When planning a unit of instruction, my starting point is the Standards of Learning (SOLs). From there, I next look to the Curriculum Framework and within that document, the Essential Knowledge, Skills, and Processes sections to see, specifically, what skills my students need to master. These resources provide a comprehensive look at where my students need to be by the end of the unit. Within any general SOL there is far more material than can be taught in the limited instructional time available, so it is important to look to what content the students will be responsible for knowing.

In the Fall of 2010, I worked collaboratively with several classmates to develop a comprehensive Civil War Unit suitable for use at primary and intermediate grade levels. The unit includes detailed lesson plans using a variety of pedagogical approaches including Art Criticism and the Madeline Hunter model. Demonstrating my belief that authentic experiences enhance student learning, the unit includes lessons using real Civil War artifacts (both published and unpublished). Also included in the unit plan (as well as on each individual lesson plan) are the applicable state and national standards of learning. By planning with these standards in mind, I am able to ensure that my lessons cover the material students will be held responsible for knowing on future exams. It also provides students with a knowledge base which aligns with what the National Council for the Social Studies deems essential.

For my Elementary Science Methods class, I created a unit on Matter. Within this unit I developed several days of comprehensive lesson plans and a conceptual map illustrating the connections between activities, concepts, and "Daily Questions." In planning this unit, I relied heavily on activities suggested by the Enhanced Scope & Sequence of the Virginia SOL's. This use demonstrates my ability to plan lessons and activities that align closely with state standards.

I also worked collaboratively to create and conduct a ""Discovery Circus" on Magnets. The Circus consisted of a variety of stations through which my 2nd grade class explored magnetism and properties of magnets. Students experimented with compasses, bar magnets, ring magnets and iron filings and also learned about historical uses of and beliefs about magnets. Students enhanced their understanding of the world around them through experimentation and inquiry, and thoroughly enjoyed the activity as well. The hands-on nature of the activities required extensive planning for classroom management and logistics, but the time spent paid off when the students were able to focus on the concept they were investigating rather than being surrounded by chaos.

The school where I did my student teaching ties the Language Arts curriculum very closely to the Scott Foresman textbook series. Using the framework provided by the textbook, I taught Unit 5, entitled All Aboard! This 5-week unit included lessons on comprehension skills such as main idea, fact & opinion, and graphic sources of information as well as phonics patterns, vocabulary, and grammar skills such as using pronouns. When a student was going to be missing most of a week of instruction, prior planning enabled me to send work for her to complete while on her trip accompanied by a note to the student's mother. Each week of instruction followed a similar pattern: spelling words and a phonics story and a phonics poem were introduced on Monday; vocabulary words and Main Story were introduced on Tuesday; Wednesday and Thursday I worked with small groups on a comprehension skill and a grammar skill (which varied each week), and on Fridays students took their spelling, reading, and vocabulary tests. Within this structure, I was able to incorporate some hands-on activities such as a word-building session using prefixes and a whole-group rewrite of a paragraph demonstrating the need for pronoun use.

In Math, I taught a 3-week unit on Measurement. The unit began with a study of Linear Measurement, which included using a ruler to measure to the nearest inch and centimeter. Students engaged hands-on activities in which they measured actual objects with their rulers in both centimeters and inches and also practiced estimating length. After students had the opportunity to develop and practice hands-on skills, they took a measurement quiz which required them to measure a series of lines to the nearest centimeter and inch. Most students did exceptionally well on the quiz, with only 2 out of 36 students needing remediation.

The next topic we explored in our study of measurement was weight. The section on weight began with a hands-on activity where students learned what 1 pound felt like and practiced estimating and then checking weight using bucket balances. A few days later, students had the opportunity to handle a 1 kg weight and then practiced estimating whether objects were more, less, or about 1 kg.

After weight, we moved on to study capacity. As required by Math SOL 2.11, students learned to measure and convert liquid volume in units of cups, pints, quarts, gallons, and liters. Because many students have trouble conceptualizing these skills, it was essential to introduce each unit of volume and its relationship to the others through a concrete demonstration:
Cup, Pint, Quart

Proving that 2 qt. = 1 gal.

After "proving" the relationships between units of capacity, students constructed their own Gallon Man using a template. To further reinforce the connections between the demonstration and the figure, students colored their Gallon Men using the same colors I had used for each unit during demonstration (yellow for cups, blue for pints, red for quarts, and green for gallons). Students had worked on converting units as each was introduced, but with the introduction of Gallon Man students created a reference point for the whole system.