reverse planning

Reverse Planning: Putting Outcomes First

Determining exactly what you wish to accomplish in a lesson, and then planning how to reach that goal is the strategy behind reverse planning.

You may not realize it, but reverse planning is actually a common practice. Have you created a new design for your bedroom, planned a vacation, or created a special dinner for friends? First you imagined exactly how each special project would look, or feel, or taste, and then you planned how to accomplish that end result. You were reverse planning! Incorporating this lesson plan strategy will work as a successful teaching strategy, too.

Reverse Planning in Education

reverse planningLesson planning is often focused on the teaching process. The planning for the week, or for a unit of study, is usually centered on the curriculum and starts at the first chapter and follows through to the end of that section. Reverse planning, which is also termed backward planning or design, starts with the end, or the goal to be achieved, and allows planning to determine how to best achieve that goal.

This strategy aligns well with standards-based teaching. Teachers can refer to the stated standard that is to be met, and do reverse planning to develop the assignments, special presentations, related projects, and testing to ensure that their students are learning what they are expected to know. Your students will be motivated by having a clear goal to work toward. Reverse planning allows them to know what they need to accomplish, as well as why the classwork itself is important. “When will we ever use this?” is a question answered upfront, and students can center their learning toward an end achievement.

How to Get Started

reverse planningDoing a reverse planning for your students can begin over the summer with a review of your state standards, as well as your school district’s standards for students. After determining just what the students are expected to know, specifically the skills and concepts of your particular subject, your next step is to determine what means you will use to allow the students to show that they have learned these things. The final step is then to outline your plan to teach this information successfully. Some educators have found that reverse planning allows them to use technology and resources outside of the textbook to design their lesson plans, freeing them to make their students’ learning experience both meaningful and practical.

Just as your summer vacation plans started with a destination and then mapping out a route to get to that special spot, reverse planning will help you to begin with what your students need to learn and then plan how to teach them appropriately. Taking this backwards approach may not be easy at first, but the rewards of reverse planning for your students will be worth the effort.

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Sue Hamilton

Sue is a Pennsylvania native and graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.S. degree in English. She worked as a radio newscaster and newspaper reporter before becoming a paralegal in a small civil law firm. Reading is her passion and Sue is an avid volunteer with her community library.

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