The Big Ideas are the concepts or principles central to the lesson. They anchor or connect all of the smaller
ideas in a lesson.
- Facilitate the broadest acquistion of knowledge
- Are the keys that unlock a content area for a wide range of learners
- Allow educators to focus their resources on the essential elements in a lesson
- Leads to assessment of important learning outcomes
Kammeenui and Carnin, 1998
An idea is big if it helps us make sense of lots of otherwise meaningless, isolated, inert, or confusing facts. A big idea is a way of usefully seeing connections, not just another piece of knowledge. It is more like a lens for better looking than something additionally seen; more like a theme than the facts of the story…A true idea doesn’t end thought, it activates it. It has the power to raise questions and generate learning. - Grant Wiggins
Sample Big Ideas
Science: All matter is made up of three universal particles.
Math: Patterns exist in math. Numbers or objects repeat in predictable ways that allow us to explore relationships and make generalizations.
English Language Arts: In the transformation from oral language to the written word, universal truths of human nature were formalized.
CC: Kip Baker, 1981
Essential questions are the core questions that allow students to probe for deeper meaning. They are the questions that students should be asking as they explore the main ideas in the topic.
Questions are Essential when they:
- are important enough to argue about
- are at the heart of the subject
- cause students to wonder or think more deeply
- recur - and should recur
- raise more questions then they answer
- thought provoking and sustain engaged inquiry
- often raise important conceptual or strategic issues in the subject
- can provide an organizing purpose for meaningful & connected learning
Sample Essentail Questions
Science: If the atom is mostly space, why can I sit on a chair? If positive protons repel each other, why does the nucleus stay together?
Math: How will I use estimations in real life situations? What makes an estimate reasonable?
English Language Arts: How do the heroes of literature reflect the values of the time? What journey will I take to become my own hero?
The objectives are the understandings, insights or skills students are expected to develop by the end of this lesson.
Setting clear objectives helps students understand the purpose of the work ahead
When setting objectives:
- Be specific, but not too restrictive
- Comminucate the learning objectives to students
- Connect to previous learning
- Engage students in setting personal objectives
Classroom Instruction That Works, McREL 2011