10 Takeaways from “The Keys”

keysThis summer I am privileged to be participating in a discussion ofThe Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Designby Donna Clementi and Laura Terrill. While some of the discussion takes place in an on-air Google Hangout, additional conversations occur on Twitter using the #langbook hashtag. If you haven’t yet read this text, I recommend it highly and look forward to your thoughts!

After this week’s discussion of Chapter 2, I decided to challenge myself by the authors’ template according to a a French 2 unit on “Loisirs” that I’m currently working on. Although I have been developing my own thematic units for the past couple of years, I realized how much I didn’t know when reading this chapter.  While I found this work both challenging and time-consuming, I think that using this template is an excellent way for curriculum designers to ensure that their work is addressing current best practices in unit design.

Here are my take-aways as well as the template I completed.

  1. Writing Essential Questions is difficult! As many of my colleagues mentioned, I found writing an essential question to be one of the most challenging aspects to creating this template.  Like many others, I am not very experienced in writing these types of questions.  While I’m not entirely satisfied with the one I’ve written, I was reassured by the authors’ suggestion that we see our EQ’s as “works in progress” while we are completing our templates.
  2. Backwards design is the way to go. By writing the goals and then a description of the summative assessment/IPA, the teacher has a framework for all of the work that follows.  
  3. There are a lot of great resources for selecting meaningful themes.  Since I had trouble identifying which 21st Century Global themes my topic would fall under, I used the AP theme, Contemporary Life, instead.  Clementi and Terrill recommend that teachers use AP or IB themes when they teach these programs.
  4. I need to enlarge my understanding of IPA’s. While my original understanding of an IPA was that the tasks were completed within a short time period at the end of a unit, I have learned that many of my colleagues, including the authors of this book, spread the tasks throughout a unit.  Although I will give an end of unit IPA with the tasks I’ve included under Summative Performance Assessment, many of the formative assessments that I’m including throughout the unit may be considered Summative assessments by others.
  5. Sometimes the 3 P’s aren’t so simple.  Usually I find identifying a product, practice and perspective for the cultural component of a unit to be fairly straightforward. However, I struggled to identify a product related to leisure time.  This particular topic lends itself to considering Francophone practices in terms of leisure activities and perspectives in terms of the types of leisure activities are chosen, how much time is spent on leisure, etc., but I had trouble identifying a specific product to name in the template.  I’d love to hear your suggestions!
  6. I have more learning to do before I understand the Language Comparison component of the 5 C’s.  While I plan on revisiting this section of the template, I felt that the murkiness of my understanding here would not prevent me from developing an effective thematic unit.
  7. I am woefully ignorant regarding the Common Core.   Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’ve never taken a close look at the Common Core State Standards.  Fortunately for me, this text includes an appendix with the English Language Arts Common Core Standards.  It was easy to select a few that would be addressed in this unit.
  8. The Toolbox belongs at the end. I have seen districts use this template, but begin the process by filling in the vocabulary and structures that are to be included in the unit. As a result, the content of these units becomes a study of the language features rather than the cultural and content that is suggested by the standards. By waiting until the communicative goals, performance-based assessments and cultural comparisons have been established, we ensure that our students view their increased understanding of  vocabulary and grammatical structures as a means to achieving culturally-relevant communication rather than an end in itself.
  9. This template is brilliant! I can’t imagine the work that went into creating a single template that incorporated the 5 C’s, the 3 P’s, 2st century Global/AP or IB themes, the Common Core standards, and IPA’s, but these authors have obviously succeeded.  I look forward to using this template in the future to create curriculum with colleagues and design additional units.  
  10. This work is challenging. Completing this template was a lot of work, but as I once heard @burgessdave say, “It’s not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be worth it.”  I know that my unit design will continue to improve as I become more adept at including all of the information required in this template.  As usual, I’d appreciate any feedback you have to offer and I will share the actual unit plan and materials I’ve created as soon as I add the finishing touches.

Image Credit: actfl.org

 

23 thoughts on “10 Takeaways from “The Keys”

  1. Dawn

    Thank you so much for sharing! I had a similar opportunity to delve into the Keys to Planning about two years ago and would echo your take-aways. This is definitely a project for long-term teacher development, and the template (while overwhelming at first) is truly brilliant and comprehensive.

    I have been thinking about your essential question for this unit. As you mentioned, they are always a work in progress. Perhaps you could try something along the lines of: “What influences how people choose to spend their time?” You could say “free time,” but I think leaving out the word “free” gives you & your students more freedom to explore things like the availability of free time. You might also tie your EQ to the idea of boredom, since you have a video that touches that aspect of choosing an activity; perhaps you could get a more provocative question that way. (I didn’t connect the listed activity to anything in your resource list, so I hope you’ll share that one, too!)

    Good luck as you continue to refine your unit and as you teach it!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks for the great suggestions! I’m away from the computer for a few days, but I’ll definitely incorporate your ideas! I found several videos along the lines of “ce que je fais quand je m’ennuie” but unfortunately my favorite one was taken down the day after I found it. It’s my bad for not saving it!

      Reply
  2. Holly Hammerle

    Congratulations on all of your exciting changes! As always, this was really interesting to read. The template terrified me a bit though, ha ha. It would be wonderful if there were an online curriculum with units and IPA based on this latest research that covered multiple levels. I bet a lot of people would be happy to pay annually for that. I am very grateful that you share your work and insight. I have learned so much from you!

