Backward Design for World Languages

Flowchart for the Backward Design Planning for Curriculum that is described throughout the page

Download the Backward Design Image
Download Sample Intercultural Units and Planning Templates

Backward Design of Intercultural Units

Backward Design means planning instruction with the end goals in mind. This three-step framework helps educators implement a proficiency-based language program over a realistic timeline, based on the current program model. The Backward Design framework was developed by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins. Educators can find a concise overview of the backward design process here

Note that Backward Design is an integrated, non-linear process, so moving backward and forward throughout the planning process and periodic modifications are expected. The following resouces and research aim to provide clarity and support to educators in creating intercultural units, assessments and lessons that build learners' language acquisition, proficiency and intercultural competence. All curriculum design is a local decision.

How Do I Start?

  Step 1 of Backward Design: Identify Learning Outcomes
When planning an intercultural unit, the first step is to determine the learning outcomes or goals and what learners should know and be able to do at the end of the unit. The outcomes are framed in a real-world or authentic communicative and cultural context. The following steps can guide this process:

1. Become Familiar with Ohio's World Languages and Cultures Learning Standards 

2. View Curriculum Maps Created by Ohio World Language Teachers
3. Download Ohio's Intercultural Unit Plan Template
  • PDF, Word - Step-by-Step Planning Template with links and detailed explanations
  • PDF, Word - Simplified Planning Template

4. View Samples of Intercultural Units Across Proficiency Levels
These intercultural units were created by Ohio teachers, using the step-by-step unit plan template. Teachers determined an intercultural learning outcome and then created vertical unit plans across multiple proficiency levels. 
5. Choose the Theme, Topics and Essential Questions for the Unit
An essential question is open-ended, intellectually engaging, and sparks further communication and deeper thinking or reflection. Well-structured essential questions will guide the intercultural outcomes of the unit. Once learning outcomes for the unit have been chosen, the next step is to determine how learners will show evidence of meeting these outcomes. There are a variety of types of evidence that could be used thoughout the learning process, such as formative assessments, quizzes, homework, self-reflection and self-assessment.

In addition to formative assessments, a larger summative assessment can also be given. This might be an Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA), a project, a report, a role play, a video or a presentation. Summative assessments will be scored with performance or proficiency rubrics. The entire assessment could be given at the end of the unit, or various components of the assessment could be given throughout the unit for time management. The following steps can guide this process:
1. Learn the Fundamentals of World Language Assessment
2. Use the Ohio Rubrics to Inform Task Design, Score Assessments and Provide Feedback
3. Design the Tasks for the Summative Performance Assessment(s)
4. Choose Authentic Cultural Materials for the Unit Assessment After determining the learning outcomes for the unit and the tasks for the summative assessment, the final step is to plan and scaffold activities that will help learners meet the unit goals. By knowing in advance the learning outcomes and the assessment for the unit, the teacher can target content and activities in a more relevant and effective way. The following steps can guide this process:

1. Create Learning Experiences Related to the Unit Outcomes and Summative Assessment(s)

2. Aim for 90%+ of Classroom Learning to Take Place in the Target Language. Read the ACTFL statement.
     "Learners can only acquire (internalize) language when they hear large quantities of input that the teacher provides orally that is interesting, a little beyond students' current level of competence [ i + 1 ], and not grammatically sequenced. (Krashen, 1982). Note that the [ i ] refers to the current competence of the learner and the [ +1 ] represents the next level of competence beyond where the learner is now.

     Target language use is necessary but not sufficient for increasing one’s proficiency; that is, use of the target language must be accompanied by a variety of strategies to facilitate comprehension and support meaning making.  Comprehensible input and comprehensible output go hand-in-hand."

3. Find High-Quality Lessons and Materials That Have Already Been Curated

4. Present Grammar and Vocabulary in a Meaningful Context

  • Introduce grammar or structures in a meaningful context, as chunks of language, or as a concept in order to impact language acquisition. Focus on meaning before form. Read the ACTFL research.

  • Learn about the PACE model for contextualized input.

  • Review the ACTFL Performance Descriptors to set realistic expectations for what Novice, Intermediate and Advanced learners can do as far as language control/accuracy, vocabulary and communicative functions.
5. Incorporate Higher Order Thinking and Deeper Reflection Into Lessons and Activities
6. Help Learners Find Relevance in the Learning to Their Current or Future Lives


Last Modified: 2/24/2023 3:11:42 PM