One great strategy for planning a unit of work
Backward Mapping Part 3 of 3
In this final post in this series, we will start walking back to the start of the unit considering content across the days and weeks that you have allocated for your unit of work.
So lets start working backwards from the final lesson or week of the unit, to the first. In a ten week term, you might split up the unit evenly with week ten being the assessment due date and week one being the unit introduction or orientation week.
So far so good. Now we need to work backwards from assessment to introduction, filling in those blank weeks with lessons that will meet your weekly teaching goals.
Check for Understanding
When constructing these weekly unit goals, don’t miss out on those opportunities for checking for understanding: integrating plenty of formative assessment on a weekly basis is a great support for delivering quality educational experiences. That might be something as informal as a class quiz or something more structured like a practice essay question.
Okay, so let’s take a concrete example. Supposing you had to take a Grade 7 religion class and you wanted them to know the Seven Sacraments by the end of Term 1.
You know that this is a ten week term and that you want to assess their learning by an end of term test which can be done in week 9. Great so far.
Break it down
We know that week 1 will be a unit introduction on the Seven Sacraments. Conveniently we have seven weeks to inlay the seven sacraments and we could easily focus on one of these in each of our weekly learning outcomes: Baptism, Penance, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.
So by this stage you know what your unit goal is and you furthermore know what you will be teaching each week.
Keep drilling down
Drilling down even further, let’s for example consider week two; Baptism. If you have three lessons with the students that week, you might structure your week into three lesson plans.
Lesson plan one might be titled ‘What is Baptism’? Lesson plan two: What are the effects of Baptism? Lesson plan three: Why is Baptism necessary for the salvation of all men? You get the picture.
At this stage you are firing on all cylinders and simply have to plan each lesson as normal using your area of focus. Therefore Lesson One of week two – What is Baptism? – would encompass those things that outline the essentials of the sacrament: Baptism was instituted by Christ, The matter and form of the sacrament, and the Conferring of Grace in the sacrament.
Essentially what you now have is bite sized chunks of the unit at the lesson plan level. How easy can it get?
The final step is dynamic insofar that the teacher continually reflects and reviews the learning stages, making any adjustments, as the unit progresses.
And there you have it! Anyone can use backward mapping to their benefit. It certainly takes a fair amount of the stress out of the weekly teaching experience by knowing that the unit is mapped out and both you and your students have a roadmap to work with.
One final point: when teaching that unit for the first time, only the super-organised will have every lesson planned in advance of the unit starting. But the reality of teaching for the rest of us means that we will have our backward mapping plan written, but lesson plans will be sketched out perhaps a week or so before delivery.
Having taught the unit, you can then tuck it away for the future or for sharing with a colleague. Don’t forget there are some fantastic resources that have been written on Backward Mapping as I mentioned in part one. They go into much more detail than this overview and are well worth the investment. (see below) Happy planning!