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Elizabeth Schaffert

Unit Plan Reflection


Unit planning is one of the most important aspects in creating a flow in
teaching. Before the assignment for TE802, I did not have any experience in
planning a unit. Even in my internship, my mentor teacher did not have an
explicit process of planning for a unit. When I first looked at the format, the
task seemed overwhelming. I decided to start with looking through the
workbook for my algebra 1 class, and think about tasks that would go along
with the topics, and how long I wanted to spend on each topic. After
reviewing the topics, created the unit test, as a goal and guide for my
teaching the unit. Although completing the unit plan took a lot of planning
and thought, I found it helpful when I was teaching. I felt more confident in
how the ideas were relating to one another, and I was able to create
connections to the overarching goals. After implementing the first unit plan,
I made notes about my challenges. I knew I wanted to make some changes
to revise for the future.
My first unit plan was on functions. This included defining what made
a relation a function, function notation, output and inputs, and interpreting
key features of graphs. The first thing that I did to create my unit plan was
review the material in the book. I then created problems, both numerical
and real world, to include in the exam. This gave me a good idea of what I
felt was important for students to know, and what I wanted to emphasize
when teaching the unit. I realized that this is one of the benefits of

backwards planning. After I had a good idea of what I thought was


important, I planned each day of the lesson, both the learning objectives for
the day and explaining how the lesson connects to the unit goals. The
article, An Effective and Agonizing Way to Learn: Backwards Design and
New Teachers Preparation for Planning Curriculum by Graff talks about how
using backwards design templates allows students to focus in on the
information that teachers want their students to know. It also allows
teachers to consider the guiding questions and overarching goals of the unit
with a clear path of instruction (Graff, 2011). I found this to be very true
when using the backwards design myself. It allowed me to break down the
lesson day-by-day analyzing what skills I wanted students to achieve and
how I was going to reinforce these understandings.
To go along with my plan for each day, I also created a formative
assessment for every class period, either an exit slip, or a check-yourunderstanding exercise. I also included an additional formative assessment
that was not originally planned in my unit. I had my students create a
concept map of all the topics they learned to understand the connections
between them. I had my students present these concepts maps to the class,
and we were able to have a discussion that highlighted some of the
important connections between concepts that were essential to building new
understandings. Over the course of my internship, I have realized that
formative assessments are crucial in teaching. Not only do formative
assessments give students the opportunity to critically think about what they

have learned and apply a new concepts, it gives teachers a chance to


evaluate their lesson. Using formative assessment with clear goals in mind
in my classes, I was able to pinpoint specific gaps of understanding my
students were having, as well as identifying some students that were
struggling. I tried to then use my formative assessment exercise the next
day when grouping students together on tasks. I would group together
someone who did really well on the assessment with someone who had a
misconception. By grouping this way, students were able to have
conversations with each other and create a deeper conceptual knowledge.
In additional to the formative assessments in class, a deep analysis of
the summative assessment at the end of the unit allowed me to grow as a
teacher. I went though several tests after I graded them to look for common
errors and a general consensus of what students understood and what they
were still confused with. Analyzing the assessment in this way allowed me to
reflect on my teaching of the unit. I decided to do several things differently
next time I teach. For example, as I was analyzing my test on functions, I
noticed that many students were confused with function notation. Some
students evaluated a function at a value by adding it on the end, and some
students did not realize that f(x) was f of x that could not be separated.
They ended up solving for x and did not know where to go from there. This
allowed me to consider my instruction when addressing function notation. I
decided the next time I teach this unit that I would like to make the
connection that function notation is a way to represent the input and output.

I believe that a lot of students did not understand that it was a notation (or
even what notation meant) and did not know how they were supposed to use
it. As a result, I would like to make notes of this concept and spend more
time on this particular area. We sped through this topic in class, so I would
like to make sure the next time this section is covered students have ample
time to understand what the notation is and how it is used with equations.
Without careful analysis and digging into what students were thinking, I would
not have been able to reflect the way I did, and make the appropriate
changes to the unit.
One of the biggest challenges I found when doing my first unit plan
was anticipating student thinking. Since my mentor teacher had been away
from algebra 1 for quite some time, I was not able to draw on her
experiences when teaching similar topics. As a result, I did not know how
long it would take for students to grasp a concept. What I felt was an
adequate amount of time spent on one concept turned out to be too little.
This forced me to reanalyze my unit plan as a whole. My time frame for dayby-day instruction got pushed back a few days and I was not as able to
spend as much time on function notation, as mentioned above. I think this is
one of the hardest parts about being a new teacher in general. I still need
more experience teaching high school students, especially with mapping how
long to spend on a topic causes difficulty.
Additionally, I also found it challenging to anticipate student
misconceptions. I researched this topic a bit when filling out my unit plan,

