I got a couple requests on Facebook, to write a post about unit planning. I am NOT an expert in unit planning. I do my best. What I am, is a hyper-organized, teacher who likes a solid plan before diving in and teaching my classes something, but I like to have enough flexibility to add and take away as I teach. Here, I will share what I've learned (so far) about unit planning, and a unit plan that I have used a few times, and that has worked well for me in my core French classes.
What I've learned about unit planning (so far):
Start with the “skills” you want your students to learn in mind: This is different than starting with the end product in mind, since maybe the learning that will be displayed may not be a physical product. For example, you will see with my unit plan “Je me presente” I don’t have one final task or product, but several tasks focused around skills. One example is being able to talk about what you like to do in your free time. Another skill looks at voicing agreement, or disagreement. These skills are transferable, and are included in the skills required for level A1 expectations for the DELF exam. For me, measuring the students’ ability, is more important than measuring a student product. For me, the end is usually a series of skills in line with the CEFR foci, which become our learning goal and success criteria. I always plan to answer the question, “Why do we have to learn this?” If I can’t answer that, then I don’t have a solid goal in place for the students. My end goals always have purpose and relevance to my students lives.
Create activities/ lessons that help students meet your objectives: I get my activities and lessons from anywhere! Sometime theres a good reading in a resource I have, and I can use that. Sometimes, I will make the resource up for the students to use. Once, I used a Tim Hortons job application in French and we did a lesson about filling in forms in French!
Figure out what resources you want/ need to use: Do you have a great reading resource? Did you buy a really cool looking game? Students bugging you to make slime in class? Use what you have, trade with colleagues, gather what you can, and this can help you plan your lessons.
Plan your materials: What is the progression of the lessons? They have to have the vocal before jumping into a procedural activity. Think about every lesson building on the one before.
When possible, plan something interdisciplinary: For one unit, my colleague was doing a shoe collection and fund-raiser for Senegal. I planned with him to add a shipping vocabulary and letter component for the kids my students were already invested in helping. And the letters were a hit! The students in Senegal loved having someone in Canada to write to. Totally authentic because the student needed to work in French to ship the shoes and explain the project to the corresponding charity in Africa.
My example unit plan:
My plans have changed a lot through the years. And they change every time I write a new one. I don’t usually use a template: I use a 3 column table to plan my activities in my unit. I used to be very detailed in writing down my unit plans. I made sure that I had ALL the information I needed written out, and I NEVER deviated from the plan. This was very difficult to maintain because teaching does not always let you follow your plan— especially in terms of timelines. So you will see in my two examples, how different my plans have become. (Click the image to see the plan- Prêt à voyager, Grade 7 and 8 Core FSL)
Template are a really good way to write a unit plan, and as a newer teacher, I used this template often to write my plans for Core French. It was helpful to me for a number of reasons:
- If I used the template, I knew that I wouldn’t miss any of the important parts of planning.
- The template helped organize and streamline my thinking when planning. Kept planning from being overwhelming.
- Having a template that I had on my computer, made it easier to change part of the unit that may not of worked, or the timeline I had initially put. Which made it easier for me to follow the plan.
Now that I feel more comfortable teaching, and more confident with the Core French curriculum, I just type out what I think is needed to get to the ending skills. Now, most of the time, I plan out the big lesson activities (especially if they take a lot of preparation) and the little practice games/ strategies based on Oral communication are not included in the unit plan. But, as I was learning to be more comfortable and confident in unit planning, I found a few ready made templates really helpful.
- Lakehead universtiy template- I didn’t go to Lakehead, but this was a great comprehensive template with tons of information on it. No guesswork in creating a good plan.
- TLC Unit Planner UOIT This was great for me to get my thoughts down, and figure out the process to which I would get my students to the end result. It can be hard to figure out what lessons you need to plan, and how to break down teaching each step. And this helped me see the progression of my lessons into an overall cohesive unit.
- My own template: is a mixture of the templates that I had used in the past. It has all the information I need, and its not too rigid. I can add to it when I need to.
Secret sharing time!: I don’t always sit down and plan a whole unit at once. Sometimes, I know where I want the students to end up, so I plan lessons based on where the students are. I collect them, and they become a unit for me to use at a later time for my classes. There is no rule saying that your units have to be completely planned before you teach them. You can try things, and then add them to your plan. Sometimes, you’ll have a winner of an activity, and you will add it to the unit. And sometimes, you’ll try and make a weird game that was too confusing and not fun… And you won’t add it to the unit.
Like much of teaching, unit planning is about creativity, adaptation and meeting your students where they are. You can have the most amazingly written and meticulously planned unit, and it can flop. Or, you can have fun with it, keep it loose, and come up with some pretty great activities and units.