Time is Everything: Unit Plans and Other Strategies

How does a history teacher fit tens of thousands of years of history into just 90 days? With strategic planning, of course. For new teachers, or teachers who are new to teaching world history, this task may seem difficult – and from what I understand – it is. In an essay titled, “Time Management and Student Ownership: How to Get Through Your Curriculum in the Time Alloted,” Chris Peek and Angela Wainwright provide some helpful advice for how to design a curriculum that will make an effective use of classroom time.

Their first tip is to collaborate with another teacher. This teacher can be another teacher that is teaching the same subject, or a teacher who has taught it in the past. I like the idea of this, because in my experience as a student, I have often collaborated with other students, whether it be studying for a test of gaining/giving advice on a certain assignment. I can see this working well for teachers, because it may take some stress off both teachers’ shoulders, as well as providing them with the opportunity to share various ideas.

Collaborating with teachers who teach other subjects is an option too. Gina Cunningham recalls her experience in an essay on lesson and unit plans, noting that her students gained a more rounded understanding of the subject she was teaching. Cunningham was and English teacher who collaborated with a history teacher. Oftentimes, elements from literature and history courses overlap, and it may be beneficial to students if teachers could plan to align similar topics.

Peek and Wainwright mention using Powerpoint in the classroom. If done right, Powerpoint can be a very handy resource. It has the ability to keep a lecture on track, it provides quick access to visual material, and it can give students an idea of what to take notes on. On the flipside, relying on a Powerpoint could have the potential for both students and teachers to rely on it too much. A teacher might give an unengaging lecture, while students merely copy down what they see on a slide. Powerpoint should be used to supplement the lesson, not act as the sole element of it.

Another point made by Peek and Wainwright was to include check-ups and rough drafts when assigning projects and papers. This will help keep not only the student on task, but also the teacher. As a student I appreciate the opportunity to get feedback on a rough draft. Not only do I get helpful feedback from my instructors, but it also saves me from waiting until the last minute to finish a project. As hard as I try not to be, I am an avid procrastinator.

That being said, Cunningham, who wrote the article on lesson and unit plans, gives some helpful tips about planning a unit. A carefully planned out unit should be linked to the previous unit and the coming unit. It should include a purpose, topics, concepts, goals, skills, academic standards to be covered, cross-curricular connections, and past learning. It should also be organized by time and include assessments. That sounds like a lot, but once created, it will be easier for a teacher to cover a specific set of topics in a specific amount of time.

This lesson plan includes some of the above elements, but fails to note how much time will be assigned to each concept. While the concepts are detailed, it might be very easy to get carried away discussing “Early River Valley Civilizations,” for example.

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2 thoughts on “Time is Everything: Unit Plans and Other Strategies

  1. Claire,
    I also feel that collaboration across subjects can be very helpful in helping students to learn the topic. I think that collaboration can be a key to success in any field because it can help to see other view points and ideas that you can build on. You mentioned that power points can be used if they are used wisely and I couldn’t agree more. I have found that some teachers used it too heavily while others use it as a guide and it can be a great tool from guiding the lecture. I think that along with power points there should be some audio clips or videos and activities for students with different learning styles.

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  2. Claire,
    I agree with your critique of powerpoints. Many times in high school classrooms, drawing from my own experience, powerpoints are overly used as a main source of relaying information. Sadly, I’ve even had a chemistry class where I was expected to learn everything via powerpoint. I’ve found that teachers who use this method are often doing their students a disservice. However, they do have their place. They can certainly garner more attention than a long and drawn out lecture. Powerpoints are great tools to use, but as you’ve said, not as the main source of teaching. Adding in questions and other activities require student participation are excellent ways to spruce up powerpoints and attract more student attention.

    -Katie

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