In my head, I’m working out about five units at once and am having quite a time focusing on one unit and keeping everything straight. And, of course, we know the virtues of graphic organizers and, hopefully, use them to often to help students organize their thoughts and break down complex tasks into manageable chunks. Sometimes, it’s hard to take practice what you know in theory, though. But, in no small thanks to the Smagorinsky’s Virtual Library of Conceptual Units that I posted about earlier this week, I’ve been more inspired to pull my scattered thoughts together into coherent unit plans. I realized the first thing I needed to do was update my planning templates to look more fun (I needed color!) and feel more organized.
So, today I spent some time updating the unit planning tools inherited from pre-service teaching days, compared them to the unit models on GeorgiaStandards.org, and tweaked them according to what I thought made most sense. Without further ado, here is my one stop planning shop:
My Planning Template Toolbox
Always start here. What are your goals? What standards do these align with? How might you assess these goals? Once you nail these objectives down, you will be able to take this simple chart and plop it straight into your unit planning template below
With your standards-aligned goals and assessment ideas in mind, begin fleshing our your unit. State goals in student-friendly terms, further develop your various formative and summative assessments, start thinking about possible writing routine and varied writing assignments, break down the tasks students will need to accomplish to successfully complete culminating assessments, add a bibliography to track where you pulled teaching resources and lesson materials, and begin the spatial organization of these tasks in a unit calendar.
Feel free to tweak this according to what feels more comfortable/makes more sense for you. I emphasized writing assessments in the same way GeorgiaStandards.org’s model units do. Ultimately, I disliked the way their template begins with reading materials instead of thinking about aligning goals with assessment.
Standard daily lesson template with room to consider a “hook”/interesting opening activity and ideas for differentiating instruction according to learning ability.
Obviously, you will be using the Common Core ELA standards and the particular language used in your state’s adaptation of those standards from the time you begin aligning learning goals with assessment possibilities. Bottom line: Know thy standards! Know them backward, foreward, by heart, and like the back of your hand. The better you know them, the better you will understand the expectations placed on you from an administrative, parental, and, for better or worse, assessment point of view.
If you plan on using some unorthodox or cutting edge techniques for helping your students reach these standards-aligned learning goals, you might want to think about armoring yourself with a rationale to back up WHY you chose a specific instructional strategy. Time consuming though it may be, finding some time to read the relevant ELA research, pull together a short bibliography, and write a rationale might help if ever you need to defend those decisions.
If you haven’t already begun doing so, I suggest starting to use the language and concepts of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a strategy for understanding and communicating hierarchies of learning tasks. This invaluable tool helps me make daily and unit-level lesson plans, create specific types of essay and test questions, and communicate more effectively the purpose of specific tasks and assignments.
Bloom’s Taxonomy helps establish a common language for understanding the process of moving learners from comprehension (remembering and understanding) to more complex processes like analyzing, evaluating, and creating (the ultimate goal!).
Jim Burke’s Academic Essentials matrix uses similar language to Bloom’s Taxonomy and provides another useful way for designing, differentiating, and visualizing the types of skills and tasks which might be used within each of Bloom’s cognitive domains (remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, creating).
My planning templates can also be accessed under the “English Units” tab. Hopefully, those five units will find their way out of my head and under that tab soon.