Home > Our Design Lab > Skills > Considering Big Ideas

Considering Big Ideas


Successful students are able to understand, process, and remember a wide variety of information. Much of the information is factual details, but these details always fit into a larger context of big ideas. Students often need guidance in identifying, understanding, and connecting these big ideas, and by providing such guidance teachers are able to expand the scope and depth of student learning.


When students are able to consider the big ideas connected to course content, their learning becomes more significant. Information that could otherwise seem arbitrary and irrelevant is placed within a larger context of universal themes. By recognizing the big ideas underlying content, students are able to make connections among topics, and in doing so are also able to deepen their comprehension of each topic. Students who are adept at recognizing and considering big ideas are prepared to perform the sort of analysis expected of advanced students, and they are able to develop their own capacity as thinking philosophers and world citizens.

Content Area Adaptations 

Considering big ideas should be relevant to every subject area, since all learning should be placed in the context of larger themes that matter to students and to humanity in general. Teachers should ask themselves questions such as “Why does this matter?”, “How is this important?”, and “Why is this interesting?” in attempting to identify the big ideas connected to an area of learning.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Predicting
  • Synthesizing
  • Visualizing

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.L.6
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.R.5
  • CCRA.R.8
  • CCRA.R.9
  • CCRA.SL.1
  • CCRA.SL.3

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Concept Maps

Concept maps are a visual representation of interrelated ideas. Creating concept maps helps students to recognize and remember the hierarchical and horizontal relationships among words and ideas, and to represent these relationships both visually and cognitively. Concepts or ideas are written in bubbles and connected by lines as appropriate....

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Building Background
  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content

Anticipation Guide

Anticipation guides consist of statements about themes from a text and ask students to evaluate their own thoughts about those themes. Anticipation guides help students build background when they think about ideas before they engage in a text. The guide also helps students to identify and connect themes as they read the text. Anticipation...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Building Background
  • Launching Into New Content
  • Reflection

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a structured activity through which students identify and solidify associations among words and concepts, and work to organize their associations into structures. By connecting and structuring their related knowledge, students develop a stronger ability to represent, retain, and recall this information efficiently and accurately...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Reflection
  • Synthesis