Big Ideas, Essential Questions: Deepening Student Content Understanding

“Focus on the big picture” is wise advice for learners distracted by details and in danger of missing the main point of the content. Less explicit in that imperative is the notion that keeping a focus on main ideas and issues that arise from them can give the learner a structure on which to add the details or embellishments of related ideas to come to a nuanced understanding of their learning. How can teachers ensure their students grasp the most important concepts of a lesson and commit them to memory so that this essential learning becomes the bedrock on which to build further learning and deepen their understanding? We welcome articles from the content areas that show how classroom teachers design and implement lessons so that students grasp and retain the learning that can serve them as they advance grade levels and even to college.

ASCD Express is looking for short, 600–1,000-word essays on the theme “Big Ideas, Essential Questions: Deepening Student Content Understanding.” Guidelines for submissions are here; please send us your submissions to by January 22, 2013.

Laura Varlas is an ASCD project manager in publishing, and a graduate student in the secondary education: English/language arts program at George Washington University.