how to create unit plans

how to create unit plans

How to create Unit plans: a step-by-step explanation

Teaching can be a really fun experience, but where do we start?  We are always tempted to start by the fun part of it like designing resources or actually teaching. However the first step to consider is creating Unit plans. Let’s face it, that’s probably not the funniest part of the job but that is certainly a crucial element of teaching if we want things to work in class. Unit plans are like a mind-map for teachers. It is a necessary tool to help us plan lessons that will develop our students’ learning and help them reach their goals.  You should start your unit plans with easy questions in mind:

 

  1. What topic I am going to teach and why?
  2. How does it fit in my module/unit?
  3. What are my teaching objectives?
  4. What do I want my students to learn and achieve?
  5. How can it be progressive and well-sequenced?
  6. What assessment tools can I use for AFL and AOL?
  7. Which material should I use to serve my purpose?

 

How to create unit plans

If you are able to answer these questions, then you are ready to get started. Do not underestimate the importance of Unit plans as they will guide your teaching and avoid achievement gaps in learning. So what do we do now?

  1. Think your Unit plans as a puzzle where objectives will be your top one priority. Define general objectives to be taught over a certain period of time and then define sib-objectives that will help you with your day-to-day lesson planning.
  2. Once you have clearly defined your teaching objectives, think about where this fits in your curriculum. Your units have to be progressive and logical. Make sure you know your students’ prior knowledge to ensure effectiveness in their learning.
  3. Gather material that will be necessary to teach for your units. Using a textbook is good but absolutely not enough. To adapt to your students’ skills, abilities and learning styles, use a wide variety of resources. You will need some time here to research resources that will serve your teaching objectives. Read articles about the units you are preparing. Observe other unit plans that have been done by others. Select resources that you can easily adapt to your students’ needs.
  4. Do not underestimate the use of authentic resources and technology. Create motivation and challenge through resources that will inspire all your students. Browse online resources that could be used in class or as projects outside the classroom.
  5. Once you have your material, organize it to prepare learning activities that will instill curiosity and challenge all your students.
  6. Differentiation is key in the teaching-learning process. So you should include a section in your schemes of work that focuses on differentiation in terms of learning styles, abilities, needs etc.
  7. How do you assess the learning? In two ways: You need to use assessment for learning and assessment of learning. Create a section in your unit plans that will mention these. The assessment for learning should be embedded in your everyday teaching. For the assessment of learning this could be done at the end of the unit through formal assessments like tests or quizzes.
  8. Time is key in planning Unit plans. Be realistic. You certainly won’t have time to teach everything you want so be ready to be flexible and add a couple of extra lessons in your Unit plans to make sure you get the right balance of teaching-learning-assessment.

 

example of unit plans
create cooperation in class

create cooperation in class

Create Cooperation in class

By an Educationalist Teacher, Blogger and coffee addict

Our Millennial students like learning through experimentations, games and projects. They are kind of allergic to any kind of lectures which has contributed to “new” teaching approaches such as cooperative learning. Cooperative learning is not a new concept though as it was popularized earlier by John Dewey in the 1920s. However the idea of group work reemerged only in the late 1970s in order to prepare students to the world of work. Nowadays the use of this technique seems to spread out again to adapt to our learners’ abilities. This technique however can be a little tricky and demands time and organization.

What is Cooperation in Class?

Cooperative Learning as opposed to competition in class, is a teaching method emphasizing the success of the group rather than the success of the individual. Students are arranged in small groups in such a way that each group mixes most able students with less able ones. The priority in such a type of method is the achievement of a task within a group of individuals.

What are the benefits of collaborative learning?

Cooperative learning is often seen by teachers as a waste of time. We often tend to believe that if we incorporate cooperative learning in our classes we won’t have time to cover the curriculum completely. Indeed creating a culture of cooperative learning is difficult. We need to think about grouping students the right way, about planning a challenging though doable task where everybody will have a part to play and we also need to think about behavior management.
By using this we try to have all students sharing their thoughts positively to solve a problem. Each and everyone of them is aimed at giving his best for the success of the group. Through cooperation students will develop interpersonal skills on top of the knowledge they will acquire. For instance they will learn how to organize themselves, how to use everyone skills and how to negotiate. These skills will be invaluable not only for classroom context but also in their everyday lives. Another advantage of Cooperative learning is that activities are more students-centered which means in other words that the teacher is only a guide in the discovery of knowledge.

How can we implement cooperative learning?

Cooperative learning is a slow process. It will not happen all by magic. You must set rules and habits and be consistent with these. Try as well to do it step by step. Don’t rush. Maybe your first step will be to have a group discussion as a starter followed by a whole class feedback, then you may want to have students to work on a project together. Your next action will be to rearrange your seating plan to make sure you have more group interaction in your lessons. Then progressively you could plan some monthly project where your students would have to think about a particular topic. Remember as well that it will probably be chaotic at the beginning but stick on your plans and after a couple of months your students will create cooperation in class.

