Sunday, October 9, 2011

Unit cohesion is definitely lacking

A review of the year so far

I'm continuing my work this year on tightening my unit plans and making my curriculum an actual curriculum, instead of things I do one after the other.  The particular focus this year is on the ELA class.  We're training with Annette from the ISD, in accordance with the roll-out of the Common Core standards.  I've gotten better every year I've done it.  Except this year.  My units don't feel like anything.

I have no recollection of how I made my units last year feel like units, except through extensive repetition of the theme.  This leads me to wonder if my units were actually as good as I thought they were.  I've gone back over my unit plans and my lesson plans.  The unit plans, at least for Spanish class, look good on paper: a common theme, usually based on a cultural learning goal, attached to three to five communicative learning goals, each supported by a variety of structured input and output learning activities.  Most of them have several learning styles built in to them.  Most of them are everything I think they're supposed to be.

The lesson plans are less clear--they're working documents, so I often use shorthand phrases for activities (usually) detailed in the unit plans.  But sometimes they're burst-of-inspiration, let's-see-how-this-flies activities dreamed up just before Monday morning.  And of course they don't reflect 100% how the lessons were taught.  Towards the end of the school year, I stopped planning past halfway through Thursday, knowing full well that something in every class was going to keep me from getting any further than that.

But I watch similar lessons, based off of very similar (nearly identical) unit plans, this year, and I think to myself, what are we doing here?  What are we building up to?  I don't think I've lost the fire or the creative spark, but everything feels flatter than it did last year, more purposeless, less directed.  And if I feel it, you can bet the students are feeling it.

So the solution is to...what?  My next idea is to make communicative projects a more integral part of each unit's assessment.  As I type this, it occurs to me that once upon a time I had as a goal to do with chapter tests entirely, and have each unit's assessment BE the communicative project: a presentation, an interview, something which would require a range of communicative competencies to complete successfully.   So maybe by building the projects back into the unit plans, into the position of primacy I've always intended they should have, I'll be able to give the units the direction I feel they're currently lacking.


Anonymous said...

T. Chapman
There are major changes in the educational world today. The school in which I teach does not allow teachers any room to create units. The closest thing we have to units are during the reading class. We have a theme that last six days. Everything is already mapped out for us, all we have to do is teach. I always personlize my lesson to make it fun for the students. We are involved in professional development sessions to teach us how to teach the lesson according to the manual.

JohnCosby said...

T. Chapman,

Who created your unit plans originally? If there's one thing we can learn from the "Harry Potter" series, it's to never trust a curriculum whose brain you can't see.