In my last post on Unit Development, I’ll share the next step in the process: developing the unit rationale. I believe that it’s critically important for teachers to appreciate the WHY and SO WHAT of any unit of study by creating a unit rationale that articulates exactly what the unit of study affords students.
To this end, we engaged teachers in the following exercises during part of a full-day work session:
- First, we posed the following questions for teachers to frame our work on developing a unit rationale:
- Why do a unit of study on character?
- What does an understanding/exploration of character offer our students as readers, thinkers, and as people?
- Next, we asked teachers to do a “silent conversation” (writing with a partner) and afterwards to discuss these ideas with the rest of their grade-level colleagues in response to these prompts:
- Think about your own reading experiences and the characters you’ve come to know, understand (even love) and learn from.
- Consider all the ways that your connections to these characters affected you as a person and impacted your experiences as a reader and thinker.
- Connect your own experiences to your students and imagine all the ways that a deep study of character benefits students … what exactly does a unit of study on character offer your students?
- Then, we gave teachers time to engage in professional reading—Ch. 2: “Students Developing Understanding of Character” (pp. 6-12) from Nancy Roser & Miriam Martinez (Editors) What a Character! Character Study as a Guide to Literary Meaning Making in Grades K-8
- We set a purpose for this reading by directing teachers to be on the lookout for any insights about how a study of character helps students … be better people, stronger and more engaged readers, deeper thinkers, etc.
- We also set aside time for teachers to discuss the reading by sharing their response to the following prompt: Studying characters benefits students in these ways …
- After we charted teachers’ response, we shared a document called “Why Do a Unit of Study on Character” (that summarized various professional readings on the benefits of character study) that both validated and extended what teachers had noted.
- Finally, teachers worked as grade level teams to write their unit rationale statement.
Here is an example of a unit rationale from Grade 5 teachers:
“A sustained, focused study on character is important because:
- Characters affect what readers come away with from the story
- Understanding characters, their desires, feelings thoughts, and beliefs may lie at the very heart of literary meaning making.”
For your reference, here is the document, Why Do a Unit of Study on Character and the ELA Unit Plan Template that we created with the Addison County Supervisory Union, with significant contributions from Laura King.
Look for the next blog post where we’ll describe Step 4—Developing UKDs (Understandings, Knows, and Dos) for the Character Unit of Study.