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Designing Units for the Secondary Classroom

When sitting down to design a unit, I am always fearful that I will not create something that will work well for my students, will cover all of my content, or will be engaging and fun, keeping everyone motivated.  To remedy that fear, I created a checklist for unit planning that helps me cross all my Ts and dot all my Is!

How to design effective unit plans in the secondary classroom.
  1. Determine the number of days available for the unit.  I usually do this as part of my curriculum mapping for the course or year, but some adjustment will be needed each unit if other events have interrupted the normal schedule.
  2. Considering the number of days available, determine the perimeters of the unit of study.  If I have more time, I may choose to lengthen a time period or include an additional novel, but limited time may shorten my goals.
  3. Address the content that I want to teach.  This is NOT the same as my standards.  This is what I feel is important to help my students comprehend the big picture I am trying to teach.
  4. Match in the standards that fit the content.  Do not warp lessons to fit the standards; warp the standards to fit the lessons.  Keep in mind that the teacher is the one that best knows the content and the students, therefore the teacher knows best!
  5. Plan out the lessons that will best address the content in the time period allowed.  I love Walking Tours and Archaeology Digs, but a 2-week unit may only have room for one interactive lesson that I want to include, even though I have 4 available.
  6. Write in daily, lesson, weekly, and unit assessments.  Don't overdo this!  Remember, an assessment is simply a check on what your students know or can do.  It is NOT a test!  Oral checks, notebook prompts, exit slips, and even game play are all effective forms of assessment.
  7. Add in the fun.  Allow time in every unit for interactivity, cooperative lessons, response groups, and GAMES!  Keeping students engaged is the key to keeping them out of trouble and learning.
And finally, add in something that makes the unit worth teaching for you!  If you are bored, your students will be bored.  Don't allow that!  Insert controversy, debate, interesting articles, or anything else that you find worthwhile.  Chances are, your students will love the addition!

Happy Teaching!