Create competition in class

Create competition in class

Competition is a fun way to engage. Create competition in class to motivate most of them.

By an Educationalist Teacher, Blogger and coffee addict

 

Who does not like showing how much he knows about a topic? Well that is the same for our students. They want to prove what they are capable of. Therefore we have all good reasons to implement some competition spirit among our classes. However we still need to be cautious with competition as girls for instance are less receptive to competition than boys so having too much competition in a mixed gender group can be detrimental to the learning of girls as well.

Creating a suitable environment for competition

Creating a competitive environment is not an easy task as it requires some rules to avoid chaos. So before starting to play a team game you need to explain students clearly what you are expecting of them in terms of attitude and it terms of answers. For example they should be aware that calling out the answer out loud will make them lose points for their teams, being disruptive will lead to the end of the game and that you are looking for a perfect pronunciation to get the point.

Types of competitions

You can have individual competition in which students are competing against one another. This might not be the best solution as you will soon find out that whatever the type of competition the same student will be the winner. This can cause demotivation for the rest of the class. Group competitions on the other hand are better as they give everyone a chance to be part of the game and to win. It’s good for the development of their social skills and it is also valuable for emulation. You can decide to group your students in mixed abilities, or according to their acquaintances, or maybe according to their gender if you think that is suitable.

Teaching activities promoting competition

In terms of activities you can have rapidity games where students have to be the first ones to find a solution to a problem (mathematical equations, sentences to unscramble, finding the hidden message), you may use quizzes that will assess their knowledge on different areas (sport, culture, geography, music etc.) or online games with multiple choices answers etc. What we want when implementing competition is to give everyone an opportunity to win.

 

Through competition students face the reality. We live in a competitive world and learning that competition is important from a young age is part of our students’ learning journey. Competition also teaches students to struggle to reach their true potential. Their efforts will be rewarded in the end. Nonetheless competition should not be seen as an end in itself but rather as a means to acquire knowledge in a way that best suits students and we need to be cautious when implementing competition as it can be a cause of frustration for those who always fall behind the their peers.

Benefits of listening to music in class

Benefits of listening to music in class

Benefits of listening to music in class:

Let’s admit it, I am a terrible singer. I love singing under my shower but I doubt my neighbors appreciate that. Anyway. As a teacher we sometimes have to use our singing skills. Ok well maybe not singing skills but at least our musical skills. So why is music so important in the learning-teaching process? First of all it is enjoyable. Who doesn’t like listening to music once in a while? Second it’s relaxing, energizing and it helps us focus. Last but not least it helps our brain memorise and understand patterns.

How to use music in the classroom :

     1. At the beginning of a lesson

I usually play some soft music before students enter the class. By the end of the song they should be ready and on task. This is an easy routine to put in place and it helps students –and teachers to relax and be ready for the next activity. It helps them to make a transition from their previous class to yours.

     2. When students are on task

You can also play music while students are working on an activity. Sometimes having some music while reading or writing can help your students concentrate more. However for this you need to know your group well. If music is a good way to focus for some, other may need absolute silence. The best thing to do then is to ask your students what they prefer.

     3. Music as a tool for classroom management

Music can be of great help for behavior management as well. In one of my articles I mentioned the use of the Yoga Stretch to start lessons in a smooth and relaxed way. Obviously instrumental music can be used at that time to reinforce the purpose of the Yoga stretch. Your students should feel more relaxed and ready to be on task. Music will help you also with pacing your lessons. Depending on the type of activity you may require soft or punchy music. For example for brainstorming I usually use Gotyie Somebody I use to know because the rhythm sounds like a metronome. For competitive games and especially dictionary contests I sometimes play Mission Impossible to liven the pace. As background music it will all depend on the mood and attitude of my group. If I feel they need to calm down I will probably put some classical music. If on the other I want them to be more energetic I will use a pop song that will wake them up.

   4. Music for language teachers

Singing is a natural skill for human beings- well apart from me. From a young age we are surrounded by music and songs. That’s no doubt why young children love chanting and singing songs. On top of its enjoyable feature music is a good way to memorize patterns in sounds. For this reason if you are language teacher any reason is good for you to bring some music to your class. You can expose your students to real authentic language by using this tool and it will increase your students’ awareness of some grammatical structures, vocabulary and pronunciation.

 

How to plan a lesson step by step

How to plan a lesson step by step

Tips and advice on how to plan a lesson step by step

Those who are not teachers often believe that teaching just requires knowledge. However we all know that it is far from being the case. There is a lot happening on the backstage and planning is part of it. Here are some easy steps that you will probably find useful.

