, will certainly help me in this goal. I definitely learned this when I wrote a blog post in which I described my plan for a unit plan on the Declaration of Independence. By starting with the end in mind, I can tailor my activities to suit that end. In this way, I can ensure that my students are, truly, reaching the goals my curriculum intends for them to reach by the end of the lesson. This will help clarify lessons in subjects that are usually a struggle for both myself and my students. Through backwards mapping, SMART objectives, and standards-analysis, I know that my lessons will be much more thorough and much more productive.


Dissecting the Declaration of Independence Through Group Preparation and Discussion.

 Dissecting the Declaration of Independence Through Group Preparation and Discussion.

A 3rd Grade Unit of Study in History.

This unit is designed to meet two standards in the 3rd grade common core curriculum, but it primarily focuses on Speaking and Listening. Through studying the Declaration of Independence, students will, in various forms of group discussion, identify the causes of the American Revolution and compare them with the grievances they have concerning situations with the management of the classroom economy system.

I have twelve students, ages eight and nine, most of whom are fairly high readers. I have three or four students who used to be ELLs, but who, if this were a government school, would no longer be designated as ELLs. Our history curriculum covers famous American heroes from Christopher Columbus onward, and lately the figures have featured prominent American revolutionaries such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. This unit is designed to coincide with those areas of study.

For almost a month now, the students have been over-taxed in our classroom economy system. They have faced a 10% income tax, a $2 paper tax for every paper they hand out, a $5 recess tax for every recess, a number tax in which students pay $100 if their number gets pulled out of a hat, a shirt tax for the uniform colors that changes each day (one day, blue might be $100, but $25 the next day), and many, many more taxes that have increased in cost over that period of time. The students will have a Tea Party, organized by my room mother, to protest the taxes. This will start the unit which we are discussing today.

The unit will focus on developing student’s speech and language skills through discussing the Declaration of Independence, its causes, and through working together to write a class declaration of independence from the unfair taxes and mismanagement of the Hoot Buck money system. This is designed to meet the following standard:


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Proficiencies and Assessments:

There are several key proficiencies in this standard that will be addressed through this unit:

  1. Engage effectively in diverse, collaborative discussions on grade 3 topics and texts.
  2. Building on others’ ideas during those discussions.
  3. Expressing their own ideas clearly.

This activity appropriately meets the requirement of discussing 3rd grade texts and topics. Since the Declaration of Independence is covered in our units of study on the American Revolution, this is a Grade 3 topic of study. In the process of this unit, they will also use the library to research the topic using Grade 3 history texts in preparation for the group discussions.

In this unit of study, there will be several group discussions of varying kinds, all of which will require that the students build upon each others’ ideas and express their own clearly. They will appear in this manner:

Days One and Two: Students discuss, as a whole class, the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence and what they mean. This will be mostly teacher-led, as the Declaration contains many vocabulary words that would be difficult for this age group to decipher otherwise.

Day Three: Pairs of students select a grievance and use Grade 3 history texts to research the cause of that specific grievance.

Assessment: Students will write out their grievance in their own words, identify the event that caused that grievance, and explain how that event connects to the grievance. This will be a written assessment of the success of the partnership’s ability to communicate and work together.

Day Four: In groups of four, students report the events that caused the writing of the Declaration of Independence to their peers, and discuss the relationship of these things to the “unalienable rights” listed by the authors.

Assessment: Working as a group, the students will create a single graph in which the grievances are sorted under columns titled “Life”, “Liberty”, and “Pursuit of Happiness”. They will write a sentence to explain why they put each grievance in that position.

Day Five: Teacher leads demonstration of Fish Bowl discussion, and students elect representatives from their group to be in the Fish Bowl.

Day Six: Students hold discussions in their groups with their representatives, with one student taking notes for their representative, to list the grievances the group has against the class government.

Assessment: The group’s list of grievances and teacher reports on participation observed during the discussion.