but still some problems arose that I did not anticipate. Thanks to my
formative assessment opportunities, I was able to tackle these problems, but
it still surprised me and made me re-plan my lessons for the next day. This
resulted in some changes in my unit plan. In the future, I will be able to draw
on my past experiences and I will do more research to find what kinds of
student misconceptions are common. Although I did face some
unanticipated challenges, I feel that these difficulties are those of which a
new teacher is expected to endure. Each day students give their teachers
insight into student thinking, particularity how students understand function
notation, how they make connections between concepts, and what
difficulties they have with mathematical content. By carefully reflecting on
these lessons day-by-day, I was able to get the most out of my first unit
planning experience.
For my second unit plan, I knew I wanted to do some things differently.
The first thing that I wanted to spend more time on was deciding what
concepts I wanted students to know and what procedures I wanted students
to know. Considering this made me think about a new change in my unit
plan: incorporating multiple representations. In fact, several Common Core
principles highlight this idea, particularly Math Practice 4 (model with
mathematics) and Math Practice 7 (look for and make use of structure). To
strengthen the underlying conceptual understandings of my students, I
wanted to focus on how graphs, tables, and equations related together. With
my new unit of linear equations, I wanted each day to look at a form of linear

equations in each representation. With the goal in mind of making


connections between representations, I hoped that familiarizing the students
with each concept would help them make observations between the forms of
linear equations. When organizing my thoughts, this seemed like a difficult
task to fulfill, but I decided the best way to do this was incorporating more
activities into my unit.
After the students had learned the basics about the forms of linear
equations, I knew I wanted to do some matching activity that required them
to draw upon all their skills and connections across representations.
Fortunately in TE804, we did an activity that was almost identical to what I
envisioned. I decided to use this with my unit plan, and as a teaching
experiment. I thought it was really helpful to include a teaching experiment
with my unit plan because it gave me another formative assessment
opportunity. I was able to monitor my students thinking and have a class
discussion about what strategies they used to match different
representations. Since this was my overall goal of the unit plan, the
discussion in class gave me a good idea of what I needed to focus on for the
rest of the unit, and what goals my students had accomplished thus far. For
the future, I would definitely like to think about what kinds of activates I can
incorporate during the unit when planning for the next couple weeks.
Coming up with several opportunities for students to apply their knowledge
in a new way gave me insight into student thinking.

Another change I wanted to make was incorporating more discovery


type lessons into the unit. I wanted students to apply their skills in noticing
patterns and making conjectures on their own. I decided that I wanted to do
this with real world applications, and in learning about parallel and
perpendicular lines. I had my students make observations about lines on a
graph (the lines were all parallel, but this was not told). This gave students
the opportunity to talk about what they see, and think about what kinds of
evidence they could gather. Some students found slope, and this came up in
the discussion, so I instructed the rest of the students to find the slope of all
the lines as well. Then we had a full class discussion about what they
noticed (all were the same slope), they made a conjecture about parallel
lines, and they tested their conjecture. We did a similar activity with
perpendicular lines. This activity allowed my students to think critically and
make conjectures that supported their findings. I thought it very beneficial
research these types of discovery based learning while planning my unit
because it strengthened my students understanding of mathematical
concepts, and relate back to my overall goal: build connections between
multiple representations.
Although I had new success in planning my second unit, I still had
some challenges arise. One thing that I continued to struggle with was
planning what students would have difficulty with. Particularly, I expected
students to come into the unit with background knowledge, and some
students did not have the level of understanding I assumed they would. This

ended up being very difficult later on in the unit. Some students were still
struggling finding slope from graph, which was something we covered at
least a month before. We did a slope review the first day of the unit, and I
thought this would be sufficient, but for some students, it was not. I am
expecting this to be something I struggle with as a new teacher, and to
counteract this, I need to make sure I contact these students to get more
help. I believe this would be more beneficial for the individual students as
well as the class dynamic.
Like the first unit plan, I was also still encountered the challenge of
deciding how long to plan on one section. Without a lot experience in this
area, I still did not get the timing correct for this unit plan. I ended up
extending by a few days of activities and adding a few more days of review.
As I was analyzing the formative assessment and quizzes closer and closer to
the end of the unit, I realized that there were some conceptual gaps in
knowledge and common misconceptions that needed to be addressed. As a
result, I pushed the test a few days and spent that time reviewing what we
covered and having my students practice connecting the different forms of
linear equations and writing equations from different representations.
Over the course of my internship, I have realized that unit planning is
an essential part of teaching. Not only does unit planning give teachers a
good idea of what concepts are being covered in the chapter/section, it also
allows for a clear and concise path to follow for the overall goals. I have
found that using the backwards unit plans allows me to focus in on what

concepts and procedures I want my students to know, and allows me to


research activates and exercises that will help my students get to my goal.
Unit planning has also made it clear that every year, every unit, teachers will
improve on their teaching. With more experience and familiarity with
concepts, I will be able to better anticipate my students thinking, and have a
better gage for time spent on a section. In both of the formal unit plans
completed, by biggest challenge was sticking with the schedule. After
teaching the topics, however, it seemed to be a fault of not knowing what
things students would struggle. As I become a more practiced teacher, these
experiences will compound and give me more insight into unit planning.

Works Cited
Graff, N. (2011). " An Effective and Agonizing Way to Learn": Backwards
Design and New
Teachers' Preparation for Planning Curriculum. Teacher Education
Quarterly, 151168.