Exploring themes in life is a valuable exercise for every learner. The unit plan closely examines five short stories, and asks students to respond through group and individual assignments and projects. The summative assessment is a five paragraph essay, developed as the unit plan progresses, and that the student compiles at the culmination of the unit.
One element of the unit plan is the progressive development of the five paragraph essay. Because students focus on one paragraph at a time, they are able to look closely at their writing, and fully develop their ideas. The slow progression of the finished essay product allows for a thorough critique and review of learner needs. This progression supports InTASC Standard 1(a): The teacher regularly assesses individual and group performance in order to design and modify instruction to meet learners’ needs in each area of development (cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical) and scaffolds the next level of development.
The unit plan uses a wide variety of practices to help students respond to the material: group collaboration, graphic organizers, presentations, discussions, and wikis. The variety of instructional methods supports InTASC Standards 2(a, d, and g): The teacher designs, adapts, and delivers instruction to address each student’s diverse learning strengths and needs and creates opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning in different ways. The teacher brings multiple perspectives to the discussion of content, including attention to learners’ personal, family, and community experiences and cultural norms. The teacher understands and identifies differences in approaches to learning and performance and knows how to design instruction that uses each learner’s strengths to promote growth.
The short story unit draws on writings from an international perspective. The unit looks at authors from Russia, Germany, Nigeria, Sweden, and Argentina. Students grapple with complex life themes as they see them from differing perspectives. Working toward understanding life themes form an international perspective supports InTASC Standards 3(b) and 5 (g): The teacher develops learning experiences that engage learners in collaborative and self-directed learning and that extend learner interaction with ideas and people locally and globally. The teacher facilitates learners’ ability to develop diverse social and cultural perspectives that expand their understanding of local and global issues and create novel approaches to solving problems.
An important aspect of learning is the ability to understand the material well enough to analyze peer performance. Students in this unit plan have the opportunity to peer edit the five paragraph essay as the essay is developed, looking specifically for mastery of key elements like effective transition and topic sentences. Working collaboratively and assessing peer effort supports InTASC Standards 6(f and j): The teacher models and structures processes that guide learners in examining their own thinking and learning as well as the performance of others. The teacher understands the differences between formative and summative applications of assessment and knows how and when to use each.
The unit plan supports a wide range on Common Core Content Standards which supports InTASC Standard 7(g): The teacher understands content and content standards and how these are organized in the curriculum.
Students have the opportunity to respond to the short stories through debate, a jigsaw activity, small group discussions, class wide discussions, writing prompts, projects, and a web quest. The variety of instructional methods allows the teacher to be the “guide on the side,” allowing students to engage the learning process more thoroughly. Student ownership of learning and assessment leads to higher order learning which supports InTASC Standards 8(d and f): The teacher varies his/her role in the instructional process (e.g., instructor, facilitator, coach, audience) in relation to the content and purposes of instruction and the needs of learners. The teacher engages all learners in developing higher order questioning skills and metacognitive processes.
ISTE NET-S Standards
The digital aspects of this unit plan include a classroom wiki and web quests. These activities support ISTE NET-S Standards 1(b) and 2(a): Engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources. Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.