". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Revising a Unit

It's been a blessing to be part of a network of Idaho teachers who are learning to be CORE literacy coaches for the past year. This August I begin year two of the training, when I'll be coaching a "newbie" to the program. In the meantime, there are loose ends from last year to tie up.

I'm currently revising the Social Studies/ELA unit I created for CORE coach class last year on the book Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose. My unit received critiques (one of them especially helpful), and now it's up to me to make needed improvements and submit it. My coach says I retain the rights to the unit, so that means I'll be able to post it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store when it's all done. Hooray!

One area in need of revision is the DBIs (Okay, I had never heard of that term before taking the class. It stands for Document-Based Inquiry). Here's how the Idaho Coaching Network describes DBIs:

"DBIs use a multi-phase approach, revealing new information in small mystery-like puzzle pieces, through the integration of variety of text types (visuals, videos, informational texts, primary source documents, etc.), which builds curiosity and engages students.  DBI follows the principles of scaffolding, moving students from simple to more complex texts.  As students move through these phases, they gain new knowledge (puzzle pieces) and assemble a grander picture; all of the phases work together to tell the whole story.  Ideally, each phase will answer questions from previous phases as well as lead students to a deeper understanding of the topic.  Finally, students will synthesize the knowledge they have learned through each of the phases and demonstrate their understanding through written or oral language."

Although I used a DBI when I first taught my new D-Day unit this spring, I realized that more thought was needed to make the learning activity even more effective. I need to think carefully about how to use the artifacts and the process as a whole to gradually lead students toward synthesizing knowledge gained and demonstrating their understanding in meaningful ways. I want to add artifacts (the photos, maps, articles, and other pieces that make up a DBI folder) and be sure that every piece that's included strengthens the inquiry process.

Besides the DBIs, I'm also strengthening the vocabulary and independent reading portions of the unit, as well as making the whole document and its attachments more visually appealing and user-friendly (can't go wrong there!). Portions of the unit that focused on close reading, the theme of leadership, and the culminating assessment (writing and recording a D-Day radio broadcast) were already fairly strong and needed little work.

Even though I feel I procrastinated revising my unit, there is something to be said for taking time off from working on a project and then returning to it after several weeks (or in my case, months). I was able to look at the document with fresh eyes and be more critical of my work in a constructive way. It also helped that I went in to school to work on it instead of trying to work from home. As it turned out, I was unable to work in my classroom because it was being worked on, but I found a home in the school library, which was dim and quiet and cozy, just right for getting some real, focused work done on my unit. There's still work to do, but it's coming along. I'm so thankful!

Coming up on Tuesday, I'll be presenting on narrative writing and on Faith and the Public School Teacher at the P20 Educator Conference at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. There's prep work remaining for my presentations, so I'll be a busy beaver for a few days! But I couldn't be more excited.

What helps you revise a unit? Please share!

World War II Discovery Kit

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