Over the fall/winter of 2013-14, the content specialists in the Standards and Instructional Support office worked with educators across the state of Colorado to build instructional units based on select curriculum overview samples. Teams of teachers authored units for each grade and content area of the Colorado Academic Standards.
Below, are sample instructional units for high school mathematics, reading, writing, and communicating, science, social studies, comprehensive health, visual arts, drama/theatre, dance, and music. The units include learning experiences, teacher and student resources, assessment ideas, and differentiation options.
As examples, these units are intended to provide support for teachers, schools, and districts as they make their own local decisions around the best instructional plans and practices for all students. Click here to view additional High School curriculum overview samples and write your own instructional units using the Colorado based template.
For more information about the samples, contact
Standards and Instructional Support
Unit Title: Happy is the New Healthy (Center School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on mental/emotional wellness with an emphasis on advocacy. Across the unit’s 3-4 week duration, students will define various issues of mental/emotional health (depression, anxiety and self-harm), in order to familiarize themselves with a multitude of resources to support mental/emotional health, and improve communication skills to meaningfully advocate for mental/emotional health on behalf of themselves and others. Additionally, students will leave with an understanding of the impact diversity and respect play in creating a more positive environment within their school.
Unit Title: Goal Setting, Self-Management, and Positive Decision Making (Gunnison Watershed School District)
Unit Description: This unit looks at substance abuse through the lenses of healthy goal setting, self-management, and positive decision making; behaviors that impact relationships throughout a person’s life. During this 3-4 week unit, students will identify positive support systems, both in their lives and their community, as well as analyze the risks and consequences of substance abuse. Students will reflect upon a variety of influences in their lives, their community, and in larger society, as well as consider the interactions of these influences. The unit culminates in a “Talk Show” designed to allow students to demonstrate all they have learned about substance use/abuse and interpersonal relationships.
Unit Title: Suicide Prevention (Positive Choices and Options) (Adams Five Star School District)
Unit Description: This unit allows students to develop an awareness of suicide prevention and become advocates for themselves and others by using effective communication skills to connect with emotions such as depression, anxiety and stress. During this 1-2 week unit, students will integrate prior knowledge of these emotions in order to recognize when distress may potentially become a warning sign for suicide. The unit culminates with a performance assessment that requires students to demonstrate effective communication and advocacy skills by creating a public service announcement to increase high school students’ awareness of suicide prevention.
Fundamental Pathway Unit Title: Improvising Within a Structure (Colorado Springs School District, Colorado Dance Education Association, and Littleton School District)
Unit Description: This unit explores beginning improvisational dance technique. Across the unit students will learn basic elements of loco motor skills, incorporate the concepts of space, time, and energy; experiment with floor patterns, while collaborating in small groups to create a dance that links improvised movements to a choreographic structure. The unit culminates in students preparing a dance recital of basic chorographic patterns including reflection on the creative process used to develop the choreography.
Unit Title: Scripted Works (Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Colorado Springs School District, and Woodland Park School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will develop the Fundamental strand of the scripted work overview. The Fundamental strand focuses on the students’ exploring personal emotional connections to a scripted work through the creation of a play. Students will be asked to analyze and refine performances through the lens of social, political, historical, and/or environmental factors. The unit will culminate in a scene performance in which students portray a character with a range of emotions while considering the context of social, political, historical, and/or environmental factors that faces the character.
Algebra I Unit Title: Power to the Variable (Lake County School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on a formal introduction to exponential functions. The students start with exploring exponential growth through geometric sequences that either grow or decay. As the students learn about geometric sequences, they continually compare them to arithmetic sequences, building to linear and exponential functions. Student fluency with these functions improves through multiple experiences with tables, graphs, equations and contexts. Then students examine the differences in the growth rates of linear, exponential, and polynomial functions leading to a formal proof of how linear functions grow by constant differences and exponential functions grow by common factors.
Mathematics 1 Unit Title: Transform the World (South Routt School District)
Unit Description: This unit investigates transformations, congruence, and proof. Students begin with informal explorations of rigid transformations. Students then use precise mathematical definitions of rotations, translations and reflections to determine if each of these rigid transformations is a function. The transformation work of this unit leads students to develop formal proofs about congruency, parallel lines, triangle relationships, and parallelograms.
Ensemble Unit Title: The Music in You (Denver Public School District and Metro State University of Denver)
Unit Description: In this unit students will investigate the process of selection, preparation and performing music of various cultures and genres and how it influences our personal musical growth. Students will use evaluative tools to identify and react to musical and expressive elements. This unit will culminate in a final concert showcasing music of a variety of cultures and genres for the school and/or community.
Ensemble Unit Title: ‘Arranging’ Your Folder (Jefferson County School District, Center School District, Adams-Arapahoe School District, and Metro State University of Denver)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will focus on how arrangements enhance the structural foundation of music. Students groups will be asked to take a melody from a known piece of music and create a thoughtful (re)arrangement of that piece. Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of specific musical skills including rhythm, key, instrumentation, and expressive elements. The unit culminates in a final class or concert performance that will include their new arrangements and program notes that share their creative processes with the audience.
