Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
March 25, 2010

Planning Engaging Units in All Subjects

By Victoria Jasztal


    "We're building and racing rubber-band propelled vehicles? What will we do at the Renaissance Festival next Friday? ...When is Mr. Jasztal coming in to launch rockets with our class? ...We will be simulating craters with flour, chocolate powder, and rocks?  ...Who painted that, Leonardo DaVinci or Michelangelo?"

    These questions and more have arisen in my classroom this year, generating a great deal of excitement by my students. By keeping these questions in mind, and tapping into their multiple intelligences, I have planned some tremendous units across the curriculum that address a variety of learning styles. Read the rest of this post to find some great resources and steps for planning superior units in any subject area!

    Jsword

    Students learned about sword fighting and jousting when going to the (Tampa) Bay Area Renaissance Festival this past Friday.

    Sweave 

    They also learned about basket weaving, completing a variety of hands-on activities while at the festival.

    Catapult 

    During our force and motion unit, our class has constructed catapults... not from a list of instructions, but from what they have learned about them over the course of the unit.

    When planning a unit, take these important steps:

    • What will be the duration of your unit? (Is it a mini-unit or a longer unit? 1 week? 2 weeks? 1 month?)
    • Determine important vocabulary.
    • Determine essential questions that will drive your learning.
    • What kinds of smaller or larger research projects can your students complete to deepen their knowledge?
    • Are there any demonstrations you can complete towards the beginning of the unit? (I would not complete anything too "hands-on" or complex early on in a unit because you want your students to learn important concepts and work toward something.) 
    • What kinds of technological connections can your students make over the course of a unit?
    • Determine what kinds of hands-on lessons or experiments will be involved towards the end of the unit.
    • What important information will your students need to know for a unit test prior to completing the more hands-on, complex lessons? I give unit tests that students have to pass with an 80% before moving on to those lessons because I want to know if they have listened to the best of their capability.
    • How can students express themselves artistically and musically over the course of the unit?
    • Can students go on field trips at the middle or end of the unit? Which places nearby address the standards you are covering? If heading somewhere is not possible, can your students take a virtual field trip?
    • Last, are there any other teachers whom you can collaborate with? I often collaborate with the fifth grade advanced level teacher.

    IMG_6157

    Something Compelling About Multiple Intelligences:

    Howard Gardner developed eight Multiple Intelligences that should, to an extent, drive instruction:

    Education World has a great page about the different intelligences. Here is an overview of those intelligences, in my words:

    • Linguistic: Some students enjoy developing as well as reading stories and have a sensitivity to the meaning and order of words.
    • Logical-Mathematical: Students with this intelligence enjoy working with numbers. They also perform especially well when it comes to constructing models. With the catapults we are building, I listened to the vocabulary some logical-mathematical students were using- "Let's start with making this quadrilateral shape. We may try constructing a triangular pyramid. Or should we have a rectangular base instead?"
    • Musical: To help these students, there are people who release music for educational purposes, such as Mr. Duey, Tim Bedley (Rockin' the Standards), and even the group They May Be Giants. FMA Live offers songs on their website as well, which covers force and motion standards in particular. School House Rock has also been an excellent resource for educators for over thirty years!
    • Spatial: Spatial intelligence also comes out when students construct prototypes such as catapults and rockets. Students may also enjoy developing brochures (for example, of their own aquariums they are opening based on what they learned in a short oceanography unit).
    • Bodily-kinesthetic: Mimes, dancers, and athletes fit in this category. Acting out a concept also fits. The game Science Diction that I have mentioned truly enriches bodily-kinethetic learners.
    • Interpersonal: This is an intelligence where students perceive the feelings of other individuals.
    • Intrapersonal: On the other hand, this intelligence is where students have a great understanding of who they are. 
    • Naturalist: This intelligence refers to the ability to recognize specific types of plants, minerals, and animals. Students with this intelligence are "in touch" with nature. 

    Knowing the intelligences of your students can help you to develop tremendous units.

    IMG_6354

    A quick overview of my Force and Motion Unit:

    • The key vocabulary for the unit includes: potential energy, kinetic energy, inertia, momentum, force, gravity, gravitational pull, friction, and velocity. I make sure those words are used when I introduce the experiments at the end of the unit.
    • The main question for the unit has been: What is the difference between potential and kinetic energy? That is the main essential question for each experiment we complete, as students work with rubber bands, marbles, and air-propelling machines.
    • The unit test has multiple choice questions, short response questions, and especially questions where students can develop experiments and sketch different concepts they learned. One question my students answered had them sketch a basic roller coaster design, labeling where there was potential and kinetic energy.
    • I had students head home and research the science behind catapults, rockets, and roller coasters. This was a simple project, as at the very least, they had to write a bulleted list of five facts for each topic. They were also encouraged to print out experiments from the Internet and sketch a design of a catapult they could use for our catapult challenge. 
    • I found music that can compliment my lessons from FMA Live and Mr. Duey.
    • At the end of the unit, students construct rubber-band propelled vehicles with CD wheels, catapults (mainly from their own design), model rockets they launch outside with an air-propelled launching machine, kites, and marble roller coasters, at the very least.

