Backwards plan your year and units to achieve the big goal [P-2]

Illustrations are grouped by the proficiency that they best bring to life.

We would like to communicate our deep appreciation to these teachers who are allowing us to learn from their experiences.

Explanation

We may be tempted to create our own unit or long-term plan without the help of other resources because we do don’t know what is out there or we’ve looked, but haven’t really found full plans that fit our needs.

It’s hard to make unit and long-term plans (or any instructional tool) by ourselves, and we may not be spending our time and energy wisely if we try to ‘go it alone’ when there are numerous pre-made plans already available to help us out.

Solution

Always consider what existing resources are out there before you design your own unit or long-term plans. Use different sources to find what you need. Remember, using existing resources isn’t an all or nothing deal – you can pick and choose different parts of plans to fit your goals. Be careful, though, when using pre-made tools. Avoid blindly picking a plan (or any other instructional resource) without carefully evaluating its quality and whether it fits the needs of your class.

Lastly, if you do create parts of your unit and long-term plans, don’t forget to share your work with others!

Explanation

We may be tempted to think that (a) we must stick to our plans regardless of the circumstances because we worked hard to create them and don’t want to see them go to waste; or (b) our plans are no longer helpful when we fall behind their initial schedule, because we’re not sure how to adjust them to adapt to changing realities.

Solution

Remember that your backwards plans are living documents that need to be adjusted and tailored to the realities of your classroom. After analyzing student performance on assessments, for instance, you may find that you need to skip or review certain objectives in your unit plan. Or if you fall behind your plan’s initial timeline for instruction, you may need to adjust your pacing to remain on track to reach your goals. To make your plans work for your students, consistently evaluate whether they are addressing students’ needs and leading the class to achieve your goals; then don’t be afraid to adjust the plans when necessary. Read more about how to adjust your backwards plans.

Explanation

Unit and long-term planning takes time and effort, and we may not really see why we should invest our energy into this when we already are really busy addressing urgent needs from day-to-day.

Solution

While it requires you to invest a significant amount of time up front, creating effective long-term and unit plans will actually save you time in the long run. First, having clear plans for the year saves you from the grind of planning “day-to-day” and frees your time and energy to address other issues in your classroom. Further, backwards plans allow you to make more strategic decisions around how to prioritize your learning goals and how to pace instruction to effectively and efficiently lead students to mastery. Teaching objectives in a logically sequential order (established in your unit plan), for instance, will be quicker than randomly teaching an objective only to realize during a lesson that you need to spend extra time to address prerequisite content.