Day Seven: Student representatives discuss the grievances listed by their group and draft a class Declaration of Independence using the Fish Bowl methods. Students in the outer circle grade based on accuracy and attentiveness to the wishes of their groups. At the end of the exercise, students vote on whether or not they will accept the drafted Declaration of Independence.

Assessment: The draft of the Declaration of Independence, student assessment of the Fish Bowl discussion.

Grade-Level Appropriateness

Some may question the appropriateness of the level of rigor in abstract thought required by these discussions. In response, I will point out the three days of research and preparation through direct instruction on the topic matter. Students have also already studied several of the Revolutionaries, and so many of the events leading up to the revolution have already been taught, too. This class is also very high in its ability to connect to abstract concepts, as observed through other areas of study, primarily in our reading lessons. Students regularly are able to identify, through looking at the text, several key, but subtle, words that convey emotional nuances surrounding the events of a fictional story. They are also able to pull facts from encyclopedias and draft basic reports on the subjects they researched.

Because this class is high in its academic ability, then, I am able to pursue this type of instruction. I fully plan on providing significant teacher support throughout this process, with clear instructions at each step of the way. With other classes, I would include more lessons on research, on polite discourse in the classroom, and on connecting cause-and-effect type relationships. These things, though, have already been covered for this group, and so the level of rigor found in these activities is wholly appropriate for my current group of students.


This activity appropriately addresses, in a Grade 3-level manner, the skills required for students to hold effective, productive discussions on a topic at hand. It also provides students with an in-depth analysis of a primary source document. This activity clearly addresses the standard’s requirements and provides a deeper, critical-thinking learning activity through which these requirements are met.


English language arts standards » speaking & listening » grade 3. (2016). Retrieved March 26, 2016, from

TeachLikeThis (2013, November 14). How to do a fishbowl – TeachLikeThis Retrieved from

Three Considerations to Support Successful Behavior Management

Three Considerations to Support Successful Behavior Management


Behavior management is something that changes from class to class, from teacher to teacher, and sometimes, from year to year. What works with one group may not work for the next. But what remains the same in every class is the paramount need that students have to feel safe and respected in the classroom. Without this, it is nearly impossible for a classroom to function effectively. And so, it is important for a new teacher to have an outline of how and when they will give positive and negative feedback. But how is this developed, and how can it be done? The considerations that follow can help any teacher think through their behavior management and develop a system that works well for their class.

1. Consequences for Misbehavior.


No matter how good a teacher’s management system, there will always be students who refuse to follow the rules of the classroom. It is necessary, then, for every teacher to have a consistent plan for reacting to misbehavior in the classroom. At my school, the primary grades use a card-turning system. As a third grade teacher I also have the opportunity to assign detentions should I deem it necessary, though I rarely do.

My consequences look something like this:

1st Infraction: Verbal warning and redirection.

2nd Infraction: Student writes their name on the whiteboard (visual warning).

3rd Infraction: Student turns their green card to yellow. (visual warning).

4th Infraction: Student turns their card to red. Parent is notified of misbehavior.

5th Infraction: Student writes lines related to the infringement (if irresponsible, student writes a paragraph on what it means to be responsible and how they can improve in responsibility).

6th Infraction: Student is sent to another classroom for self-reflection. Detention is considered.

If a behavior problem is ongoing, I will schedule a conference with the child’s parents and develop a plan with them that will offer the child an opportunity to grow in the area of deficiency.

2. To Reward or Not To Reward?

The first question that teachers must consider is whether or not they will reward their students for positive behavior. Some teachers believe that reward systems, such as a prize box or a class money system, teach children that they should behave simply because there’s a reward involved. Other teachers argue that students need the reinforcement of positive behavior that a reward system provides. I, personally, find that students respond well to praise and rewards, and that some of my students have grown immensely because of the systems in place in my classroom to provide that praise.

