How does a unit get created? This is a question that always comes up when talking about strategies or activities. So, today, I'll share a little bit about the process I use to create a unit for my social studies class. This is step one in the Backwards Design process.
I don't get the luxury of starting from scratch. We are given the units with standards already attached. In another district I worked in, the social studies teachers met and grouped the standards together to form units. So, we can talk about both ways today.
If you get the advantage of starting from scratch it can be more work, but nicer in the long run. When starting from scratch I print out all of the standards and either cut them apart, or place them onto something larger (like sticky notes). Then I start grouping them together with standards that make sense placed together.
Sometimes there are standards that are thought of as enduring standards. Those are topics that are not taught as a unit, but themes and things the students should really be working all the time. Or, if they are placed into a unit they also should be working on them in other units. An example would be geography or map skills.
In my current district we are given the units that already have standards attached to them (at one point there was a group or committee that created units). In this case I'm looking through the units and standards that are a part of our district curriculum and I want to make sure I understand, what do the students need to be able to do for this unit, what do they need to understand.
This is just step 1 in the Backwards Design process. To see all of the steps I created this easy to read chart explaining all three steps. I think that it is easy to skip steps 1 and 2 if the district or school you work in has already created units, but without deeply understanding the units you are teaching, how will you decide on strategies and lessons that are meaningful and get the biggest bang for your buck?