10 Guidelines for Planning Units
Use these strategies when planning big-picture units.
One of the best ways to be successful in the classroom is plan things out ahead of time. Use the strategies below to prepare an overview of what you are going to teach for the school year and how you will fit major topics and specific concepts together. Refer to the Sample Lesson Plan for New Teachers for a model of how you can structure each individual lesson.
Strategies to Get You Started
- Become familiar with your school district's curriculum guide, benchmarks, and state standards.
- List the major curriculum categories.
- Summarize the curriculum by listing single concepts within major categories.
- List the concepts in these categories for both the grade level above and the grade level below the one you are currently teaching. Doing this will give you a sense of continuum, helping you become more informed when answering parental questions. It will also save you planning time if you teach a different grade level in the future.
- Select the category you will teach first. Combine any concepts that are appropriate to teach together and arrange the concepts using any of the following criteria:
- obvious chronological, sequential, ascending, or descending order
- availability of materials
- your teaching style
- Use a three-ring binder to organize your materials by unit.
- Locate teaching materials appropriate for each concept, such as relevant newspaper articles, trade books, Web sites, field trip information, and lists of guest speakers. Include all materials related to the concept (it's easier to discard or return materials than to relocate them later). Because your students' needs will vary from class to class, it is a good idea to keep a wide variety of materials on hand.
- Sketch out your unit plan by listing concepts, objectives, and expected student outcomes.
- Review all materials gathered for each concept and list those you actually plan to use.
- Break the unit into lessons containing learning activities that match curriculum objectives. Gather ideas for student projects, demonstrations, problem-solving activities, and other hands-on learning activities.
Two Essential Questions
Ask yourself these two essential questions when planning a unit:
- What do I want my students to know or be able to do at the end of the unit?
- How will I know if they know it or are able to do it?
The answer to the first question comes from your school district's course curriculum guide. In most districts, a committee of experienced teachers and administrators has written the curriculum guides. Try to view the curriculum guide requirements as a minimum level of student competencies. Most importantly, be flexible, and remember to challenge all students to reach their potential. Never water down your curriculum in the name of remediation. To help all students really succeed, challenge them with meaningful learning experiences in which they must apply information and actively solve problems.
Adapted from The New Teacher's Complete Sourcebook: Middle School by Paula Naegle.