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Using Unit Overview Sheets in a PLC

Page history last edited by Bill 5 years, 4 months ago

Using Unit Overview Sheets in a PLC


Direct link to this resource page: http://bit.ly/unitoverviewsheets


For sixth grade classroom teacher Bill Ferriter, no single tool has been more useful to him as a classroom teacher or to the work of his learning teams than unit overview sheets -- documents that detail the standards that students are expected to master during a cycle of instruction in approachable language.  Unit overview sheets provide focus for learning teams by ensuring that every teacher knows what to teach in every unit.  They also provide starting points for the assessment, remediation and enrichment decisions of learning teams.  More importantly, however, unit overview sheets can be used to engage students in ongoing self-assessment over the course of a cycle of instruction -- a practice that has a profound impact on learning.  This page is designed as a resource for any teachers interested in exploring the role that unit overview sheets can play in their own work.




Slides and Handouts

Unit Overview Slides

Unit Overview Handouts


The complete slides and handouts for today's workshop can be found linked above.  Don't forget, however, that editable copies of most files can be found linked below.



Building Background Knowledge


The following posts from Bill's blog can help you to better understand the hows and the whys behind unit overview sheets as a tool for both instruction and for strengthening PLCs.


My Middle Schoolers Love our Unit Overview Sheets - Details the way that Bill uses unit overview sheets with students and shares the thoughts and opinions that his students have about unit overview sheets as an instructional tool.  


Is Your Team Identifying Essential Targets Together? - Details the role that unit overview sheets play in providing structure and focus for a professional learning team.  


When Was the Last Time You Asked Your Students for Feedback?  - Details the revisions that Bill made to the structure of his unit overview sheets after asking his students for feedback on the tool.  


Developing Learning Cards for Primary Students - Details the thinking behind Learning Cards, Bill's proposed solution for using "unit overviews" with primary students.



Samples of Unit Overview Sheets


While there is no one RIGHT way to develop a unit overview sheet, the best overviews include three things:  (1). Objectives written in student-friendly language, (2). Some kind of tool that makes it possible for students to quickly rate their progress towards mastering essential outcomes and (3). Essential academic vocabulary words.  Here are several sample unit overview sheets that might serve as a starting point for the work of your learning team.  


Sample - 6th Grade Science, Version 1:  This is the current template that session presenter Bill Ferriter uses for his unit overview sheet.  The "Proof" column provides space for students to record reflections during the course of a unit.  


Sample - 6th Grade Science, Version 2:   This was the template for session presenter Bill Ferriter's original unit overview sheet.  Notice the rating bar beneath each standard.  Over the course of a unit of instruction, students could make and revise marks that indicated their current level of understanding.  


Sample - 6th Grade Science, Version 3:  One suggestion that Bill Ferriter gets whenever sharing his unit overview sheets with teachers is to create documents with more white space and less text.  This is a revised unit overview sheet template that does just that.  


Upper Elementary Unit Overview Sheet, Student Exemplar: A sample of a completed unit overview sheet, filled out by a sixth grade student. 


Sample - 8th Grade Science:  What makes this sample interesting is the use of check boxes to track mastery.  While there is no place for students to record their own reflections during a unit of study, kids do feel empowered every time that they check off a new box on the unit overview sheet.


Sample - 3rd Grade Math:  For the third grade math teachers at Flynn Elementary School  in Burlington, Vermont, a timeline seemed to make the most sense when designing their unit overview sheets.  Also, note the use of white space to make the document less intimidating to younger students.


Sample - 2nd Grade Informational Text:  The second grade teachers at Flynn Elementary also like the notion of white space on their unit overview sheets.  They have also integrated academic vocabulary directly into the learning targets to simplify the overall document.


Kindergarten Unit Overview Sheet - An overview sheet created by kindergarten teacher Nicole Ricca.  Read more about Ricca's overview sheet here on her blog.  Download a free copy of her unit overview template here on her Teachers Pay Teachers page.  


Primary Learning Cards - For teachers in grades K-2, an entire unit overview sheet might not be developmentally appropriate.  Instead, teachers may want to start using "Learning Cards" with their students.  Learning cards (1). list one objective on a half-sheet of paper and (2). include graphics to make the content approachable to early readers.  (click here to download an editable version of this template).  




Tools for Developing Unit Overview Sheets


Developing unit overview sheets is NOT a complicated process.  In fact, session presenter Bill Ferriter argues that your learning team should be able to develop a draft of a unit overview sheet in about 80 minutes as long as you remember that perfection is not the goal and that you can (and should) polish a unit overview sheet over time.  Here are some simple tools that can help you to develop unit overview sheets.


Identifying Essential Learning Targets:  Choosing a small handful of essential outcomes for a unit of study ISN'T something that teachers do based on nothing more than the content that they LIKE to teach.  Instead, choosing essential outcomes requires an understanding of the kids in your school and the structure of your curriculum.  This handout presents a series of questions teams should ask when trying to decide whether or not an outcome is really essential.  


Converting Learning Standards into I Can Statements:  Once you've identified a small handful of essential outcomes for a unit of study, you need to rewrite them into student-friendly language.  This document will show you how.




Student Data Tracking Tools

Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3


Oftentimes, we forget that formative assessment built around essential learning targets isn't JUST about getting information that teachers can act on.  Formative assessment information can be just as valuable to students, who can develop a more sophisticated sense of what they have mastered and what they are still struggling to master.  To make this work more doable, North Carolina first grade teacher Andrea Knight developed a series of graphing templates for her students to complete as a part of their data notebooks.  Samples of three of those templates are linked above.  You can read more about Ms. Knight's process here on her blog.  You can purchase her templateshere on her Teachers Pay Teachers page.





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