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Unit Plan Reflection

Sarah DiMaria The complexity of unit planning has been working topic of improvement over the course of this very rigorous year. Now approaching the end of this year I can look back over the series of work that I have produced and reflect on the growth that I have made. At the beginning of the year unit planning was not something I was extremely comfortable with. The task seemed overwhelming to plan that much at a time and connecting each lesson before really diving into each lesson was a difficult task for me. Now nearing the end of the student teaching year I feel much more comfortable planning a full unit ahead of time. It is much easier to see connections across the entire unit, where lessons build on each other, and where students may have complications with the material. These three areas I have made great improvements over the course of this year. During TE407/408 we did a lot of work with student misconceptions and I could draw on what I remembered struggling with in high school so going into lesson planning this year I felt like I had a good handle on student misconceptions. However as I look back on what questions I thought students would ask or what topics students they would struggle with I only started to scrape the top of what questions they would ask or even how they would ask them. Now when I think about student misconceptions I think beyond just the lesson topic for that day. I try to dig into the smaller tools that the students are using within the lesson that they may struggle with. For example, if the topic was sequences and series after thinking of misconceptions related directly to that topic I would also be anticipating questions dealing with how to multiply fractions or multiply negatives or what the vocabulary first term means or about how to use

the calculator with the new topic or other smaller interworking of the material. I also have a much better concept of how a high school student asks questions when they are having a difficult time with the material. Some are direct but others do not know exactly how to articulate what they are having trouble with so deciphering their thought process is important and planning for this can be very beneficial as well. A quick check by asking them what do they already know or remember about a topic lets me clue in to what their brains are thinking about and at what level of knowledge do they already have about a topic. For example in chapter 11 about sequences and series students were asked to talk about what the words sequence and series mean to them and to generate ideas around these words before we defined them in the context of the current lesson. This allowed for a class discussion about the topic and established a starting point for the unit. In addition knowing and understanding the sequencing of the lessons has helped me anticipate misconceptions. I know what they have learned and what they have yet to learn which has helped in predicting misconceptions. This leads into yet another area that I have greatly improved on over the course of this student teaching experience, sequencing. Not only has there been an improvement within lesson sequencing but also at sequencing within a lesson. Looking back at my lessons at the beginning of the year my lesson sequences were straight from what my mentor teacher and math department had already laid out and many of my lessons would be sequenced similar to the textbook design of the material. Now approaching the end of student teaching my unit pacing is still very similar to what the department plans out however I am sequence lessons within the unit in a different order or use different material to teach the topics. My day to day lessons are sequenced differently than at the beginning of the year as well. Many times I pull a

problem with a real world context to the beginning of the lesson and then material is built by pulling the mathematical material out of that problem versus ending the lesson with that example like the traditional textbook lays it out. Letting the students work through that material and then ending with a discussion has proved very beneficial to them. This notion is mirrored in the article Sometimes Less is More. Buschman states that, Students seemed to assume more ownership for solving the problems and actively explored various solution strategies (Buschman 379). This is particularly evident when I let them explore a task versus me telling them. Students may not always enjoy working harder but they engage in richer discussion because of it and the sequencing of tasks that push them in that way. As far as whole lesson sequencing, knowing that there were a series of lessons within the chapter that, for the most part, are all related to each other and ended in a chapter test sounded like a great unit already laid out at the start of this year. Now after working with many chapters and units this year I understand that while the textbook chapters may be a great starting guide, it is not at all what a unit plan is about. This became especially relevant in my statistics unit this year in my focus Algebra 2 class. In order to put together a cohesive unit, lessons from multiple chapters were pulled together along with some Emaths tasks provided from the Macomb ISD. A stronger understanding of sequencing has greatly enhanced my unit planning and it is obvious students are responding to when my lessons are sequenced in a stronger more thought provoking format. I feel the largest improvement within my unit planning has come from overarching connections of the entire unit. I can honestly say that at the beginning of the year my understanding of a unit plan was that it was the chapter within the book you were working in

and that I needed to stick to the material in that order. Some of this came from the structure of the districts curriculum and the district wide assessments all Algebra 2 students were subject to, however as time went on I was able to see where the curriculum could be flexible and allow for me to decide the sequencing of my units and lessons. Now my focus has switched to having a layout that students can understand and create the connections that I want them to over the course of the series of tasks. Thinking about what role each lesson has within the entire unit and how it will foster a deeper understanding of the material for the students allows me to create a stronger unit to present to my students and yields students who are more confident with the material at the conclusion of the lesson. Committing to creating units that increase student understanding and thoughtfulness foster a richer learning environment. According to a study done by Onosko and Newman, Departments committed to higher-order thinking as a fundamental instructional goal exhibited more classroom thoughtfulness than departments not committed to this goal (Onosko 33). Even though I feel this is where I have made the largest improvement in my unit planning I feel I still have room to continue to grow in this area. Large improvements have been made in my ability to create cohesive, flowing units over the course of this year. In the table below I have summarized some key improvement points that became very evident when I reflected and revisited my first semester unit plan to the unit plan I created at the end of my most recent full unit during second semester. I feel much more confident in my ability going forward from here continuing to improve my units and that I can create comprehensive and consistent units that will benefit my students learning in an organized and thoughtful manor.

Table 1: First Semester Unit Planning Second Semester Unit Planning

Sequencing Sequencing - Pacing planned at Algebra 2 meeting - Pacing planned at Algebra 2 meeting Start it here and test here. Then used Start it here and test here. Then book as plan and stuck to outline. consulted book but sequenced lessons - Individual lessons are sequenced not necessarily following the same almost exactly like mentor teachers or order as the book. textbooks layout. - Individual lessons are sequences with a - Some students notice disconnect with focus on a task and pulling the flow of material. mathematics out of the task. Take home message is discussed at the end of the task. - Students response to better flow of lessons. Overarching themes and connections Overarching themes and connections - Minimal thought about how each - Lesson not taught unless it leads lesson connects to create a full students to a better understanding and cohesive lesson. connection to the overarching ideas of the full unit. - References made during a lesson to a previous task to connect material - Students assessed with exit slips to see where their connections lie. Student Understandings Student Understandings - Basic misconception questions pulled - Misconceptions drawn from topic and primarily from other sources and underlying topics and supporting centered on the lesson topic. material. - Knowledge of what the students know and will learn has been collected (warm ups and exit slips) and taken in account when planning lessons.

Articles: Buschman, Larry. "Sometimes Less Is More." Arithmetic Teacher 41.7 (1994): 378. Print. Onosko, J.J., & Newman, F.M. (1994). Creating more thoughtful learning environments. In J.N. Mangieri & C.C. Block (eds.), Creating powerful thinking in teachers and students: Diverse Perspectives (pp. 27-50). New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston