Thematic Unit Guidelines
•Have an attractive and informative “Title Page” and “Table of Contents”. Expectations for these and all other unit components are described below under “Thematic Unit Components”. Also, be sure to review the “Thematic Unit Assessment Rubric”. Do not use 3-ring binders or plastic sleeves please. •Integrate no more than three subject areas for which there are relevant content standards – one of these subject areas must involve mathematics or social studies education. Integrating both subject areas is preferable but not mandatory.
Teach and assess a clearly defined theme or topic that will enable elementary students to meet their local school district curriculum standards or the Colorado Model Content Standards. Planning for Student Learning: Review your school district’s curriculum standards or Colorado Model Content Standards and think about what you want your students to learn, know and be able to do as a result of this unit. Begin gathering student and teacher resources and start thinking about how you will teach and assess students’ learning relative to the content standards you select.
Ask yourself: •What do I need to learn myself in order to teach this unit well? •What kinds of resources will I need to teach this unit? •What types and genres of children’s literature are available? •Are there artifacts, simulations, songs, photographs, etc. I could use? •What human and material resources are available in my community? Thematic Unit Components Title Page and Table of Contents – The “Title Page” should feature the title of your unit, grade level(s), the semester you taught the unit, and your program – Elementary PTEP or Post Baccalaureate Licensure Program.
Also include your name, your cooperating teacher’s name, and the name of the elementary school and school district in which you are student teaching. The “Table of Contents” should, at minimum, list each of the unit components described here under “Thematic Unit Components”. Assessment criteria for “Developing,” “Proficient,” and “Advanced” levels of performance for all unit components may be found on the “Thematic Unit Assessment Rubric”. Rationale Statement – Every Thematic Unit needs a convincing rationale. Rationale statements should be organized and presented in FOUR sections.
Section 1: Introduction – Students and teachers need to know what will be learned as a result of participating in this unit. In this section, explain why your unit topic is an important one for young learners. Describe how students might use this knowledge “in the real world”. Section 2: Community, School, and Classroom Setting – Describe the community, school, and classroom where you are student teaching. Include information about the community, school, classroom setting, and characteristics of students that are important to consider when teaching this unit. For example, how many male / female students are in the class?
How would you characterize students’ socioeconomic status? Will you be teaching students with special needs or students whose primary language is not English? Do you have any particular concerns about classroom management? Describe the physical setup of your classroom (a diagram might be helpful). What kinds of technologies are available and will you use of any of them to teach and assess student learning? Knowing and acting on this background information will help you develop, modify, and differentiate instruction and assessment that accommodates the full range of diversity in your students.
The goal here is to individualize the teaching and learning process by designing lessons that challenge all students at an appropriate level of difficulty. Section 3: Meeting the Colorado Model Content Standards – Curriculum standards describe what students should learn, know, and be able to do as a result of participating in your unit. In this section, list all of the school district or Colorado Model Content Standards your unit addresses. Under each content standard write lesson objectives that describe how or what students will do to meet that particular standard.
Remember that if you list a content standard then you are obligated to teach and assess students’ learning on that standard. Also, make sure that you are able to explain how particular lesson objectives enabled students to meet particular standards. You will need to address content standards three times in you unit. First, by listing them here in your rationale statement along with corresponding lesson objectives for each standard, a second time in each lesson plan or learning cycle, and a third time when writing your “evaluative essay” (which is described below). Here is a suggestion.
Develop your lesson plans first, along with appropriate content standards and lesson objectives; next, write (cut and paste) the content standards and lesson objectives from lesson plans into your rationale statement. Finally, after you teach the unit, explain how students met the standards in your evaluative essay. Section 4: Assessing Student Learning – Describe how you will assess student learning relative to each content standard using preassessment, formative assessment, and summative assessment. A. For preassessment, describe the techniques you will use to find out what students already know or think they know about the unit topic.
You will need to record and interpret preassessment scores for each individual student (using a pretest) as well as for the whole class (for example, using a KWL chart). Preassessment results are used to provide evidence of student learning gains at the end of the unit by comparing them with summative assessment results (using a posttest). Preassessment data can also be used to revise the unit before teaching it, for example, by changing some of the content or instructional strategies you use, to make more informed decisions about individualizing instruction, and to alter or modify how you will assess student learning.
