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Question: How Do I Plan When the Planning Has Been Done for Me?
Part 3: Orienting to a Unit
This is part three of a six-part series on preparing to teach the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum. We are zooming in from the wide-angle year-long view, which we covered in the first entry and the module-level view, which we covered in the second entry. Here we cover unit-level planning. In subsequent entries we’ll cover lesson-level planning and the Reading Foundations Skills Block.
As we mentioned in previous entries, preparing to teach a curriculum that has already been written requires a different kind of planning than writing lessons from scratch. But just because the curriculum is already written, doesn’t mean you don’t have to plan! It’s just a different kind of planning that requires you to think about how to make the curriculum your own and how to make it the best it can be for your students.
There are three units in each module. Each unit contributes to the story of the module by focusing instruction around the specific literacy skills necessary to holistically study the module topic. Reviewing unit-level documents—the Unit Overviews and the Additional Language and Literacy Block Unit Overview (for Grades 3–5 teachers only) will bring more of the details into focus as you continue the process of “zooming in” closer and closer to daily lessons.
It is important to read all three Unit Overviews to get a sense of the big picture of how the three units build on each other and how they fit together to tell the story of the module. The Unit-at-a-Glance charts are an especially important component of the Unit Overviews. Most teachers reference these charts frequently to understand the arc of each unit, how lessons build toward assessments, the recommended scaffolding (including key anchor charts), the protocols used across the unit, and when each text is introduced and how much time is recommended to spend on each. When reviewing the Unit Overviews, it is also a good idea to refer to the K–5 Recommended Text and Other Resources List to ensure that your classroom has the materials students will need to build their knowledge of the module topic.
You will want to analyze all three units of a module; however, you may opt to take a collaborative approach to this work. For example, with your grade-level team and/or other support specialists who are involved with your class (e.g., English as a second language teachers), you might consider a “jigsaw” structure to divide and conquer the analysis of the three units, with each teacher completing one of the Orienting to a Unit Planning Task Cards (hit the download button at the top of this page for the task card). Build in time to share information with each other and revisit this information on your own before teaching.
Reviewing all three units in a module lends itself well to a collaborative approach.
Whether reviewing the Unit Overviews on your own or as a team, if your time is limited:
- Prioritize analyzing how the units work together to create the arc of the entire module.
- For Grades K–2, consider how the entire unit scaffolds to the formal unit assessment and what additional assessment you might gather throughout the unit (e.g., through use of checklists).
- For Grades 3–5, chunk the unit into two halves and focus on how the lessons in each half scaffold toward the assessments: What is expected of students, and how do the lessons get them there?
For Grades 3–5, this is also the time to review the Additional Language and Literacy Block Unit Overview, as this block connects to Module Lessons at the unit level (as opposed to the Labs, which connect at the module level). In a unit of the ALL Block, students dig deeper into the texts introduced in the Module Lessons and practice the skills introduced.
Hit the Download button at the top of this page for an Orienting to a Unit Planning Task Card—print out the task card and use the questions to help you analyze the important overview documents for the unit.
If you’re looking for more information, check out our website or our book Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum. If you have questions related to this blog, please email us at: ELcurriculumblog@eleducation.org.