Unit planner support guide

In February 2015 the International Baccalaureate launched its Approaches to Teaching and Learning website which included three unit planner templates. I decided to follow their lead and I created this comprehensive unit planner support document (shown below) for the start of our academic year in April 2015 (previous to this, I had created a unit planner template which was used until April 2015 and can also be found below).

I introduced this unit planner support guide document at a beginning of year meeting. Before the staff meeting I created a filled in TOK example as a reference point and go through the unit planner staff support guide that I have created which can also be found below.

This support document gives comprehensive advice on how to fill in the new unit planner as well as examples of support documents I and the CAS coordinator have created for staff. Each section of the planner has advice on what information is needed and relevant links to show how to find the correct documents, guides and websites to help staff fill in the planner correctly. This document is shown throughout the school year in departments and one on one meetings to support staff. More information can be found on unit planning in the Written Curriculum part of this website.

As coordinator it is important to reinforce the materials available to staff, and based on each teacher`s individual needs I go through each section explaining what information they need to include and where they can find it, going through the support materials the International Baccalaureate have created, as well as my own. I make it clear where these documents and links to websites can be found in the school staff share area.

The unit planner support document below includes advice and support material on the following topics:

Part One: The DP Unit Planner template.

  • International Mindedness: I added a link from an IB blog giving 10 perspectives on International Mindedness.

  • IB Learner Profile: I have asked staff to give examples of where students can meet the learner profile within the unit. An overview of the IB learner profile has been put in part two of the Support Guide so staff are aware of what each learner profile attribute looks like. I have also asked staff to use the Learner profile footer handout to highlight the learner profile to students in each lesson. This handout is explained here in this website.

  • Transfer goals: Here I have advised staff that the overarching long-term goals can be taken from the assessment objectives in the student guide. This will ensure that staff are aware of the assessment objectives and are planning for students to meet them.

  • Content/skills/concepts: Having looked at the content, aims and objects, teachers are asked to consider the skills the students will pick up in the unit. The skills are differentiated by outcome. I have included the following sentence starters to support staff with planning the skills the students will pick up in the unit: “All students will be able to…”, “Most students will be able to…” and “Some students will be able to…”.

  • Learning process--Learning experiences and strategies/planning for self-supporting learning: In order to support staff I have created a list of teaching and learning activities that could be used in the unit. Staff are instructed to delete as appropriate. This is designed to be a time saving device for staff and to also give them ideas of the potential activities they could use in the unit. The teaching and learning activities are explained in detail here.

  • Concepts: I have put the link to the IBO Approaches to Teaching and Learning website to support teachers in planning the concepts the students will grasp in the unit. A summary of the web page is shown in part 3 of this support guide. Conceptual learning can be difficult to summarise at times and is often a part of the unit planning that is useful to talk through with staff as part of the process. 

  • Formative and summative assessment: I have given a summary of both formative and summative assessments on the template, including links from Exeter university for teachers to use to gain a more in-depth understanding to aid them with their planning of formative assessment and summative assessment.

    Staff are asked to list the formative and summative assessments that they will use in the unit.

  • Differentiation: I have asked teachers to write a brief summary of how that have differentiated for the variety of students in the classroom, such as Special Educational Needs, The More Able and Language. To support them I have included a link to the IBO`s Approaches to Teaching and Learning website.

    I have also included a link to Gardner`s multiple intelligences, as a guide to different learning styles. Classroom techniques to support English as Second Language learners is included in part 6 of this unit planner support guide.

  • Approaches to learning (ATL): To support staff have included a link to the IBOs Approaches to Teaching and learning website, drawing attention to the self-reflection tools. Teachers are also asked to highlight the approaches to learning they use on the handout footer which you can find here. This is to raise the profile of the Approaches to Learning in the Diploma Programme to students. Approaches to Learning is included in part 5 of this Unit Planner Support Guide.

  • Language and learning: In this section I have included a link to the IBO website entitled `Every DP teacher is a language teacher`. For further guidance I also advise the teacher to read my booklet `Classroom techniques to support ESL students` which is shown here. In this section I also explain to teachers where they can find the IB guides `Learning in a language other than the mother tongue in the IB programmes` and `Language and Learning in IB Programmes` which I have uploaded onto our school`s link station. A summary I made of the `Learning in a language other than the mother tongue in the IB programmes` can be found here.

  • TOK connections: In this part of the unit planner I ask staff to refer to the `Cross curricular TOK `document that I have created to support non TOK teachers in make connection to the TOK curriculum and how they can help students use the skills they need for TOK in each subject. This document can be found here. In this section I have also highlighted the TOK knowledge framework and explained that it can be found in the TOK student guide and in the TOK folder in the staff link station. Teachers are also advised to look in their subject textbook and subject guides. The TOK section of the unit planner is often one where non-TOK teachers need support and it can be a good idea to go through this section in regular whole staff and department meetings.

