Maybe I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve learned about backwards planning in my Masters classes and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this or done this before. It sounds so simple. You think of what you want your students to be able to accomplish by the end of the unit. Think about how you are going to test them and know that they have reached the goals. Then you plan out lessons and activities that will help your students reach those goals.
It could be just the fact that this is only my fifth year of teaching and before I was just trying to keep my head above water. How could I not have known this? In the past I have just looked at the textbook and followed along with whatever was there. Every once in a while I would maybe add in something that I thought was fun or interesting for the kids. Ultimately, I never really thought of where I was going, just where I was in that moment.
The idea of planning a whole unit before it even starts was really overwhelming for me. How could I possibly know where my students would be in a few weeks let alone in just a few days? Well, backwards planning has actually helped me get a bigger picture of planning. I know where I want to go so I’m able to actually understand what I need to cover and do with my kids. Instead of just planning 50 minutes of activities that kind of all revolve around a topic, my lesson now has a purpose and each activity is laying down the pavement for where we are going to go.
This year I am at a brand new school and I don’t have a textbook. At first I thought that this was going to be a huge opportunity to do what I want. Then I realized I don’t have a textbook to follow and guide me. How do I know what I’m going to teach?! The fear set it and I realized that I have a lot of work ahead of me.
Through my grad school classes I was able to realize that what we really strive for with our kids is proficiency in the language and the ability to communicate with others. This helped me sit down and think about what are my ultimate goals for my students. What do I want them to be able to do or talk about? I want my units to be meaningful and engaging to them so that they understand why they are learning what they are. I’m teaching it because it’s useful and necessary, not just because the textbook has it in there.
The topics or the ideas for my unit plans could be really similar to what is seen in a textbook, but now that I have taken a step back and realized why I’m teaching it and how it’s useful to the students I am able to add in a wider variety of tasks and activities. I want my students to feel that they are learning something that they could actually use in real life one day.
Now that I’ve got a plan for the big unit, I’m able to sit down and make lesson plans that are meaningful and get us to the end goal.