The Shape of a Unit.

Each unit is different. Each unit has a different shape. 

Some of them are straight linear lines, start at point A, pass point B, end at Point C. 

Some of them are more root-like, branching off into many different directions.

We just finished planning a unit with the big idea of CONSERVATION. This concept suggests a lot of different pathways to inquire down, so we wanted to define it to constrain the inquiry a bit so we can really dig into the Central Idea (which we keep in our mind as teachers but don't share with students). We came up with 4 main aspects of the big idea (in verb form); to PRESERVE, to PROTECT, to USE WISELY, to SPREAD. 

We then thought of an example of each, a case study to help understand the concept. These two inner circles will represent the guided inquiry aspect of the unit, where we as teachers can model and assess and make sure the concepts are understood. 

The outer circle represents the students own inquiries.  Using the verbs they can narrow down their inquiry, adding a WHO, WHERE, and HOW.
  • An inquiry into how the city is trying to PRESERVE temples and shrines in Kyoto
  • An inquiry into how organizations are trying to SPREAD indigenous cultures
  • An inquiry into how nations are attempting to PROTECT endangered species
  • An inquiry into how communities are trying to USE their timber resources WISELY
Using the Sustainability Compass as a lens, they can choose an issue and dive in, looking at CONSERVATION through various perspectives. 


  1. Great way to map out your unit. Very useful. I'm curious about a more linear unit... how would that look like? Would that look like more a guided inquiry? Even so, wouldn't, at some point, break into different branches?

  2. I think it would look like this:
    a) line of inquiry 1
    b) line of inquiry 2
    c) line of inquiry 3

    Everyone does the same thing and inquires into the same issues. It depends on the context. I think some units lead themselves better to that style if the content and concepts match it. We teach a unit on Puberty (transitions) that is set up in a linear way. It works.

    Though I think in any dynamic classroom you're going to have branching and student choice. Though I would warn that just because it is branching, does not necessarily mean it is effective, and just because it is linear, does not mean it is ineffective.

    I guess my main point is that before you start the unit, you should be aware of the shape, and make that visible and explicit to the learners.

  3. Agreed! Giving students choice in their learning makes a huge difference. They are more invested in their learning. :)

  4. Very nice information, it is valuable and useful to so many people. Thanks for sharing this blog.
    B2B Marketplace
    Our Service Partners
    Refrigerator Repair Service
    Satta King
    Mumbai Call Girls
    Digital marketing Company


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Flotsam and exploring imaginative questions through literacy

George Polya and Mathematical Problem Solving