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Unit Plan: Take One

In the past, our read alouds were teacher initiated, directed and planned. If we wanted our students to discuss the text amongst themselves, and start to think about inclusion differently we would have to start by changing the way we created our unit plan. 

New Unit Plan

Starting with a modified Understanding by Design template, we created our essential questions. Our main goal was to create lesson plans and scaffolds that would allow the students to engage the text semi-independently. As 4th grade teachers we always wondered what the step between “learning to read” and “reading to learn” looked like in practice. That last part was scary but also super exhilarating to design. 

A video demonstrating the use of AlphaSmarts

So what did we change?  

During read aloud time, we made the questions visible to the students. We posted a few questions per chapter on sentence strips so students could draw or jot down notes about the chapter as one of the teachers read aloud. We purposefully posted the questions one by one so students could focus on listening to the text and selecting relevant textual evidence to answer the question. We also wrote a grounding question for each chapter. The purpose of the grounding question was to provide a common understanding for later inferential questions in the chapter.

We did not choose all of the vocabulary for our students. Instead we asked them to self select important notes, words to record in their writer’s notebooks, or AlphaSmarts (see video below for an example).

We also provided a visual representation of the main events in each chapter. We created story maps to highlight the major events in each chapter and assigned one student per chapter to trace them.
We asked students to write short paragraphs using their notes and this teacher created graphic organizer. We wanted students to describe the main character’s relationship with other characters in the book.