B. For formative assessment, describe the techniques you will use to facilitate students’ acquisition of knowledge and skills by providing constructive feedback that, at the same time, allows the teacher to keep track of students’ progress on a daily basis. This is the time when teachers are constantly “on their feet” monitoring the learning process, helping students learn new skills and knowledge, and making sure that they are “practicing perfectly” in order to apply new skills and knowledge effectively to real-world situations and make presentations to real audiences.
C. For summative assessment, describe the techniques you will use to evaluate what students learned, in combination with preassessment and formative assessment results. All three forms of assessment should be designed to measure the knowledge, skills, and dispositions you claimed students would learn according to the standards. Remember that multiple assessments provide a much more complete and “fair” representation of what a student really knows and is able to do compared to any single or “one-shot” assessment.
Be sure the three forms of assessments are aligned with the content standards and lesson objectives; in other words, be sure that you teach students to the standards and assess their learning in terms of the standards. Unit Goal – The unit goal should be derived from state and district curriculum standards; however, you should also be familiar with curriculum standards established by national professional organizations, for example, IRA (International Reading Association), NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), NCSS (National Council for the Social Studies).
The unit goal reflects the unit’s curriculum standards but should be stated in your own words. For example, the unit goal for a unit on Colorado History might state: “Students will understand how our state has grown and changed over time. From the period of early exploration to the present day, I want my fourth graders to become familiar with specific contributions made to the development of Colorado by its rich diversity of people and natural resources. ”
Lesson Plans – Use the Learning Cycle format for writing lesson plans and develop enough instruction for one full week of integrated teaching and learning: plan on teaching the unit for approximately five hours. For each lesson specify how you will determine what students already know about your lesson’s topic (preassessment), how you will monitor students’ progress in meeting content standards during the lesson (formative assessment), and how you will evaluate students’ work at the end of the lesson (summative assessment).
Good assessment tells the teacher as much about the effectiveness of her or his own instruction as it does about what students learned and how they learned it. Keep this point in mind when writing your “evaluative” and “reflective” essays (described below). Possible Extension Activities – How can I help children extend, enrich, and elaborate upon the major understandings in this unit? What could students do to apply or “transfer” their learning to real-world problems and situations in ways that will make new knowledge more meaningful for them?
List and briefly describe at least three possible extension activities – you do not need to design lesson plans for each extension. A simple one-paragraph description of each extension will suffice. Resources Used – Include all of the resources you used to teach this unit. You may organize your resources by indicating who they are most appropriate and/or by their type; for example, “Teacher Resources” might be listed separately from “Student Resources”. Internet Resources” (such as websites) might be listed separately from “Children’s Literature,” and videotapes, simulations, artifacts, museums, social agencies and guest speakers might also be listed under separate categories. Evaluative Essay – In the first of these two final essays, use all of the assessment data you collected from students to present a clear picture of their learning. Use tables to display and summarize quantitative data and always include examples of several students’ work on various projects and assignments at several different levels of performance.
Use narrative to explain quantitative results and what students learned. Present and explain your assessment results in ways that the reader can use to evaluate the extent to which your students met content standards. Hence, this essay should be written as a technical report consisting of both qualitative and quantitative evidence and analyses of student learning. The evaluative essay should present evidence of learning for each student in the class on each one of the unit’s curriculum standards. Summaries of whole-class learning (i. e. , what students learned as a class) should also be included.
Reflective Essay – One major reason for planning, implementing, and evaluating this unit is to give you practice teaching and assessing student learning over time in a real elementary-school classroom. This work sample is a very authentic task for teachers. As you plan, teach, and assess students’ learning, you will be meeting many of the Performance Based Standards for Colorado Teachers. In this essay, describe and explain how planning, teaching, and assessing this unit enabled you to meet the Performance-Based Standards for Colorado Teachers that are listed on the “Thematic Unit Assessment Rubric” which follows.