In my classroom, we use a monetary reward system we call “Hoot Bucks”, to connect the money to the owl decorative theme used throughout the classroom. Students can earn Hoot Bucks by doing well both academically and behaviorally. An A or A- on a test, for example, earns $30; behaving well in class for one lesson earns $20. A student can earn quite a few Hoot Bucks in both methods, which means that those who behave well but perform poorly academically (or vice versa) can still earn class money. Hoot Bucks can be spent on in-class, no-prep incentives such as “sitting at the teacher’s desk” or “taking shoes off for a day”.

I find that these incentives often serve as the means by which students choose ways to make their classroom experience more comfortable. Several students frequently choose to take their shoes off for a day, which has helped a few of them focus better in recent months. I also have students that love sitting in the bean bag chairs, and I find them more focused when they’re in the bean bag chairs than when they’re in their desks. Giving them this choice helps the students learn self-regulation, because they can see that they learn better with the change to their environment.

Hoot bucks can also be taken away when students misbehave. If a student rushes through a project and misses several instructions, I might give them a $50 Speeding Ticket. If they’re chronically forgetting important textbooks or items for lessons, such as their Mandolin for their music lessons, I will charge them an increasing fee. The Mandolin issue, for example, is widespread in my class. The price for forgetting the Mandolin for the weekly music lesson, which always happens on the same day, started at $10, then went up to $20, and now it’s up to $40. By increasing the price, the punishment becomes more severe while still limiting the negative communication I might have with parents.

Here is a flowchart showing how students can earn income in my classroom. We are currently studying the American Revolution, which started largely because of tax increases in England, and so I have included the rent and taxes which I am using as a practical lesson for my students on taxation without representation.

Click here to see the flow chart!
3. Individual or Group Rewards?


Another important question to consider is whether a class should be rewarded as a whole or as individuals. Some teachers argue that classes are best served with whole-group rewards. This fosters competition amongst the groups and promotes positive peer pressure. Students are more likely to want to follow instructions if the whole class wishes for them to follow that instruction. Other teachers rightly recognize that this can also lead to bullying of the student who struggles with self control or neglect of the students who behave well despite the misbehavior of their group. I believe that a balance of both provides the best of both worlds while eliminating the problems surrounding the use of just one or the other.

I use a Group Point system that helps the class focus on growing as a whole group. There are three table groups of four students each in my classroom. Each table group competes against each other for group points, which can be earned by fast transitions to the next activity or by focusing well when others are distracted. The group at the end of the week with the most group points at the end of the week gets stickers. The teams, though, also work together for a whole-class reward. When the class earns a collective 60 group points for three weeks in a row, they have a popcorn movie party at the end of the day the following Friday.

There are many reasons why this method is effective. It ensures that the efforts of individual groups are recognized along with the efforts of the whole class. It also ensures that I have a means by which I can hold the whole class responsible for their behavior without having every student individually turn their card (this will be discussed more in the following section). When the whole class, and I mean truly the whole class, is involved in distracted discussion, for example, I have the whole class put their heads down for a minute. At the end of the minute, I take away three group points each. I only use this when over 75% of the class is involved in the misbehavior, and usually only for issues of talking during a silent work time or while walking through a hallway connected to other classes.

But still, it is imperative to recognize individual behavior. If I just used this system, then the 25% of the students who are following instructions would not be recognized for their behavior. By incorporating the Hoot Buck system, I support the behavior of individuals who are controlling themselves and modeling positive behavior to their classmates.

Some teachers might find the use of both really confusing. How do I decide when to use Hoot Bucks, when to have a child turn a card, and when to use Group Points? I have created another flow chart, shown below, to help explain that process.
Click here to see the flow chart!


All students, but especially those in the primary grades of elementary, thrive on structure. A great classroom management system should provide that structure. The structure will give students security and help them learn appropriate behavior for work and play. When creating a classroom management system, it is imperative that teachers consider the strengths and weaknesses of several different management systems so that they can find the one that will work best with their class. The key questions a teacher must ask are:


A). What will I do when a student misbehaves?

B). How will I respond to positive behavior?

C). Will I use individual rewards or group rewards?
When a teacher answers these questions, she or he will have a much deeper understanding of the system by which they will monitor their classroom behavior.