This 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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