    Delicious!

    Do you have a Delicious bookmark? Mine is located here. Delicious is a "social bookmarking" website that helps educators to "keep, share, and discover the best of the Web". It is a website where you can develop different tags (categories) like "Physics" or "Oceanography", downloading a small component to your computer where you can click on a logo and save websites to your tagged lists.

    Delicious bookmarks can help you to save website resources as you complete various units over the course of the year. If your computer crashed, you will not lose your links because they are saved to the Internet. Check out my links at my Delicious website to see the variety of website resources I use over the course of the school year with different units. 

    Utilize Others:

    I am always willing to tell others that Beth Newingham, Angela Bunyi, Heather Renz, Laura Candler, and others have strengthened my teaching. It is always acceptable to adapt the ideas of other educators, especially if they have proved useful in instruction. 


    Focusing on Scholastic's Resources:

    Scholastic logo1

    Take advantage of Lesson Plans on Scholastic.com. These lessons may help you take the next step to planning units. Also be sure to look at the Popular Themes for the School Year on this page to find theme-based lesson plans for each month of the year..

    Although the following books are intended for a variety of different units, they have been some of the greatest resources I have purchased from Scholastic over the years. They are the perfect for enriching and challenging your students with hands-on activities:

    Bodybook Coffee Everymin Firsts Teachsci Readstr

    • The Body Book includes printables of different parts of the human body that students can cut out, color, and create three-dimensional models.
    • Coffee Can Science was written by Steve "Dirtmeister" Tomacek and includes experiments that students can complete with coffee cans in almost every area of science. Another book I have from the "Dirtmeister" has to do with using plastic bags rather than coffee cans.
    • Although Every Minute on Earth by Steve and Matthew Murrie does not necessarily include hands-on experiments, it includes a plethora of intriguing facts having to do with several topics, including science-related topics. Scholastic Book of Firsts is a similar-type book with several intriguing facts! 
    • Teaching Science: Yes, You Can! offers a variety of easy teacher-led demonstrations and hands-on investigations for your students to complete. 
    • Reading Strategy Lessons for Science and Social Studies by Laura Robb includes practical, research-based lessons that teachers can use to help their students conquer enriching texts in these content areas.

    Of course there are many more professional books out there that you can use, yet these are some of the resources that have impressed me greatly over time.

    For math resources, which I have not discussed much in this post, I highly recommend anything from Marilyn Burns.

    Hopefully this post has guided you in the right direction!

    Peace,
    Victoria


    "We're building and racing rubber-band propelled vehicles? What will we do at the Renaissance Festival next Friday? ...When is Mr. Jasztal coming in to launch rockets with our class? ...We will be simulating craters with flour, chocolate powder, and rocks?  ...Who painted that, Leonardo DaVinci or Michelangelo?"

    These questions and more have arisen in my classroom this year, generating a great deal of excitement by my students. By keeping these questions in mind, and tapping into their multiple intelligences, I have planned some tremendous units across the curriculum that address a variety of learning styles. Read the rest of this post to find some great resources and steps for planning superior units in any subject area!

    Jsword

    Students learned about sword fighting and jousting when going to the (Tampa) Bay Area Renaissance Festival this past Friday.

    Sweave 

    They also learned about basket weaving, completing a variety of hands-on activities while at the festival.

    Catapult 

    During our force and motion unit, our class has constructed catapults... not from a list of instructions, but from what they have learned about them over the course of the unit.

    When planning a unit, take these important steps:

    • What will be the duration of your unit? (Is it a mini-unit or a longer unit? 1 week? 2 weeks? 1 month?)
    • Determine important vocabulary.
    • Determine essential questions that will drive your learning.
    • What kinds of smaller or larger research projects can your students complete to deepen their knowledge?
    • Are there any demonstrations you can complete towards the beginning of the unit? (I would not complete anything too "hands-on" or complex early on in a unit because you want your students to learn important concepts and work toward something.) 
    • What kinds of technological connections can your students make over the course of a unit?
    • Determine what kinds of hands-on lessons or experiments will be involved towards the end of the unit.
    • What important information will your students need to know for a unit test prior to completing the more hands-on, complex lessons? I give unit tests that students have to pass with an 80% before moving on to those lessons because I want to know if they have listened to the best of their capability.
    • How can students express themselves artistically and musically over the course of the unit?
    • Can students go on field trips at the middle or end of the unit? Which places nearby address the standards you are covering? If heading somewhere is not possible, can your students take a virtual field trip?
    • Last, are there any other teachers whom you can collaborate with? I often collaborate with the fifth grade advanced level teacher.

