Unit plans are essential to efficient teaching. They are indispensable to ensure a good teaching-learning progression. As Head of Department I remember the very long hours spent on my desk full of resources, textbooks and websites addressees to elaborate my department unit plans. It usually took me weeks to prepare solid unit plans that I would use and reuse for planning my department lessons. So why bother preparing unit plans if it sounds such a waste of time? It’s true that preparing unit plans requires a lot of time, critical thinking, organization and patience but once they are ready to use you won’t have to worry too much about planning. And if you are in charge of a department you could divide the work! Don’t endorse all the responsibilities for preparing schemes of work but ask your colleagues to give you a hand for such-and-such units. Have your colleagues to work on units they like. Not only will it help you with the burden but it will also enhance your team collaborative skills.
Unit plans should give you an overview of what you will be teaching during the year and if they are done well you will save a huge amount of time during the year. Just a glance at your unit plans should give you a clear idea on how to teach every single lesson with your students. Ask yourself these questions: What am I going to teach in this unit? What are the teaching-learning objectives? What are my students going to learn? These questions should be the starting point when you plan your unit plans. Usually unit plans follow a similar pattern whatever the school, as they will consist of general teaching objectives, an overview of day-by-day lesson activities, differentiated learning objectives, resources and homework.
The first thing to do when you start preparing them is to get a calendar and to divide the year into well-balanced units that will cover your entire curriculum. When you are at that stage of dividing the year, remember that some units will take longer to teach than others as some grammatical concepts will be more difficult to grasp for your students, so you should always allow a couple of extra days on your unit plans so that your teaching can run smoothly. Don’t forget to also include students’ projects, courseworks, visits, end of unit tests and mock exams. You should also consult your colleagues to make sure that your planning won’t be a problem for theirs.
Once you know when you are going to teach what and once you’ve checked that your planning will ensure an efficient progression you need to have a look on materialand resources you have at your disposal. Don’t forget of course to use real authentic material like magazines, newspapers, objects or postcards etc. (Check my article on that topic for more details)Then combine this authentic material with your school textbook. Try to make your lessons more engaging by using a wide variety of resources. You could also work in collaboration with other departments and ask for example the Science department to lend you a skeleton when you’ll be working on the body parts.
With these resources at your disposal now you should be able to organize them in such a way that they will serve your teaching objectives. For each lesson on your unit plans you will decide which activities will best suit your students. This stage will require a good deal of critical thinking to ensure that the activities and resources meet the requirements of your teaching/learning objectives.
The tendency we have when we start teaching is that we often design great innovative colorful complex resources and activities that we hope will be motivating for our students but most of the time they prove to be hard to use or aren’t adapted to our students’ abilities. That’s why preparing unit plan in advance is so important to readapt our planning to suit our learners’ ability but also to stick better to the curriculum.
Planning units by units? Ready. Planning lessons by lessons? All right. Resources? Done. Well the magic can now operate within the class!