A Remarkable Journey (Part 1 of 2)

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Teachers will understand the components and strategies underlying one particular method for designing units of instruction.

Big Idea

Producing a high-quality unit of study can be challenging and involve multiple facets but, when done well, can result in remarkable and memorable results!

Learner Goals

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

This particular lesson has a focus that is a bit different than the rest. From a teacher-teacher point-of-view, I hope to articulate the process that I use as I plan various units of study and the underlying thinking that drives it. In particular, visitors to this lesson will be able to:

1. understand the basic approach of the "Backward Planning" design method

2. identify the key facets to my unit plan of instruction

3. analyze how I approach implementing the "Backward Planning" design method to my instructional context

(Insert lovely and dreamy music...)

Imagine that you could go just about anywhere in the world for a dream vacation. What would define your decisions of destination, activities, and excursions? Let me propose that the thinking that goes into planning this remarkable journey is not unlike planning for remarkable and memorable learning.  Let me explain...

Vacations and School: A Tale of Two Journeys

The "Unit Map": An Itinerary for Fun and Exploration!

To continue with the analogy of planning a dream vacation, it would be ludicrous (in many cases) to just show up for your flight/cruise/whatever without having made the proper plans including an itinerary, reservations for various hotels, excursions, and what not. In this fashion, I create a planning document that I call a "unit map" (see sample PDF). This is intended for my students as a study guide given at the beginning of the unit and referenced regularly throughout.

Following are both the macroscopic overview and microscopic look...

The Supporting Cast of Resources

This section serves to characterize various resources that I have assimilated into my method for unit planning.

1. Classroom "10": This reference guide is a checklist, more or less, to identify the attributes of a high quality unit and lesson plan. In this installment, I focus on the unit planning level. Here is the actual document and then my explanation (video) for how I implement into my practice.

2. Habits of Mind: Used elsewhere in my posted lessons, this document outlines the various attitudinal and character attributes that are essential for setting a positive and nurturing class climate.

3. Differentiated Instruction: In this video I discuss my approach to lead students to identify their unique learning style (according to this document) that is important when considering how performance assessments can be personalized to suit each student (where possible).

To advance to Part 2 of this 2-part series, click here