    Reply
  3. Patty Clavijo

    Thank you Lisa, once again, for sharing you insights and learning. I am currently attending the California Language Teacher Summer Seminar in Santa Barbara and we are delving into IPAs for a week, working with ACTFL’s ‘implementing Integrated Performance Assessments. I have shared your blog with my colleagues because you have really done such a great job being honest in your learning, you are so creative, generous, and simply inspirational. I always used to feel so inadequate because I didn’t know how to do everything right away. I am so happy that you show me HOW to learn and implement new ideas in a realistic and successful approach over time. Now I know I am on the rigth path, I am really helping my students learn more effectively as a result and I am more confindent in sharing my work with others with honesty and humility. Merci !!!!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Have a great time at the conference– I just saw the hashtag on Twitter, so I’m going to check it out!

      Reply
  4. Debbie

    Lisa, how about using a pétanque set as a product? I follow lots of pétanque FB stuff and people of all ages are shown playing. Would that work? I used to think pétanque was for a certain generation.

    Reply
  5. Rebecca

    A pleasure to read your musings on this template, Madame! I also find the language comparisons a bit confusing. For example, Terrill lists “Eclairage durable” & “S’engager” for a unit on biodiversity and “hôtel de Ville” &”Ville, village” for a unit called living in the city. Are these considered untranslatables? Or words that by their very structure show a big difference between French & English (with hôtel de ville being a sort of false cognate)? My language comparisons for a leisure unit are “la joie de vivre” and “Métro, boulot, dodo,” both of which I consider to be unique expressions that express some French thinking through language we don’t have in English. And maybe I got them from Terrill originally?!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Rebecca. Like you, I’m not exactly sure why she chose those expressions. By the time I got to that part of the template, I just didn’t have the energy to give it a lot of thought! I did see “metro, boulot, dodo” in one of her units that I found online, but I’m not sure if “joie de vivre” was included. I don’t think Metro, Boulot, Dodo will come up in my unit, but I can see how the expresssion (along with “joie de vivre”) would be important. I’ll have a better idea which expressions are confusing to the kids once I’m actually teaching this unit, but I guess that’s not the point of the template–it’s supposed to be completed in advance, of course. I learned a lot from completing the template and I think my future units will be better as a result. I’m not sure that as an individual teacher I’ll take the time to fill out the entire template for each unit–although I think it would be a great way for a curriculum committee to co-create units. What are your thoughts?

      Reply
      1. Rebecca Blouwolff

        I think I will not be able to sleep at night if I don’t have completed unit templates ready for the opening of school – it’s just the way I am, for better and for worse! However, I have a new template (from Thomas Sauer) that makes a bit more of a bridge from the unit to lesson level and I am considering using that to rewrite my French 7 curriculum. I think the benefit of creating the filled template is also for use beyond our own classrooms, so that others can study the unit and adapt it to their own teaching. That said, ACTFL’s template has a jillion boxes and simpler ones could still accomplish a UbD-style plan with less work.

        Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      There is a Google Hangout on Tuesday evenings (available on youtube) and some discussion takes place during the hangout at the #langcamp2016 Google community. There are also conversations on Twitter using #langbook. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  6. Barb Milliken

    You are amazing. I love that even the master feels she needs to learn more…..that key to improve is what we passionate veteran teachers live for, n’est-ce pas?

    I just returned from a week long Proficiency Academy and I ordered this book. I have used your IPA’s in the past two years but now I am brave enough to try and do them from the start and plan more thematically. I will start in September with your Unit 1 lesson 1 Novice IPA for French 1. I think using your unit will help me get my feet wet until I feel more confident trying to develop my own. For that, I thank you abundantly.

    Many French teachers brought up your site as their salvation. We are all in awe at how much time you must put into reflection and planning. Thank you for being our MUSE!

    Barb Milliken

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      I can’t tell you what it meant to me to see your generous comments. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave these kind words and please keep in touch about how your work goes! Lisa

      Reply
  7. Barb Milliken

    Hi Stephanie,

    It was called a “Proficiency Academy” and it was a week long course on proficiency based classrooms. It was put on by MAFla and the key instructors were Greg Duncan for us novices and Tom Sauer for the intermediates. My head is spinning after it! Very overwhelming but awesome.

    Reply
  8. Donna Clementi

    I am just catching up on email (again), and read your post about Keys. It was so thoughtful and so timely as we are making final edits to a second edition. We also continue to be challenged by certain aspects of the template, and have worked diligently to give more complete explanations based on what we have learned since the Keys book was printed. Thank you for sharing your reflection. Using the IPA as a foundation for unit design is indeed a journey….with bumps along the way. That said, we hear from teachers that the template does change the way they plan, focusing on meaningful goals for understanding and communicating in a world language, and deepening the understanding of the people who speak that language and their culture. Giving learners the gift of time to explore a theme and topic in depth results in deeper learning, learning that lasts. My new favorite quote is: ““Nature does not hurry and yet everything is accomplished.” –Lao Tsu

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you so much for your comment! As you must know your book has been a life-changer for so many of us! I would absolutely echo the sentiments of those who found that the template changes the way they plan. I don’t think I’ll ever plan a unit without it! I’ve been spreading the word about the book and template and will look forward to reading the second edition. Thank you so much for your hard work on creating this invaluable resource! Lisa

      Reply

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