Panic. That’s all I felt when on Tuesday I was given the instruction to plan out all of my units for a year. Now you might be thinking, “What’s wrong with that? Planning your units is something you should be able to do.” While this is very true, I don’t think most people are given a six minute time limit. Yes you read that right, six minutes. So heart pounding I set to work trying to list off every unit I could possibly think of that we could cover in the course of a year. While I got a few ideas out on paper I seemed to keep hitting a mental road block. I don’t know if it was because of the time limit imposed on us, or something else, but no matter what I couldn’t come up with anything else to write down. It wasn’t until we started talking about our ideas as a class that my brain started working again.
As I sat down to work on my unit plan I started to feel so many pieces come together. I started to see things as a sort of whole picture. Ideas continued to flood my brain, and soon an unspoken question that had been hiding in the back of my brain was answered. How do I make writing and reading workshop as a teacher in a school that requires me to teach grades 9-12 or even 7-12? You see I’ve been worried about this being too repetitive from year to year, or not challenging them to learn more information. Then it sort of hit me that I can vary my units.
Not every class has to have the exact same units. I started to look at units outside of the normal. I got excited about drawing up a unit on newspaper writing, or even on how to read the news and find reliable news sources. I got caught up in the idea of doing a study on folktales and fairy tales. Why not get outside of the realm of essays, speeches, short stories, and poems? Why can’t we explore all sorts of genres in our classrooms? I think my problem before was that I was too focused on a narrow band of ideas. I had allowed myself to be limited by the things that I had done units on when I was in high school, but I don’t have to do that.
You do not have to limit yourself to just the basic units. You do not have to limit yourself based on what is normally taught in school. The options surrounding reading and writing are endless! There are so many things we can do with writing, and we shouldn’t limit our students. We want them to become lovers of reading and writing, and how can we do that when we aren’t giving them all the options. If we limit our students we are limiting the scope of their talent and their imagination we are limiting them to what we think they should do, not what they can do. Thinking about units has really opened my eyes to all the possibilities, and honestly I’m even more excited about teaching now that I’m starting to see the possibilities are endless!