Ensemble Unit Title: Emotion Through Rhythm (Colorado Springs School District, Woodland Park School District, Center School District, Adams-Arapahoe School District, and Metro State University of Denver)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will understand, perform, and write rhythmic patterns in both simple and compound meters while keeping a steady beat. Students will explore common time through the rhythm tree, focusing on duration/ratio between note values. Students will apply their knowledge of duration/ratio to various rhythmic patterns that include all note values in simple and compound meters. This unit will culminate in a final performance of percussive storytelling.
Performance Based Unit Title: Explore the Possibilities: Getting to Know Your Instrument (Jefferson County School District, St. Vrain School District, and Metro State University of Denver)
Unit Description: This unit is designed for those students who did not participate in (performance) music programs during middle school. It is designed so as to be utilized in and relevant for multiple settings (i.e., band, choir, orchestra, guitar, keyboard, technology, etc.). The unit has students actually making music as quickly as possible and exploring the possibilities of sounds that can be created and techniques that can be applied/utilized with a particular instrument (within the-teacher set- limits of the instrument) . The unit culminates in a final performance in which students apply their exploratory learning into a composition of their creating.
12th Grade Unit Title: Responding to Diversity (Gunnison Watershed School District)
Unit Description: In this 4-6 week unit, students will explore the diversity of literature within three literary movements: Romanticism, Post-Colonialism, and Modernism. Students will analyze how the movements reveal diverse themes, cultural contexts, style, and purposes in world literature which will allow students to develop new perspectives toward literature and literary movements. The culminating project will be an essay and oral presentation asking students to connect past literature and literary movements to modern texts.
11th Grade Unit Title: The Power of Story (Mapleton School District)
Unit Description: Throughout this 4-6 week unit, students explore bias, both in their personal lives and within the literature they study. Students will analyze how personal beliefs and biases influence the way they interact with texts they read and which they produce. The unit culminates with a personal portfolio project that includes a personal narrative, literary analysis, reflections, and an argument piece in which the students will make recommendations concerning a literature curriculum.
10th Grade Unit Title: E Pluribus Unum, Multiple Voices - Heroism (Bayfield School District)
Unit Description: This 4-6 week unit focuses on how cultural experiences, societal influences, and adversity impact individuals in those cultures. Through collaborative inquiry and sharing thoughts and opinions, students may examine diverse texts that explore human responses to adverse situations and shape the definition of "hero” in those cultures. Students may demonstrate their understanding of how cultural and societal influences shape and define characters by writing a narrative piece in which they synthesize the ideas and language of the characters they have studied.
10th Grade Unit Title: E Pluribus Unum, Single Voice - Identity (Bayfield School District)
Unit Description: This 4-6 week unit focuses on how cultural experiences, societal influences, and adversity impact individuals in those cultures. Through collaborative inquiry and sharing thoughts and opinions, students may examine diverse texts by a single author that explore “identity” in those cultures. Students may demonstrate their understanding of how cultural and societal influences shape and define identity by writing their own narrative piece.
9th Grade Unit Title: Uncovering Context (Lake County School District)
Unit Description: In this 4-6 week unit, students will read an extended anchor text (e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird) exploring various themes: race, gender, age, etc. As they progress through the unit, students will read a variety of texts on the issues raised. The nonfiction / informational texts range from news reports, research, and infographics to opinion pieces, murals and art work, poems, and short stories. Students will analyze this rich variety of texts so they can understand that writers use different modes, genres, and techniques to express their perspectives on given issues. Class discussions will allow students to explore how different contexts impact our perspectives and how we write about issues or themes in the world around us. The unit will culminate with students writing a multi-genre text expressing their own perspective on an issue of inequity relevant to them.. (This unit is also effective scaffolding for the unit that follows in which students will present an argument on justice.)
Biology Unit Title: Population Ecology (Monte Vista School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on ecological interactions between populations of organisms and their environment. The unit describes biotic interactions, trophic levels and energy flow, cycles of matter, abiotic and biotic resources, and population and community dynamics. Beginning with ecosystem components, across the unit students will explore ecological concepts such as biotic and abiotic factors, biomes, niche, keystone species, communities, populations, ecosystems, and the biosphere. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to create a presentation for a local authority (county commissioner, city council, zoning board, etc.) to present an analysis of the impacts of the eradication of a top level consumer
Chemistry Unit Title: Chemical Reactions (Cherry Creek School District, Harrison School District, Colorado Education Initiative)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on chemical changes. The unit begins by differentiating between physical and chemical changes and then focuses on chemical equations as a means to represent, identify, and quantify a chemical reaction. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to investigate a reaction between zinc metal and HCl in order to identify the useful product, state the reaction type, and determine how much zinc would be required to make enough of this product.
