Reflection on Unit Teach Experience

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UTE Reflection

Consider how teaching this unit gives you insight into teaching other units in the future. Think broadly, not in terms of teaching this unit again but how it will inform your teaching of units across other content areas and possibly in other grade levels. Use evidence to consider the planning, design, teaching and learning that takes place in ways that will inform your teaching practice.

What did you learn about designing a unit of instruction that you can apply to future unit planning? What kinds of activities/tasks seemed the most generative in terms of student learning? What are the structures of the unit plan that were the most helpful in supporting your teaching? What would you change, add or do differently in designing a unit in the future?

Backwards design
Forming routines
Over planning
Planning progressively
Technology—it will take longer than you expect! Allowing students to talk and collaborate alleviates stress to help all students Popular media and culture are good sources of engagement—make content meaningful BUT make sure to make the connection visible

While I was facilitating the unit I was highly aware of the effectiveness and benefit of using backward design. Up until the UTE I had always thought about backward design in terms of individual lessons; however, over the last two months I discovered its utility for planning and carrying out an entire unit. When we (Kylie Brigham and I) initially set out to plan the unit we thought that we should plan the entire unit, including several mini-lessons, prior to its start. We originally planned to divide the task of designing the mini-lessons between us and plan them over our Spring vacation; however, after developing our Unit Calendar, we realized that one) we had plenty of time to create the lesson plans and did not need to scramble to complete them in a week, and two) that it did not make sense to create all of lesson plans before we got a sense of how much time it would take to accomplish all of our goals for the unit. This realization, I believe, was fundamental to the success of the unit.

Kylie and I planned the lessons progressively. Each lesson was planned only a few days before it was facilitated. Each week we gauged the progress of the students towards our learning objectives and adjusted the mini-lessons to compensate for missed opportunities, or move the unit along. It was immediately apparent that integrating new technology into the unit was going to take much longer than we anticipated. The students were much less familiar with the Schoology interface (very similar to Facebook) than we predicted. As a result, we extended the introduction an extra day so that students had the opportunity to explore and familiarize themselves with its numerous features. Initially we planned on counting the students’ first Schoology post as a grade; however, when it became clear that the students still did not have a handle on the interface and the format of the responses, we used it as a learning opportunity and I treated it like a trial-run and provided the students with feedback that they could use as a reference for their next Schoology Posting Day. The need for extra time for Schoology posting continued throughout the unit, but we had already built “wiggle room” into our unit plan, so we were able to accommodate those who needed extra time and still accomplish all of our other planned tasks for the week.

In addition, progressive planning gave us the opportunity to experiment with different types of activities (whole class discussions, rote note taking, small group work/discussions, whole class activities, individual application, etc.) and determine which were most engaging and effective. Rote note taking, as expected, was the least engaging teaching method; however, we found that saturating PowerPoints with real world examples (especially those related to popular culture and current media!) kept the students engaged...
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