Sunday, April 22, 2012

Unit Planning

This is in response to the question posed on Teaching Paradox: How do you plan your units? The ideas are coming fast and furious, so forgive me if this does not make sense.

When I first started teaching inquiry-based units, I viewed the Investigation Points as the main targets, or big ideas of the unit. As a result I would try to divide the units by three or four and go from there. I felt it was a good way to go.
As an aside: if units were planned this way, maybe they should all be five weeks with "blank" weeks in there as padding to either finish projects, special weeks like International Literacy Week, or maybe there is something you wanted to spend more time on; that week could give you time to review. I would also like to see two weeks in the beginning of the year being out of the unit schedule to get to know the students and have them learn routines and rules.
Last year I talked to a guy while taking an IB course and he said that he planned around the PYP Key Concepts. For example, taking my current unit, he would change the questions and use them to drive the unit.

Unit Name: The Ever Changing EarthCentral Idea:
The natural features of the Earth have been formed over time and are still changing
Investigation Points:
1.The different landforms that make up planet Earth
2.How the Earth has changed, and is continuing to change
3.Why the Earth changes
4.Landforms dictate the way people live

- Form - What is it like? - What is it like when the Earth changes?
- Function - How does it work? - What makes the Earth change? or How are landforms made?

I tried this way this school year, and I found it works OK, but I find myself not really following those questions. I feel that this is a good way to plan activities however and it helps me brainstorm.
For my current unit I have gone back to the first way, but I noticed that the Central Idea is very similar to Investigation Points 2 & 3 and I was a little worried as I started the unit, but something funny happened; the students started getting very involved in it and began asking questions. Some of the girls even started crushing rocks during recess. How can you plan for that? Other students have brought in books and rock samples from home for display in the classroom.

So I have gone with the students and have let them take me to where they want to go more than I have in past units. I don't know if it is what I am doing, or if it is the content, but I feel the kids are really loving this unit.

I want to use learning targets more in the class, but I think those are more for activities rather than the unit.

I would also like to hear more feedback and opinions about how teachers plan their units. One thing I know I would love to do more of is collaboration. Maybe I could make a wiki for teachers to help each other plan their units.

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