  • CAS connections: The advice given to staff is to speak to the CAS Coordinator if the unit is conducive to creating ant Creativity, Activity, and/or Service activity.  Teachers are told to ask the CAS Coordinator if they need advice on how to create a CAS activity out of the unit. The CAS student guidebook and Core guidebook are highlighted to give teachers ideas on how to incorporate CAS into the unit. It is a good idea to add activities that come out of the unit into the guidebooks.

  • Resources: In this section teachers are asked to list the textbook, handouts, student guides, websites, past papers and IB resources such as Questionbank that they use in the unit.

  • Reflection: The unit planner asks teachers to consider what worked well, what didn’t work well and to list any notes, suggestions or considerations for the future teaching of the unit. The Coordinator can support the teacher in a variety of ways in doing this. In this section of the planner I advise that reflection can be done by the teacher at the end of the unit, which can lead to a meeting with other teachers in the department to discuss what did and didn`t go well, and the reasons for it. If there is another teacher in the department who has taught the same unit, the teachers can speak through the issues and may find that what worked well for one teacher didn’t for the other one, and vice versa. As long as the parts of the unit being taught can be successfully linked to the content, assessment, core of the DP, differentiation, approaches to teaching and learning, International Mindedness or the learner profile for one teacher then it doesn`t have to be taken off the unit because it didn’t work for other teachers. Different teachers have different approaches and as long as the planning and delivery of the unit are consistent with what is required in the guide and/or fit in with the IB`s pedagogy it is fine to have different ways to approach the teaching of the unit.

    The DP Coordinator should also be available to reflect on the unit with the teacher, offering ideas and ways forward for the teacher. Things that worked well and didn`t go so well can provide the opportunity for a focus for a future lesson observation. Where the coordinator can offer advice on an aspect of teaching that the teacher doesn`t feel is going well.

    While the DP year is soon filled up, giving teachers and departments time to reflect on their units within meetings is an important part of the yearly programme. The time for reflection also gives the coordinator a good opportunity to see what is going on within the departments.

In order to further support staff, the document includes a summary of the following areas that need to be taken into account when unit planning:

Part Two: IB Learner Profile: This part lists the IB learner Profile and gives a brief overview of each attribute. It is designed to help teacher with the learner profile box in the unit planner.

Part Three: Conceptual Learning: In this part I have summarised the IBOs Approaches to Teaching and Learning website. This is designed to give staff an overview of conceptual understanding, which can seem an abstract part of the planning process for some teachers.

Part Four: Classroom Activities: In this section I have summarised the classroom activities document that can be found here. This is designed to support teachers when they are filling in the `learning process` part of the unit planner. It support teachers when planning teaching and learning activities that are appropriate for the unit being taught. Each activity is described and the learning outcomes for each one are summarised.

Part Five: Approaches to Learning: To support teachers in filling in the Approaches to Learning section on the unit planner, this section has got a summary of the self-reflection tool on the IBO`s Approaches to Teaching and Learning website. The sub-sections have been changed from their question form on the website into statements. This allows the teacher to read through the statements and choose appropriate ones for the unit. These approaches can be reflected on in the reflection section on the unit planner.

Part Six: Classroom Techniques to Support ESL Learners: To support teachers in filling in the language and learning part of the unit planner I have included a summary of classroom techniques to support ESL students. This document can be found in full here. This document gives nine different teaching activities that I have used at the school across a range of year groups, subjects and in both the Middle Years Programme and Diploma Programme. I have included it in this unit planner to give support to teachers when planning to make the unit accessible to students whose first language isn`t English. The activities support the IB`s ideas of support language learners through activating background knowledge, scaffolding, acquisition of new learning through practice and demonstrating proficiency.

Part Seven: TOK Links. In this section I have given a summary of the Cross curricular TOK document that can be found here. This document is included in the unit planner support guide to allow staff to see how they can plan links to TOK as they write the unit, through both knowledge questions in the knowledge framework and through highlighting the skills the students need to achieve well in TOK. The cross curricular TOK document includes the assessment rubrics for both the essay and presentation, allowing teachers to made links with their own subject and plan activities that will allow students to practice using them. Staff respond well when they see that the coordinator has applied new initiatives to their documents, so before going through the support guide I made sure I had filled in an example unit plan for TOK, showing staff the information needed to fill in the unit planner. My example units cover the IB Teaching and Learning pedagogy, lesson planning, and formative and summative assessment. These units have been used to help new and existing staff, showing them the information that is needed when planning, and updating units. I email example unit to new teachers before they arrive to help prepare them and give them an idea of what completed unit planners look like. Unit planning workshops are given to new staff as part of their orientation and I make unit planning a part of whole staff and subject meetings throughout the school year.

Part Eight: CAS Connections: In order to help staff create links to CAS through the unit they are planning for I have included a list of creativity, activity, and service activities that have been used at the school. Staff can look through the list to see if their unit can be attached to one or more of the existing activities. The list will also hopefully give teachers ideas and inspire them to create new activities, which can be added to the list in the Core guidebook and each departments CAS activities document.

The 103 page Unit planner support guide costs £3.00. Please click on the button below