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Planning Your Social Studies Unit Part Two: The Process

So you read my last blog, you’re all set with your cup of tea, and you’re more than ready to knock this whole “unit plan” thing out the park. But where to start?

Isn’t it interesting that out of all the things they could teach us in our credential programs, practical, helpful things like unit planning are often minimized if they’re even taught at all? Like seriously, if you need to know how to make a foldable, I’ve got you covered. We made so. many. foldables. But, like, I didn’t know how to build skills and content into a cohesive unit plan that set myself and my students up for success…

I digress.

The point is that I want to walk you through my process today. In the coming weeks, we’ll cover skill building, content building, and adding in creativity and projects, but today I want to give you a few practical steps to get you started so you have a bird’s eye view of the process before we get into the nitty gritty.

Alright, here’s my process. Now remember that there’s no “right” way to go about this. It’s just the process I’ve refined over time.

  1. Grab a paper and pencil. Draw or print out a month long or 6-week long calendar, depending on how long you want your unit to be. Mine last about 6-8 weeks for a longer one and 4 weeks for a shorter one. I usually draw my calendar with sharpie and fill in the daily information with pencil (because we all know I’m not going to get it perfect the first time I write it).
  2. Pull out your school’s calendar and make sure you block off any breaks or in-service days. Write in any special schedules or school events so that everything is in one place and you can tell at a glance what’s going on during the unit besides your lessons (this also helps with workload planning so that you don’t give your students a major test on a rally day).
  3. Now, look at your content standards for the unit (I’ll go more in depth with this in a future post). Break the content standards down into daily pieces of content. Write the pieces of content in pencil on your calendar and map out what topics will be taught on which days. End the unit with a project, test, or other summative assessment- and write it into your calendar. If you don’t know what the project or test will look like yet, that’s fine! Just write “assessment” or “project” for now.
  4. Next, check out the skills standards for your state. Mine are the Common Core standards (again, more on this in a future post). Decide which skill(s) you’d like to focus on building for this unit. For example, my second unit in World History is focused on document analysis and DBQ essay writing skills. Decide when the major skills assessment will take place and mark it on your calendar. Maybe it’s an essay or a Socratic Seminar. Note on your calendar how often you’d like to work on building this skill. For example, you might have students practice analyzing documents once a week leading up to a DBQ essay. Write all these ideas into your calendar.
  5. Use Planbook. I’m not even an affiliate (yet!). I just love Planbook. It’s cheap for a yearly subscription and you can plug your unit plan into it. You can edit it, copy lessons from year to year, add school events or special schedules. It’s the best. And it’s where I put all my unit plans once I’m done planning them.

Now, I realize that you might want more hands on information about how to actually plan for content and skills. No worries- that’s coming in the next two blog posts in February. But get started today! Be willing to fail. Teaching is all a grand experiment anyways and we’re all just refining, reflecting, and learning over time. You certainly can’t be perfect the first time. But you can start with small steps that can make an incredible difference in your life and in your students’ lives.

Stay tuned and keep your head up. You’re doing an incredible job 🙂

With love,

Mrs. P

P.S. Part Three here.

3 thoughts on “Planning Your Social Studies Unit Part Two: The Process

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