My Unit Planning Process

This semester I’ve refined a unit planning process that has worked pretty well for me. I’m not particularly proud of it or anything. It’s not some monumental thing, but it’s helped me stay ahead enough that I don’t feel like I have to be working on planning 24/7. It also helps me see the whole unit and how the different sections relate (or don’t) so that I can teach the sections better.

A few things first: I am new to my school this year and I am not really in a place where I can make waves, like suggest making a change to the assessments or curriculum or even suggest analyzing assessment results. I was pretty down in the dumps about it at the beginning of the year but I’ve learned to deal with it. I’m kind of on my own little island (like I was last year when I was one of two math teachers in the school), but I get weekly rations of food that I don’t like but have to eat to survive. Anyway, I’m given the one quiz and test for each unit from the department chair and the assessments are all taken on Mastery Manager. The computer grades these assessments and there is no partial credit given. I am also given the tentative dates of these assessments and the sections in the textbook that go along with them. I didn’t even hand out the textbooks this semester, though.

So with this in mind, here’s what my unit planning looks like for my Math II class (my other class is pretty cookie cutter because it’s from the community college but the process is similar):

  1. Create my unit notes packet. This semester, 99% of what I am teaching are topics I’ve taught before! This meant I already had notes pages made and just had to refine them and put them together. These are really minimalist and have only a few examples for each topic. And say what you want about notes packets but it works for me. Maybe I’ll write more about them one day.
  2. Make an extra practice worksheet for each section that has answers included and scrambled (à la Meg’s NTMs). This is usually adapted from the textbook’s extra practice materials. They don’t always get used, but are nice to have. 
  3. Make Plickers questions for the unit. I take the questions usually from the ExamView Test Generator that comes with the textbook because they’re easier to find multiple choice questions. I make 2-4 questions per topic. I use these usually as exit slips and also as checks at the beginning of class and I try to spiral the content through the unit, too. A little more about how I use Plickers here. (Just now realizing I don’t have more about Plickers on my blog and that boggles my mind…will have to get on that…)
  4. Create a review Quizizz. My students have gotten used to the review Quizizz and I know that some go back to it for extra practice. A couple others in my department have also tried it and love it, too! More about how I use Quizizz here and here and here.
  5. Write worked out solutions and type an answer document for the review packet that comes with the test so that I can post them on my website.
  6. Search my saved Evernote links and the MTBoS Search Engine for great activities that I can do during the unit. Also find/make one or two review games I can do before the assessments. Revise packet if necessary (and if I haven’t made copies yet). More on the MTBoS Search Engine here.

I like the consistency of this semester. However, I have noticed that this semester has been so jam packed with topics to teach that I sometimes don’t get time to do enough of step 6, or use what I find in step 6. As I’m planning my last unit of the year (Probability), I’ll be making sure I incorporate more than just what I have from steps 1-5.

Je suis heureuse que j’ai un système maintenant qui fonctionne pour moi.

My Favorite: Absent Cards

I seriously thought I’d be able to do this one on time, but once again I’m a day late on the ExploreMTBoS 2016 Blogging Initiative. I will try my best to do Week 3 on time, but for now I am catching up with Week 2: My Favorite.


It was really hard to think of something. I love Desmos, but I also love Review Games (up until this year actually), and I also loved Barbie Bungee, but I also love Glen Waddell’s High Fives. However, I settled on my Absent Cards.

This is not revolutionary and I believe I stole and adapted from someone but I can’t find who it is. Let me know if it is you!

So if I have a student who is absent, someone else at their table has to get a yellow absent card from the side of the room and fill it out for them. The students groan about this at first, but then they realize that one day they are absent and appreciate this being done for them. I have another student fill it out because then that person (and the rest of their table) is a resource for that student in catching up.

This is what it looks like. I print it 4 to a page on color paper so they are little yellow cards in my room.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 10.18.14 AM

File here: Word Doc   PDF

The “Announcement” section has only had to be filled out a few times, but sometimes the kids put little messages there (Hope you’re feeling better, you missed a tough one, she said another math pun today, etc). I do check over everything that is written (at the beginning of the year I always have someone try to say something mean and have a talk with them) but it’s pretty simple or them to fill out. Also, when I pass out papers, I leave one for the absent student so that the students at the table get a little reminder that they need to fill the card out with that worksheet. I have the students turn it in to me so that I can check it, attach a copy of any filled out notes we did in class, and then put it into the absent bin. The only time I fill out the card is if it was done incorrectly (hasn’t happened since the beginning of the year) or if it’s a test day.

When students return from being absent, they know to look in the bin. I even have students come in during a passing period or before school to grab their stuff that they missed.

I wish I took a better picture not from my doorway…

The absent bin has a sign I took from Sarah Hagan at Math Equals Love. This method is the one of the few things I kept from my first days teaching that has had very little tweaking and the students have commented that it helps them. It also takes some work off of me and puts more responsibility on the students.

I’ve really enjoyed reading all the other My Favorites! I can’t wait to use some of the things I have read.

Mon objectif pour cette semaine est écrire AVANT la date limite!

One Thing To Improve On #MTBoS12days

If I had to choose one thing to improve on for next semester, and only one thing, it would be my planning. This was what caused me the most stress last semester and that stress impacted everything else in the classroom. I always felt like I was just going day by day in my planning, even though sometimes I was planning about a week at a time but then everything would change after the first day of the week. It led to really jumbled units and assessments that weren’t the greatest. I’d say each day by itself was fine, but when you put them together it was kind of a jumble.

This semester I’ve already improved on it, actually. I now have an extremely tentative plan of what I will be teaching in each class for the whole semester. Like very bare-bones plan. I got my calendar and mapped out how long I thought it would take to cover certain lessons and where the assessments would go and what units come next. I left “Review/Catch Up” days before every assessment (another thing I’m thinking about is abandoning all review days but we’ll see) and am potentially able to cover way more than I did last semester. Even if I want to, I know I can’t spend 3 days doing amazing activities on one topic, for instance, because I know what is coming up and the importance of other topics. I put a star next to topics that are kind of the extra ones that don’t absolutely need to be covered this semester.

Now, what comes next is planning the actual lessons and assessments. I think that if I go a unit at a time (but don’t make copies of things until a few days before since things can always change), I will be much less stressed. I will know more of the connections I have to make, too. This is probably something I should have known to do, but in the past I was always kind of just given the pacing from the teachers that had taught it before. Ahhh I’m excited just thinking about how much better this semester will be now.

Moins de stress entraîne une prof heureuse!