Unit plans and one-stop-folder to make science planning simple.
Backward Design for Unit Planning
For each unit, I start with the curriculum for the specific grade level. Through the curriculum, there are usually major themes that are prevalent. For example, in The Ontario Curriculum (Grades 1 to 8) for Science & Technology (2007), there are major themes in Grade 1, which include the following: (1) Characteristics of Living Things, (2) Materials, Objects, and Everyday Structures, (3) Energy in Our Lives, and (4) Daily and Season Changes. For the other grade levels, the curriculum document includes a table with all the major themes (p. 19). To facilitate planning, I use these themes to plan each of the units. As a result, I would plan four units based on the four themes for the Grade 1 curriculum.
Once the themes are specified, I break each theme into specific topics. For example, in the unit for Characteristics of Living Things, I go through the curriculum to find topics that are covered. In this theme, I found the following topics: (1) defining living and non-living things, (2) animals and plants, (3) the five sense of the human body, and (4) our environment. As the theme helps me think of the unit, these topics help me break the unit into weeks.
Then, I take each topic (e.g. defining living and non-living things) and split that into two weeks. In the first week, we focus on learning the theory around the topic. In the second week, we focus on practice, particularly thought inquiry-based learning.
Taking the first two weeks of the Characteristic of Living Things theme/unit, again the first week focuses on the theory. Here, I divide the topic into four lessons throughout the week with each sub-topic (e.g. living things, characteristics, basic needs, and animals/plants) drawn from the curriculum. Then, each of the sub-topics includes how I plan to teach the lesson, the key questions student should be able to answer, and an assessment. For instance, the first lesson will be on living and non-living things, which we will learn by making a T-chart. Through this lesson, students should be able to answer the following questions: What are living things? What are non-living things? The assessment includes a handout, where students will independently work to demonstrate what they have learned.
When planning for lessons and assessments, it is worthwhile to think of ways to integrate other content areas. For example, there are various children's books that can be used to teach a science lesson. Reading books related to science are helpful to activate prior knowledge and to add to students' current understanding. In terms of language arts, writing can be another way forum for integration.
For another example, I have included one by a Teacher for India fellow 2019-21, Rhea who planned a chapter/unit plan based on a similar planning approach around microorganisms.
In the following week, we take our knowledge and understanding (i.e. the theory) to apply it in practice. Here, I include one free block as a buffer slot in case of accommodations or changes to the school year, which can be seen in the example below, where students are focusing on the topic of the five sense of the human body. After attaining information and knowledge around the five senses, students will spend the second week jumping into science centres around the topic. Again, the buffer slot is to provide me with instructional time, if need be, and allows me to easily navigate the weekly/unit plans. Finally, there are two slots for projects. This is where I plan around a Makerspace, STEAM, STEM, or another hands-on lesson. In other grades, I sometimes use the second week to immerse inquiry-based learning (IBL) or the project-baed-learning (PBL), which stems from the constructivist approach.
One-Stop-Folder for Science
Once the unit plans are completed, I start to plan a one-stop-folder for science, which includes all of the lessons and assessments that I plan to use for the year. This does not mean that the unit plans, lessons, or assessment cannot be tweaked in the future; however, this one-stop-folder makes for an approach to planning that is both organized and simple.
What does the one-stop-folder (or simply the folder) for science include in it? The front flap of the science folder includes the unit plans that have a list of all the lessons and assessments. The back flap of the science folder includes a few resources that help the teacher learn about the topic and/or references to teach the topic. For example, when I taught a unit on Energy in Our Lives, I used a resource from Scientists in Schools to learn about energy and the forms of energy.
The middle section of the science folder is where I keep all the lessons and the assessments. In this middle section, there are four parts for each of the four themes [i.e. (1) Characteristics of Living Things, (2) Materials, Objects, and Everyday Structures, (3) Energy in Our Lives, and (4) Daily and Season Changes] of the Grade 1 curriculum. Each theme/unit starts with notes that I use to teach the lesson and then all the assessments that will be used during the unit, corresponding with the assessments listed on the unit plan.