HOW TO PLAN YOUR UNITS
TIPS FOR QUALITY DISTANCE LEARNING PLANS
Plan for the time you have.
Mini-mesters are 9 weeks long. Plan stand alone units for these time frames.
Plan for depth on a few standards rather than breadth. See the 2020-21 Priority Learning for a guide.
According to AB77, students should have 240 minutes of total instructional time per day (for all classes).
Most students will have 3-4 classes per mini-mester, so split the time accordingly (or create collaborative units).
Instructional time refers to the total time it takes students to both review the materials you create or curate, and complete the activities you assign to them.
You might record lectures, create presentations (e.g. PowerPoint), embed publisher materials, or link to educational resources that exist on the internet (e.g. Khan Academy). As long as you curate these materials, and guide students through them, they all qualify towards instructional time.
Online versions of traditional activities, like a class discussion or a writing assignment, also count as instructional time.
Online learning is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning.
In synchronous learning, students and the instructor are participating at a set time together, like during a Zoom call.
Asynchronous learning allows students to complete tasks on their own, within a set time frame. Asynchronous learning is not the same as self-directed learning! Tasks have deadlines and instructors maintain regular contact with all students.
While synchronous and asynchronous models both have their uses, the flexibility of asynchronous learning is more equitable for students who may not be in control of their daily schedules. Our guidance is to use synchronous learning sparingly.
Create predictable routines.
Routines in distance learning don't need to be synchronous. Instead, create a few activity templates that you can repeat over time with new content, so students quickly become familiar with your assignments and procedures.
Take time to teach new digital tools. You can find tutorial videos for most programs on YouTube. Tutorials are also linked in this resource grid.
When you build your lessons, repeat predictable routines so students know what is coming. Some examples are:
A daily, weekly, or even unit-long Google Form that functions as a Do Now, a check-in, and an attendance record. Example here.
A weekly discussion forum on a new Big Question each week, followed by a written response.
Weekly synchronous check-ins with small, manageable groups of students.
A beginning-of-the-week opener video with an overview of that week's goals and tasks.
A menu of options for independent work that changes minimally over the course of the unit. Here's a "virtual classroom" template from an OUSD teacher.
Plan ahead and communicate with families.
According to data from parent surveys, families were hugely appreciative of clear unit plans with as many assignments as possible laid out ahead of time.
Because many families may have limited windows in which they can support their students from home, having all the assignments laid out for an entire mini-mester ahead of time can really help families create a consistent environment and plan for their students.
Keep assignments and deadlines in a consistent place and provide links to resources and templates frequently.
Use translated communication services like TalkingPoints or Remind, Learning Link for phone calls, and Google Translate for documents to communicate with families with different home languages.
Here is one teacher's method for keeping herself organized
Share the work!
Online learning presents many challenges, but it creates a lot of unique opportunities for collaboration. Co-planning and co-teaching can lighten the load on individual teachers as well as presenting opportunities for co-workers to split up work according to their comfort levels.
If you have a current planning partner, you could try splitting up or trading off on these roles:
Making instructional videos
Running discussion forums
Running office hours or small group Zoom meetings
Giving feedback on writing
Annotating instructional videos with questions using a tool like Edpuzzle.
Running book clubs or reading groups
If you don't have an on-site planning partner, consider pairing with an off-site teacher in your grade and subject area. Multiple teachers can use instructional videos and shared unit plans; a single teacher's livestream or instructional video could be used for many classes, in a lecture/lab model. More info here, here, and here.
"A direct copy of a face-to-face classroom using online tools will surely fail, BUT you should never completely eliminate a useful instructional strategy from your toolbox."
This advice is powerful when redesigning your course. Online learning is new for many teachers, but there's no reason to get rid of the things that work for you. Instead, think of how you can use the flexible groupings and tools available in online learning to create the same effects in your virtual class.
Are you used to an "I do, we do, you do" model? "I do" can be replaced by a short teacher-created video (more about best practices for video creation here). Students will be able to pause, rewind, and replay your video as many times as they need to get every word. "We do" can be covered in small-group synchronous sessions, and "you do" can be independent work, with 1:1 check ins with students who need support.
Are you more used to a "5 E's" model? Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate? Here's a great resource on what that might look like in distance learning.
Do you have assignment documents for students to fill out? Amp them up with links and embed media right into the documents, so students have an all-in-one lesson in the document itself. Check out Hyperdocs templates for more on this.
Need lesson plan templates for distance learning? Here are some great options:
Written by Jan Maiuri / Icons by Freepik