  1. Define the objectives of your lesson

Start with those. Ask yourself the following questions: What is the topic of the Unit? How does it fit in the Unit? This topic will usually be defined by the curriculum you follow. What do my students need to be able to do by the end of the lesson? If you are a language teacher choose specific linguistic skills and grammatical points that will need to be taught. Identify as well communication tasks that will be required. Think about their prior knowledge. What do they already know that you could use to start the lesson?

  1. Material

Check the material you have. You will probably use a textbook but this is not enough. Look for other material online and even better create your own material to suit your students’ needs and abilities. As much as possible try to find authentic documents that will trigger your students’ speaking skills and engage them more. Include technology as much as possible but don’t fall into the trap to use technology for the sake of it. Your material needs to serve your teaching objectives.

  1. How to organise your lesson plan

Have a progressive lesson. As any good story we need a beginning, a middle and an end. We usually use what we call the PPP format which means Presentation Practice and Production. It has to be progressive.

  1. Start with reviewing prior knowledge. Have a quick starter to refresh their memories such as a word search, a crisscross puzzle, a reading comprehension, a matching up activity. The starter is aimed at knowing what students already know and it can also introduce some parts of the language introduced later in the lesson.
  2. The presentation stage is the introduction to the topic. It is a teacher centered activity. Students start getting used to the new language progressively. Here we focus on receptive skills.
  3. Then short practices follow such as games to reinforce the language and to have students to integrate it. As much as possible vary the types of activities (kinesthetic, auditory, visual) and the mode of interaction (group work, pairs, individuals, whole class)
  4. Then you dig deeper to focus on grammatical skills for example. Remember that your grammar point has to be embedded naturally in the lesson. It shouldn’t come out of nowhere. You need to get students think before eliciting the grammar point so that they can integrate the grammar point.
  5. Include some practices to reinforce the grammar point.
  6. The final stage is the production. By the time you get to that stage students should already be able to use the language autonomously. In the production they use their creativity to reuse the language learned. You could have a writing activity (letter, emails, conversation), a speaking activity (role play, debate, conversations) depending on the context.
  7. Last but not least the plenary will help you check what has been learnt and what needs to be reinforced.

 

  1. How to manage your time

Timing is important. You need to evaluate how long each activity will be so that they can fit in your lesson plan. Activities for secondary school students shouldn’t last more than 10 minutes each which means you need to prepare short activities to avoid boredom and keep them on task. I also suggest that you plan more activities just in case. If you don’t do everything that was on your lesson plan, never mind you will have something ready for the following day.

 

How to tame the time in teaching? Time management tips

How to tame the time in teaching? Time management tips

“Time flies, running out of time, meeting deadlines, time management.” If these expressions sound familiar to you are probably one of the happy few in the teaching field. Time management is certainly a major issue in most careers nowadays but it seems as if teachers are the first one to suffer from the ‘lack-of-time syndrome.’ Managing time in education is indeed one of the biggest challenges, as you will need to manage your own time but also that of your students and that imposed by your other responsibilities in the school. Planning lessons, organizing the classroom, evaluating students, setting targets, checking books, behavior management issues, duties, paperwork, meetings etc are just some examples on a long list of teachers’ everyday life that make them work against the clock.

Hand writing Time Management concept with red marker on transparent wipe board.

Most teachers work over fifty hours a week and sadly only half of this time is spent on teaching, which should make us, think about prioritizing time.Setting priorities and organizing our agenda according to the main activities is crucial. We need to arrange our workload around these activities and around the impact these activities will have. To do so, use your agenda and make to do lists to decide what is important and what can wait. The first priority as a teacher should be the students which means that your do list should reflect lesson planning and the preparation of resources. Try to have as much planning done before the start of the year. Your Unit Plans or Schemes Of Work should be ready to use as well as most of your lessons. You should have a routine set in each class that will save you time in terms of organization and behavior management. If you are beginning as a teacher ask your colleagues to help you and to tell you where the resources of the department are, as it will save you a lot of time and energy.

time_management_2

You must be extra organized. Use different files and colors and know exactly where you can find your documents. Avoid procrastination and break up the paperwork into smaller units. You may decide to mark some assignments on Monday, record grades of some groups on Tuesday, check books on Wednesday, fill in any paperwork for the school on Thursday while students are under your supervision in detention and Friday could be used for parents meetings. You need to find your own balance and find what suits you best in your practice. But remember not to leave things at the last minute, as it is even more exhausting.

Last but not least: include your personal time in your agenda. As teachers we usually are perfectionist and we tend to stay our classroom until we get the work done. There’s nothing wrong with that but when you don’t even get time to get a proper break or get time for your lunch, that’s an issue. When teachers are exhausted and don’t find time to relax with their family and friends the burn out is not far. So, find time for yourself. Try to be ready to say: “That’s enough for today, it’s time for my personal care”. Finally I would also say that you should avoid bringing work at home. Bringing home piles of books of marking can be seducing after a long day but how many of these do you actually get done? And what about your work-life balance? Think about it and make sure you get the right balance to be efficient both at work and home.