One great strategy for planning a unit of work – Part 1 of 3

Compass_and_Map

One great strategy for planning a unit of work.

Backward Mapping Part 1 of 3

One the best methods for planning units of work that I have used as a teacher, involves the concept backward mapping. This is often referred to backward design or backward planning.

As this takes a bit of explanation, I have split this post up into three to make it a little easier to swallow.

Okay, so the basic principle is this: you have a concrete understanding of what educational outcomes you wish to achieve by the end of a unit. The teacher then, knowing what to aim for, works backwards, lesson by lesson – week by week, planning until they arrive at the unit introduction or the starting point of the unit.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Imagine a mountaineering guide trying to safely conduct a party of school children across undulating terrain without having a fixed reference point of where he is taking them! Unless that guide knows where he is going, it’s unlikely they will arrive there.

So here are the basic building blocks of fleshing out a unit of work using backward mapping.

First of all, know where you want the students to get to. Do you want them to be able to write an essay on a certain subject by the end of term? Then get those objectives down on paper in the form of either summative or formative assessment.                                                                                      .                                                                                                                 What kind of subject matter are they dealing with? What kind of essay do you want them to write? What skills are they bringing into the unit? Do they already know how to write the style of essay you want them to?                                                                                                          .                       Use this information to build your assessment. There is no better strategy I can think of than having your assessment piece written before you teach the unit. In case you have already cottoned on to how powerful this stuff can be, there are some fantastic teacher resources written on the subject like these by Grant Wiggins, which should be on every teacher’s bookshelf.

In the meantime, tomorrow, in the second of three posts in this series, I’ll explain the next two steps that will take you from a blank planning sheet to considering what you need to consider in terms of assessment and content.

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