    IMG_6157

    Something Compelling About Multiple Intelligences:

    Howard Gardner developed eight Multiple Intelligences that should, to an extent, drive instruction:

    Education World has a great page about the different intelligences. Here is an overview of those intelligences, in my words:

    • Linguistic: Some students enjoy developing as well as reading stories and have a sensitivity to the meaning and order of words.
    • Logical-Mathematical: Students with this intelligence enjoy working with numbers. They also perform especially well when it comes to constructing models. With the catapults we are building, I listened to the vocabulary some logical-mathematical students were using- "Let's start with making this quadrilateral shape. We may try constructing a triangular pyramid. Or should we have a rectangular base instead?"
    • Musical: To help these students, there are people who release music for educational purposes, such as Mr. Duey, Tim Bedley (Rockin' the Standards), and even the group They May Be Giants. FMA Live offers songs on their website as well, which covers force and motion standards in particular. School House Rock has also been an excellent resource for educators for over thirty years!
    • Spatial: Spatial intelligence also comes out when students construct prototypes such as catapults and rockets. Students may also enjoy developing brochures (for example, of their own aquariums they are opening based on what they learned in a short oceanography unit).
    • Bodily-kinesthetic: Mimes, dancers, and athletes fit in this category. Acting out a concept also fits. The game Science Diction that I have mentioned truly enriches bodily-kinethetic learners.
    • Interpersonal: This is an intelligence where students perceive the feelings of other individuals.
    • Intrapersonal: On the other hand, this intelligence is where students have a great understanding of who they are. 
    • Naturalist: This intelligence refers to the ability to recognize specific types of plants, minerals, and animals. Students with this intelligence are "in touch" with nature. 

    Knowing the intelligences of your students can help you to develop tremendous units.

    IMG_6354

    A quick overview of my Force and Motion Unit:

    • The key vocabulary for the unit includes: potential energy, kinetic energy, inertia, momentum, force, gravity, gravitational pull, friction, and velocity. I make sure those words are used when I introduce the experiments at the end of the unit.
    • The main question for the unit has been: What is the difference between potential and kinetic energy? That is the main essential question for each experiment we complete, as students work with rubber bands, marbles, and air-propelling machines.
    • The unit test has multiple choice questions, short response questions, and especially questions where students can develop experiments and sketch different concepts they learned. One question my students answered had them sketch a basic roller coaster design, labeling where there was potential and kinetic energy.
    • I had students head home and research the science behind catapults, rockets, and roller coasters. This was a simple project, as at the very least, they had to write a bulleted list of five facts for each topic. They were also encouraged to print out experiments from the Internet and sketch a design of a catapult they could use for our catapult challenge. 
    • I found music that can compliment my lessons from FMA Live and Mr. Duey.
    • At the end of the unit, students construct rubber-band propelled vehicles with CD wheels, catapults (mainly from their own design), model rockets they launch outside with an air-propelled launching machine, kites, and marble roller coasters, at the very least.

    Delicious!

    Do you have a Delicious bookmark? Mine is located here. Delicious is a "social bookmarking" website that helps educators to "keep, share, and discover the best of the Web". It is a website where you can develop different tags (categories) like "Physics" or "Oceanography", downloading a small component to your computer where you can click on a logo and save websites to your tagged lists.

    Delicious bookmarks can help you to save website resources as you complete various units over the course of the year. If your computer crashed, you will not lose your links because they are saved to the Internet. Check out my links at my Delicious website to see the variety of website resources I use over the course of the school year with different units. 

    Utilize Others:

    I am always willing to tell others that Beth Newingham, Angela Bunyi, Heather Renz, Laura Candler, and others have strengthened my teaching. It is always acceptable to adapt the ideas of other educators, especially if they have proved useful in instruction. 


    Focusing on Scholastic's Resources:

    Scholastic logo1

    Take advantage of Lesson Plans on Scholastic.com. These lessons may help you take the next step to planning units. Also be sure to look at the Popular Themes for the School Year on this page to find theme-based lesson plans for each month of the year..

    Although the following books are intended for a variety of different units, they have been some of the greatest resources I have purchased from Scholastic over the years. They are the perfect for enriching and challenging your students with hands-on activities:

    Bodybook Coffee Everymin Firsts Teachsci Readstr

    • The Body Book includes printables of different parts of the human body that students can cut out, color, and create three-dimensional models.
    • Coffee Can Science was written by Steve "Dirtmeister" Tomacek and includes experiments that students can complete with coffee cans in almost every area of science. Another book I have from the "Dirtmeister" has to do with using plastic bags rather than coffee cans.
    • Although Every Minute on Earth by Steve and Matthew Murrie does not necessarily include hands-on experiments, it includes a plethora of intriguing facts having to do with several topics, including science-related topics. Scholastic Book of Firsts is a similar-type book with several intriguing facts! 
    • Teaching Science: Yes, You Can! offers a variety of easy teacher-led demonstrations and hands-on investigations for your students to complete. 
    • Reading Strategy Lessons for Science and Social Studies by Laura Robb includes practical, research-based lessons that teachers can use to help their students conquer enriching texts in these content areas.

    Of course there are many more professional books out there that you can use, yet these are some of the resources that have impressed me greatly over time.

    For math resources, which I have not discussed much in this post, I highly recommend anything from Marilyn Burns.

    Hopefully this post has guided you in the right direction!

    Peace,
    Victoria

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

Victoria's Most Recent Posts
Blog Post
Saying Farewell as Your Grades 3-5 Advisor

I wanted to take a few moments to take the time to thank you for visiting the Classroom Solutions weblog at Scholastic this past year. Being the grades 3-5 teacher advisor was a "dream come true" for me, as I have loved Scholastic since I indulged in The Baby-Sitters Club series as a child. Posting the weekly topics was an intriguing opportunity. Read more to read about this whirlwind of a year, from the time I found out I was going to be an advisor to the bittersweet departure yesterday.

By Victoria Jasztal
June 11, 2010
Blog Post
1,400 minutes... How do you measure a year?

Yesterday was the day of our end-of-the-year fourth grade awards ceremony, and I was thinking to myself, How do you measure a year? There are challenges we all face, whether they are academic challenges or we must handle difficult situations with our students. Then of course, there are times where we encounter great joy. There are times where we do not feel as if we have planned enough, while on the other hand, there are times in which we plan too much. Then obviously, of course, there are the field trips, and this year, we had our fair share of them, from our local one to the environmental center in Weeki Wachee to the "major ones" such as the Renaissance Festival, Gainesville, and St. Augustine.

Though I have not officially said "Goodbye" to my students as fourth graders, it was still difficult as they watched the 45-minute slideshow, I presented the classroom awards, and I went on stage to present the academic achievement awards such as Superintendent's List (Never below an A for the year), Principal's List ("A" average in all subjects for the year, though B's can be on the report card), and Honor Roll (A's and B's for the year). I felt a phenomenal sense of pride for my students as I presented the eight Superintendent's List awards, the two for Principal's List, and another eight for Honor Roll. My students have achieved a lot, and they should feel a great sense of honor. Read on to hear more about how this special day progressed.

By Victoria Jasztal
June 3, 2010
Blog Post
Reflecting on the School Year

At the end of the school year, most teachers reflect about what their students' have learned and what they can change to improve instruction the next time around. Every year, I sit down for a while and think about what I want to do differently in the coming year.

By Victoria Jasztal
May 27, 2010
Blog Post
Ensuring a Tremendous End to a Memorable School Year

In just three weeks, the 2009-2010 school year will be coming to an end, and prior to then, I plan on doing a few things to ensure it is a memorable time. This week, I invite for you to read about my plans, some of which you can incorporate on your own. Some you will be able to incorporate this year; others you can try for next year!

By Victoria Jasztal
May 19, 2010
Blog Post
Incorporate Math and Science with an Outdoor Camping Day Event

In my parting weeks as your grades 3-5 teacher advisor, I want to advise something important to all teachers: DON’T EVER BE AFRAID TO TAKE RISKS. Last year, I envisioned having a day of camping with my fourth grade students on our school’s nature trail. Today, it became a reality as my students participated in the first outdoor camping event I ever hosted. I am grateful I took the risk. Read on to see the ideas I came up with for this year's event.

By Victoria Jasztal
May 12, 2010
Blog Post
Embrace Creative Technology With These Websites

Do you want to encourage a greater use of technology in your classroom? Whether you want your students to create their own comics, use digital cameras, type information in graphic organizers online, edit photos, or make an online slide show, the links that follow can be particularly useful!

By Victoria Jasztal
May 5, 2010
My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us