Thursday, August 6, 2015

Unit Understandings: Documenting the Learning

Welcome back!  After a whirlwind spring semester and summer full of big changes, it's time to get ready to embark on a new journey as the French teacher at a large (soon-to-be 1:1) public high school near Charlotte. Before I begin this next chapter in my career, I would like to share the template I created last year to help both my learners and me better document the learning, particularly cultural understandings, as we progressed through each unit.  So, here's a breakdown of the development and implementation of this task along with a look at its efficacy. A link to the resource to follow!


The main motivation for developing this template came from a desire to better document (deeper) learning. Since it seems that we're going to reach more learners if we give them guided notes or a template rather than just tell them to take notes, it made sense to create a template that can be easily updated and shared at the start of each unit. Our K-12 learners need to be taught how to organize their thoughts, so it makes great sense to give them an outline with which to work.


The following sections of the unit framework needed more attention by both my learners and me, so these were included in the design: essential and guiding questions, cultural knowledge, and personalized vocabulary. It can be challenging to come back to the essential and guiding questions over the course of a unit; in my case, it's because I forget about them. We also needed to better document cultural knowledge, especially since we don't have a textbook to just refer back to when studying for an assessment. As for the vocabulary, my intention was for learners to have a one-stop location for any vocabulary that they would need to express their interests and ideas.


Please note that this template was implemented in all French courses (1-4AP) in a 1:1 iPad independent upper school. It was converted into a PDF and placed in the DropBox folder for each class after I typed up the unit title along with the essential and guiding questions. Then, learners moved it to their Good Notes app (hopefully, in a unit folder) where they took notes as we moved through the unit. All notes were guided either by whole class discussion or small collaborative groups with whole class debriefing.

End-of-Year Thoughts

Overall, the template positively impacted the learning. In the initial year, the attention to essential and guiding questions over the course of the entire unit was inconsistent, leaving major room for improvement. The cultural knowledge section was completed rather consistently, so this one was the most successful. In fact, learners referred to the document when studying for an assessment. This section helped me evaluate unit themes and essential questions for future revisions. As for personalized vocabulary, I required learners to record new vocabulary when they were researching topics of personal interest, but this did not happen for every unit of study. I do not know if learners recorded any new vocabulary on their own, but I would assume that very few, if any, did do it.  

Moving forward, I plan to better allot time to complete the document and provide more opportunities for learners to demonstrate understanding of what we discussed. I will not be grading work done on this document since it is really just guided notes, therefore, the follow-up tasks will make this work essential.

The Resource

Click here to access the document and feel free to revise it as you see fit. If I make any revisions to it as we move through the school year, I'll update this post.


Please share what you do to document unit understandings in the comments below. I'd love to learn how other educators are helping their learners see the bigger picture.

No comments:

Post a Comment