Earth Science Unit Title: Earth's Changing Surface (Lake County School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on our restless planet. Beginning with plate tectonic theory, across the unit students will explore technological evidence/advances that have furthered knowledge of this theory, natural hazards associated with plate tectonics, and resources and landforms that result from tectonic forces. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to create a community proposal based on a specific role/perspective and present to a governing body for future planning of a geologically active area. They will need to consider potential hazards and implications of development based on technological evidence of plate tectonic theory.
Physics Unit Title: Forms and Transformations of Energy (Harrision School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on forms of energy and how those forms are transformed and conserved in a variety of situations. Beginning with the foundation of energy conservation, students explain and calculate how various types of energy (kinetic, potential, mechanical, thermal, chemical, nuclear, electrical, and radiant, etc.) are used in real life scenarios. They identify efficient forms of energy used to do work and recognize that the transformations involved conserve instead of “lose” energy. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to investigate ways top decrease energy consumption for their school and present a report to their local school board.
Civics Unit Title: Securing the Blessings of Liberty (Montrose County School District)
Unit Description: This unit explores the historical events and the role of government in shaping U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens to participate in policy decision making. The unit begins with a look at political parties and the role that party platforms play in policy decisions. Next, students will study monetary and fiscal policy decisions and how citizens may react to and/or influence those decisions. Next, students examine domestic and foreign issues/polices, the tools used by the federal government to make those decisions, and the ways in which citizens may influence policy decisions. The unit culminates with students will creating a newscast that illustrates the social and economic conditions, and priorities of the people related to an ongoing domestic or foreign issue.
Economics Unit Title: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions (Denver Public School District, Douglas County School District, and Colorado Council for Economics Education)
Unit Description: This is an introductory unit on economics. Economics is the science that studies the choices of people, businesses, and governments trying to satisfy their wants in a world of scarcity. Students will be introduced to many fundamental concepts and principles of economic reasoning. Through real-world and personal financial literacy examples, these concepts are explored at the student level to increase relevancy and application. Students will be asked to weigh the costs and benefits of various decisions in order to begin to think like economists. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to use their economic knowledge in pursuit of a college scholarship.
Geography Unit Title: Who's Earth Is It...Anyway? (Ellicott School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on energy resources and energy production at state, national, and global levels and considers the policies and implications of both non-renewable and sustainable forms of energy. The unit begins with a focus on individual energy uses and fuel source usage; asking students to consider what, where, and how (much) energy they use. During the 6-8 weeks of the unit, students will then examine state, national, and international efforts to develop, maintain, and sustain the dominant existing sources of energy (i.e., fossil and hydroelectric); examining both the economic and environmental factors and concerns connected with these efforts. From there, the unit then moves on to parallel state, national and global policies and programs that incentivize the development of sustainable/renewable forms of energy; looking at both the conflicts and opportunities for cooperation inherent in these efforts. The learning experiences build to a performance assessment that asks students to take a position on a particular energy source in Colorado and to present that position/perspective to a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing; making a compelling case for the development of and investment in this resource.
U.S. History Unit Title: Change is a Comin' (Durango School District)
Unit Description: Definitions of national unity based on romantic ideals of justice for all are often tested by populations who question the existence and breadth of civil liberties. Through this unit, students will develop an understanding of how changes in the perceptions of civil rights and liberties have led to an infringement on people’s civil rights. Students will look at changes over the past 150 years in the United States by studying events such as women’s suffrage, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, minority rights, etc. Finally, students will discover how individuals and groups have affected social change in the structures of power and authority through civic engagement.
World History Unit Title: How We Relate (Valley School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on the ways in which international expansion led to increased human interactions; thereby, contributing to practices and policies that limited and/or expanded human rights. Students will study how the beliefs about the rights of people have changed over time (1400’s – present) and how economic, political, geographic factors/policies, and religious beliefs had an impact on the infringement on human rights. In addition, students will investigate how nations reacted (or didn’t react) to the policies that marginalized cultures and violated human rights. Finally, student learning should be focused on the changing nature of human rights violations and how nations have fought to preserve the rights of all people.
Unit Title: Abstraction as Interpretation (Colorado Springs School District, Woodland Park School District, and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students engage in the process of abstracting an idea, place, figure, and/or object to explore how the laws and rules of visual art can influence or change compositional choices. Students analyze the compositional styles of modern and contemporary abstract artists; developing their own process for reconstructing the world around them as they experiment with the expressive features and characteristics of art to determine compositional design and create meaning. The unit culminates in the creation of an art show.
Unit Title: Drawing Illusion: Personal Place Perspective (Pueblo County School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students will engage in the process of drawing using formulas and conventions to accurately render space on a two-dimensional plane. Students will create a visual illusion of a cityscape by using the characteristics and expressive features of art in perspective drawings. The unit culminates in the creation of an individual artwork of a futuristic cityscape. Students will analyze the relationship between historical and contemporary art pieces to provide insight into approaches to rendering depth and space and when and where art was created.
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